Monday, November 23, 2009

The value of friends

... on Facebook appears to be less than 10 cents, according to Australian company USocial, who will happily sell you thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers for that price. Or used to, because now Facebook threatened USocial with legal action, and USocial at least temporarily suspended their Facebook activities. You can still buy Twitter followers in bundles up to 100,000. USocial also started this month to sell YouTube video views. As I recently had another blogger bragging here about his higher visitor numbers, I now wonder if USocial is also selling blog visitors and RSS feed subscribers. If not, I'm sure that service is just around the corner.

I woke up this morning to the 1973 Roberta Flack version of the song "Killing me softly with his song", which tells the story of her feeling that a young boy is "killing her softly" with a song text that too closely resembles her innermost feelings. How did we get from that notion of innermost thoughts being very private to the idea that innermost thoughts should be posted on the internet, and buying in people to read them if not enough of them show up on their own?

Ultimately I hope that companies like USocial will help to destroy the cult of "eyeballs", which is an artifact from the era. The more people realize that for anything which is free the number of visitors can be manipulated by various techniques, like "search engine optimization", or buying followers from USocial, the more sceptical everybody will hopefully become of those empty numbers. I do think that people vote honestly with their wallets, but for anything where you can sign up for free, a visitor is worth not even the pocket change that USocial will sell them to you for, even if technically those visitors are called "friends" or "followers".

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