Robert Scoble kicked up a vigorous discussion with a long blog post about what he calls "the freaky line" — the limit beyond which people just don't like sharing information with others on the Internet. The line's moving.
Because sharing is the topic, Mark Zuckerberg, of course, is a primary subject. Scoble is "all-in," he says. He's one of those people who's not freaked out but energized by the way applications like Spotify and the Washington Post Social Reader are linked to Facebook. Frictionless sharing sounds creepy and disorienting to some, one more way the nefarious Zuckerberg is gathering a dossier on people moving across the web, watching what they do. So what's he doing this for?
He’s building a new media company. One where the media comes TO US. Compare to boring old Yahoo. There we have to visit the media by going to http://sports.yahoo.com/ or http://finance.yahoo.com/
See, the new world is you just open up Facebook and everything you care about will be streaming down the screen.
This is what Zuckerberg doesn’t want to explain to you: to be your new media assistant he needs to know everything about you. Think about it. When i clicked “like” on the San Francisco 49ers Facebook Page, all of a sudden I started seeing news items about the 49ers.
The more Zuckerberg knows about you, the more media he will be able to bring you.
What will hold him back — what has already caused Zuckerberg to backtrack on some features, to make changes on privacy settings — is the freaky line. He has to remain mindful of which new innovations in gathering information on his customers are going to freak out too many of them to be worth the trouble.
Over on Google+ (!!), Scoble's post has some serious back-and-forth going in the comments. There's plenty of anxiety there, and cautionary tales. (Do look for the gentleman whose colleagues were alerted, through Spotify, that he was listening to a song with a funny name. It's now his nickname at work.)
For another point of entry to the debate, consider this video. At about the 1 minute mark, right where Scoble makes a joke to Washington Post CEO Don Graham about porn-watching vis-a-vis his new social reader's sharing by default, Graham walks through the whole debate in miniature. He wouldn't read about a company he wanted to buy using his company's new reader tool, because others would learn about it. But he does find great value in the way the social reader will direct him and others to content they might otherwise never have seen.
Graham, like Scoble and Mark Zucerkberg (and his advertisers), comes down in the net-positive camp. It's a benefit, on balance, to have all this new information out there, to be used, contemplated, commodified. But Graham himself puts his finger on the essence of the problem, the germ of the freakiness that yields the Freaky Line. When you release information, anxiety about where that information might go will follow.