Facebook linkbaiting or black hat?

The trend for pointless Facebook pages continues, with lots of “million people who love custard” or statements as pages “Sitting in the bath” – they grow very well virally and rapidly, but what’s the point?

Well…. I’ve noticed a new trend on Facebook recently – a lot of groups, aiming to build a million+ users, follow a formula generally as follows:

  1. Create a largely pointless page as above, the more controversial/amusing/”so true” the better.
  2. Seed the group to your circle and watch it grow virally (hopefully).
  3. Once large enough, add favourite pages for the actual business/person that they were hoping to promote and update to all the fans – sometimes related, usually not.

If 1% of 1,000,000 fans checked out the real target, you’ve just created a huge amount of traffic to try and convert.

It’s clever, but not necessarily very ethical – I guess it’s the Facebook “bait n switch”. Maybe I should of called it “grey hat” (a term stolen from SEO) as it’s not really specifically against the Facebook TOS?

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BarCamp Bournemouth

BarCamp Bournemouth

Last weekend, I went to my first BarCampBarCamp Bournemouth – a “self organising un-conference”.

If you’ve never been to one, you should go. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, I new the history of how they’d started and I had a rough idea what went on… I’m pleased to report it exceeded my expectations.

For those of you who too lazy to click on the wikipedia entry above, in essence its an event where anyone (and everyone is encouraged to do so) can give a talk about pretty much anything. There’s a white board with slots on it for people to write in what talk they’d like to give/discussion they’d like to host.

from Flickr stream (Andy Trickett)

Some of the highlights for me:

Two Guys a smart car and a bagel – which can only be described by “the hodge” himself, go read it.

The crowdsourced haircut – donate £5 to The Dyslexia Research Trust and take a snip at his hair. Erm… ok.

DigitalDeath – this one was a real though provoker, what happens to accounts after people die, does their content get deleted, should it be kept? Do you have a digital will? We also touched on whats happens when people go “off-grid”.

Other talks I attended (some lightning talks) were on Geocaching, how to make a pulse jet engine, “developer vs designers, why can’t we all get along” (by @adrianh) – from the downright geeky (life defined in two lines of APL  code) to the philosophical (A proof that there is only one true fact).

I really loved the talk about the ridiculous diagrams people have developed for Social Media (@socialmediatwat) – it’s so true.

It was really good to hear a developer rip into “social media practitioners” using their own worst examples – I’m always concious that what I do doesn’t get drowned in marketing drivel and buzzwords – so it was really good to get some reinforcement that what’s important is true engagement, it IS sad that some marketeers and agencies need telling that its just conversations online – I think what he missed though is that some people NEED to be shown this stuff, they’re not native to the internet and what they’ve seen before is push push push perhaps.

Where possible, I check content avoids the LGA banned word list – I’d suggest you read this list.

Next time you see a BarCamp near you, go.

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Anyone else had invites to this as yet un-launched social network?

The basic pitch is that you get shares for signing up and once the site is the new Facebook these nominal 0.01p shares will be worth £££’s (sigh).

Is me2everyone a scam?
Is it a clever viral campaign and, as it claims, destined to be the next big social network?
Is it a spam harvesting exercise?
Is it a waste of time?

Well one of my aims for this blog was to do the research into these things so you don’t have too… I signed up with one of my mail.com accounts (no addr book for it to spam, no real details) that I use for testing such things.

Alarm bell 1

Both invites I received were suspiciously similar – despite one being from a mid-30s business contact and the other a 20 year old musician contact.

And, sure enough once I’d logged in if offered me stock emails I could send to all my friends, like this one:

Recommending your friends, family, work colleaugues and even complete strangers is a great way to earn bonus shares. At the moment we are giving you 200 bonus shares for EVERYONE who you recommend using the link given above.

This is a real world value of GBP £0.20 today: but by 2012, we are forecasting these to be worth GBP £0.58! So imagine receiving GBP £116 for every new member you find!

Plus EVERYONE you recommend today will receive 100 shares for registering here for FREE. SImple…

Alarm bell 2

Perhaps I’m being a snob, but the site is distinctly amateur looking, apart from the intro video, the T+C’s are copy pasted from a £15 service i had come across before (website-law).

Alarm bell 3

The about us for the website lists an address in Kent that is distinctly residential – see here if you really want to (google map).

Any REAL “new facebook” would surely at least have a registered PO Box or… an office!

Alarm bell 4

Once registered ALL of the text reads like a run of the mill MLM scheme, talking about levels of membership and share options.

Remember the plan to close off recruiting at 300,000 members?

Well 10 minutes ago one of our Founder Members gave us the green light to keep the recruitment process open. This is wonderful news as we begin to expand towards the first half a million members. It also signals a change to the way we do business here:

1) Later today the first 40 Global Exec members will be named online

2) We also let you know the leaders in our “10 MILLION SHARE CHASE”

3) We will also give you a glimpse of the new Beta test pages… a chance to see where m2e will be very soon!

4) We are looking at the prospect of meeting with members to launch the Customer Care Manager team

5) News will be coming online a lot more frequently from today.

Alarm bell 5

NONE of what I’d call the big 5 tech blogs have written about it, its not (as of 2200 GMT 16th March) on Mashable, Wired, The Register, boingboing or TechCrunch.

Me2Everyone in Summary

A clever, mlm kind of social network scheme, most likely not malicious in intent but an idea that plays on all the usual tricks of “get rich quick” type schemes, hell its the oldest chain email in the book! “Send this email to all your friends and you’ll get £100 from Bill Gates” – and those earned people… how much money again?

I call scam – avoid it.

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Social Engineering

I received an email today, from a well-intentioned friend that I knew instantly was a hoax that they had forwarded.

We’ve all had them at some point in time “Send this to Bill Gates and 20 friends, he’ll send you a million dollars” for example, they may seem harmless and the opinion is often, well I’ll forward it in case… This kind of ‘too good to be true’ scenario is just that.

But why would anyone bother going to the trouble of starting this kind of chain mail?

Think about the bandwidth that gets wasted, let alone the time for people to click delete or the extra split-second to retrieve your email.

But more importantly, you are enabling thousands of personal emails (often including valuable information like a person’s workplace and telephone number) to potentially get into the hands of internet fraudsters.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant from Sophos warned last year: ‘I would advise users intent on sharing these chain emails to check the website of the company apparently making the offer to determine its authenticity, before deciding to click the ‘forward’ button.’

Simple logical advice.

But this is just chain emails and for most of you (I hope) preaching to the converted… what this lead me onto was to consider some of the “harmless” apps that are available on sites like facebook.

Remember the school yard “What is your pornstar name?” lets imagine there is a Facebook app that shows you my “pornstar name” and asks you for yours… not sure what yours is? Well, its your mothers maiden name and your first pet…

…hold on a minute…

…what would be two key security questions you might need to retrieve a lost password? How many profiles include an email address on facebook – combine the two by “allowing this application to access data about you” and an innocent app suddenly has very real and valuable information.

Social Engineering is about exploiting your very human desire to share, in clever ways to extract information about you and those around you.

The most successful viruses of recent times, have been the most simple – sending an infected zip file with a title that entices you to open it. No amount of clever protection can save you from yourself!

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