Facebook and Human Behavior

I’ve had a long fascination with the Lucifer Principle by Phillip Zimbardo (see video). A lot of his anecdotes are from the Stanford Prison Experiment, and other like it. The crux of the argument being that humans have immense capacities for doing good and doing evil, but the side they choose is a function of their environment. One of the most poignant points are that anonymity, and therefore the loss of accountability are necessary conditions for¬†misbehavior.

I think the web has its own share of evil. If you look at the past few years the web has been a cat and mouse game between spammers and spam fighters. Phishing is and continues to be a large problem. Comment/conversation streams all over the web are filled with hateful spewing, flaming, and trolling. If we connect it back to what Zimbardo observed in the physical world, it makes sense: the internet provides a veil of anonymity therefore resulting in bad behavior.

Now if we take a look at Facebook the landscape looks very different and the reason continues to make sense and be consistent with the aforementioned. Facebook provides transparency, and the loss of anonymity. The environment online is changing and so is the behavior. Companies are less likely to spam for the fear of being banned. Fake identities are hard to foster. Facebook has changed the rules without even knowing it, but in a good way.


How to Fix the Android App Store

Let’s face it the iPhone app store is more popular and more profitable than the Android app store. In recent reports 65% of the Android app store is free, while only 30% of the iPhone app store is free. It begs the question of why companies and developers are avoiding Android.

It could really be many facts, but here are some that are evident:

  1. It’s really a chicken and egg problem: either the app store doesn’t have any quality apps and no one wants to buy them, or because no one buys apps on Android no one wants to build quality apps.
  2. There is no quality control on the Android unlike the iPhone where every application is filtered and approved by Apple.
  3. Android is used as a cost cutting OS, therefore being put on cheaper phones where people are less likely to purchase applications.
  4. Apple came first. A lot of companies have already invested in Apple and it seems to be profitable, why build for another platform.

Google can’t really change most of these, but the first two. The second is problematic since it is an open platform, but I argue that the first is actually their biggest problem that they need to tackle and they are in luck since that one can actually be solved.

The solution is simple. Apple and Amazon are already doing this and very successfully. People need to be comfortable with the idea of buying applications. What Google can do is remove the barrier of thinking about your purchasing decision. Make it one click. Apple/Amazon don’t accidentally collect your credit card and enable one click shopping. How does Google do it? Here it goes:

  1. Any android has to be registered with a Google account.
  2. Offer users $5-15 of app store credits when they associate an account with a credit card. Make the credit subsidized by the cost of the phone.
  3. Enable one click buying.

This solves the problem #1 from above. Once more apps are bought on the Android, companies will flock to the platform. This than makes the Android app store more profitable.