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16 January 2012 / Erik Duval

Frictionless sharing is good for you! (Or at least for me…)

There is a bit of a debate going on about ‘frictionless sharing’ – see (Martin Weller and Brian Kelly).

I’m not sure I understand the issue…

In my view, frictionless sharing is a Good Thing, because it means sharing without effort. It is a Good Thing, because

  • you may explicitly want to share and can avoid the effort this used to take in The Old Days (like the way I share my thoughts here, or tweet things that strike me); or
  • you may not care too much about what you share, but others can benefit from it anyway (like how I share what I listen to on last.fm or spotify, or when and where and how long I run on runkeeper).

In fact, I would argue that you often benefit in unexpected serendipitous ways in the second case as well: I sometimes get music pointers from people based on what they knew I listen to…

It can become a Bad Thing when you don’t want to share but do anyway because you forgot about it as there is no effort involved. The examples Martin gives of “Bad Sharing” are not so convincing for me: rather, they illustrate that capturing what you do could be more sophisticated (making the distinction between you and your daughter listening to music) or capturing your intent could be more precise (so that people know you were collecting those articles as examples of arguments you don’t buy.)

Better examples of Bad Sharing occur when you actually do something you are ashamed of, or disappointed by: you didn’t want to read that silly gossip story, or you really wish you hadn’t eaten that junk food, or … (I’ll happily leave it to your imagination -experience?- to fill in the blanks.) But you did. And you shared it. And now you hope nobody noticed…

I am a bit in doubt about how big that problem of Bad Sharing really is. It relates to privacy – obviously. I also have questions and doubts about the role of privacy – it is, after all, the right to lie, or to not answer questions…

One way to live in a world of frictionless sharing is to live your life so that there is nothing you feel you need to hide about what you do – maybe I just helped you to find that New Year Intention your were trying to come up with? And, if things go wrong, then at least for now, as long as sharing is not truly frictionless, you can just say that it wasn’t you, but your daughter or son, father or mother, cat or dog…

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11 Comments

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  1. AJCann (@AJCann) / Jan 16 2012 8:57 pm

    True frictionless sharing (a la Guardian facebook app) is bad because it removes the curation element from sharing and turns sharing into noise. 90% of the time, I have no interest what someone has just read in The Guardian, it’s just cluttering up my stream. Valuable curation is NOT “frictionless” – it’s hard work, giving you blisters and calluses.

    • erikduval / Jan 16 2012 9:57 pm

      I kind of disagree. Just like sharing, curation can be made more effortless too. In a way, applications like Flipboard use twitter traffic to curate your media feed. Or think of google: it uses links to curate the web (and a lot of other signals), rather than hard work…

  2. Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) / Jan 16 2012 9:03 pm

    Thanks for citing my post and contributing to the debate.

    I think you and I are in agreement that we are happy to have a default position of sharing our ideas and other’s ideas in a frictionless sharing. In addition when we things we do not want to share we are knowledgeable enough to use alternatives (view the Guardian on their Web site rather than the Facebook app; use IXquick rather than Google for searching, etc.). However others may not be aware of the consequence of their actions or of alternatives. For me, therefore, this is primarily a questions of digital literacy. I also think that user education is hindered when service providers (such as Facebook but others, such as Smartr have done the same) change how behaviours for established services.

    I do appreciate that others will have other concerns, such as ownership and exploitation of attention data by commercial companies.

    I disagree that it is possible “to live your life so that there is nothing you feel you need to hide about what you do”. We all have things that we would not wish to be made public – so we should all be able to know how to switch off the frictionless sharing when we are online or, if in cases such as public tweets, we aware of not only the benefits but also possible consequences, of such actions.

    • erikduval / Jan 16 2012 10:04 pm

      I agree on one issue, but think I disagree on the other two ;-)

      1) I’m always a bit wary when the solution is ‘user education': should the burden not be on people like us to come up with better ways of making this transparent and understandable, rather than on the users to get educated?

      2) I agree that ownership and exploitation are real issues: I always liked the principles that the attention trust developed Way Back When (“You Own: Yourself, Your data, Your attention” – see http://erikduval.wordpress.com/2005/11/08/attention-trust/).

      3) I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that we all need to be able to hide things. It may be (ok – let rephrase that as “it is”) a bit naive, but I actually do believe that if nobody would hide anything, that this would have a lot of benefits as well, and that we all would have more realistic ideas about how most of us lead our lives…

  3. Tony Hirst / Jan 16 2012 9:04 pm

    @Erik One way of getting round the Bad Sharing mistake is to either have a delay on the frictionless sharing act, (“Your visit to this page will be shared in 10, 9, 8…. seconds”) along with a Panic button (“Argh, no, don’t share this visit”), or sharing on page unload, presenting the user with the option of taking the action, via a button, flag or other switch to “Nah, don’t bother sharing this”). That way, sharing *is* frictionless but the user is always in a position to make a spot override if they choose to do so?

    • erikduval / Jan 16 2012 10:06 pm

      The Panic Button is kind of an interesting approach – it sounds kind of familiar but I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere?
      Similarly, you could allow someone to erase a sharing act, but I do think this raises troubling questions about not being responsible for what you did. In public speech, I cannot un-say what I’ve said either?

      • Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) / Jan 16 2012 10:28 pm

        I think Tony Hirst’s Panic button idea is really interesting, as I just tweeted.

        Your comment that “I cannot un-say what I’ve said either” is also interesting. On some live TV anmd radio shows there is a short delay to allow inappropriate sharing (typically swearing) to be removed. In that case the service provider can manage almost live comments which are felt to be inappropriate. Why shouldn’t the content provider also have a similar opportunity to manage content which, on reflection, may be felt inappropriate to share?

  4. erikduval / Jan 16 2012 10:37 pm

    But what if a politician or a judge or … wants to un-say something? What if I want to un-blog my post of today? What happens to your comments then?

    Should we not rather take responsibility for what we say or write? And maybe admit that we said something we no longer subscribe to? (I actually did send an email earlier today that starts with: ‘I’m sorry. I was wrong.’…)

  5. José Mota / Jan 17 2012 2:01 pm

    “One way to live in a world of frictionless sharing is to live your life so that there is nothing you feel you need to hide about what you do” sounds really creepy to me. Isn’t that an argument typical of totalitarian societies? The social sphere is governed by rules that are not universal, be it truths or accepted behaviors, but rather culturally and historically contextualized. Privacy is an important part of democratic societies and of citizens’ rights and should, imo, be handled carefully. I believe there is only “sharing” when you make a conscious decision about what you are sharing and with whom.

  6. Taylor Wray / Feb 17 2012 5:34 am

    This is a feature designed for marketers, not users. To the average person, a constant stream of all your friends’ media consumption just amounts to noise. That’s why sharing was a selective act in the first place – everyone realizes not everything they read/listen/watch is interesting to all their friends, all the time.

    BUT to social media marketers and market researchers, that kind of super-detailed, longitudinal data about individual consumers’ media habits is friggin’ GOLD. This makes Facebook way more useful to advertisers and media producers, but for the average Facebooker, it seems to present more risk than reward.

    • erikduval / Feb 19 2012 7:57 pm

      Not sure why you think so… I am many things, but a marketeer is not one of them ;-)

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