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FaceBook Scandal Points to Strengths & Weaknesses of Social Networking Tools

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 12/23/08 (2:52pm)

facebook_logo.jpg A fascinating scandal on Facebook, uncovered by blogger Brad J. Ward, points to both the strengths and weaknesses of Social Networking tools.

The scandal revolves around an attempt by at least two companies, and MatchU to corner the market, so to speak, on as many College 'Class of 2013' Facebook groups as possible using non-attending individuals to set up the groups and serve as Admins.

Once they were found out, representatives of these two companies, possibly sensing a public relations disaster, left comments on Brad's original post, apologizing for their actions and promising to vacate the groups they had so improperly created.

Many commentators called this 'squatting' and appropriately identified the need for Colleges and Universities to stake out prominent roles for themselves in social networking sites so that vacuums like this don't occur in which case marketers (or even worse) inevitably come in to fill the void.

But that's only half the story.

The other half is the casual almost breathless use of collaborative technology that went into uncovering this scam.

The thing was first mooted on a blog, screen-shots were put up on Flickr, a screencast was created using Jing. Brad and others searched LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and even Craigslist eventually nailing down the companies responsible for this.

They communicated with each other on his blog, through Twitter or using a group spreadsheet on Google Docs. The spreadsheet itself which has since been taken down for privacy reasons, quickly incorporated the work of at least 30 volunteers listing more than 400 schools.

And all of this happened within the space of a day or two!

Communication has been instantaneous for a while now but the variety of ways we can communicate and the number of formats we can employ is truly remarkable.