You know when you’ve been Scobled

So to join in with the chain-reaction that is Robert Scoble being wiped off the Facebook of the Earth.

Disclaimer: First off, I’m on Scoble’s side, though I am prepared to see that there are two sides, and consider that there is a justification that I haven’t thought of. I’m on the fence, but my legs are both on the Scoble side. 🙂

As you may know, he was banned for running a script that would pull his social graph from Facebook, which apparently is a violation of their terms of service. While it may be a violation of TOS, those TOS are fundamentally broken. Despite this, it’s become a topic of much debate, and I can see why it’s a difficult one to judge.

While I’d personally like to be able to pull my data from Facebook whenever I like, I can see a few reasons they might use to justify their TOS (these aren’t my justifications, just possible reasons/excuses for the TOS):

  1. They don’t want millions of people killing their servers with scripts
    Okay fair enough. But the easy way round this would be if the provide/brought back an export facility that does the export on their terms.
  2. They reckon they’re protecting your friends’ data by not allowing scraping
    Your friends are entrusting you with their data, to do with as you wish. So what if Facebook is the medium they choose to provide it to you with? It’s your social graph, and you can still get it via the website, so what difference does scraping it make?
  3. Some kind of state law (same as 2?)
    I can’t comment here, I’m not a lawman, but I suppose there’s a legal thing somewhere, maybe to do with corporate liability insurance or something?
  4. They want to lock you into their platform and make it hard to go to the competition
    Well this is the most likely reason for it, but surely disabling your account is cutting their nose off to spite their face? Disallow the behaviour, tell the user it’s a problem, disable the account and let them know what’s happened, and get back to them when they explain what was going on. If it was a malicious script the user didn’t know about, that’s great, otherwise, let them get on with it.

I commented on Scoble’s blog with the following:

Hope they get you back on. It’s a hard one this, deciding who owns the data. Technically your friends own their data, but on the other hand they’ve trusted you to have it. The only reason Facebook don’t have an export function is probably a competition/lock-in thing. Maybe they’re also worried about denial-of-service as a result of people running scripts?

Heck, even Gmail has an open API for getting contacts from it.

Only to get this reply:

@NeilBarnwell – It’s not hard at all, *you* own your own social graph. It’s not so much the people or even data about them that makes it special its the relationship between them thats special, and again, yours.

I think I understand the point, but I don’t think I stated mine well enough in the first place. My point is that Facebook might have thought they were protecting data or the responsiveness of their service, and just didn’t explain it or deal with it very well.

Facebook aren’t going to go under just yet, but things like this, which are getting so much press, will be damaging to their already tarnishing reputation.

Oh, and the term “Scobled” isn’t mine, I saw in the comments on Scoble’s blog:

I’m coining a new term: Scobled

As in “you’ve been scobled dude”: terminated, waxed, disabled, vaporized, eliminated, banned abruptly and without warning.

Comment by Jeff Crites – January 3, 2008 @ 6:38 am

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