Facebook: True Fans Only

I wrote a few weeks ago about Nick, who has been on a satiric effort to subvert the Facebook Fan concept by friending any and all big brands he can find. He’d collected about 150 brands. But last night all but a few miraculously disappeared. He’s left with only 8 or 9 versions of Starbucks to adore and a smattering of other brands.

Is it a violation of FB terms of service to fan things you’re not really a fan of?

Is there a maximum limit on how many things you can fan?

Did they get wind of his subversion and decide to send him a warning?

Is there any legitimate justification for this on Facebook’s part? No parody allowed? No play allowed?

Color me not exactly shocked because FB has demonstrated an ethos of control many times before, but I am disappointed. Play and satire are good things.

Update: Fred Stutzman offers a theory:

My guess is they’ve purged brands created by people who are not associated with the brand’s network; the fact that anyone could create a page for Union Carbide was too simply too sublime to last.

Which seems good except for that they deleted his being a fan of this blog, though its fanpage (sad and lonely as it may be) has not been deleted…

Last.fm recognizes user creativity

Last April I noted that “several Last.fm users have developed means of taking music-listening data from the site and generating all kinds of interesting things.” I linked to the front page of the Last.fm stats group where a user was compiling and maintaining both a listing of these tools (visualizers, badges, mainstream and eclecticism calculations, etc) and a space for their developers and users to discuss them. I concluded that post by saying:

And let’s hear it for the Last.fm fans who are creating these programs. If I ran Last.fm, I’d be trying to get some of these things incorporated into the site instead of leaving it all to clever fans to run on their own.

Well, I suspect that the riproaring success that is Facebook Applications was more of an incentive than my exhortations, but Last.fm just did this by creating Build Last.fm — “Free tools built by the community to extend your Last.fm experience.” Except for that little thing about a business model, the concept is much like FB Apps. If one looks more closely, however, most of what they have done is to take the work Last.fm users C26000 did on the stats group page and MrSmithey did with Last.fm tools, and given it an interface that looks more like a Last.fm page.


I commend Last.fm for recognizing and encouraging this kind of fan activity — it’s a great demonstration of how fan enthusiasm can benefit both fans and developers. I suspect that this will result in more stats geeks figuring out fun ways to play with the data.

At the same time, though, it’s a shift that walks that fine line between supporting and appropriating. I don’t think Last.fm are guilty of exploiting here — they are not taking any credit for the tools and they are bringing them much broader notice. On the other hand, in contrast to, say, Facebook apps, there doesn’t seem to be any model to give back to the fan/developers other than “we think this is so cool we’re linking to it.” Now, for many that may be more than enough. When they’ve written some of these up in the Last.fm blog, people have been deeply flattered by the official attention. But they will need to be mindful of the potential for such official recognition to make free labor start seeming more like work than play to those who do it.

The person who runs the stats group has expressed mixed feelings — he likes the official page but wonders whether it leaves a space for the group he’s been overseeing. The one response in his thread as of this writing is — YES, it gives us a place to discuss it. Which I find doubly interesting since Last.fm does a much better job of things like incorporating fun tools than it does at supporting community discussion. But that’s a topic for another post.

I must suppress a giggle that the tool that appears in the upper left corner (ExtraStats) prominently features a beautiful colorful river graphic display of my own charts (its developer loved the visual effect of my obsessive listening habits almost as much as I love the graphic).

Online Music Fan Community Powerpoint

At by:Larm a number of people asked me to share the powerpoints of my talk. In it I argue that the internet has transformed fandom because it expands fans’ reach, transcends distance, supports archiving, provides group infrastructure, enables new forms of communication and lessens social distance. As a result, bands, fans and labels need to work out less hierarchical relationships in which fans are seen as equals who, when treated with trust and respect, will delight in spreading one’s gospel to more of the many corners of the internet than any one person can visit. I make the case through lots of examples drawn primarily from Scandinavian music fans, bands and labels.


One friend warned me to “never give away your powerpoints” but I’ve decided if I’m going to preach the ethos of free, I’d best be enacting it as well. I had a look-see at some of the slide sharing applications and none seems to be able to show the notes section as well as the slides and since that’s where most of the content in my talk was hiding, I opted for saving the Powerpoint notes page as a PDF file instead. You will have to imagine the sparkling live delivery filled with explanatory ad libs and examples missing in this version.

I hope you find it useful and all feedback is always appreciated.

Trolling for Fans on Facebook?

I know a very clever Londoner named Nick, who’s kept me laughing ever since Facebook introduced Brand Pages that allow us to become “fans” of things. Nick, who like me writes for Its A Trap, and who co-runs London’s Swedish live club Tack!Tack!Tack!, has a wicked sense of humor/critical insight about brands, fans and media and has been on a subtle campaign to become a Facebook fan of every corporation he can find.

I’m sure there are a few things he really likes snuck in there, but almost every day when I log into Facebook, in my newsfeed I find something like (today) “Nick is a fan of Coca-Cola (1 fan).” He’s a fan of 100 things, including several varieties of Coke (is anyone really a fan of Coke Zero?!?!?), a few of Pepsi, and most major corporations you can name. I love it because it subverts the whole concept so completely. Also, the repetition (how many Coke pages can there be) demonstrates that plenty of those pages are not run by the companies they supposedly represent.

But when he went and created a brand page for his own new blog, I was inspired to do the same for Online Fandom. Mostly I am just curious, and I have to admit, it’s been kind of fun to observe. When I created the page, I “shared” it as an item on FB, shamelessly begging my friends to be my fans (did I say shameless? Yes, shameless).

First thing I will say is that it is weird to have friends show up under something that says “fans.” Seems silly and wrong.

Second thing I’ll say is that since putting it up, Facebook has been the primary referrer that people click to get to this blog.

Third thing I’ll say is that Online Fandom’s first fan was … (you know what’s coming don’t you?) … Nick.

But what has really surprised me is that somehow a few people I don’t know and did not shamelessly beg have become Online Fandom fans. How did they find it? Are they really readers or are they, like Nick, on some “let’s subvert the process by being a fan of all we can find” mission? Does this lark actually have potential to bring me in touch with readers who haven’t outed themselves here?

Now granted, we’re talking about tiny numbers, Online Fandom doesn’t exactly have a mass audience (it’s not how many, it’s who, right?). But still, I’m looking forward to seeing whether it dies a languishing death or generates something worth having over the long haul.

If any of you are running fan pages for your own stuff on FB, I’d love to hear your take on it.

p.s. I forgot to complain about the very strange set of choices FB offers for defining what kind of “business” you’re running — you’d think they’d be hip to the idea that bloggers might want to use it, but there is no “blog” or even “web site” option. So, like TechCrunch, Online Fandom is a “store.” A store that sells nothing.

Big News From Last.fm

Last.fm users may have noticed that the 2-toned indicators of whether a song could be streamed in its entirety or for only 30 seconds changed colors today. The small aesthetic shift is a sign of a much larger one announced on the  Last.fm Blog today:

Something we’ve wanted for years—for people who visit Last.fm to be able to play any track for free—is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner—and the artists they work with—plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we’ve made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free

In shades of Zune, after you stream a song 3 times, you will get a message about subscribing.  Last.fm’s subscription status, which once offered special features worth subscribing for or at least instilled a sense of supporting an indie upstart but which came to be of all but useless, is also being revamped:

The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things.

And finally, artists will be paid each time a song streams. Artists can upload their own music and be paid directly.

Monetizing streamed plays means that artists whose music endures will continue to be paid over the long haul, not just in initial sales.  It also creates a strange incentive to subscribe and listen to their streams even if one owns an album — if I listen to my own copy, they don’t get paid, but if I listen to their copy, they do.