Friday, September 21, 2007

When a professor joined Facebook

Ian Bogost is a professor at Georgia Tech University and is a videogame researcher as well, recently joined Facebook to see how it worked and how he could use it. After spending a couple of months using the site, Ian has made some very important observations on the nature and utility of social networking sites and I have tried here to summarize and comment on his important findings:

1. The concept of friends on social networking sites such as Facebook is much, much different from that in real life.

It is not as algorithmic and rule-based in reality.

Ian says,
As a professor, I found it interesting that Facebook's detail options give me almost innumerable ways to describe the nature and satisfaction of sexual relationships, but no way to declare that a "friend" had been a student, research assistant, TA, or advisee.

Inferring that most social networking sites promote “incomplete friendships”, Ian goes on to invoke Aristotle, whose words used to be gospel in the western cultures.

Aristotle said there were 3 kinds of friendship:
A: Friendship grounded in virtue,
B: Friendship grounded in utility, and
C: Friendship grounded in pleasure.

Ian uses this distinction to classify social networks:
- LinkedIn is for people who are into Business and Politics and use relationships as utilities.
-Most social networking sites are of the third and last type, involving enjoyment, sex and distraction.

Aristotle called these two types “incomplete friendships”.

We have yet to see a mass scale social network which is based on virtue.

2. Disjointed sense of time for older people
If you are an older person who just found a high school chum, the social networking site’s software will say "A made B a friend 30 minutes ago" – in this case, the site has mangled your whole concept of time and relationships.

Maybe Facebook and its kind are tailor-made for a select kind of people.

Ian says,
I can imagine how Facebook would be very easy to use if you started in high school or as an undergraduate.

...and they keep updating the site with events in your life.

However, for those of us who already have lived a life, cramming all that into the confines of a social networking site’s walls is kind of degrading, like giving in to the machines.

3. The river of Mundane, banality…
It is worthwhile to follow the writings of your favorite author and be updated through feeds but to know that your new found friend just paid a parking ticket, added a new application, and removed an application is weary. It is not voyeurism; it is something like the inanity of Twitter.

The deluge of Facebook applications promises to fill up your feeds with endless series of “added ____application; removed _____application)

Ian writes,
…most of the time when I look at my feed, I see very little insight into the lives of my "friends." Instead, I see their lives siphoned through the commercial sieve of Facebook.

While we are at it, I would like to know if my high school friend recommended me for the new job I was angling for.

Can the social networking site update me on this?

4. To share or not to share
Some people’s idea of sharing is ‘on a need to know basis’ and I subscribe to this school of thought.

Young people share all sorts of data on social networking sites and they ought to – they got nothing to lose (at least for the moment), the world is their oyster (not for ever) and they are blessed with the endorphin-promising urge to try out new things.

But it is different in case of adults who have jobs and who are not Scoble or Calacanis.

Acknowledging that social networking sites might have some pedagogical merits, Ian writes about the dilemma faced by many older people (or, people in decision making position) entering a realm that was primarily meant for Younger people ,

...should I seek out and add all my students? Will I appear collegial? Solicitous? Perverted? If I add just the "best" ones or those with whom I had more deliberate academic content, will this be viewed as favoritism? By whom? On the flipside, does a student have any expectations of me if we are Facebook friends? Should they?

On the work side, Ian asks,

Do I want my students to see the details of my professional relationships with faculty from other universities? Or colleagues in the corporate world?

Labels: ,

Email is so in

If you are like me and numbed by all those mindless chatter about email being so out, and younger people opting for social networking over other tools, I suggest you read Om Malik’s latest asks whether Email is the ultimate social environment.

Pointing correctly that there is a big difference between using social networking (mostly fun, time pass and anything that passes in the name of communication) and email (work) and that there are similarities (spam), Om goes on say this about the latest batch of deals and web 2.0-ish product enhancements from current and new players in the email business:

Given its critical role in our digital lives, I wonder if email could be the underpinning of a social environment — much less a social network and more a “relationship and interaction manager that aggregates various social web services”

that doesn’t require rewiring our brains and changing our behavior.

What can really change the email + web 2.0 scene si if Google decides to make Gmail into a platform, opening it for other developers and guessing by current readings, I think a lot has to be done on this.

Related Reading
When a Facebook user got a job

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Show off phrase of the month: Digitivity denizens

You must hand it to folks in the ad business, forever, trying hard to be ‘cool’. JWT uses a tool common with ad and PR industry types – ‘phrase making’ , using it to describe the trend (?) of people preferring online activities over others.

In a survey, JWT found to its ‘surprise’ that 28% of respondents admitted to spending less time socializing face-to-face with their friends because of the amount of time they spend online.

Hmmm…wonder what they might be doing online.
How about poking new found friends on Facebook and trolling Myspace and Orkut, looking for chicks.

It gets curiouser. 20% of 1011 people surveyed said they spend less time having sex because they are online. In other words, if you spend 5 hours online, you would be foregoing 5 hours of you-know-what. If you can keep it going for 5 hours, there is another opportunity waiting and it doesn’t involve the cubicle.

This isn’t the first time I have written about redundant surveys designed to lure clueless clients with high-priced low-tech services.

So hopefully, we expect JWT to tom tom its brand new phrase 'digitivity denizens,' and get some juicy Fortune 500 branding assignments pretty soon.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Media Quote of the day

"Facebook's marketing goldmine may be crock of shite

The web can tell us what we already know, the bleeding obvious - people get more drunk at weekends, for example, or talk about Harry Potter books more frequently when there's a new Harry Potter book out.

But if you want to infer anything more sophisticated, the Hive Mind is no help at all.

- Andrew Orlowski on Facebook and its 150 million users in the wake of a recent Emedia survey which reports that 31% per cent of users of social networking services enter false information into the sites to protect their identity.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Media quote of the day

“They’re using social networking sites like crazy, but they don’t necessarily think those have a place in the classroom,”

- Gail Salaway, one of the primary authors of a report on usage of technology by college students

Labels: , ,

The only web 2.0 advice you should read this year

Not the type to be taken in by the spiel of PR types, I have usually given scant attention to what Steve Rubel has had to say this far but he has come up with a gem this time around.

Forget Facebook and its tireless valley evangelists for a while.
Time to pay attention to all the work put in by bloggers and web 2.0 startups.

How do we get compensated for all that investment of time and money we put in producing all that content?

I am sure not all of us are desperate rewriters and more sure that not all of us are lucky, first-on-the-scene bloggers who have a cushy job or a money-minting book deals by the side.

The only way we can get some return for our online efforts is to act like any real world publisher would do – all tricks included.

Showing none of the symptoms of the phrase-making disease that PR people are plagued with, Steve keeps his ear to the ground this time and says,

... many online communities, bloggers, social networks will never attract a critical mass of advertisers because they are not set up properly to attract visitors who have a commercial intent to buy products and services. Online media is not sold this way now, but I bet it will be in the very near future.

Labels: ,