Whose Data Is It?

On July 6, 2011, in HRExaminer, John Sumser, by John Sumser

Whose data is it? Social Media on HRExaminer

The recent LinkedIN API dustup (they blocked Monster, Branchout and a host of others from using ‘their data’) and Facebook’s decision to limit the exporting of Friend data are gearshift moments. (A gearshift moment is a predictable part of evolution: once your engine is moving at a certain speed, you shift gears). They indicate the realities of the future of social media.

The issue has been pooh-poohed as boring; and dramatized as war. The whole thing will never have the attention of more than a few hundred OCD followers of the tea leaves. One could be excused for seeing the actions as simple exercises in competitive dynamics.

David Manaster concludes:

This move by LinkedIn will not greatly hurt either BranchOut or Monster’s services in any big way — importing a resume was just a convenience for their users, who can still create profiles the old-fashioned way. But its a clear sign that LinkedIn recognizes that these services are taking aim squarely at its market, and that it won’t just roll over and let them do it.

While the vendors posture amongst themselves and for their bankers, I’m wondering something different.

This weekend, I invested a bunch of time trying to figure out Google+, the new ‘Facebook killer’. Like any new digital tool, the thing only works if you use it. You can only make sense out of what it does when you try to solve a problem that will harness one or more features. Throughout the process, I wanted to be able to harvest the investments I’ve made at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Guess what? It’s really hard to leverage the actual work I’ve done. I can’t easily import or export pictures, tags, comments, friends, links, connections, recommendations or messages. I can’t build on the actual work I’ve done. Somehow, the fact that I’ve worked within a system gives the owner of that system what amounts to a virtual title to my work.

I don’t like it very much. I want more control over my work product. I want my investment to be worth more than zero if I choose to move to a new place.

What are my options? I can destroy it. I can export it into a form that can’t be imported elsewhere. I can copy and paste stuff (if the old material is even available). But I can’t seamlessly build on the work that I’ve done.

That’s a bad idea.

In the beginning of the Internet explosion, there were a lot of closed systems. Compuserve, Prodigy, AOL, the Well each had their turn in the limelight. Several of them grew to astonishing size and clout.

All of them peaked and failed. Why? They were closed systems with no way out.

And so, what we’ve learned this week is that we are dealing with a bunch of closed systems that are going to peak and fail

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