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Facebook Wants Everyone to Answer Your Questions

Facebook is now trying to facilitate more business related activity through its soon to be widespread Questions offering. The idea of Questions is not exclusively for businesses, since you can ask any type of question through the feature, but it’s obvious that Facebook is looking to facilitate more conversations that promote businesses because then it becomes easier to integrate Facebook Places and then, ummm let me think, oh yea, advertising.

From the Facebook blog

Friends are often the best source of advice when you’re trying new things: Where should I go to dinner? How do I go buy a car? What new music should I check out? Friends know your tastes, and you have confidence in their opinions.

Like many of our products, Questions originated as people began using Facebook in a new and unexpected way. People would update their status with a question, and their friends would answer in the comments. We saw this and began thinking about how we could make this interaction more useful. Over the summer, we began testing Questions with a small group of people, and today we are beginning to roll it out to everyone.

Here is what a Question page may look like when asking the question of your friends about their favorite restaurant.

Here, however, is where I always feel that Facebook is crossing the line and making it actually harder for some people to use their features. The blog describes the following ‘opportunity’ for users.

Questions will also enable you to cast a wider net. Now, when your friends answer one of your questions, their friends can answer it too. For more unusual questions, you can get advice from a broader group of people, but to keep it most relevant we filter the answers to show you first what your friends think. You can see more responses by clicking “others” within the question.

Personally, I don’t want to cast a wider net and I suspect that not everyone does either. Honestly, I have about the average number of ‘friends’ on Facebook. How many of those are really friends that I interact with? A small percentage. So my thinking is that if I don’t even have a real relationship with the vast majority of my ‘closest’ Facebook friends why would I be interested in getting recommendations from even less familiar ‘friends of friends’? My question is what kind of ‘friending’ can of worms do you open up when you cast this net? Knowing Facebook there will be some kind of unannounced result of doing this that people will discover the hard way. i guess I should be happy that at least they haven’t made this sharing with others mandatory…..yet.

Silicon Valley’s obsession with sharing everything with everyone regardless of your relationship with them has little to do with social. It’s all about capital. The more people ‘interact’ the better it is for advertising. But for the actual users? Letting everyone know everything starts to visit Creepytown pretty quickly. It used to be that you shouldn’t talk to strangers now it’s “Don’t’ worry, we’re all friends!”.

Hey Silicon Valley types. The rest of the world may not actually want to be as chummy as you think. Just look at some of the reaction yesterday to the Color photo sharing product. For every person thinking this is the future there are an equal amount saying that it’s nuts to share everything with strangers.

Of course, this is just my opinion and all of these products and decisions will be driven by dollar based thinking with the PR front of ‘connecting the world’. Be honest, Facebook, what you want to really connect is our wallets to your bank account. Just say it. It’s cool. We understand.

So what’s your feeling about the potential to share with people you have never met and may never even want to meet? Is that a good thing or am I just whining? Go ahead and tell me. I can take it :-).

  • http://www.dianevautier.com Diane Vautier

    I agree that there are some limits to personal information sharing. Facebook is well known for doing things first and then asking forgiveness later, after users complain that their privacy and/or rights have been violated. How far is too far with sharing personal information? In some cases, that fine line gets tested, in other instances (like Facebook) it quite often get stomped on.

    If people think you’re whining, well you’re not the only one. I’m right there with you.

    Diane Vautier
    @dvautier

  • http://twitter.com/NickStamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    I too would be wary about sharing information with friends of friends, although theoretically it is already possible. If you post something on Facebook and one of your friends shares it, that information has now been broadcast to their network. It seems like Facebook Questions is more of a peer review service than a search engine. Yes, I want my friends’ opinions about a local restaurant, but I’m not trusting them to teach me how to fix something.

  • http://www.thewebcitizen.com Elias Chelidonis

    The power of questions and answers is enormous, people have stopped searching by using single words and they know use phrases such as ” how to…. ” and many others. With facebook ‘s huge userbase we can imagine that pretty much a large number of questions asked on google will be sent to facebook.

    Elias

  • http://www.rusty-bucket.com Bethanie

    It sounds like a great app for people who like to collect friends as if they’re a stamp collection. I totally agree with the statement about the actual number of connections we maintain on a regular basis compared to the number on the wall. If it came to the forced change, I would substantially change my personal usage and keep it only to maintain the business page.