How To Increase Website Traffic

Many Questions About HuffPost & Facebook Connect
Welcome to the brave new world of ubiquitous social networking and the mashing up of traditional media and social networking.

In the past I’ve held forth on how opaque I feel Facebook’s applications are about what information they share, and how uneasy it makes me to respond to cause requests, games, contests etc. on Facebook. This latest instantiation of Facebook’s “see everywhere, be everywhere” strategy makes me feel as skittish as ever.

I lean left, but with a broad libertarian / 2nd Amendment streak. What can I say; I’m a Texas Democrat. So I occasionally read the Huffington Post, although I don’t blindly agree with everything it says.

So this latest offer to publish HuffPost content to my wall doesn’t really sit well with me. And it triggers many questions, such as:

* What content appears on my wall? Do I have control of what shows and what doesn’t?
* Will wingnut comments from the stories appear on my wall?
* What happens if I want to disconnect HuffPost content? How easy is that? Will I be able to?
* What information will HuffPost gather about me if I sign up? What do they do with it?
* If a Facebook friend or I comment on HuffPost stories; what can HuffPost do with the content?

Take note of that last one, folks. I actually clicked on HuffPost’s terms of use link in the dialog box to see if I could figure out what rights they were claiming. As usual, I was shown a screenful of legal BS.

But take note of these two sentences, which I *assume* (but am not sure) comprise the core of the agreement between HuffPost and me:

By posting or submitting content on or to the Service (regardless of the form or medium with respect to such content, whether text, videos, photographs, audio or otherwise), you are giving THP, and its affiliates, agents and third party contractors the right to display or publish such content on the Service and its affiliated publications (either in the form submitted or in the form of a derivative or adapted work), to store such content, and to distribute such content and use such content for promotional and marketing purposes. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, with respect to any video submissions to THP made by you from time to time, you understand and agree that (unless you and we agree otherwise) THP may, or may permit users to, based solely on functionality provided and enabled by the THP website, compile, re-edit, adapt or modify your video submission, or create derivative works therefrom, either on a stand-alone basis or in combination with other video submissions, and (unless you and we agree otherwise) you shall have no rights with respect thereto and THP or its licensees shall be free to display and publish the same (as so compiled, re-edited, adapted, modified or derived) for any period.

I have a friggin’ doctorate and I have trouble parsing this passage. I *think* I know what it means, but you know what? I’m really not sure that I get it.

Out of curiousity I submitted the passage to an online readability analyzer. The results should surprise no one…here’s how it did:

* The passage scored an off-the-charts 48.45 on the Gunning-Fogg Index (scores typically range from 0-30).
* It rated a mind-bending NEGATIVE 36 on the Flesch Reading Ease Score (scores range from 0=hard to 100=easy)
* The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index indicates how many years of education someone typically needs to understand a sample of text. For example, an 8 would indicate that an eighth-grade education would be required to understand the content; a 14 indicates that you’d have to be a college sophomore to grok it. This passage scored a Talmudic FORTY THREE.

I started this rant thinking I was commenting on the difficulty of knowing the ramifications of your actions in this new world of interconnected social media and networking sites. I’m ending on a different rant, but it’s all related to user experience. Here it is in a nutshell:

Hi there social media sites, this is your user talking to you. If you want me to connect up my account to your “strategic partners” and help you “monetize your user base”, DON’T make your user agreements so dense and hard to understand. It only scares me off and makes me worry that you’ll take my data and do whatever you want with it.

In other words…DON’T give your lawyers final edit over your terms of service agreements. They’re hurting your user experience and your brand image. And what’s worse (from your shareholders’ point of view, that is), they’re probably suppressing uptake of these new services because they’ve made it so dang hard to figure out.

Back in June Jared Spool pointed out at the UPA 2009 conference that the user experience field is behind the curve when it come to this new world of interconnected sites and accounts. It ain’t just about usability anymore…and it really hasn’t been for the last five years or so.

If the user experience field is going to remain relevant in this new world, we HAVE to create new guidelines and standards for how sites and services communicate with their users about how and where they use their information, and what rights users have to control how their information is used.
By pjsherman on 2009-08-23 11:11:17
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