How Facebook Can Avoid Ticker Confusion

In the coming days and weeks, you’ll see more and more passive sharing on Facebook through the Ticker. It is also certain that Facebook users will be frustrated, confused and angry as a result. There is a simple way that Facebook can avoid this… if they so choose.

What is Passive Sharing?

Facebook Ticker
Do you know what you're passively sharing to your friends' Tickers?
In the past, you’ve had to click a “Share” button and go through the steps of approving every post to your Facebook wall. You actively and consciously shared your content to Facebook. As a result, you shared less.

Now, when you first add a Facebook application, you click “Add to Timeline.” This way, it will passively share all of your activity to the Tickers of your friends (as you determine in your privacy settings). As a result, you will share more.

Let’s use Spotify as an example because you’ve likely already seen updates from your friends with this application.

Spotify is a music service. It allows you to listen to your own music as well as friends’ music. Spotify integrates with Facebook so that you can share the music you are listening to with specific groups of friends.

Spotify Facebook Installation
When you click add Spotify to your timeline, you'll share all of the music you listen to.

Sharing the music you’re listening to — or knowing what your friends are listening to — may or may not be useful to you. But also consider the other possibilities: Know what your friends are reading, watching, cooking, etc. This could be useful in certain circumstances in terms of discovering new things.

The Problem

The problem is that since passive sharing is new, most Facebook users don’t realize what it is they are sharing (which is everything). It’s been common that a friend will go days sharing every song that is being played on their computer without realizing this information is being pumped to their friends (again, the group of friends they designated when they added the app — or the default group to whom they share).

[Note: See my post on the 6 Steps to Controlling Your Facebook Privacy for more information on default sharing.]

While the potential for disaster is limited with Spotify, there is certainly an opportunity for embarrassment. And it probably wouldn’t help if your boss is on your friends list that receives the updates of the songs you’re listening to (and you shouldn’t be Facebook friends with your boss in the first place, but that’s another story). Or co-workers. And also realize that when you listen to a friend’s playlist, songs will come up that you don’t “intend” to listen to, but they still go into your friends’ tickers.

So… worst case here. You’re listening to music on work time — which shouldn’t be a big deal at most jobs. You’re listening to a friend’s “Top 100″ playlist that has mainly been Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Al Green — all awesome and respectable music. Suddenly, that friend slips in some 2 Live Crew.

You get the potential. It shows up in your friends’ tickers. It may reflect poorly on you, particularly if you don’t filter your friends appropriately.

Of course, this is just with music. Think of the possibilities here for what you’re reading, watching, etc. It could get hairy.

The thing is, the true problem isn’t necessarily that the information is being shared. It’s that users often don’t know — or forget — that the information is being shared. When that happens, nothing is done to prevent such an embarrassing situation from happening.

The Solution

I’m not going to ask for a drastic solution, like eliminating passive sharing. I get that there is some really cool potential here.

But Facebook can make one very simple change that will prevent a lot of headaches: Put your own activity into your own Ticker.

I don’t understand why they don’t do this. I get my own activity in my News Feed. Much of the confusion and anger about the Ticker is misguided because people assume they are sharing stuff they don’t want to share through the Ticker because they see information that isn’t protected by others showing up.

In reality, so many problems can be solved simply by putting my own activity in my Ticker. This way, what I’m passively sharing is always clear. It’s never a mystery. And when there’s clarity, acceptance is more likely to follow.

Once you know what you are sharing, you can react quickly. It encourages me to check my privacy settings for that app. It reminds me to be careful what I am listening to/watching/reading with that app. And if I’m not comfortable with what I’m sharing, I can always disconnect that app from Facebook.

Oh, and one more thing… Allow me to delete individual items when they show up in the Ticker. While I agreed to passively share, I should have the ability to delete something that I don’t think accurately reflects my interests.

So, I guess that’s two changes. But one big one and one small one: 1) Let me see what I am passively sharing in my own Ticker, and 2) Let me delete individual items that I have passively shared so they are removed from Tickers.

What do you think?

  • Peter Campbell

    I think that we’ve seen examples of passive sharing for years, and the more active you are in social media and savvy your community, the more you’ve been victimized by it. The pre-FB passive sharing is the use of RSS or social media add-ins to broadcast all of your activity on one or more networks to one or more other networks. There are FB add-ins that allow me to share every tweet on FB. Same with LinkedIn.  Tools like ping can broadcast your every thought on one network to multiple other networks.  I have friends — people that I know and like — who use these tools to make sure that I not only see their tweets on Twitter, but also Facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere else I care to go, unless I choose to stop following them there.

    I believe that this is what quickly killed off Google’s Buzz product, and it’s very wise of them to refrain from allowing us to easily share entire SM streams on Google+. I call it the echo chamber.

    So Facebook’s new passive sharing — which allows Spotify or Wapo to post every song I play or article I read to my feed for all of my friends and family to know about — isn’t the exact same thing, but it has the main annoying component: it’s spam.  Sharing your entire twitter stream on Facebook or linkedIn is spamming.  Sharing your Spotify playlist and every article you read is spamming.  Facebook is enabling us all to be annoying spammers. 

    The thing about that annoying need to decide whether you want to share something, as opposed to sharing everything, is that it introduces thought and consideration into the sharing process. I appreciate having information explicitly referred to me by my friends and colleagues.  But I don’t even want to know every article or song my wife is reading or listening to, much less my high school friends, in-laws and all other 300-400 people that I’m connected to on Facebook.  That’s a nightmare.

    Passive sharing waters down the quality of ones feed for other Facebook users.  It probably improves the quality for advertisers and marketers, because they can then analyse your reading and listening habits and market more effectively to you.  Facebook is definitely reminding us how they made that billion dolars in annual income — by appeasing the people who pay them, not the likes of us.

    So here’s my question: will you do this?  Will you install apps that add massive amounts of trivial data to your timeline?  Do you think your friends on Facebook will appreciate this?  I’m stymied as to why anyone who is not making money selling things based on timeline data would find all of this appealing.

    As you know, I blogged about it here:

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comment, Peter! I can always count on you for an opinion on Facebook.

      I agree with you on some of this. I hate spamming. It annoys me when I see people use applications to publish their same post on Twitter to Facebook, hashtags and all. 

      This is the thing, though, that we disagree on: I think there’s value in passive sharing if there is a specific spot reserved for it on Facebook. I would hate it if my news feed became overrun with passive sharing. That isn’t what the news feed is for.

      And Facebook knows this. The Ticker was created for “light weight” items. Passive sharing fits here. If I care about what you like, what you’ve commented on, what you’re listening to/watching/etc., the Ticker has value to me. But I don’t spend all of my time there. 

      If I care about what you are sharing, I follow the news feed. This is where you can share an item as a recommendation. Less information flows through here. But it’s generally more thought provoking.

      So you can still do both. If you want to passively share what you’re doing (and it sounds like you won’t) you can add an application that shares this information to the Ticker. But if you want to specifically recommend something, you can still do that. And it will still get priority in the news feed, uncluttered by passive sharing.

      So, yes… I agree that a Facebook overrun with passive sharing would be bad. But I don’t think that is going to happen, at least not to your news feed.

  • Joost

    Nice read, I just read it to late ;-) My friends now know I listen to soft German schlagers (ok I’m trying to learn German, but that didn’t mean I wanted everyone to know I’d become accustomed to listening to that kind of music..).
    I probably inadvertently tripped over a log-in option. It made me dump Spotify right away because of the frustration of the “privacy breach” (even though I could/should have known). I removed the ticker (at least I can’t see it anymore), but I personaly would much more prefer that such things could only be actively added, not passively when skipping one to many log-in options.