Oh My Christ, They Got Facebook

If there was one thing most semi-literate, half-awake people always liked about Facebook, it was the clean air and the tidy sidewalks. You knew that you could let your kids out after six and their bikes wouldn’t get stolen. The city council was pretty strict about how you couldn’t park your nasty, rotting car in the drive, and any graffiti was always dealt with in a timely manner. There were no closed buildings with boarded up windows and most people respected each other’s property, aside from the odd character-art wall post. Lately, Facebook has changed and I’m not willing the blame the Developers’ Platform and Applications entirely. Just this week, I went to write on a friend’s wall, and I saw this:

Facebook wall spam

What. The Hell. Is that. Ringtones? In a Facebook wall post? If you’ve ever laid eyes on a profile that includes the Super Wall, Fun Wall, Advanced Wall or any other sort of non-conformist, MySpacey bulletin board, you’ll have seen this crap:

 

Advanced Wall Facebook Spam

However, the entry on my friend’s wall was not posted via an externally-developed application, most of which specialise in the distribution of idiotic pictures. The ghastly ringtone advertisement – which signifies so much more than just an annoying piece of spam – was left on a Facebook mainstay that has been fiercely protected from abuse. A few days later, I came across another spammy entry on a regular Facebook wall.

Facebook wall spam two

These posts have all the hallmarks of automated spam and none of the traits of copied-and-pasted messages. The terrible grammar. The inconsistent punctuation and bad spelling. The use of the number zero in place of “o.” A redirected URL that ends up at the vomit-inducing Sleektones.net. No link for you, not even with a nofollow. These messages were also “posted by” twenty-one year old college students, and although there are problems with the U.S. education system, I find it hard to believe that anyone who’d made it past the third grade would believe “free” was actually two words.

If I’d seen this on a SuperAdvancedFun Wall, I would not have looked twice. Those applications seem to have been developed and spread for and by people who miss the gaudiness of MySpace. However, Facebook has held on to early adopters and utter snobs like me by maintaining its initial structure and dignity in the face of mass development. Despite the main structural changes in layout, I can hold on to the clean, tidy profile I liked so much three years ago. They’ve done especially well in this regard.

That’s what keeps people like me around, and whilst it would take many more fails on Facebook’s behalf until I left it, I fear the day my wall falls victim to ringtone ads. I’m not bothered by the copied and pasted wall art: Although I delete any images like the one below, they are a far cry from automated annoyances.

facebook-spam7.jpg

On Facebook’s potential-laden yet neglected blog, Paul Jeffries recently wrote about application spam and what Facebook is doing to combat the problem. However, letting in the masses and having them create applications has allowed a slew of undesirable things to infiltrate a once-pristine community. Jeffries’ blog post addresses applications that require a user to invite friends to also use it before they’re granted access.

I’d go as far as regulating how pushy applications can be in requiring (tricking?) people into adding them to their accounts. Clicking on any one of the applications’ links in the image below brings up the application’s Add page. Whilst I agree that “Forward” and “Write on [blank's] Wall” should require a user to add the application, the “click here to read full post” link is just trickery. I’m also fairly sure that there is no full post.

facebook-wall-spam.jpg

How should Facebook go about achieving the balance between pleasing its users who like its tight regulations, and catering to the people who want to forward yellow smiley-faces and messages about how the name of one’s crush will appear on the screen if they re-post this message twenty times in the next eight minutes?

I don’t know what exactly is going on with the ringtone spam and various other questionable messages I’ve seen posted on Facebook walls but neglected to capture. I did, however, feel a touch of sadness when I saw those messages, as if I’d learned that yet another nice area of town had gone to ruin. Have spammers and phishers finally begun the slow take-over of Facebook, as they did MySpace?

No, I don’t have to add the applications I find annoying, but after seeing spam creep onto Facebook’s regular wall and after being nearly tricked by other sneaky applications, I believe Facebook should consider tightening up their community before housing prices drop even further and people consider finding out what AOL plans to do with Bebo.

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49 Responses to “Oh My Christ, They Got Facebook”

  1. Joff says:

    I think the only real option to Facebook is to start closing down their API to 3rd party developers.

    I’m inclined to believe Facebook has already peaked and with new accounts in decline, they’re now playing the waiting game until FB becomes yet another obscene MySpace social network.

    I’d be interested to see who’s waiting in the wings to take over the #1 social networking slot. Some have said Twitter’s where it’s at but I can’t think of anything worse than publishing my daily experiences of “Having beans for tea, lovely.”.

    For the masses, Facebook had it all but now with intrusive applications and advertising it’s days are numbered in my opinion.

  2. Tony Spencer says:

    Shutting down the API may slow down the problem but won’t stop it. It’s going to be very difficult for all social sites with big numbers of visitors to stop the problem.

    One can write code to login and perform functions like a normal user in almost as few lines of code as it would take to use the API:
    http://mechanize.rubyforge.org/mechanize/

  3. Julie Joyce says:

    Facebook is definitely getting more obnoxious, yet I continue to use it, as Jane (ahem) may have realized from the past week of our constant messages. It’s good for a lot of things, but the distraction of using it is getting to be a bit much for me. Twitter also contains a lot of noise BUT there aren’t quizzes and recent photo comments to bog you down, so I’m slowly but surely trying to do less Facebook and more Twitter.

  4. Jane Copland says:

    They definitely took a risk in launching the API and although I’ve enjoyed playing with various apps and have kept a few of them, I’ve never been annoyed more by anything at Facebook than I am the constant application “invitations.” I like it that you can now block certain applications from sending you invitations, but the zombie and pirate requests had died down before I knew about that.

    I still love Facebook so I hope they clean things up over there. Still not totally sold on Twitter :)

  5. Great post Jane! I thought I was totally safe with my standard wall and am horrified that the fuckers have infiltrated my one “safe” wall. SuperWall and Advanced wall was always shite, but as you said at least you could just chose not to have it. Those messages “forward to 10 people in 10 seconds or your grandma will die” type things are one of my pet hates. Pity the noise is taking over as I really like facebook, although I have way too many “friends” that I’ve never met, spend way too much time poking Julie and should really be doing more work..

    Oh and one more thing, I still believe Twitter is a complete waste of time (sorry Donna, I know you love it) and can’t see myself ever “getting” it. Lisa is twittering: “I’m eating a piece of toast and I’m thinking I should have a bath before I go to bed, hmm I smell”….Now I say “YAWN”….Maybe if I had a more interesting life it would be worth it ;)

  6. Tony Spencer says:

    Its not just you Lisa. I’ve talked to a lot of people that think Twitter is crap. Its a waste of gray matter bandwidth.

  7. Jane Copland says:

    Lisa, you might enjoy Twitter more now that Hank, Liza and I are using it to exchange meaningless messages too. Not that we don’t already have Facebook for that… it really is just a glorified form of IM for us at the moment :)

  8. crabby fat white middleaged guy says:

    Facebook sucks

  9. Julie Joyce says:

    I really enjoy being called Hank. Thanks for not listing your nickname here, Flora.

  10. Jane Copland says:

    Dear Hank,

    Hugs!

    - Flora

  11. Kalena says:

    Hey Jane – I’ve noticed it too, just in the past week or so. It’s a real shame and your description was so apt – the kids can’t leave their bikes on the lawn anymore! I do blame the apps for most of the problems. The Packrat “invite 5 more friends to get a limited edition card” briefly turned me into a Packrat whore until I got my addiction under control, but some apps require you to invite friend or trick you into thinking it’s required. That stinks.

  12. Tim says:

    Until the general population learns how to use the internet, this problem will continue, not just to your favorite websites, but anywhere that has flocks of people(bleet!).

    Anyway the picture of “just showing some VI love” caught my eye, you may consider it spam but any developer or nerd will find it pretty funny

    What was so wrong with AIM/ICQ.. Text + images, what more do you need?

  13. Nick Wilsdon says:

    I’ve left FB to go to Twitter. I can justify Twitter as time there is more productive. You’re right though Lisa, finding out what people are having for breakfast is totally pointless. I drop them very fast, even if they are following me.

    I’m looking for people who drop links or interesting info – there is a lot of that going on. It’s also useful for dropping your own links for social submissions. You just have to be very careful with who gets on your list and who doesn’t. Just because people follow you, I don’t agree with this etiquette about reciprocating. It’s your time/work.

    If you want to give it a try, my profile is here:

    http://twitter.com/nickwilsdon

    I try and keep it useful for people. Saying that – Twitter quality is v. low at the moment. Must be the SES effect. Lots of twitters along the lines of “Breakfast then off to the SES” – maybe I’m just jealous heh

  14. Look, if you’re using Facebook as a Social website, you get the whole mess. There’s a Gawd-awful amount of MySpace wannabe’s in their applications. Most want to set me up with that “local single next door”.

    But check out the Facebook blog – you can opt out of these applications and block them.

    The sidewalks are safe again ma’am – just remember to surf responsibly, and don’t answer the junkmail, no matter how tempting the offer.

  15. Jane Copland says:

    “But check out the Facebook blog – you can opt out of these applications and block them.”

    I link to the blog post about blocking applications but there is no way to avoid them entirely (tricky links within friends’ applications) and, as far as I can see, there is no way to prevent spam appearing on the regular wall (highlighted above). Did you read the post in its entirety?

  16. Jane Copland says:

    @Tim
    The “VI Love” sign unfortunately refers to nothing more interesting than the (godforsaken) U.S Virgin Islands :\

  17. Nick Wilsdon says:

    Saying all that Jane – it was a great feeling when I opted out of *all* the applications, including my 85+ pending invitations.

    I’ll still be back on there when the ‘Get Jane to UK Conferences’ groups need support ;)

  18. Bill says:

    It’s your own fault. I’m assuming as an SEO writer you accept any and all friend requests so you can enhance whatever crap you do. Guess what? You gave those people permission. I’ve been on Myspace for 3 years, and the only time I ever received such a message was when someone hacked a friends account. One spammy comment in 3 years is pretty good if you ask me. Maybe if you didn’t try to be such an internet whore, you wouldn’t have this problem.

  19. Geld Lenen says:

    While it works, it will be there. Since Facebook is receiving loads of (converting) traffic, spam will flourish. I’m glad I don’t visit Facebook!

  20. Julie Joyce says:

    @Bill: how long has it been since Jane turned you down?

  21. Jane Copland says:

    @Bill The screen caps were taken from other people’s walls, not mine. I’ve not experienced them yet on my own profile and I’d get in touch with the people whose accounts left such comments if such a post ever showed up. Also, it’s not nice to call a girl a whore.

    @Julie ^_^

  22. TheMadHat says:

    @Julie: lmao at that one. Poor bill.

    @Bill: If you only have one friend, and his name is Tom, then you probably don’t get spam. PS: Next time leave your link so I can blast you back to reality.

  23. SEO Hack says:

    @ Bill – people like you make people like me smile. All i can think about is you staring at dear Jane’s pic and imagining yourself as Buffalo Bill. good times!!!

    if you learned how to read, or rather comprehend, the post has little to do with quality of her friends and more to do with the fact what they were so good at and what made them so beloved to so many is now slipping down the shitter.

    anyways, go back to cutting your pattern and make sure you have plenty of lotion on hand.

    kisses!

    SEO Hack

  24. Julie Joyce says:

    OK the “lotion on hand” comment by SEO Hack is still making me laugh…

  25. @SEOinSea says:

    Very classy Bill. I suppose that since you commented on this blog that you go jump around all day looking for dofollow blogs to go down on.

  26. SearchBuzz says:

    @bill – you suck! :o

  27. Dr. Pete says:

    @Bill: Judging from the amount of email spam I get, I must be a dirty, dirty slut. Wish I could be there to see the look on your face when your MySpace account gets bombarded by spam, and you’d better believe it will.

  28. BrianL says:

    @Bill – Wow…you talk alot of trash for an anonymous coward. Normally I would ignore someone as blatantly ignorant as you, but to call a female a whore (even if it wasn’t meant in the traditional sense), is pretty low. Jane is a damn nice person and gets the attention she deserves for the time she puts into the stuff she writes. Not everyone can be an expert douche like you, so be proud of that, but don’t be hating on the popular people.

  29. Tom says:

    @Bill – See the problem you have is 2-fold.

    1) You had some friends on myspace. If you didn’t have any friend you wouldn’t have had any spammy comments. You’d think by now you’d have realised this. Perhaps you’re not too smart.

    2) You’re an asshat.

    Maybe if you didn’t try to be such a dickhead you wouldn’t have these problems (though I suspect even if you stopped being a dickhead you’d still be an asshat).

  30. @Flora – You’re a lot more sensitive than Hank. Hank scares me.

  31. Julie Joyce says:

    @evilgreenmonkey: hey Donkey. You should be scared. It’s really a good thing that Bill didn’t call ME a whore. I’d raise a pop knot on his head that you could hang a spare tire off of…

  32. Sean Maguire says:

    Jane,

    Talk about great title writing – a thing of beauty. It almost made me scared to read the post! ;)

    Your full conversion to Twitter is not long off. The maggots have begun their work and it’s only a matter of time….

  33. Jane Copland says:

    @Donkey: It’s nice to know that Hank is on our side. Don’t mess that up, mmkay?

    @Hank: “Id raise a pop knot on his head that you could hang a spare tire off of” It’s comments like this that confirm I chose the right nickname for you.

    @Sean: I’ve now begun work on converting Scott…

  34. Ciaran says:

    Dear Bill (or would you be more comfortable with Dear John, as that’s how all the women in your life [yep, both your Mum & your sister] sign the letters they leave you when they disappear, having realised what a misogynistic little loser geek you are).

    [Insert amusing subtle wordplay here, to show how I'm much cleverer than you are].

    You’re a c**t.

    Love & kisses,

    Ciaran

  35. Jane Copland says:

    What a sad little coward our Bill is. You all should see the fake email address he left with his entry.

    And Ciaran, I can’t believe you starred-out the U and the N ;)

  36. Whoah! that’s kinda strange..I thought Facebook has really tight security..well, I guess not that anymore.

  37. Ooh, ooh, I wanna play!

    Bill, you’re lame. SEO Hack, you’re awesome.

    Yaaaaay!

  38. SEO Hack says:

    @ rebecca – you and Julie are making me blush!

  39. Hi Jane! Started getting this crap a few months ago. off loaded some of the apps (and a few people ?! :)
    So far, so good. (maybe until this post???!!!) Where there’s a will for these space invaders, they’ll find it.

  40. Ciaran says:

    @jane I was trying to keep it vaguely polite and things always get out of hand when you mention the UN.

  41. WOHA! Get back in the office this morning and what has happend over night. SEO-Chicks has got the first abusive commenter. Wohey, funny that the people that write these kind of comments always stay anonymous, coward.

    @ Bill; it’s NEVER EVER OK to call a woman a whore. You are just plain rude and mean. Karma is a bitch, and it will bite you in the ASS!

    @ Jane; I’m so sorry you even had to read what this moron wrote. He’s obviously just a childish wanker.You rock, just see how many people are standing up for you =)

  42. Hannah Smith says:

    There’s a lot of work for facebook to do (in my opinion) to ensure that they don’t lose their users. Inherently the problem with any social network is that once the neighbourhood goes bad, people start leaving. Great post Jane.

    @Bill resorting to personal comments is totally unneccessary, if you disagree with the content of a post provide a constructive arguement and open up a discussion.

  43. Sean Maguire says:

    Christ people! Leave Bill alone. He’s already mentioned he’s an avid Myspace user. Is it any wonder he comes across like the scrotum of society? Don’t listen to these people Bill – you poor sack of SH@T!

  44. Jane Copland says:

    @Ciaran: Emphasis on “vaguely” ;)
    @Charlie: I thankfully never added any of the really offensive apps but I got to enjoy them on others’ profiles when I’d stop by!
    @Lisa: Glad to bring some class to the Chicks blog :P
    @Hannah: thanks!
    @Sean: If only he’d come back to check out his new fan club…

  45. David says:

    You should notify your friends that they’re accounts have been phished because the adverts only appear from people who’s accounts have been compromised or you’re adding people you don’t really know ;)

  46. Jane Copland says:

    David,

    I am NOT adding people I don’t know. If you read my post, I say that I saw these postings on other people’s pages, not my own. I saw them when I went to write on my friends’ walls.

    I’m tired of people not reading what I wrote before they comment. Sorry if I sound edgy; this is not the first time I’ve apparently been misunderstood on this topic.

  47. Jon Massey says:

    pah, VI blows. emacs for the win! :P

    seriously, though I got the rockstar ringtones post on my wall (and looked at the culprit’s mini-feed it looks like several other of her friends got it). Another step down the slippery fail slope for facebook….

  48. Lynne Foster says:

    Oh My, how much I hate those chain facebook posts, that one with the dog (above) has been posted on my wall about 10 times so far! I have another Facebook hate (and I may be lynched for this comment, I’m not sure…) I have come across several “groups” where it’s basically just a link to an external site. I mean, if a company is going to create a group like that they could at least put some thought into it! ;-)

  49. Good article on facebook, as i dislike to lack of simplicity and all the applications you can add, that make your page mile long and full with duplicate posts, that are worth less. I do understand by constantly changing and updating facebook, it may stop it becoming another my space, but a lot of people i know have lost interest because of the layout changes and functionality, which is no longer simple and user friendly.

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