Beyond “Highlight”: Paying for Promotion on Facebook

Facebook is testing a new feature that lets users “highlight” their important posts, making them more likely (but not guaranteed) to appear in their friends’ feeds. This is a fantastic idea. I can’t begin to count how many of my status updates have failed to get even a single comment or like. The only possible explanation is that people aren’t seeing them; this new feature would fix that.

Highlighting is a premium service; this price list includes some additional options that I’m sure they’re working on:

Description Price
Highlighting Your post is more likely to appear in your friends’ feeds and to stay visible longer. $2 / post
Super Highlighting Your post is guaranteed to appear in all your friends’ feeds. Friends who have not yet liked or commented on your post will be presented with a popup window inviting them to do so. $3 / post
Ultra Highlighting All the benefits of super highlighting, plus Facebook will send each of your friends an email and text message notifying them of your post. $4 / post
Mega Highlighting All the benefits of ultra highlighting, plus Facebook will send each of your friends a series of reminder email and text messages until they comment on or like your post. $5 / post
Imaginary Friends™ Facebook will create a fictitious “friend” for you who will post flattering comments and likes to your status updates, photos, and links at random intervals. $6 / Imaginary Friend™ / month; 10% discount on orders of more than 4.
Imaginary Friend™ Wall Posts One of your Imaginary Friends™ will post a message of your choosing to your wall. Popular selections include “You look great! Have you lost weight?” or “I know you don’t want anyone to know it’s your birthday, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”. $4 / post; only available to people who have at least one Imaginary Friend™.

If you highlight a lot of posts, this could get a little costly. I looked at my own timeline to figure out how much I’ll wind up spending on this feature. I started by circling the updates that are so important that they practically cry out to be highlighted:

A very boring Facebook timeline, with some updates marked for highlighting.
An excerpt from my Facebook timeline. The circled posts are the ones that I’d highlight.

Only about a dozen of the updates I post each day are super-important, and I think I could probably get by with just the basic highlighting. So for just $24 / day — about what I spend on my daily half-dozen coffees at Starbucks — I can make sure my friends are somewhat less likely to miss my most significant news. Thank you, Facebook; this is just what I (and my friends) needed.

I’m going to be moving this blog to a new server, probably around May 26. If you use an RSS reader, have the site bookmarked, or come in through a static html link (like a blogroll), , or if you do NOT have a wordpress.com account, then you shouldn’t notice any difference. But this blog will no longer be available through the wordpress.com reader, nor will it be sent via mail to people who signed up using wordpress.com accounts after the move, so if that applies to you, please switch to one of the other methods. Please, please switch. This blog will be a sad and lonely place if you don’t come with me. But, you know, no pressure.

No Time to Read? Try the New Kindle Spark

I love my classic Kindle; its convenience and simplicity make it the perfect entry-level e-reader. But let’s face it — the Kindle has limitations. With my busy lifestyle, I need a device that does more than simply facilitate the reading of books. That’s why I was so excited to hear about the new Kindle Spark.

The new Kindle Spark

The Spark is the newest member of the Kindle Fire product line; like the Fire, it features a color touchscreen that provides access to books, magazines, movies, videos, games, and other apps. But the Spark has one feature that sets it apart from all other e-readers: summaries on demand. Traditional e-readers download books for you to read; the Kindle Spark downloads books, reads them, and describes them to you. The Spark can summarize any content instantly, using proprietary on-the-fly summarization technology designed by SparkNotes in partnership with Amazon.com (leaked internal documents show that Amazon chose SparkNotes over CliffsNotes because “Kindle Spark is a much better name than Kindle Cliff“).  Here are some common scenarios in which the Kindle Spark really shines:

  • You enjoy the first hundred or so pages of Atlas Shrugged, but as you read further, you find the characters increasingly difficult to relate to and the speechifying somewhat tedious. Just hit the “Summarize” button to see how the story turns out.
  • You decide to watch The Seven Samurai because you’ve heard it’s a cinematic masterpiece — but after 10-15 minutes of white subtitles against an almost-white background, you decide you just can’t take three more hours of this. Hit “Summarize”, and the Kindle Spark will instantly convert the film into a movie trailer of whatever duration you want (90 seconds if you don’t specify a length).
  • You want to keep up with your friends, but you just don’t have the time. Bring up the Facebook app, hit “summarize”, and the Kindle Spark will produce a report similar to this one:
    Photos Stories Links
    Children 3 5 0
    Pets (including Internet cats) 8 1 6
    Vacation 15 3 0
    Politics (including political comics) 0 1 4
    Comics (non-political) 0 0 6
    Non-sequiturs that may or may not be song lyrics 0 9 0
    Food 3 3 0
  • You don’t want your friends to know that you get all your news from the tabloid headlines you read while waiting in line at the supermarket. Subscribe to as many newspapers and magazines as you want, then hit “Summarize” to receive a highly-condensed version of each periodical as it’s published. A planned software upgrade will include the option to post 1-3 summaries of randomly selected articles to your blog, Facebook, or Twitter account each day. Each summary will include a reference to the original periodical (“Just saw this on The Economist today”) and a link to the original article.

At $219, the Kindle Spark isn’t exactly a stocking stuffer, but it does make a great gift for someone who loves to read but never seems to find the time to actually read anything.

Need more last-minute gift ideas? For the cat-lover on your list, consider the CatSofa or the Squeaker 3000 Robotic Toy Mouse.

A First Look at GM’s Prototype Facebook Interface

Facebook updates while driving to work

When I heard that General Motors was testing a new feature that allows drivers to post Facebook status messages while driving, I couldn’t wait to try it out. So I called GM, explained that I have a blog with almost a dozen regular readers, and asked if they’d let me try the system out for a few days in exchange for some free publicity. Naturally, they jumped at this opportunity and offered me a 48-hour test drive.

Tuesday, after work: I stop by the dealership to pick up my vehicle, a Chevy Impala with the prototype social networking software installed. After programming in my login information (a tedious process, but one that only needs to be done once) and getting a brief tutorial on how to use the system, I’m all set. As soon as I pull out of the dealership, I dictate my first (admittedly unimaginative) update: “Hi! This is my first Facebook update from my car”.

My first Facebook update using the automotive interface.
Continue reading “A First Look at GM’s Prototype Facebook Interface”

Sentiments I’m Incapable of Expressing on Facebook

Recently, there have been a few things I’ve wanted to say to some of my Facebook friends but haven’t been able to, because of technical or other issues with the Facebook framework. Here are some examples.

“I’m happy for you, but I don’t care who else is happy for you”. I'm happy for you, but I don't care who else is happy for youThis happens to me all the time — someone posts a Facebook update announcing a pregnancy, birth, graduation, or other news, and I foolishly click the “like” button or add a “Congrats!” comment. And then, for the rest of the day, I get a constant barrage of Facebook notifications. I click on each one expecting lavish praise for my latest astute observation that my car is dirty or that bees exist, only to have my hopes dashed when I realize it’s yet another person adding a “Congrats!” comment of their own.
Continue reading “Sentiments I’m Incapable of Expressing on Facebook”