To anyone who signed up for Compare People, a third-party Facebook application that allows users to solicit opinions about their so-called friends, and who have now seen those comments exposed to the people whom they were judging, you got what you deserved.
If you’re unfamiliar with the workings of Facebook, allow me to explain. Compare People has become one of the most utilized third-party tools on the social networking site, garnering just shy of a half-million users. It enables people to pull out a couple of their Facebook friends and have others vote on them for their “tastes,” “jobs,” or “who you’d rather sleep with.” According to news reports, a developer has been trying to sell people the ability to see what their friends or people have said about them for a rather modest price of $9.95 over PayPal.
This news will lend credence to those who think Facebook holds no value, which is unfortunate because it’s not Facebook’s technology itself that doesn’t hold value – I’d actually argue its ability to bolster collective intelligence by connecting disparate groups is pretty high. Rather, it’s more that the current set of users and their chosen use of this technology in the consumer space see no reason to utilize it more meaningfully, and today’s news about Compare People seems to reaffirm that belief.
With some notable exceptions, Facebook has never really made it out of the proverbial frat house or dorm room. A simple glance of profiles will show you that people still use the site primarily for bragging rights – I’m friends with these people, I hooked up with this girl, I partied here, I did 18 shots of Cuervo, etc. These people use the tool because they’re so insecure about these matters they need to shout this information from the rooftops to Facebook’s some 34 million users (or less, depending on how they choose to set the access rights).
So it was just a matter of time before a service like Compare People would find a niche here. Why should you yourself speculate on the quality of another human being worthy of your friendship when you can open that decision up to the group? That’s certainly safer than having the individuality and guts to declare who is your friend on your own.
It’s a shame, because Facebook does have tremendous potential to be used more effectively to improve collaboration across many disciplines. The user interface – where you can publish information, share photos, and connect with others who have similar interests – is incredibly more viewer and user-friendly than its primary competitor, MySpace. (You can’t really put Linked-In, the professional social networking site that basically is just an online resume for others to view, on the same wave length technologically. Sorry.)
Today’s story will score one more for whom I like to refer to as the Curmudgeon-Techs. (These people prefer complex, closed corporate systems that don’t help anyone do their jobs and are only designed with the corporation in mind rather than the users in it). They will look at this story and say that social networking doesn’t have value, when, in reality, if the technology is used correctly, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.