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East Coast agencies to watch — that aren’t based in New York, part 2

by Nick Faber
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

We’ve dug into iMedia’s East Coast Agencies to Watch to find the best ad work outside of New York. In part 1, we looked at great campaigns from agencies in Washington, DC and Boston. Today, we avoid 95 altogether to check out two of New England’s top agencies.

Humongo (Danbury, CT) – ECKO UNLTD. “Indie for Life”

You may already know Humongo’s founder Darryl Ohrt for his industry blog brandflakesforbreakfast. Ecko turned to Darryl’s shop to get fans excited about its UNLTD watches this year. The campaign, “Indie for Life,” includes an incentive-heavy Facebook page with a series of live video interviews with indie entrepreneurs called ‘The Marc Ecko Time Chamber.'” The first interview is with “indie time-changer” Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com.


The bubble in articles about whether there’s a bubble

by Nick Faber
Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

via flickr user zarzoso

Yesterday, Digiday’s editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey quipped about the ongoing tech-bubble debate:

there's definitely a bubble in articles about whether there's a bubble. http://j.mp/qJV8nb
Brian Morrissey

We did a little research, and joking or not, Morrissey is 100% right. Below is a timeline of 40 articles about this year’s tech-bubble – that we might or might not be in the middle of.

I’m not sure what’s most amusing about these articles: the sheer number of conflicting findings, the creative choices of images used to illustrate a “bubble”, or the dearth of headline writers quoting MacBeth. (more…)

10 Google Plus circles suggestions for sorting your randos

by Nick Faber
Friday, July 8th, 2011

Has friending your mom changed your Facebook habits? Then Google+ is the social network for you. Rather than dumping all of your friends into one list, Google+ allows you to sort your contacts into circles. So, for instance, you can share all of your sweet beer-bong highlights with your “drinking buddies” circle, while posting prayer requests to your “church friends” circle.

For now, the user base of Google+ is fairly small, and full of technorati and the like. But one day, if Google+ reaches the critical mass of Facebook, you’re going to have to figure out where to put your mom and all of the other random characters of your life.

Need help sorting your contact list? Try these circles, and the types of updates you should be giving each one:

Frenemies Even though these people seem to bring out the worst in you, they really like you and keep adding you to all of their social networks. Links to posts about annoying internet behavior that your frenemies exhibit, like this.
Co-workers that I don’t feel comfortable complaining about work to Sometimes you need to vent via social media, but if the wrong person reads an anti-work update, you could get fired. “No matter what anyone says, I really love the new cubicle arrangement. I feel so productive without windows to distract me.”
My Mom Nothing like a post from your mom to stop an inside-joke-laden thread dead in its tracks. Give mom her own threads. “Anyone know a delicious chicken casserole recipe?”
Suspected Bimbots A beautiful gal or guy adds you to his or her circle. You’re flattered, but something tells you they’re a data-mining robot. “I am enjoying this meal at this restaurant in this town I live in.”
Exes You were dating when you got on Google+, and your ex ended up in your friends circle. When you post pics of yourself with your new beau, your ex creepily +1’s all of them! [No posts in this circle! They already have your heart, isn’t that enough?]
Small Dog Owners We get it. Your dog can fit in your purse. Photos of cats
New Parents Does your stream have baby fever? “Man, kayaking and hiking was so much fun today! I love my free time!”
Family I pretend I’m not related to Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you’re friends. But you can only ignore your cousin’s invite for so long. “Same old, same old, nothing interesting going on here. I am totally stable.”
That guy from the bar You “bumped” iphones with this guy when he asked for your number and now he’s got your email address, too. “My boyfriend and I are watching our favorite movie tonight, LAST TANGO IN PARIS.”
We possibly took seventh grade biology together Yes you “know” this person, but they don’t really know you anymore and can offer no insight on your social media musings. Photos of other people’s babies.


Why Google+ will fail: social networks grow like trees, not on them

by Henry Copeland
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Having read many claims that ‘Google+ will kick Facebook’s ass,’ I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Google+ will fail miserably.

Or at least won’t dislodge Facebook anytime soon.

First, let’s stipulate that the Google+’s technology is cool and powerful. Former NYT tech journalist Jennifer 8 Lee says “Face­book should be scared.” Over at PC World, Mark Sullivan offers “9 Reasons to Switch from Facebook to Google+.” (Here’s a video intro to Google+ if you’re interested.)

News maven Jeff Jarvis enumerates the features he thinks will make Google+ an important journalistic tool.

Jason Calacanis, the entrepreneur behind WeblogsInc and Mahalo, argues that Google+ will take “half the market” for social networking from Facebook. “Google+ will compete with Facebook as effectively as Android is competing with the iPhone.”

To prove his point, Jason highlights a number of Google+ features that beat Facebook’s — features like “Forced categorization of contacts” and “Chrome Browser and Chrome Store integration” and “Android integration.”

And with more than 200 million deeply invested Gmail users, Google would seem to have a powerful launch pad.

So if Google+’s technology is brilliant, its userbase is deep, Facebook’s functionality is flawed and all the pundits are convinced Google will romp, why am I confident that Google+ will fail to beat Facebook?

Because in their Google worship and/or their focus on comparing features, the pundits are forgetting tried and true axioms about how humans adopt technology, axioms documented decades ago by tech visionaries like Gordon Moore and Clayton Christensen. Here’s my rundown.

1) Even the best carpenter can’t build a tree. Though Google+ is an elegant piece of engineering, it’s not a social network. Jason and Jeff love Google’s technical innovations. Sure, normal technology thrives because of technical brilliance, design beauty and marketing megatonnage. But social networks are affected only marginally by those factors.

Instead, in social networks, the users are the product. Users’ habits and passions and commitments to each other are the life-force that makes a social network grow. Just as you can’t build a tree from a bunch of boards, you never could have constructed Facebook or Twitter or eBay or LinkedIn or Wikipedia top-down with a bunch of prefab components. Launching with one hundred million users or a $100 million marketing budget would have more likely killed those sites, not grown them. (One advantage Google WILL have, at least initially, is fewer bimbots than Facebook.)

2) Wrong launch users. Passionate persistent users, not brilliant designers or programmers or professional commentators, build social networks. Google+ is launching with a diffuse cloud of alpha-tester geekerati who view Google+ as a feature set to be explored, tested and rated. Having the attention span and loyalty of fleas, this jittery crowd will migrate onward within weeks to the next hot-smelling technology that swaggers into view.

Beyond sharing a common identity as “early adopters,” members of this crowd don’t (usually) care deeply about each other or share a common passion beyond a burning desire be first in using a technology. They’re users, not community members.

Google’s diffuse-by-invites strategy works fine for a tool like Gmail, which is evaluated purely as a feature set, but it won’t work for Google+. Evidence: my friend Dan Gilmore, who as an innovator and former reporter for San Jose Mercury News should have more Google+ connections than anybody, went onto Facebook to look for friends who might also be using Google+. With no luck.

It doesn’t matter to you if 1 million or even 100 million people are using a social network, if only one of your 20 key colleagues and friends are using it. With social networks, it takes at least three to tango.

3) Diffuse launch path. Social networks can ONLY start small and tight with a set of enmeshed users, then percolate slowly outward. Facebook started in a Harvard dorm, then spread across Harvard, then to Stanford, Columbia and Yale. Then other Ivy League schools. Then colleges across the US. Then high schools. Then Microsoft and Apple. Only then, 30 months after launch, was Facebook opened up to everyone.

Likewise, Twitter started with messages between Biz Stone, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey and their friends in San Francisco in March of 2003. It percolated there for a year, before expanding in March of 2007 into the tightly networked SXSW crowd, folks who were hungery for a way to recreate and sustain their SXSW friendships when they left Austin. That crowd, in turn, evangelized to their social network savvy friends at businesses across the US.

For both Facebook and Twitter, initial users were tightly networked. There was a strong sense of clubbiness among community members through a long initial phase. Those members’ loyalty to the club withstood even repeated outages (on the part of Twitter) and privacy concerns (on the part of Facebook) that would have doomed a normal technology product.

4) Noisy feedback loops. One of the key reasons that launching big is fatal to social networks is because the feedback loop from users to designers to users to progammers to management to newbs to old-timers to programmers gets cluttered with noise. When a tool launches big, its designers end up trying to build a feature set that satisfies all communities — or their own peculiar whims. Most users end up with a luke-warm affection for the service. There’s no ‘sponsor’ community to advocate change or evangelize.

MIT professor Eric Von Hippel has amply documented the importance of users in driving innovation in technology domains as diverse as thermoplastics, semi-conductors and scientific instruments. Is there any doubt that user innovation would be even more crucial in shaping social networks, where the user and the product are so closely entwined, functioning as two ends of the same biocyber synapse?

Rather than launching big and broad, far better to build a “small” tool for one passionate community. Once the kinks get worked out, this template of technology and usage patterns later gets adopted/adapted by other adjacent communities. Using this approach, people like to feel they’re in a human-sized space in which their actions matter, in which their feedback into the system gets processed and used. (Gordon Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm is awesome about this process.)

(It’s worth noting that Robert Scoble thinks Google+ is just for geeks and will survive by serving that market alone. I think geeks don’t just want to socialize with geeks… for long.)

5) Professional managers. Successful social networks evolve over time, often blossoming out of series of random, non-linear, unpredictable connections and chemistry. In retrospect, the winner’s strategy looks obvious (read Duncan Watts’ book!), but at any given moment, it is impossible to determine what feature set or user base will drive the coming decade’s NEXT dominant social network.

Professional managers, particularly of software projects, can’t tolerate this kind of nonlinear growth. In his post about Google+, Jason notes that he wrongly predicted huge success for Wave, Google’s previous attempt at social software launched with great fanfare two years ago, because Google ultimately stopped devoting resources to Wave. Why should things be different this time? Google is a big public company that needs high-profile successes not meandering muddles that may eventually pay off. This means Google will likely give up on Google+ before it can take root, just like it killed Wave. Clayton Christensen’s brillian book Innovator’s Dilemma gives the playbook.

6) No culture. Starting big and broad also kills the chance for a social network to develop a distinctive culture. This is crucial because a great social network is known by its culture, its lingo, its behaviors, its taboos, its history. Some examples:

Overwhelmed by the volume of information flowing from Twitter, Tweeters (not Twitter) created hashtags to keep track of ideas.

Back in 2004, the liberal blog DailyKos was playing a key role in narrating and steering the Democratic party’s primaries. The site was getting lots of favorable press, and I asked Markos Moulitsas, the community’s creator and curator, whether this attention was having a big positive impact on the community. On the contrary, Markos replied. Every time there was big press about the site, the community would flood with new users who didn’t get the site’s culture. Traffic would spike briefly, but interaction quality would plummet. A big gush of new members busted the site’s chemistry. Then DailyKos would shrink back to its previuos size and start growing organically again. Since then, the Kos community’s richness has spawned its own yearly convention.

(Another example of Kossite culture: to this day, a novel ad campaign can’t run on DailyKos without invoking communal cries of “pie fight,” an insider reference to an infamous, bodacious 2005 ad campaign by Turner Broadcast for a Gilligan’s Island reality show.)

For another example of how growth can kill a social network’s culture, look no further than the Q&A community Quora‘s explosion/implosion early this year. Once a steadily growing service, rich with VC and tech insiders, Quora suddenly went viral in January. New users flooded into the service and quality of interactions plummeted. Despite lots of agonizing over how to sustain the growth, http://quorareview.com/2011/01/27/evolving-quoras-design-for-growth/ the site has fallen back to earth.

In contrast, the Q&A service Stackoverflow, which is tightly focused on serving specific communities and growing organically for the last three years , has overtaken Quora. Notice in the Google trends graph for the two services that Quora has gotten a huge amount of press (bottom trend box), but Stackoverflow is now far bigger.

Am I a Luddite or Google-hater? Judge for yourself. I started tweeting in March of ’07. I was LinkedIn’s 4,154th user. I even own a few Google shares — their ad business is a money-printing machine.

Summing up: Google’s great at carpentry. Gardening, not so much.

25 Google Plus ‘humble brag’ tweets

by Nick Faber
Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Did you get invited to use Google’s new social network tool, Google+? Not many people have, but those did have taken to Twitter to let us know it.

These lucky beta testers are also the first who remind us what a burden it is to be one of the chosen few.


Nicole Bally Facebook friends as of June 8 2011

by Henry Copeland
Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

As I reported earlier, I’ve seen at least 100 influential tech, media and politics folks — men and some women — accept Facebook friend requests from attractive women they don’t know. For as long as three years, these supposedly savvy folks have been having personal conversations and sharing photos online in front of strangers that few (if any) of them know personally.

Below are the names of people who fell for a possible Facebook bimbot, an attractive profile titled “Nicole Bally,” as of June 8, 2011. For more of the story behind these names and their odd relationship with the attractive Facebook profile of Nicole Bally, read this post.

Abbey Muneer, Achim J. Muellers, Adam Dell, Adam Hertz, Adam Hirsch, Adam M Glickman, Adriana Gascoigne, Alan Brody, Alan Light, Aletha King, Alex Argrow, Alex Coisman, Alex Goldberg, Alex Williams, Alexys Fairfield, Ali Rahimi, Alison Gelb Pincus, Allen Morgan, Alyssa Roenigk, Amanda Congdon, Andi Jompole, Andreas Scherer, Andrea Weckerle, Andrew Anker, Andrew E. Vogel, Andrew Heyward, Andrew Rasiej, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Andy Cohen, Andy Karsner, Angela Penny, Anil Dash, Anita Angelica Moore, Anne Kreamer, Anton Krueger, Ariane De Bonvoisin, Arianna Huffington, Arthur Bushkin, Asa Mathat, Auren Hoffman, Aydin Senkut, B. Kim Taylor, Barak Berkowitz, Barney Pell, Beatrice Tarka, Benjamin Turpin, Ben Mendelson, Bennet Kelley, Berda Estelle, Bernard Moon, Beth Lenahan, Betsy Morgan, Bill Bartmann, Bill Campbell, Bill Crandall, Bill Tai, Blaise Zerega, Bob Kerrey, Bob Mankoff, Brad Balfour, Brad Burnham, Bradley Horowitz, Brad Stone, Brad Turner, Brenda Hervold, Brian Lehrer, Bruce Handy, Bruce Judson, Bryan Eisenberg, Bryan Gruley, Burton Lee, Busie Matsiko-Andan, Byron Deeter, Cable Neuhaus, Camille Paglia, Carl Haacke, Carl Kasell, Carolina Abenante, Caroline Little, Carrie Seifer, Cathy Brooks, Cecilia Pagkalinawan, Chad Hurley, Charlene H Li, Charlie Fink, Chaya Cooper, Chip Austin, Chloé Jo Davis, Chris Abraham, Chris Ahearn, Chris Alden, Chris Anderson, Chris Cillizza, Chris Fleury, Chris Meyer, Chris Mohney, Chris Sacca, Chris Shipley, Christina Pappa, Christine Kerner, Christine Lanois, Christine Son, Christine Taylor, Christine Taylor-rymer, Christopher Mims, Cindy Clarfield Hess, Cindy Leonard Stumpo, Clay NoOneight Shirky, Cliff Schecter, Connie Connors, Courtney Nichols, Courtney Pulitzer, Craig Bromberg, Craig Newmark, Craig Unger, Cris Popenoe, Curtis Sliwa, Curt Viebranz, Cyan Banister, Cyndee Blank, D.h. Fitzgerald, Dana Milbank, Dan Farber, Daniel Jochnowitz, Dan Lyons, Danny Schechter, Dan Rosenbaum, Darlene Abrantes, Darren Lee, Dave Morgan, Dave Winer, David A. Gang, David Adler, David Berlind, David Bradford, David Brock, David Carr, David Eun, David Fenton, David Halperin, David Hornik, David Mathison, David S. Kidder, David Sifry, David Sirota, David Wade, David Yett, Dawn Abraham, Dawn Alison, Dean Gardner, Dean Higginbotham, Debbie Millman, Deb Hawkins, Deborah Berebichez, Deepika Bajaj, Delphene Balan, Demetra Adams, Demi Pietchell, Derya Unutmaz, Diana Furka, Dick Costolo, Dickson Despommier, Dina Kaplan, Dion Hinchcliffe, Don Clark, Don Dodge, Don Graham, Doree Shafrir, Dory Bergman, Douglas Anthony Cooper, Douglas Rushkoff, Doug Monahan, Duchess Demara, Duncan Black, E. Jean Carroll, Ed Mercer, Edmond Sanctis, Ed Rigsbee, Edward Baig, Eli Pariser, Elisabeth Jansen, Elissa Middleton, Elizabeth Benjamin, Elizabeth Spiers, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Ellen Freudenheim, Ellen McGirt, Elliot Ratzman, Emilie Lucie B, Emily Gould, Eric Boehlert, Eric K. Noji, Eric Pilkington, Eric Savitz, Eric Yaverbaum, Erik Freiser, Eugene Robinson, Eve Phillips, Fiona Aboud Singer, Fred Davis, Fred Tabsharani, Fred Teng, Gamal Abdo, Gene DeRose, Gene Smith, Geoff Yang, Geo Geller, George Arzt, George Garrick, Georges Harik, George T. Haber, Geraldine Hessler, Gillian Pritchett, Gordon Gould, Greg Clayman, Gretel Going, Harry Knowles, Haurech Elizabeth, Heather Erickson Bozzone, Heather Harde, Heidi Bond, Heidi Roizen, Heidi Skupien Bretz, Henry Blodget, Henry Copeland, Hiawatha Bray, Hilary Harris, Hilary Rosen, Howard Kurtz, Howard L. Rosenberg, Howard L Morgan, Howard Rheingold, Hugh MacLeod, Imran Khan, Inna Beynishes, Ira Silberstein, J.D. Rhoades, Jack Hidary, Jack Myers, Jaime Mintun, Jake Dobkin, James Altucher, James Braly, James D. Robinson, James Fallows, James Hirsen, James Im, James Ledbetter, Jamie Chang, Jamie Daves, Jamie Klingler, Jana Barbir, Jan Bohrer, Jane Metcalfe, Jane Pontarelli, Janet Scardino, Jason Goldberg, Jason McCabe Calacanis, Jason Pontin, Jason Rosenberg, Javed Alam, Jayne Charneski, Jayne Freeman, JD Howard, Jean-Philippe LaMarche, Jeanie Barat, Jed Alpert, Jeff Burak, Jeff Dachis, Jeff Housenbold, Jeff Howe, Jeff Keni Pulver, Jeff Nordhaus, Jeffrey Eisenberg, Jeffrey F. Rayport, Jeffrey Toobin, Jen Bekman, Jeni Briscoe, Jenn Allen, Jenny Bapst, Jenny Broomfield, Jerome Copulsky, Jerry A ‘Koch, Jerry Colonna, Jerry Michalski, Jesse Johnson, Jessica Ewing, Jessica Helfand, Jessica Pressler, Jill Koenig, Jim Bankoff, Jim Brady, Jim Breyer, Jim Cramer, Jim Daly, Jim Gillette, Jim Long, Jimmy Wales, Jim Peake, Jim Spanfeller, Joanna Shields, Joe Barello, Joe Conason, Joe Dolce, Joe Greenstein, Joe Trippi, John Battelle, John Borthwick, John Briggs, John Cassidy, John Dickerson, John F. McMullen, John Furrier, John Hagel, John Hockenberry, John Koten, John Matthews, John Perry Barlow, John Quigley, John Rourke, John Semel, John StockCoach McLaughlin, John Yarbrough, Joichi Ito, Jonathan Medved, Jonathan Tasini, Jonathan Zittrain, Jon Fine, Jon Staenberg, Joseph K Grieboski, Josh Abramson, Josh Grotstein, Josh Harlan, Josh Quittner, Joshua Chen, Joshua Cohen, Joshua Mohr, Joshua Rosen, Joshua S. Freeman, Joshua Schreff, Joshua W., Judith Meskill, Julia Cohen, Julie Alexandria, Julie Silard Kantor, Juliette Powell, Justin Fox, Karl Beaumont, Kate Nelson, Kathy Johnson, Katie Portillo Belding, Keith Teare, Kelly McBride, Ken Goldberg, Kenny Miller, Ken Rutkowski, Kevin Maney, Kevin Reifler, Kevin Ryan, Kevin Ryan, Kevin Slavin, Kim Barsi, Kim Greenhouse, Kim Polese, Kirsten Osolind, Kirsten Powers, Krista Thomas, Kurt Abrahamson, Kurt Andersen, Lane Brown, Larry Gerbrandt, Larry Kramer, Larry Magid, Larry Michel, Larry Walsh, Laura Dawn, Laura Rubinstein, Laura Sobel Levitan, Laurel Touby, Lawrence Wilkinson, Lee E Miller, Leonard Brody, Levi Asher, Lily Holyfield, Linda Black, Linda Franklin, Lindsay Beyerstein, Lisa Burton Perlman, Lisa Gansky, Lisa Kennedy, Lisa Todorovich Porter, Liselotte Germer, Liza Sabater, Lloyd Grove, Lockhart Steele, Loic Le Meur, Loren D’Allessandro, Louise Harpman, Lucia Stoller, Lynn Moloney, Lyzabeth Lopez, Maer Roshan, Marc Benioff, Marc Canter, Marc Davis, Marc Rotenberg, Maria Parkinson, Mark Alpert, Mark Ein, Mark Frieser, Mark Glaser, Mark Golin, Mark Jacobstein, Mark McCormack, Mark Menell, Markos Moulitsas, Mark Simone, Mark Walsh, Mark Wayman, Mark Zawacki, Martin Allsop, Martin Nisenholtz, Martin Varsavsky, Maryann Hegel, Mary Ann Kaczor, Mary Hodder, Mary Jeanne Cavanagh, Matt Anderson, Matt Edelman, Matt Fok, Matthew Cooper, Matthew Cowan, Matthew David Colebourne, Matthew Fraser, Matthew W. Caldecutt, Matt Stoller, Maxine Hopkinson Terpin, Maya Angelou, Megan Smith, Meg Rider, Melaina Brown, Melissa Lafsky, Melissa Roth, Meredith Anthony, Meredith Applebaum Coburn, Micah Sifry, Michael Arrington, Michael Cogdill, Michael Feldman, Michael Gross, Michael Grossman, Michael Hirschorn, Michael Jones, Michael Marquez, Michael Moe, Michael Nyman, Michael Parekh, Michael T. Rose, Michael Terpin, Michael Wolff, Michael Yang, Mich Ahern, Michele Connolly, Michelle Gagnon, Michelle Slatalla, Mike Boich, Mike Cronin, Mike Gehrke, Mike Hudack, Mike Maples, Mike Morgan, Mike Peters, Mike Sigal, Mitchell Kertzman, Mitch Featherston, Mitzi Szereto, Mo Koyfman, Molly Steenson, Monique Fabian, Murray Waas, Nadia Lessani, Nadyne G. Edison, Nancy Albertini, Nancy Cerbus, Nancy Reynolds Bagley, Nancy Slotnick, Naomee Hardy, Natalia Allen, Naval Ravikant, Net Jacobsson, Nick Bilton, Nick Wingfield, Nick Young, Nicole Ball, Nicole Marie Ball, Nico Pitney, Nigel Allen, Nikola Tamindzic, Noah Gellman, Noryne Taylor, Nouriel Roubini, Omar Wasow, Pamela Leavey, Pamela Stanley, Pascal Levensohn, Pat Fili, Patrick Ruffini, Patrick Tracey, Paula Hunnicutt, Paul Bitetto, Paul Borgese, Paul Buchheit, Paul Rieckhoff, Peggy Fokkema, Peggy Sigford, Perry van der Meer, Pete Cashmore, Peter Daou, Peter Elstrom, Peter Hirshberg, Peter Krainik, Peter Shankman, Peter Steinberg, Philippe Collin, Philip Rosedale, Phil Lam, Phil Rosenthal, Rachel Glickman, Rachel Greenwald, Rachel Sterne, Raj Das, Rebecca Mattila, Reese Jones, Renee Blodgett, Richard A. Moran, Richard Blakeley, Richard Jason Paris, Richard L Brandt, Rich Karlgaard, Rick DeGolia, Ricki Seidman, Rick Newman, Right Is Wrong, Rob Barnett, Rob Cipriano, Rob Enderle, Robert Alvarez, Roberta Thompson, Robert De Souza, Robert Goldberg, Robert Hertzberg, Robert Lasner, Rob Glaser, Robin Hardy, Rob Theis, Rod Beckstrom, Rodger Desai, Rohit Aggarwal, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Klain, Rory O’Connor, Rosie Anderberg, Ross Levinsohn, Ross Mayfield, Ryan J. Davis, Saar Gur, Sab Kanaujia, Salim Ismail, Samera Abed, Samir Arora, Sandy Berger, Sandy Climan, Sanford M Dickert, Sania Ali, Sanjeev Singh, Sanna Backman, Sara Benincasa, Sarah Austin, Sarah Lacy, Sarah Ross, Sarah Stabile, Sartoris Literary, Scott Donaton, Scott McMullan, Scott Osman, Scott Rafer, Sean Onderick, Sean Parker, Seth Colter Walls, Seth Godin, Sharon Bruneau, Shawn Fanning, Shawn Gold, Shelby Bonnie, Shelly Palmer, Sheridan Prasso, Sheri Lee McIntyre, Sherri Rifkin, Shervin Pishevar, Sonia Arrison, Spencer Parikh, Spencer Striker, Stanislav Shalunov, Stefan Kanfer, Stellah De Ville, Stephanie Agresta, Stephanie Fierman, Stephanie Rosenbloom, Stephen Boyd, Stephen LeBow, Stephen Meade, Steve Case, Steve Chen, Steve Fowler, Steve Gillmor, Steve Hamm, Steve Harmon, Steve Jackson, Steve Jurvetson, Steve Lewis, Steve Newcomb, Steve Newhouse, Steven Scully, Steve Rosenbaum, Steve Ross, Steve Schwaid, Steve Skulnik, Steve Tatham, Stewart Alsop, Stowe Boyd, Strauss Zelnick, Stuart Elliott, Stuart Gannes, Sunil Paul, Susan Campos, Susan Mernit, Susan Pizzazz Bratton, Susan Schanerman, Susan Shapiro, Tamaey Gottuso, Tamar Geller, Tam Vo, Tara Hunt, Tara Mccluskey, Tara Scotti, Tariq Krim, Tatiana Platt, Ted Bauer, Ted Cohen, Ted DeCorte, Ted Leonsis, Teymour Boutros-Ghali, Thomas Plunkett, Tiffany Shlain, Tim Connors, Tim Draper, Tim Karr, Tim Koogle, Tim Leberecht, Tim Sykes, Tina Chandler, Toby Coppel, Todd Chaffee, Todd Looney, Todd Verow, Todd Zangrillo, Tom Dupree, Tom Glocer, Tony Dunaif, Tony Perkins, Tracie Egan Morrissey, Tracy Quan, Tracy Swedlow, Travis Alber, Trina Albus, Tyler Hofinga, Valorie Luther, Vassil Mladjov, Vicki Cohen, Victor Harwood, Vikas Sapra, Vint Cerf, Vivian Akinyi Achieng, Viviane Banks, Waffa Munayyer, Warren Lazarow, Wendi Klein Blum, Wes Clark, Whitney Vosburgh, William Drenttel, William J. Orr, William Loiry, William Raduchel, Will Leitch, Zander Lurie

Are you also exposing your private parts to strangers on Facebook?

by Henry Copeland
Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

6/11/11 UPDATE: Facebook pulled down the Nicole Bally profile overnight. I wonder what was Facebook’s definitive evidence in making the call to delete… or was the profile just an embarrassment for supposedly savvy media figures, Silicon Valley insiders and Facebook itself, better erased than learned from? As of last night, 11 of 697 Bally’s friends — including Jimmy Wales, Eli Pariser, Peter Shankman, Jake Dobkin, Andrew Raseij — had owned up to their mistake, unfriended Bally and gained some wisdom from the encounter. Too bad more CEOs, Facebook board members, journalists and tech insiders didn’t get to make the same hard call in public. Meanwhile Celia Richards’ profile, with its misleading photo, is still intact.

Think it’s only old men in trench coats and — ahem — congressmen who like to share intimate moments with attractive strangers?

Based on my own Facebook experience, I’ve seen at least 100 influential tech, media and politics folks — men and some women — accept friend requests from attractive women they don’t know. For as long as three years, these supposedly savvy folks have been having personal conversations and sharing photos online in front of strangers that few (if any) of them know personally. And they are, inadvertently, sharing lots of their friends’ private data with these strangers.

These people are in the tech, media and political digital elite. They should know better, right? They include professors at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, CEOs and execs at Internet companies, e-consulting firms, ad networks, and PR companies. They include senior journalists and editors at places like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. Details below.

It’s possible that one or more of the winsome Facebook profiles who these e-savants have friended are robots — bimbots? — who exist only to spy on their influential friends’ private lives.

Who is the tech and media elite eagerly friending? Let’s start with the Facebook profile of one Nicole Bally.

Does anyone out there actually know Nicole Bally? Please write me ASAP if you do. Though Facebook says she’s got 697 friends, I suspect she doesn’t exist or, at least, isn’t operating on Facebook under her real name or photo. I left a message on Nicole Bally’s wall yesterday asking where she works, but haven’t heard anything back. Hello Nicole Bally, are you out there?

Nicole Bally’s list of Facebook friends includes people like Sean Parker, Arianna Huffington, Dana Milbank, Joichi Ito, Chad Hurley, Chris Anderson, Henry Blodget, James Fallows, Jeffrey Toobin, Camille Paglia, Curtis Sliwa, Jimmy Wales, John Dickerson, Loic Le Meur, Seth Godin, Amanda Congdon, Jim Kramer, Howard Kurtz, Steve Case, Pete Cashmore, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Tim Draper, Nouriel Roubini, Jim Breyer, Sarah Lacy, Vint Cerf, Wes Clark… the list goes on and on. Here’s the full list.

You’ve almost got to worry if you’re NOT on the list of Nicole Bally’s friends.

Nicole Bally sent me a friend request a while back and I almost fell for it. Hey, 40 people who I know and trust are her friends. Apparently.

When I finally friended Nicole Bally back yesterday (to further this investigation!) I discovered that roughly 99% of the posts on her Facebook wall are simply people accepting her friend requests. Some guys muster up an eager “hey, let’s have lunch sometime!”

Do the tech and media elite actually look at Nicole Bally’s wall posts before accepting her friend request? Among her very few personal posts over the course of three years are several about mywebpost.com.


Nicole Bally’s photo albums feature just three generic images posted in March of 2008 shortly after she joined Facebook, one of Mark Zuckerberg and two stock-photo-like images from March 2008, one subtitled “A wonderful time with a wonderful friend” and the other “The most beautiful place in the world.”

I’ve done more hunting online, but can’t find anything solid about Nicole Bally. Surely if she works in media or advertising in NYC or San Francisco and knows so many famous-for-pixels people, she would show up on LinkedIn or someone’s Flickr photo album.

Do any of you know Nicole Bally? If not, why have so many of you friended her and why are you sharing your private lives with her?

When a colleague of mine looked around online for other instances of Nicole Bally’s profile photo, using the nifty photo identification service TinEye, he discovered that Nicole Bally’s Facebook profile photo looks like a cropped photo of Nicole Carroll, a fitness trainer.

Maybe Nicole Bally — some of her Facebook friends are weight lifters — is actually Nicole Carroll? Maybe the whole FB page is a subtle marketing ploy for a future, tech-celebrity-focused pivot for Crossfit Training, where Nicole Carroll works. Much more likely, Nicole Carroll is a hard-working, innocent person whose image has been stolen.

It would be a relief to know that Nicole Bally is a real person and not a stolen photo and a made-up name.

Except I’d still be left wondering why so many tech, politics and media people friended Nicole Bally without having ANY idea who she is or what she’s peddling.

Then there’s Celia Richards. Facebook keeps suggesting I may know Celia and should become her friend. After all, we know 24 people in common, many of them media insiders.

Again, some Googling turns up nothing solid about Celia. Given the e-fluential crowd she apparently hangs with, Celia seems like a digital playa. But she’s got no digital fingerprint outside the walls of Facebook.

Is Celia real or just a bimbot created to harvest personal info — wall posts, friendships, photos, demographic information — from her credulous yet influential friends and their friends?

I don’t know for sure. But some more sleuthing reveals that Celia’s profile pic is actually a photo of TV star Kristin Cavallari. Duh! Maybe that’s why I don’t recognize her as a friend.

Perhaps Celia really exists, but just prefers to pretend she looks like Kristin. (Contrary to Facebook’s terms, BTW.) I’ll know more if she ever accepts my friend request.

If these Facebook profiles are not bona fide, what’s the real game? Theories vary, from comic to creepy.

Dude you guys it is the government. They lure you in with seductive women (or men if you are female) and they try to get information out of you without interrogation but with chatting.

Or maybe we’ve just stumbled into an elaborate, long-festering online version of the famous foreover alone flashmob?

More prosaically, Harvard Kennedy School professor Steven Kelman writes:

My guess is that somebody is setting up Facebook accounts with nonexistent (or hired) attractive women, and sending out large numbers of friend requests to guys with the hope that many will accept the request. (For all I know, similar requests, with attractive guys, are being sent to women.) Once you accept their friend request, they gain access to a lot of information about you…

We all know that companies in the past were very eager exploiting holes in FB’s architecture to scrape personal information.

Even after Facebook tightened up its privacy settings, it seems clear that people are blithely sharing way too much of their lives with people they haven’t fully vetted. And it seems likely that our conversations are being spied on, recorded and analyzed, either by folks from China or by corporate sleuths hiding behind seductive masks to track and influence conversations about their clients, customers and competitors.

Congresstwerp Andy Weiner put way too much online.

Don’t laugh. You may be sharing way too much with strangers too.

UPDATE: Dabitch offers more theories for who Nicole Bally and the army of bimbots could be working for at adland.tv. And Jesse Brown expounds on the power of the mutual friends list at Macleans.ca.

Here are a few of the top tweets on the matter:

I'm proud to say that I didn't friend "her" as I didn't know who "she" was. http://bit.ly/j1US15 via @
Jeff Jarvis
Why are all these tech luminaries "friends" with a fake spam-lady on Facebook? http://bit.ly/iScoEn
Josh Fruhlinger
New Word of the Day: "bimbot" http://bit.ly/l545v7 I'm not sure the opposite - "gigbot"? - will appear, though
Mike Cooper
Well-done blog post by @ on widespread use of fake Facebook profiles to (presumably) gain personal data. http://t.co/78rN3OS
McCann Erickson NY
Bimbots friend prominent men on FB: http://t.co/K0wpRpT. Where are the manbots?
Cynthia Meyers


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