In my last update, I busted on Facebook for their relentless -- yet halfassed and inconsistent -- morality policing. They had blocked a bunch of ads that Hubba Hubba Revue had purchased, claiming that the ads didn't follow the rules, when in fact they did. Eventually they relented -- who knows why. But some of the most telling responses I got were from several people who said, "I sent this to my friend who works at Facebook, and they said that that definitely should not have happened, and they probably could have fixed it, but they weren't going to because they didn't like your tone."
So let's get this straight: Facebook has a widely known, years-long reputation for capricious, fickle enforcement of their policies; a corresponding reputation for giving the victims of their inconsistencies no recourse; and despite this, when these fine employees of theirs hear of a problem, their response is, "Well, because that guy pointed out a bug without also blowing sunshine up my ass, I'm going to just leave our product buggy." They seem to love their company so much that they're willing to let their own product suffer, so that they don't have to open their eyes to the problem. It's the other kind of "tech bubble".
Say you're driving at night, and someone yells, "Hey jerk, your headlights are out!" Do you say, "That guy was mean, so I'll show him, I'm going to keep driving in the dark!"
I ended that post with:
Fuck Facebook. They really are just the worst.
If you work there, I implore you to quit. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time. You can do it. I believe in you.
But, you know, maybe they have attracted exactly the employees that they deserve: the kind who care more about their feels than about shipping products that work.
Facebook remains the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and you've just got to hope it doesn't poop too much. And this brings me to a change I made to our web site recently that makes me feel really, really dirty. But I went and did it just the same.
You're probably aware that Facebook knows just about every single web page you've ever looked at. If you're logged in to Facebook, and you visit some other page that has a Like button on it, Facebook knows what page you visited, even if you didn't click the button. In fact, they probably know who you are and what page you visited even if you aren't logged in to Facebook at the time. There are ways, and they've been sued over that sort of thing before.
You've probably noticed this if you ever browsed something on Amazon that you've never looked at before, and suddenly Facebook has ads for it. That's how it happens. Facebook knows all about your dildos and hemorrhoids. (And the NSA has all your dick pics.)
(Google has just as much information as Facebook, not because of Like or Plus buttons, but because everyone in the world uses Google Analytics, which invisibly tracks you just as well as those buttons do.)
We buy ads on Facebook, because they work. When you buy ads, you try to narrow the scope to one that makes sense: geographically, and by using keywords like the band that is playing, or other bands that they sound like, and based on that, Facebook shows those ads to some random set of people that they think are most likely to click it. But buying ads is always kind of a gamble, because it's really hard to tell whether that ad turned into a sale.
We don't have to give them any identifying information about who spent the money, like name or email address -- because they already know, by virtue of the fact that you left yourself logged in to Facebook in another window.
So what this means is, the ad report now says things like: "This ad was shown to 500 people, 50 of them clicked on it, and shortly after those clicks, 20 of those same people spent a total of $300 with you."
So that's some pretty positive evidence of whether the ad was worth buying! Maybe those 30 people would have found out some other way and bought tickets anyway, but drawing a direct line between an ad purchase and a sale is not something you can often do.
It's so gross, though.
The first gross part is that it just highlights how heavily surveilled you are by Facebook, all across the web. Even before we put this checkout tracker on, we already had Like buttons, because everyone does it and those drive traffic. This new thing feels like snitching on our customers, but those Like buttons were already "game over".
The second gross thing is that we've given just one more piece of information about our customers to Facebook, but not in a way that is directly useful to us. Even though we're doing the leg work to build up this dossier on our customers, we don't actually get to look into the file. Only Facebook does. When Facebook eventually goes away, the information is gone. When Facebook becomes more extortionate, the information is gone.
The future of this looks a lot like all of those bands who spent years building up subscriptions to their Facebook fan pages, only to have Facebook turn around and tell them, "We've changed our mind, if you want to actually reach those fans, suddenly you have to pay."
I'm sure now someone in the peanut gallery is going to pop up and call me a hypocrite for despising Facebook's business practices, and yet still taking advantage of their services. Well, I don't like it, but I am pretending to run a business here, and that leaves you with something less than absolute moral clarity.
So I guess what I'm saying here is:
Run an ad blocker.