Measured Against Reality

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hooray hyperbole!

Want to know how to be a bad journalist? Write a sentence like this:

After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund...


So after 9/11, the CIA went back in time two years to set up a venture capital fund? Now that's news!

This comes from this article on Facebook, which is essentially one long rant about how Facebook's neocon libertarian Stanford-grad overlords are stealing all your "ID information" and personal preferences, and how evil ads are. For the second complaint, I have only three words: Firefox, and Adblock Plus. Seriously, you'll never see an ad online again (it's awesome!). As for the first complaint, I'm seriously mystified as to what "ID information" they're taking, since you only need to supply (at most) an e-mail address, a name, and birthday, and neither of those need to be real. They're not taking Social Security Number, Credit Card Numbers, or Driver's License Numbers, or anything else even remotely useful. So Facebook has my name, oh no! I'm sure that information isn't already in the hands of hundreds of companies.

The sad thing is that the article starts with legitimate complaints; that rather than bringing people together, "social networking" sites like Facebook drive us apart. Personally, I believe in using Facebook as a way to contact people who don't like to use other methods (some people don't like being available via phone or Instant Messaging, sometimes I understand the feeling), and Facebook provides a nice way to contact someone that feels more personal than e-mail. It's also good for uploading photos, since it's close to impossible to find a good free photo host any more.

I think there are people who take the thing too seriously, who spend lots of time on it or obsess over it, but I have yet to meet one of them. Everyone I know uses it the same way I do, the way it was originally intended to be used: as a tool that makes certain aspects of your social life easier. Are some companies/evil-neocon-libertarian-VCs benefiting from this? Maybe, but just in case I'll tell them my favorite flavor of gum is garlic.

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