Signing up to be sold out

Following my Facebook sex lube incident, I’ve become the posterboy for, first, a giant tub of lube, then the future of advertising, then for Facebook’s attempts to make money with its data and then for people who sued Facebook and sorta-but-not-really won $10 million in a settlement.

I wrote in my post “Of course Facebook is happily selling me out to advertisers. That’s its business. That’s what you sign up for when make an account.”

Some people disagreed. Here’s one:

I’d totally disagree, you don’t sign up for that. Surely the lawsuit proves this, users do NOT sign up to sell adverts.

First, it’s pretty clear that Facebook’s terms of service say that you sign up for exactly that.

10. About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook

Our goal is to deliver ads and commercial content that are valuable to our users and advertisers. In order to help us do that, you agree to the following:
1. You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place.
2. We do not give your content or information to advertisers without your consent.
3. You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.

That’s part of the problem. Facebook’s lawyers write the terms, and users only have the choice to not use the service if they don’t agree to them.

Second, the lawsuit, and its settlement don’t prove that you don’t sign up for that, either. In fact, the lawsuit proves nothing except that Facebook is willing to settle lawsuits.

It was an settlement in which, I’m sure, Facebook admits no wrongdoing. Companies settle for a multitude of reasons, including to avoid admitting wrong doing, to avoid a bad image from public trials, and to avoid setting legal precedents. It’s possible that a trial would have found that Facebook’s sponsored stories violate some right or law, but by settling, Facebook has avoided letting that become established; it’s still, I believe, an open question.

This isn’t to say that I don’t agree with the writer’s conclusion. Facebook is a “hungry information monster that wants nothing more than to take all your details, package them up and sell them on.” Users need to be aware of that and act accordingly. I don’t think users have to just grin and bear it. I wrote, long before the sex lube incident, that Facebook isn’t free.

Update: Today, The New York Times reported in a story by Somini Sengupta, the reporter who put me on A1:

Facebook has agreed to make it clear to users that when they click to like a product on Facebook, their names and photos can be used to plug the product. They will also be given a chance to decline the opportunity to be unpaid endorsers.

So, Facebook still has the right to use your content as ads, it’s just required to tell be slightly more upfront about it.

iPad lifespans

When Apple announced the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, it also raised an interesting question: what’s the expected useful life of an iPad?

I ask this because iOS 6 will not work on the first-generation iPad, which debuted a little more than two years ago and was the only iPad customers could buy as recently as March 2011, just 15 months ago. While consumers have gotten used to getting new phones every couple of years, even high-end phones only run a few hundred bucks once we sign a new phone contract.

Laptops, which iPads often seem to be replacing, don’t benefit from carrier subsidy, and users who upgrade every couple of years seem extravagant. But a five-year-old PC seems, to me, a little long in the tooth.

Doesn’t it seems reasonable for an iPad’s useful life to be somewhere in the middle? At $500 for the low-end iPad, it costs more than a subsidized phone, and is cheaper, in most reasonable cases, than a laptop.

I could reasonably, I think,  expect a new iPad to be kept up-to-date for three years. By cutting the original iPad out of iOS 6, Apple seems to have decided that less than a year and a half is enough.

I don’t know Apple’s reasons, and I don’t know what the technical limitations of iOS 6 are. It could be that the original iPad can’t handle the new software. I do know that, until last week, I was plodding along on an OG iPad, and, despite my complaints about the time the device took to swtich apps, and the lagginess when a notification would come in while I was playing a graphically intense game, it was a perfectly functional computer. It handled e-mail, writing and Internet browsing just fine. My 6-year-old, now the owner of a gently used first-generation iPad, chides me for ever complaining about it’s lack of snappiness.

To put it another way: my first-gerneration iPad was still an adequate post-PC device.

Maybe most people won’t care if their iPad is on iOS version 5.1.1 or 6.0. But Apple did just get done mocking Android for seeing so many users stuck on old versions of Google’s OS. It did a some chestbeating about how quickly OS X Lion was adopted. What would the reaction be if Apple or Microsoft didn’t offer an upgrade path to a two-year-old PC? I don’t know, but I don’t expect it would be positive.

The tablet market will, I have no doubt, be larger than the PC market ever was. That’s why Apple cutting off relatively new hardware from software upgrades makes me a little uncomfortable.

Simple sports

Roller derby is a complicated game with a set of rules that gets bigger and more complex with every iteration. Every time I explain the game to a person who has never seen a bout, I’m reminded how complex it is. And I wonder about roller derby’s ability to attract a larger and mainstream audience. And I worry that our complex rules are a huge contributing factor to its niche status.

Derby, once you understand how to read it, is as dramatic as any other sport.

But how do you teach people to read it if they don’t understand the rules? How do you explain to a newbie, for example, cutting rules? If you cut in front of two skaters, it’s a major. If you cut one, it’s a minor. Unless that person is ahead of everyone else and on the other team, then it’s a major. Except if she’s so far ahead that she’s out of play, then it’s nothing. (Let’s not even get into the beast that is the point-scorer-changing star pass, which gives referees nightmares.)

Now, I’ve been warned about making analogies to and using examples from other sports, but stick with me.

Every summer, I go see the local AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim of Southern California of the United States. I drink beer, shout at players and umpires and have a good time. I follow the Phillies and am happy when they win and sad when they lose.

Still, I have no idea how the infield-fly rule works. And I don’t have a great grasp of dropped third strikes and foul-tip outs.

And then there’s hockey, which I watch live once or twice a year. I honestly have no idea what you can and cannot do.

But I understand the way to keep score. And that, for most fans, is enough to convey the drama that attracts us to sports.

Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad referee

For the last 17 months, I’ve been roller skating in counter-clockwise circles around women hitting each other while also skating in counter-clockwise circles, blowing a whistle and shouting projecting at them.

Except not really.

For the first several of those month, you could barely call what I was doing roller skating. It was mostly falling with some rolling between. And there were times when I’d find an excuse to skip practice, or show up late because I was goddamned discouraged and my level of suck.

And, even when I refereed my first bout after six of those months, I didn’t really do much whistle blowing or penalty calling. And I still remember one of the few penalties I did call being totally and completely wrong. Yes, I sucked.

I spent months getting better, reading the rules, watching an sweaty women ram into each other an uncountable number of times, practicing, improving. Go persistence.

And it paid off. I got better. I got to officiate the first WFTDA-sanction bout in Iowa. And the first WFTDA-sanctioned bout featuring all Iowa teams. And the first bout, also WFTDA-sanctioned, between Des Moines’ two leagues. I was accepted to officiate a tournament in Milwaukee in June. And it has made me feel like hot shit. Go me.

Thing is, I still suck.

Feedback from a skater following a recent bout : “From my vantage point, it looked like you often waited for other refs to make calls on penalties it seemed you were looking right at.”

But she’s wrong. I wasn’t waiting for other refs to make the calls. It was worse than that. Not only were my calls were just slow, I was so unaware that I didn’t know other referees were making the same call. Because I suck.

Yes, 17 months of skating and falling down, reading rules and getting confused, scrimmaging and bouting, I still miss a ton of action, and am slow of the calls I make. But that’s OK. I’m going to take my crappy officiating across the Midwest and I’ll get better. Never perfect, but better. Because persistence pays off.

How I became Amazon’s pitchman for a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant on Facebook

My career as a personal-lubricant pitchman started with a favorited tweet on Stellar that linked to Amazon where, for just $1,495, anyone could purchase a 55-gallon drum of Passion Natural water-based lubricant (and save 46 percent off list!).

“What are you going to do with all this lube?! Wrestling match? Biggest adult party ever?” the pitch for the 522-pound tub went. “If you are looking for a simply jaw-dropping amount of lube, Passion Natural Water-Based Lubricant is ready to get the fun started with this 55 gallon drum! With its superb formula you will have a natural feel that keeps you moist longer and also works great with all toy materials. Easily washes away with warm water and mild soap. You may never run out of lube again!”

While it isn’t eligible for free Amazon Prime shipping, freight is a reasonable $20.95. There were entertaining customer reviews, often the best part of the odd products for sale on Amazon, and, since it was Valentine’s Day, it was timely.

Amused, I posted it to Facebook with the line “A 55-gallon drum of lube on Amazon. For Valentine’s Day. And every day. For the rest of your life.” And then I went on with my life.

A week later, a friend posts a screen capture and tells me that my post has been showing up next to his news feed as a sponsored story, meaning Amazon is paying Facebook to highlight my link to a giant tub of personal lubricant.

Other people start reporting that they’re seeing it, too. A fellow roller derby referee. A former employee of a magazine I still write for. My co-worker’s wife. They’re not seeing just once, but regularly. Said one friend: “It has shown up as one on mine every single time I log in.”

I’m partially amused that Amazon is paying for this, but I’m also sorta annoyed. Of course Facebook is happily selling me out to advertisers. That’s its business. That’s what you sign up for when make an account.

But in the context of a sponsored story, some of the context in which it was a joke is lost, and I’ve started to wonder how many people now see me as the pitchman for a 55-gallon drum of lube.

The ‘anyone else should be worried if Apple has any success whatsoever’ school of thought

John Gruber complained today that as soon as someone has success doing things differently than Apple, we get pundits saying Apple needs to start doing things differently or else.

But we get the inverse, too: Someone does something different than Apple, has little success with it, and pundits start arguing they need to change course and do what is Apple doing.

Memento, starring Siri

Marco Arment’s response to Boris at ReadWriteWeb’s question “Is it time to say goodbye to Siri?” prompts me to add more to my chronicle of chronic Siri struggle.

First, Siri’s response when I tried to use my wife’s phone to call my own. Yes, I tapped the phone number Siri offered and labeled “mobile” and she gave me a map of Mobile, Alabama. Obviously a bug of some sort, but how is that anything but seriously broken and embarrassing? Isn’t this exactly the sort of task Siri was built for?

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Then another short-term memory failure. In moments like this, Siri bears a striking similarity to Leonard from Memento.

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These aren’t reliability issues and these aren’t managing expectations issues. These are basic issues that a marquee feature of a marquee product of a marquee company.