Facebook's About-face

I would love to think that I had something to do with Facebook reversing course on its opt-out Beacon program. Apparently Facebook will require opt-in on every event it tries to share with someone's network.

Good for Facebook, but did they *really* need to hear from the Internet community that this was a bad thing? Seems a little arrogant on their part.

And, oh the irony... apparently Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants a little privacy of his own. Oops.


I don't get Facebook

I interview a lot of candidates for Product Management positions. One of the topics I touch on during interviews is branding - do prospective product managers understand the impact a brand can have on their product, their customers' perception of the product, and the value created from the product. I usually asked for examples of brands that create value and brands that destroy value.

Being a product manager of web-based, software-as-a-service products means I keep my eye on industry trends. And one trend I've watched with interest is Facebook. Facebook appeared on my radar in mid-2006 when an external partner talked about them being a competitor to LinkedIn. At the time you could only sign up if you had an email address from a college or university. They've since grown and have been reported on every hour by every media entity ten times over. They are the biggest thing since The Beatles. Or so I read.

Putting aside the quality of their product offering, I believe they have made a big mistake with Beacon. Beacon is their offering which allows third-parties to publish messages to a user's Facebook profile, providing the user the ability to opt-out of the notification. That's right. Let me say that again. Users have to opt-out from telling their entire network what action they just performed on a third-party website.

The Internet community "revolted" when businesses automatically signed up users to their marketing email lists, claiming "well they can opt-out.". It didn't take long for businesses to realize the PR damage they were causing themselves and reverse course, now having users opt-in in a non-intrusive manner.

When I buy something online, I really don't want to take an additional step to opt-out of telling my entire Facebook network what I just did. If I want to tell them, I can tell them (I can do that today). I understand the benefit third-party websites believe they will get... but are they willing to create friction and privacy concerns for a marketing play? Didn't that fail already with email?

As for Social Ads, I just don't buy that Facebook users are using Facebook as a medium for commerce or commerce research. Until they have the ability to send someone a real drink through the Internet, that is.

And why the hype on Facebook when they have yet to turn a profit, yet to acquire half the accounts of MySpace, and still not even close to Yahoo on total page views. Haven't I seen this episode before? Bubble 2.0 anyone?

And finally, I just don't get Facebook as a product. Tried it for a couple of months. Zero value to me. I get much more value from email, RSS readers, blogs, others' photo sites, etc than I did from Facebook. I suppose Facebook is interesting to those that are new to the Internet and unfamiliar with existing tools that do a better job (which is what I believe propelled the growth of MySpace), and certainly there is a market for that. But not at the level it is getting press.

Oh yeah... I just disabled my Facebook account.


I think Red Octane is missing the boat

Guitar Hero III is a big hit. The wireless controller is great. Co-op gameplay is way cool. Another great set of songs.

Yet they really seem to miss out on monetizing this platform. Why not have additional albums as a download for an extra fee? Or record a video (using XBox camera) and have them sell you a version where they provide a background? Or create a marketplace where the community can create their own songs/scores and let others try/buy (try for free, want to play again? pay a fee). And so on. Now that they have created a great core, expand it.

This seems so untapped. The potential is there. Innovate and monetize.


Reagan's Rules of Product Management #8: Leadership

Want to be a better product manager? Hone your leadership skills.

As much as I think of leadership, I generally don't equate it to what I do as a Product Manager. I think of my role as a leader to motivate people to do the right things (which sometimes is counter to my product, which is ok), to motivate others to think about their careers in different (better) ways, and to provide leadership on customer-focused products and how customers think. Funny that I usually don't consciously think about how leadership affects my outcomes as a Product Manager. I say usually because it does occur to me from time to time.

One benefit of being a strong leader as a Product Manager is the increase in productivity you can accomplish with your product. While product managers are generally skilled enough to cover all aspects of their product - marketing, business development, support, product development, design, etc - where's the productivity in that? No, better to have others pulling for you and stepping up to deliver functionality... hence making your product better without having to lengthen the calendar time to achieve such functionality.

I am releasing a product this month, and I am amazed at members on my team are saying to me "don't do that... I'll do it." Designers. QA Managers. Tech writers. Software Developers. Program Managers. Business Development Managers. They are all pushing the product forward, without me even asking them to. Wow. More than making me feel great, it is all about delivering more to your customers... and that's what it's all about, isn't it?