Deleted By Facebook

Facebook just deleted the profiles for Ali Barrett, Simon Beals, Devon Ross and Jory Goudge. Coincidentally these are all of the characters I mentioned during last night’s CaseCamp presentation. Apparently some of the people who got friended by Ali and Simon were very offended and blew the whistle on the project.

It’s sad because it was fun having them on Facebook and using Facebook for storytelling way back in January was a really effective way to communicate with the audience. But even by early March when we ran the second experiment, Facebook was already too crowded an environment and we did very little storytelling in that venue.

It seems to me that early this year, Facebook took a strong cultural shift. Instead of being an underground play space it turned into a business must-have. People are serious about and on Facebook.

I made a rather large boo-boo in not taking this cultural shift into account. Some of the attendees had gotten friendship requests from Simon and Ali and were upset to learn that imaginary people were rubbing shoulders with them. I did apologize to them, from stage and again in person — rather profusely in fact. But too little too late apparently.

If any of them are reading this, I do apologize once again and especially the woman with dark hair who questioned me from the audience. I would have sent flowers this morning if I knew who you are.

In order to attract an audience from now on, there will be no push, only pull.

Important lesson learned.

But the show must go on. This is show biz, baby.

Ali’s and Simon’s blogs still live. And the boytellsall videos can be found on your favourite video sharing site whatever it may be. I will have Facebook fan pages up shortly for Ali and Simon. They were always sketched in because as I said, I knew this would happen eventually.

But as we look forward to expanding this kind of storytelling into three month season, I do not think Facebook will be a useful forum for our storytelling. It is media rich and it is well populated, but it isn’t quite the fun-loving environment it once was.

There are lots of other sites, new ones coming onboard all the time. And when we tell our next story, we’ll be trying out some new platforms.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ali Barrett, Facebook, Simon


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36 Comments on “Deleted By Facebook”

  1. Steve G Says:

    Too bad. I was at Casecamp and am not sure what their problem was, but it was visceral.

    I was very excited to befriend Simon this morning, only to see him vanish by lunch (I find it really creepy that Facebook friends can just be liquidated like that without warning, their wall postings gone and everything.)

    I want to be the first to join the “Bring back Simon, Ali, Devon and Jory” Facebook group. And thanks for your artistic exploration.

  2. Pat O Says:

    In a word – lame. In more words, I was at CaseCamp last night, and I can assure you that ‘the offended’ were very much in the minority (who else noted the exasperated disbelieving groan at the insistence of offense by ‘woman with dark hair’?).

    In fact, It blows my mind that someone could be so incredibly sour, be so devoid of enthusiasm, as to be offended by the fictional profiles of the characters in this story. Amazing.

  3. Bill Dunphy Says:

    Hi Jill,
    Alas I wasn’t able to make it out to CaseCamp last night, despite my best intentions, and I was rather shocked to see this turn of events.
    When Simon first “friended” me, mentioning CaseCamp, I was momentarily taken aback. I get a lot of requests for “friending” or following from strangers on Twitter or Linked in, so it’s not a big deal – it was the CaseCamp connection that made me go – wait a sec, I haven’t told anybody I was …oh yes I did. On Facebook. So no biggie. But as always I checked to see who this was. The profile was entertaining but very much of “a type”. Google, of course gave the answer that, by now, I was suspecting. I accepted happily. It was like getting a knock on the door and asking if you could come out and play. You’d think Facebook and facebook citizens could understand that or at least could understand that the possibility of “fake” people slipping into our virtual worlds is not threatening, but a simple, logical extention of what’s already going on there.
    Not to get all PoMo on everybody, but I mean, how many of the people you meet out there in our virtual worlds are really real anyway?
    Pfui on Facebook.

  4. JP Says:

    Sad news indeed. And I just added Ali and Simon as friends after CaseCamp yesterday.

    I second Pat. Boring people are definitely the minority. They can carry on with their boring real-life friends. I want my fictional friends back!

  5. Jill –

    I wouldn’t have apologized. Not one bit.

    And if the people who raised an uproar at Casecamp worked for me – I would have fired them for being near-sighted sticks in the mud.

    What you’ve created is a tremendous opportunity – and if those F*cks can’t see that then they need to be thinned from the herd.

  6. Diane Says:

    Wow, sorry to hear it. I’m not entirely surprised, given that it was always technically against Facebook policy, and like you said, they seem to be tightening up. But how bizarre at people taking offence when a Google search or click from the websites in their profiles would tell you they were fictional. If you’re going to be Friends with unvetted strangers, it seems like, as Bill Dunphy says, you run the risk of them being next thing to fictional anyway.

  7. jenn Says:

    Inspired by ‘woman with the dark hair’, I was going to change my “About me” to “A work of fiction”. Do you think they’ll delete me too? Sigh.

    I hate party poopers.

  8. BillyWarhol Says:

    Fuck em!! How could anybody have their Head stuck up their Ass that far!!

    FacePOOP + Flickr + all these other Wanker Pretenders are for Boring Suits!!

    They have NO Sense of Humour + NO Life – they are LOSERS!!

    Where’s FAKE Steve Jobs when we need him!!

    ;)) Peace*

  9. Jill, this is crazy nuts. I’m genuinely confused about this story. Not by Face policy (it helps weed out the lurking corps & creepies, for instance), but by the Face complainants. Cranks, like — what is with the cranks out there? No sense of sport (or innovative engagement – why they’re ON Face with no sense of humor eludes this scribe). Why are they befriending people they don’t know? And then to be upset after the fact makes no sense. And if they were bothered by the characters (which I cannot fathom), why, that’s what the Block button is for, Old Crank Fools.

    I’m with your friends above, do NOT apologize for using online tools creatively, ever. We count on you and your teams’ great social experiments to shed light on this era’s possibilities (uh, so does Facebook, I’m sure). Your online projects are just, fair, and gorgeous in spirit — and Story2Oh never harms anyone…. which is more than we can say for some REAL people on Face.

    I also want you to know that I was befriended by a US contemp-Lit fictional character last year, the source was the actual author, promoting his stuff to me as an adapting screenwriter. I did not know that at the time, but sheer curiosity evolved into a lovely and frank Message-discussion of his experiment. I have no problem with that if I say, Accept This Request…. it’s uh, why I’m accepting. You certainly weren’t the first nor will you be the last to invent a persona-presence on a social network. You shouldn’t be ashamed, be proud. This too, is more education that benefits us all. Shame shame on those who just love to ruin a good story. They’re just like, so jealous. Cuktural shift, my foot. If the shift is to premature crusty, maybe.

    I’ll be first to set up a Facebook Fan Page for the whole gang, if there isn’t one already.

    Yours & All Fictionals’ Friend
    screenwriter & editor
    ink canada (facebook edition)

  10. Anna Mills Says:

    Shame! For various reasons I was unable to follow the second installment as closely as I would have liked, but I will cherish the memory of playing scrabble with a fictional character. I never knew which of my new friends from Toronto were real anyway. Good luck with future adventures in story-telling, Anna x

  11. Hi Jill,

    I got to the party late last night and missed all the fuss.
    Too bad, because I would have defended the project to anyone who’d listen.

    It was a fun experiment, I enjoyed it, but I’m distressed to know that there’s anyone who takes Facebook seriously enough to warrant the kind of outrage I heard about.

    Humour and patience are in terrifying short supply these days, aren’t they? 🙂

  12. Baron Says:

    As the saying goes… All publicity is good publicity. People feel threatened by what they don’t understand and instead of trying to participate, they go on the offensive. This is definitely an unfortunate turn of events, but its just more evidence that you’re onto something here.

    Keep up the good work!

  13. I can’t believe Facebook cares enough about this type of issue to delete the accounts. It was creepy how they just disappeared and all traces of them, comments, etc. disappeared too. I have a friend on Facebook who is a donut, so lots of people are using this just for fun.

    I didn’t get a chance to partake of your online story, but it sounded like an amazing project. I’m so sorry it got cut off.

    As for people friending people they don’t know and can’t take 3 minutes to check out, I feel no sympathy for them. In fact, I think this type of behaviour ruins some of the value of social networks. LinkedIn doesn’t really mean anything now as so many people will connect with anyone – there’s no real vouching for the person.

    I hope the stories can continue on as creatively as before. They sound great!

  14. I’m sad to hear that. Loved your presentation last night and thought the experiment was very interesting. I liked the concept a lot.

  15. Jacquelyn Says:

    Oh my, I totally see why facebook did this. While I think this concept is fabulous if it’s openly branded as entertainment (flipping love it in this sense), without that clear notification it comes across as rather unseemly and spammy. Imagine everyone’s horror if a major corporation created characters that started friending people – I doubt the response would be so generous. No, facebook has a responsibility to protect its community from dishonesty, and I think that’s the problem that came out here.

    That said! I still think it’s a totally viable concept if approached correctly. I would say that, like any entertainment medium, you need to figure out the business model and then let the creative flow. And that business model can’t just be monetization – like any social media strategy, it needs to be focused on value to the community.

    Things going all wrong only motivate you to make the next step all the better, anyway. Good luck!

  16. tamera Says:

    You’ve obviously missed the point entirely. No one gives a rats ass about your characters, or even if it was effective “storytelling”, what we care about is your deceptive practices in a medium that is supposed to be transparent. You deceived me when you originally friended me on FB 3 months ago. It’s that simple. You didn’t tell me you were a fictional character and allow *me* to decide if I cared about your “story” or not. You pretended to be a real person interested in getting to know us in the space we all inhabit. It was only at a later date you decided to “fess up” and at that point, ’cause I have a real life and a real job, I wasn’t paying attention.

    Good luck to you.

  17. connie Says:

    I enjoyed the story behind this and appreciate your creativity with this project. I was asked by one of the characters via Twitter to go for coffee, and I was aware she was fictional, so was confused by that. But that’s maybe my issue. Heh.

    Anyway, no one “blew the whistle” as far as I can tell. Facebook is just very vigilant about removing any account not representing a real person. Easy as that–if you are breaking the service’s Terms of Service, unfortunately probably not politic to be announcing it to a room where there could be representatives from the service. And I well expect there were in the room.

    Anyway, it’s definitely an education. I hope you continue to figure new ways to use the medium and break the boundaries. The community you were presenting to are sticklers for authenticity, and your concept challenges that idea, so a visceral reaction was to be expected.

    Connie Crosby

  18. Dave Fleet Says:

    As someone who was there last night and did have some criticism, I’ll go out on a limb and offer a different perspective.

    First up – I’m sad to hear that the FB accounts have been deleted. I think they, along with the other new media tactics you’ve used (and hopefully will continue to use), were a fantastic way to break the story out of the video medium and make it much more immersive. I strongly encourage you to continue with them.

    The shortfall here, I think, was a lack of transparency around the profiles initially. While it seems you learned that this was needed and incorporated it later, you explicitly acknowledged last night that the Facebook characters had a number of friends before you revealed them to be fictional. From my perspective that’s where the problem was – in transparency, early on. A small disclaimer, as you have with the profiles elsewhere, solved it. That’s what I think the ‘woman with dark hair’ (who, in full disclosure, is a friend) was getting at.

    Again, I’m disappointed that FB deleted the accounts. Creative, innovative efforts like this will push boundaries and, yes, people will make mistakes. That doesn’t make them a bad thing; in fact, I applaud your creative efforts, all the more so as you’ve learned lessons as you’ve gone along.

    I hope that provides a little insight to another perspective on this situation.

  19. Henna Says:

    You need to accept some responsbility: if it’s not easy to see that your facebook profile is a fictional one, then that’s YOUR fault in setting it up, not everyone else’s. Don’t apologize for offending people – people aren’t that offended. If you’re going to apologize it needs to be for misleading people! I went to Ali’s profile today and saw that someone had that it was “good to see you”. Upon clicking on on the comment, I see that the person who left you that comment was a real person, which confused Ali’s whole fictional existence!

    And as has been mentioned, there was no mention of Ali’s being a fictional character when she friended me. I would have definitely been intrigued and probably would have friended her nonetheless, but it needed to be said.

    The disclaimer on her Facebook profile shouldn’t have read “I’m a fictional character,” it should have read “Ali is a fictional character…” the use of first person makes a huge difference and I think there would have been less confusion were it not there.

  20. Jody Says:

    This points up the hazy distinctions between fiction, hoax and marketing. People don’t like to feel tricked. How do characters telegraph that they are neither real nor fake? Is it inevitable that some readers will not get it?

    People feel cheated and manipulated if they get pulled into a story only to discover it is a promotional vehicle, an ad posing as entertainment. What happens when you get sponsors and start placing products in the stories? How will you guage your target demographic’s tolerance?

  21. That’s great to hear that your CaseCamp presentation went so well, and I’m sorry to hear about the accounts being deleted; though, I guess it shows us how social networks are moving past simple communication into something that’s essentially a “digital footprint” of our lives. When people misunderstand the situation, they end up taking it much more personally than it should be.

    I thought it was cool how the stories spilled out into the real world and intermingled with the rest of us (With the appropriate “I’m a fictional character” reminder. So who can complain about all this, really?).

    You took all the necessary precautions and have nothing to apologize for; so don’t worry about the critics, there’s a term for those types of people–luddites.

  22. Chris Clarke Says:

    If you wanted to create fake profiles, why didn’t you use MySpace? They welcome fictional character profiles, whereas Facebook doesn’t.

    I give you credit for making an effort, trying something different, etc. but clearly you didn’t consider the rules that the community you were entering live and play by.

    You were aware that Facebook would eventually take the profiles down, right? You can’t possibly be surprised by this news, can you? Real people sometimes have their accounts shut down because someone at Facebook questioned whether or not they were real.

    When Ali asked me to be her friend, I declined. Why? Because I didn’t know her, and I don’t have a need to collect friends the way some people on Facebook do (like many above complaining about your characters’ departure – “OMG! My friends number is on the decline!”).

    Some people don’t have the time to look into whether or not they know the person asking them to be friends. Some people meet dozens of people every day and don’t want to risk upsetting someone because they can’t remember meeting them.

    People expect Facebook to be made up of real people. Why? Because Facebook demands it. If you can’t handle that, go to MySpace. Until that changes, you’re just going to get people upset because you “duped” them.

  23. Is no one here familiar with the lonelygirl15 story? ( Quite a bit of this discussion has taken place before, and I think most people are willing to suspend disbelief in the online space. After all, as the famous New Yorker cartoon said, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Hopefully, lessons have been learned by everyone and hopefully the project can continue and adapt.

  24. happywookie Says:

    It’s sad that Facebook deletes fake accounts? Seriously? If you think FB should allow Ali Barrett then you think they should allow Tony The Tiger too. (Tony got pulled down in early ’07, btw).

    I don’t want noise on Facebook. That’s their whole value prop over MySpace, and it works. You broke the clearly stated rules. Whether it was a whistleblower in the CaseCamp crowd or a random scan by FB, you got caught. Stop whining.

  25. Bonny Says:

    I wasn’t at CaseCamp, but I did befriend the characters early on. At no point in time did I think anyone was a ‘real’ person; I could see in Simon’s friends list that the ‘real’ person (actor) portraying him was listed.

    Having said that, I understand why Facebook pulled the plug (although they have lots of work to do pulling the plug on many fictional personas in there, but that’s another conversation).

    I find this whole debate a tad strange however. MySpace has fictional characters with their own pages and spaces everywhere. The few times I’ve frequented it I’ve “met” more characters from a story or movie than I have anyone else. Mind you, I don’t spend a lot of time over there, so perhaps they’ve cracked down too. If they haven’t – it may be the place to house Story2Oh!’s social networking meeting place.

  26. Eli Singer Says:

    “Wait, let me put some Peaches on.”

  27. Pat O Says:

    I actually don’t think that there’s much criticism of Facebook for taking the profiles down – that’s certainly their right, Fictional profiles contravene their rules, and it was bound to happen eventually. Personally, I’m just really surprised that anyone could be ‘offended’ by the ‘deception’ – I’m really trying to put myself in their shoes, but I can’t imagine feeling anything but indifferent (at worst) upon learning that someone on my friend list, who I have never met and have no history with, is a fictional character in an online story – A story that is essentially a not-for profit experiment. I mean, relax already.

  28. The Hanso Organization, LonelyGirl15, NORBAC,, —

    They don’t exist…and yet:
    They post videos, issue emails, put up websites and profiles, answer questions on message boards, and send people on “missions.”

    They each inhabit a “world” that happens to intersect with ours via the web.

    They aren’t transparent.
    They have secrets…Oh, yes.
    Dark secrets that they keep very well hidden.

    That’s the “fun.”

  29. The interesting thing? This all came out of an idea of something called, “Casecamp.”

    I’ve been hearing the marketing/monetizing the net argument for 15 years now. And every time someone comes from the (Canadian) digital side, it’s all about how creative people from the trad media should adapt this and adapt that to the digital medium.

    Essentially, I’ve had webbies trying to add to my workload for fifteen years, without really understanding what I do, and how I do it, and what it takes to do it. For a medium birthed in everybody able to do and say everything, communication in this realm strangely seems to go only one way.

    Now it comes out that the woman with the biggest bee in her bonnet? A marketer. Are you kidding me? Someone who spends their lives trying to figure out new and interesting ways to get us to want to buy shit we probably don’t need.

    You know, the interesting wave here isn’t necessarily what Facebook did (they are completely within their rights to do whatever they say violates their terms of agreement) or what Golick and her team did (you ask for people to try to figure out how to tell stories in the new medium, and you invite the people who try to figure out how to work to present at your conference. You INVITE them.)

    No, the problem here is a big one — for Casecamp, and for the marketers and new media experts out there who are trying to build the bridge to creatives. Golick has a whole other career. So do I.

    You’re the ones trying to lure creatives to work with you in this new medium. some of you in the audience are trying to figure out how, through marketing, to commercially exploit it.

    And you know what you just said to the Creative Community?

    Fuck you.

    So, you know what? Fuck you back.

    I have zero interest after this fiasco of going to a Casecamp conference, or of building that bridge. You don’t ask people to try to bring their creativity and then do so little to understand it. Enjoy your website designers and salesguys.

    To be “offended” by something like this a year after Lonelygirl just shows how far Canada is behind any kind of leadership role in this arena.

    Not impressed. Not looking to ‘partner.’ Not if this is the reaction.

    Casecamp has got a cred problem to deal with. Let’s see what happens next.

  30. […] me and others that she also admired the creativity of the enterprise. She’s the one that Jill refers to as “the woman with dark hair” in her blog post about the event, which appears to have […]

  31. Robbo Says:

    I’ve posted elsewhere – comments and rants – on this and I think my position is already known. Small minded, unimaginative, MBA cult, marketing slime, cheese headed fucktards – the whole lot of them.

    I’m firmly in the camp of Harold Bloom and Northrop Frye in acknowledging dramatic narrative as the core of our humanity – take that away and we are mere automatons of flesh.

    Fuck that – and fuck them.

    Keep telling stories.


  32. […] But put a character on Facebook and send out an offer of friendship to people?! That created a furor. […]

  33. If facebook was so concerned with fake profiles, they should require real faces for profiles. As a facebook marketing expert, I get invites from “friends” without “faces” but logos or images….I can only assume these are their companies, not their personal profiles, so I usually will not add.

    What you did was creative and pushing the envelope a bit. I can see it from both perspectives. I think part of the issue is that Facebook is selling advertising as their main revenue stream. somehow they need to know that the people are real in their counts.

    Not….let’s get perspective here too…Facebook has made huge communications mistakes over the past few years…..the newsfeed introduction and its beacon platform….so they don’t get to be so high and mighty….seems to me you may have been done in by a junior level employee reading the “TOS”… might want to appeal to the powers that be to create a “fictional category” so your fans can follow their favorite characters.

  34. […] only read about last week’s CaseCamp kerfuffle online in the ensuing blog debate. But next time, let’s maybe show this video by UK’s Idiots of Ants at the […]

  35. Suzanne Says:

    I’m torn, because I think that the culture of Facebook has little tolerance for works of fiction, but it’s laughable to think that what people post to Facebook, or online in general, isn’t to some degree a fiction. (There are some who are apparently non-fictional to the core, and you can tell them by their consistency across multiple public and private arenas over time, but there aren’t many.) Plus Facebook doesn’t respect the humans very well, instead providing more and more platform space to the business. They could have found a better solution.

    As I understand it, though I wasn’t there at CaseCamp, I was there, interacting with Ali on the screen. I was entertained and amused to hear about it, and at no time wasn’t clear on the concept that Ali and the cast were fictional. But then, I read other people’s profiles, and pay attention to social cues, and I am loathe to add people just to boost my popularity. (ooh, crankypants) Plus I don’t believe my reputation can be so easily sullied, nor is my credibility shattered by being human and having human attachments and reactions.

    Those who use the medium (and truly understand it) know that “monetizing” it is a tricky proposition, requiring both a good product (from any genre) and a set of characteristics that we seek out in our most trusted exchanges: transparency, integrity, honour; providing value and Doing the Right Thing. Story2Oh! was fully transparent, if anyone bothered to look.

    I thought it was an interesting experiment, though from my personal experience it was spread a little too thinly for me to keep the thread of the story alive across all the platforms. Plus Ali totally didn’t knit enough, hello! The Purple Purl and Lettuce Knit (and any other knitting/yarn shops) could have totally used her as a sales channel if she had, ha! 😉

    I look forward to other new experiments and the evolution of this one!

    Hopefully the Marketing Messiah will turn up, and we’ll find new paths instead of new obstacles.

  36. maryfish Says:

    Hmm. As someone arriving very late to this conversation, I’m surprised to even see it taking place. I’m a web creator, have been for some time, and it is absolutely the norm in my world for shows to create fiction through other sites – on Facebook, dating sites, Craigslist, and all sorts of stuff in between. Do people really have issues with this? Was it done in some sort of completely invasive or deceptive way? I admit I don’t know the details.

    These tactics are, frankly, not even remotely new. They weren’t even new when Lonelygirl15 used them. Using non-fiction outlets to tell fictional stories goes all the way back to “War of the Worlds.” Maybe even farther back than that.

    That said, I have a Myspace page that is named after my show – with the words “web series” in the URL. When I friend people from it, they sometimes watch the video that’s there – a professionally cut trailer – and write to me with the clear belief that the character is a real person who posted a video she made of her day-to-day life. We can’t take responsibility for the naivete of others.

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