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It's Time to Reflect--On Our Facebook Lives

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There's no doubt about it: Facebook Timeline is hot, and the fact that it's not here yet for the vast majority of Facebook users is getting people even hotter.

Some savvy brands are latching on to the vacuum left behind after Facebook announced the "Timeline" feature at its annual F8 conference late September, only to push back the roll out due to legal obstacles and privacy issues.

Some, like Orangina and Virgin, are stepping into the gap, providing their own brand of Facebook-nostalgia.

Orangina's "Show Your Originals" app, created by Amsterdam-based KONG, Refunk and Super Social, showed you ten friends who were your "originals" -- those who friended you and wrote on your Wall first. Your top 10 originals could then be saved into an album on Facebook so you can tag them as your first friends. The idea was to tie in the theme of originality with Orangina, which prides itself on being "Original by Nature."

The app was announced in August, before Facebook officially rolled out Timeline but at the point when the network had already begun hinting that it was about to get on the nostalgia train, showing users status updates and photos from a year or two ago, entitled "On This Day In…"

Time to Reflect
"The latter part of 2011 has become a brief moment of reflection where many have allowed themselves the luxury of marveling how much their lives have changed since Facebook," says Mike Gamaroff, managing director at Camden-based digital agency Gamaroff, which just last week unveiled "Virgin Facebook First Times."

That app, from the Virgin Group in support of Richard Branson's Social Media Marathon, went viral just last week. It lets you pick a friend and then revisit all your first times with that friend: the first photo, the first wall comment, the first event you attended. It then puts it together in a pop-art style graphic that you can post on your wall. Unlike Orangina, it shows you the comment or wall post in question, and also doesn't have what Gamaroff calls the Orangina app's "biggest failing": its use-once-only limitation. "Every time you run [that] application, you're always going to get the same result, so there is no emotional reaction and no reason to try again."

Evaluate Your Social Quotient
While Virgin and Orangina both took Facebook data from the past to evoke feelings of nostalgia, Amalgamated and Stinkdigital used it for a bigger purpose: To evaluate how cool you really are. In a campaign for Patron's Ultimat Vodka, the agencies created "Social Life Audit," which goes through your past pictures and check-ins to find out how fly your social life is.

That app uses Face.com's API to track your pictures on various levels: the gender composition, your expression (it can even say whether you're actually having fun or whether you're "fake-smiling") and then matches your Facebook check-in's with the Access Network's Blackbook database to see if you're hitting the coolest bars and restaurants. It then gives you a pass or fail -- based on user average -- and suggests places for you to go to.

Ironically, the app is meant to lure users out of their digital lives to get them to play in the real world--basically, Ultimat's brand proposition.

"Facebook is becoming the shrine to your past and a lot of advertisers are finding a lot of tension in that," explains Paul Aaron, director of interactive at Amalgamated. "Timeline has brought this to the forefront, although the data always existed."

While using Facebook as a social life barometer and archive seems to be a perfect fit for more lifestyle-oriented brands like Ultimat and Virgin, it has even been used to bring an emotional touch to "meatier" products.

Intel touted the speed and processing power of its Core i5 processors earlier in the summer with "Museum of Me," a "journey of visualization" that created a museum showing profile photos of friends, posted content, location information and so on, all set out in different "rooms."

While it may seem creepy (and just a teeny bit narcissistic), the data presented is all stuff you have shared anyway -- although having it showcased so neatly may lead users to think twice about how much they share on Facebook.

Fuel for Stalkers?
And how much data you share has also been the topic of some cool side projects as well. This past Halloween, a viral site called "Take This Lollipop" surfaced. You linked your Facebook account, and a video was created, showing a manic stalker that logged on into your account. He then goes through your friends and pictures, getting crazier by the minute, until he types your location into Google Maps. In the next scene, he is shown driving a car, coming to find you.

The site was the brainchild of Jason Zada, who worked with the support of his production company, Tool, and developer Jason Zickel.





Pre-Timeline Nostalgia
Even before Timeline rumblings started, the folks at DDB Paris had worked on a Facebook app for Bouygues Telecom, which offered 1,000 limited edition books to fans that would be specially created using Facebook status updates and photos.



Months later, Deutsche Post DHL and agency Cosalux took the idea even further with "Social Memories," a campaign that interprets data from users' Facebook activity and memorializes it into a 28-page book filled with insights like, "Word you use most often," and "Most active friends." The book's visualzations are somewhat reminiscent of the work of Nick Felton and Ryan Case. The founders of social dataviz site Daytum, were hired by Facebook in April as part of its product design team and were instrumental in the creation of Timeline.





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