I had a blast as one of the debate panelists at this week's BIMA organised Facebook Debate (Yes, I was there, despite not being included on any of the speaker lists) at the BT Center in London. I'm not a huge fan of the debate format - for and against arguments always kick against the pragmatist in me,which is why I love the slam concept, but it was fun to go all out for a specific side. My team (me & the endearingly grumpy Robert Lock) were pitched against Damien Mulley and Sam Sethi on two audience selected topics - Facebook's decision to open up its interface to all developers was a mistake (we were asked to argue for) and friend requests from your boss are best ignored (against).
I'm not going to run through all of the arguments, although some of them I suspect are well on the way to near legendary status (Sam's statement that Boss stands for bag of shit, for example) and I'd also like to publicly thank Damien since his arguments were all of huge help to our team :)
I'll call out a couple of points that I made that may be of interest to readers over here. Firstly (and this turned out to be the most contentious thing I said all night) I suggested that one of the problems with opening up the Facebook platform to external apps was that to the extent that third party apps were interesting/useful (& I'd like to think that some are useful, as opposed to just entertaining), many just expanded the Facebook sink into a black hole - eg - more information that I can't get out. Although the management of distributed presence was clearly a theme that ran across the evening, data portability seemed to be largely regarded as a matter of choice - in the sense that if you want it - go to another platform.
Secondly, I talked about having your boss included in your contact list as a good excuse to finally get to grips with Dante's 10th circle of hell - aka the peculiar granularity of FB permissions. I asked for an audience hands up on who in the room felt really confident about setting up and using permissions, and about five people did. It'll be interesting to see whether the introduction of friend categories makes permissions easier, harder, or no different to navigate (& just in case anyone involved in the coding of it for FB is reading this - please make sure you can assign individual friends to multiple groups).UPDATE: Adam Tinworth has posted a really great report of the event over at One Man & His Blog. I'm sorry he couldn't stay to the end and talk!
In other related news - so this doesn't become the FB blog - Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, posted today on a range of e-safety activities, including a commitment to address complaints concerning certain categories (nudity, porn, harassment, unwanted contact) within 24 hours - as far as I know the first social network service to specify a customer service level agreement response time (please do let me know if I'm wrong!).