aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Why Facebook needs the money
Earlier in the week I posted about a WSJ report that Microsoft is in talks to buy up to a 5% stake in Facebook for $300-500 million. Why would a company anticipating revenues of $150 million and profits need capital?
The New York attorney general has started investigating the safety measures Facebook has put in place, and based on his preliminary investigations, he is not happy. His staff has found sexual predators and a wide variety of pornographic material, including images and videos, prompting him to issue a subpoena.
“My office is concerned that Facebook’s promise of a safe website is not consistent with its performance in policing its site and responding to complaints,” Cuomo said in a press release.
“Parents have a right to know what their children will encounter on a website that is aggressively marketed as safe.” Cuomo is angered by the fact that Facebook has “ignored several — and repeated — complaints from our undercover investigators concerning persons who made inappropriate sexual advances to underage users.”
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the way it looks to me, Facebook needs money for what is clearly a big crisis facing the company. MySpace, the company the FB-crew used to mock, has already had to deal with a similar mess, both legal and image-wise, which not only proved to be a major disruption to their business but cost a ton of money. And that was without a subpoena.
I was kind of hoping Facebook might defend itself with facts about online youth victimization. I realize that’s crazy in this atmosphere and that it will not happen, but if it were going to happen it would certainly be pricey.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Hillary v Obama “friends”
Wow. The tech president disparity between Hillary and Obama is much greater than I had realized…
Microsoft in Talks to Acquire Stake in Facebook
According to the Wall Street Journal Microsoft is in talks to buy up to a 5% stake in Facebook for $300-500 million. That would value the company at up to $10 billion. The WSJ is also reporting that Google is interested in an investment in the social network and could set up a stand off between the two rival tech giants.
The Journal reports that the discussions taking place so far are in their early stages and that Facebook could wind up not taking any investment (or could turn to financial investors, from whom they have already raised over $40 million). Spokespeople at both Facebook and Microsoft declined to comment on the matter to the WSJ, while a spokesman at Google could not be reached. I think it’s safe to assume Google would be mum on this one too. [...]
Facebook reportedly wants to raise up to $500 million to use for acquisitions (they made their first this summer when they bought web OS company Parakey), beefing up their infrastructure, and expanding their workforce. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is holding out for a higher valuation than Microsoft is willing to indulge—as much as $15 billion.
So is MySpace a has been? Fortune says no:
It’s easy to dismiss MySpace, with its unruly graphics, clunky navigation, and general sense of chaos. But the masses love it. MySpace is the most trafficked website in the U.S.: It registered 45 billion page views in July, according to comScore Media Metrix. Another research firm, Compete.com, calculates that Americans spend about 12% of all their Internet time there.
And apparently it’s not just kids anymore - about half of its members are over 35. Murdoch bought MySpace in 2005 when it had $23 million in revenues; he recently told analysts that in the fiscal year beginning in July, it will take in $800 million, with a profit margin greater than 20%. [...]
I’m going to go out on a limb here: MySpace, Rupert Murdoch’s four-year-old Internet plaything, may be the template for the media company of the future.
RELATED: Leading social network/teen researcher danah boyd is opting out of the academic job market for now. Unfortunately, it’s darn-near impossible to dispute her reasoning.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Pandering pols or protecting minors?
We’re pretty well aware these days of the problem of predator priests in the Catholic church. Now the Southern Baptists stand accused of ignoring the sex predator pastor problem in its rank; just yesterday Pam pointed to this example.
...to pressure MySpace, Facebook Inc. and other Internet social-networking sites to put in place greater parental controls and age-verification tools so minors can’t access the sites so easily.
Led by Richard Blumenthal and Roy Cooper, the attorneys general of Connecticut and North Carolina, respectively, the group is working together to pressure the social-networking sites for changes and push for new laws.
The facts about online youth victimization are clear. It’s politics - a politics of fear - that is dragging us down this road and keeping us from more effectively assessing and addressing the very real problems. On Boing Boing danah boyd reacts to the WSJ piece:
The AGs have been perpetuating a culture of fear around SNSs for a long time now, but most of their fears are ungrounded. Research by Ybarra, et al. has shown that safety efforts have focused on the wrong things. (A broader roundup of research in this area is discussed at the Internet Caucus’ seminar on the topic; video, audio, and transcripts can be found here.) The AGs have also been screaming danger since they learned that 29K people on MySpace are on the sex offenders list. BBC reports that there are over 600K people registered in the States (meaning that less than 5% of sex offenders have profiles, indicating that sex offenders are far less likely to have profiles than average adults). On top of that, most sex offenders on the list have nothing to do with children. (Stephanie Booth does a great job of discussing who all is on these lists and why.) Combine this with the National School Boards Association report that less than .08% of teens meet someone offline without parental permission and you realize that very few teens are at risk. MySpace and Facebook are far far far safer than most places that teens hang out (including their own homes, schools, churches, etc.), but the AGs gain a lot more public credibility by screaming “danger!” when talking about social network sites than they do when talking about homes, schools, churches, etc.
Monday, August 13, 2007
School Boards say use Social Networks in schools
While the Attorneys General are off demonizing social network sites, the National Schools Board Association has been collecting data on all of the good things that teenagers are doing with the sites, including learning about colleges, talking about homework, engaging in collaborative projects, and otherwise operating as active learners. To combat the myths generated by mass hysteria, they highlight that only .08% (note the point, this is less than 1%) of students have met someone in person through an online interaction without their parents’ permission. In short, they argue that not only is the Internet not nearly as dangerous as the public seems to believe, but it’s actually quite helpful for students and teachers should be encouraged to support their students in using it. They offer recommendations for how schools should directly engage with these sites and the practices of their students. [...]
Friday, August 10, 2007
History of social network sites (a work-in-progress)
Listening to danah boyd interviewed on On The Media we are reminded that the class division she sees on Social Network sites reflects their origins: MySpace rising out of the indie rock community in LA; Facebook from Harvard.
danah has posted a work-in-progress history of social network sites - “This is not the finalized version and it is not the complete article” - authored with Nicole Ellison and posted to solicit feedback on accuracy and completeness:
The first recognizable social network site launched in 1997. SixDegrees.com allowed users to come to the site, create profiles and list their Friends. The site promoted the ways that users could connect with and send messages to Friends based on degree (SixDegrees.com, 1999). While SixDegrees attracted millions, it was before its time (Weinreich, 2007). While people were already flocking to the Internet, most did not have extended networks of friends who were online. Some participants also complained that the site provided very little incentive to return following the articulation of one’s network; meeting strangers was not in vogue. SixDegrees closed its doors in 2000.
The full article will be linked there when published.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Demetri has 9,000 friends
Well, maybe so. I wrote to some people who ought to know to get their reactions. No response yet.
Sponsored by Microsoft and MTV in order to better appeal to advertisers, you have to wonder about their methodology. And selective release of findings. Their big thrill is that kids still watch TV and are not so techie as we think. Or, rather, not so techie as Microsoft and MTV define it.
As to the section I quoted, it seems quite possible to me that the technology could act as a social lubricant and foster real friendship and mitigate some of the social awkwardness of the teen years.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Microsoft & MTV on kids & technology
They claim it’s the largest-ever global study into how young people interact with digital technology. Among the findings, fewer lonely gawky kids:
Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground found that technology’s greatest impact has been on the depth and range of friends that 14-24s have. From having an average 11 friends between the ages of 8-14, young people speedily acquire circles of dozens of friends in their teenage years. The average 14- 24 has an average of 53 online and face-to-face friends—and communicate with them often. “Under the age of 14, kids generally use the phone as a toy. After 14, the mobile phone quickly becomes a means of self-expression and communication,” said Fahey Rush.
Many of the 14-24s surveyed said that the different forms of communication enabled them to talk about more intimate subjects than they would have otherwise done. Over half said that they could talk about more things on IM than face-to-face, 53% said that they could get to know people better, while around 4 out of every ten said that they found it easier to make new friends and felt less lonely as a result of using the Internet. “The role friends play in the lives of young people has increased dramatically. Socializing doesn’t stop when kids come home from college or school; it just goes online. Young people are now constantly connected,” said MTV Network’s Fahey Rush.
On average, 14-24s said they had 20 online friends, with Brazilians claiming the most—46. Communicating with their friends is a priority. Nearly 70% said the first thing they did after turning on their computer was to check IM. Out of all young people surveyed, 14-17 girls spend the least time online—21 hours per week—whilst 22-24 males spent the most time online—31 hours a week online. One hundred percent of those surveyed said they communicate every time they go online.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I’ve been using Quicken since 1988. If Wesabe is as good as it sounds, I won’t be for long.
You upload your bank statements and they crunch the numbers for you. They’ll breakdown how much you spend over time and give you information on how to save money. I was curious how much I was spending on on food so I tagged all the restaurants and grocery stores I go to with ‘food’. I can then breakdown my ‘food’ spending over time.
I was worried about uploading my bank statements but somehow knowing the CEO of Wesabe (Jason Knight) actually takes phone calls from users every day made me trust them a little more. That and the encryption…
They have a Firefox extension for automating the uploads but it didn’t work with my bank so I’m manually uploading my statements once a month.
In true Web 2.0 fashion, it recommends and learns from the crowd. Video tutorials after the jump.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
danah responds to the response
You may recall that danah boyd’s Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace caused quite a ruckus. If you haven’t read it, do.
Last week she responded to the responses. That, too, should be read in full (though she asks that you please read the original first). A snippet:
The reaction to my article has been extremely variable. One reaction often makes me giggle: “duh.” To me, that is the reaction that it should’ve evoked. Duh. It makes sense. Of course. What I’m marking in this essay should’ve been obvious to everyone. What amazes me is that so many folks are shocked by it and so many others refuse to acknowledge it. It plays out online just like it plays out offline. Physical hangout spaces like bars are split by class, even though they theoretically welcome anyone. Public spaces get split by class.
The “conclusion” of my article should not have been a big deal, but I had to put it out there because so many folks weren’t acknowledging it and the press kept perpetuating the view that MySpace was dead because Facebook was taking over. We used to have this utopian view that the Internet would solve all of our societal divisions. On the Internet, no one would know you’re a dog, right? The reality is that all of society’s issues are simply perpetuated online. And that’s frustrating. I liked the utopian dream better, even if it’s not real. But if we accept the reality - that the Internet mirrors and magnifies offline values and views - we must start to think of what the implications of this are. Society is in a dangerous position when people who are different do not interact. This is how intolerance breeds and we definitely have enough of that in this country.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization
Here she summarizes a panel from Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths [pdf transcript]:
The numbers are based on a sample of law enforcement cases which Finkelhor et al. performed research upon:
- most victims of “online predators” are teenagers, not young children
- only 5% of cases involved violence
- only 3% involved abduction
- deception does not seem to be a major factor
- 5% of offenders concealed the fact they were adults from their victimes
- 80% of offenders were quite explicit about their sexual intentions
- these crimes are “criminal seductions”, sexual relationships between teenagers and older adults
- 73% of cases include multiple sexual encounters
- in half the cases, victims are described as being in love with the offender or feeling close friendship
- in a quarter of the cases, victims had actually ran away from home to be with the person they met online
- only 7% of arrests for statutory rape in 2000 were internet-initiated
I find these figures very sobering. Basically, our kids are more at risk offline than online. No reason to panic! About this last figure, listen to Dr. Michele Ybarra, president of Internet
Solutions for Kids:
One victimization is one too many. We watch the television, however, and it makes it seem as if the internet is so unsafe that it’s impossible for young people to engage on the internet without being victimized. Yet based upon data compiled by Dr. Finkelhor’s group, of all the arrests made in 2000 for statutory rape, it appears that seven percent were internet initiated. So that means that the overwhelming majority are still initiated offline.
When I see that 73% have multiple sexual encounters and half of the victims think they’re in love with the offender it strikes me that first among the kinds of help our kids need is parents to talk to them about sex!
Instead of doing that, we look to law enforcement to solve the problem for us. It seems to me that it’s not them, it’s us.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
29,000 reasons to doubt MySpace sex-offender action
Stephanie Booth reacts to MySpace removing the profiles of 29,000 convicted sex offenders. Her post is an amazing compilation of important facts that must be read in full and kept as a reference:
I think that MySpace’s announcement is more of a PR stunt than anything. This kind of action is the result of the ambient paranoia around sexual predators online, but it also fuels it. If MySpace are doing that, it must mean that we are right to be afraid, doesn’t it? I think it is a great pity that the media systematically jump on the fear-mongering bandwagon. We need more sane voices in the mainstream press.
Here is a collection of links related to this issue. Some I have mentioned in the body of the post, some I have not.
- MySpace bars 29,000 sex offenders
- Could You End Up on a Sex Offender Registry?
- MySpace and the Sex Offenders
- Megan’s Flaws?
- Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization: Researchers Present the Facts and Debunk Myths (see danah’s post for YouTube video)
- Video: BBC Interview (Teenagers, Facebook)
- Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins (quotes are in English)
- De la “prÃƒÂ©vention internet”
Via danah boyd, “the Attorneys General have far better PR machines than MySpace. What you are seeing in the press is what the AGs have spun out in their ongoing efforts to force legislation to ban youth from social sites. This is about throwing out numbers that will make people feel afraid; it is not about trying to paint an accurate portrayal of what’s happening.”
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Social Networks in plain english
CommonCraft’s leelefever, “This video is for people who wonder why social networking web sites are so popular. We think one reason is because they help solve a real-world problem. We’ll let the video explain how it works.”
Monday, June 25, 2007
MySpace, Facebook, Class & the military
danah boyd has a fascinating blog essay up that’s caused quite a stir. It will be interesting to see it developed. Check it out, Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace.
danah’s careful to say that this is by no means an academic article, that she doesn’t yet have the language to do it justice and that it is, therefor, “problematic.” Based on her 6 to 9 months of field observations, it’s intended to be a conversation starter.
The section on the military I found particularly interesting:
A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. I can’t help but wonder if the reason for this goes beyond the purported concerns that those in the military are leaking information or spending too much time online or soaking up too much bandwidth with their MySpace usage.
MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a significant shift has occurred but it was one of those observations that just made me think. And then the ban happened. I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?
BTW, when I was in high school I’d have been on MySpace.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Internet strategies for parents with children
CNet has posted a guide for developing safe and smart Internet citizens from attorney and child advocate Parry Aftab. Here’s the advice for 16 and up:
By age 16, child advocates say, it’s time to take off the training wheels and trust your child to do the right thing. General guidelines:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Teach your children their online responsibilities. Stress the importance of respecting others online and the need to read Web material with a critical eye.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Talk to them about the risks of sharing personal information online and meeting strangers offline.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Have them google themselves regularly--and even establish a Google Alerts pegged to their screen name--to monitor what surfaces.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Teach teens to use antivirus programs and security firewalls and to check regularly for adware and spyware on their PCs.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Tell them to come to you if anything goes awry for them when they’re online.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Enlist the help of older teens to help younger brothers and sisters navigate the Web safely.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Pick your battles.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Advise teens against using a Webcam; remind them that they’ll have little or no control over videos or still images once they’re posted online.
SEE ALSO: Danah Boyd on Educators, Social Networks and “Mediated Publics.”
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
2 years and 2 days off: still flagged a sex offender
The Chronicle’s Wired Campus:
Jessica Davis, a 29-year-old senior at the university [of Colorado], was booted off MySpace earlier this month. Evidently the site had labeled Ms. Davis as “a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” a claim that left the student understandably horrified.
It appears that Ms. Davis was a victim of mistaken identity: She was mistaken for a sex offender with the same name and a birthday two years and two days apart from her own, according to the Sentinel Tech Holding Corporation, the company that designed MySpace’s database of sex offenders.
ABC quotes the notification email and no appeal response:
“It has come to MySpace’s attention that you are a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” the e-mail, sent early Saturday morning, May 19, informed her.
“MySpace is committed to removing registered sex offenders from its site, and will take all necessary means to block or remove anyone it determines to pose a threat to its users,” the note read, concluding with an e-mail address where she could appeal the decision.
Davis nervously jumped at the opportunity, punching into an e-mail subject line, “You have the wrong person.” [...]
On Wednesday, days after she sent a second e-mail to MySpace, Davis said she finally heard back.
“We do not keep records of removed profiles or images,” the response note reads. “If it was removed by MySpace it was because of a violation of our terms and conditions—which can include a number of things (underage, inappropriate images, cyber bullying, spam, etc). Please review our terms for further assistance.”
Savvy, or lucky, she went to ABC News. You’ll recall that several state Attorneys General demanded that MySpace turn over names of sex offenders. Was Jessica’s name among them? The story doesn’t say, though it notes she supports the MySpace sex offender database initiative.
So what of the company, Sentinal, hired by MySpace to track sex offenders? ABC did a follow-up story:
[Sentinel CEO John] Cardillo, who called the initial match an"unfortunate circumstance,” said that the database worked exactly as intended.
“It was so close,” Cardillo told ABCNEWS.com. “It was one of those rare instances where there was nothing else we could have done but flag her. If we get an offender and I’m looking at a date of birth that’s two days off, we’re going to assume were dealing with the offender.”
This is getting to be a scary numbers racket. MySpace has blocked 7,000 profiles classified as sex offenders. I bet some of them have common names (Jessica Davis among them) and if a birthday a couple of years and a couple of days off is the kind of precision we’re working with here, Jessica’s not alone.
When Wired’s Kevin Poulsen made news last October with his automated search of MySpace’s membership rolls looking for registered sex offenders he manually sifted the data to come up with a mere 744. Says he:
...it appears that MySpace isn’t taking the same care.
That means we’ll be seeing more cases like this. The incident also casts doubt on the usefulness of MySpace’s appeal process. Responding to Davis’ plea by sending her a form letter falsely accusing her of wrongdoing isn’t Solomonic jurisprudence.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Fundamental changes at Facebook:
In discussions with multiple sources involved with the launch, we’ve come to see the platform as a highly ambitious idea, approaching the idea of Facebook being an operating system with other web apps riding on top of it. [...]
This move is more than catching up with MySpace and Bebo and what have you by adding outside widgets; Facebook has become a primary relationship and identity broker for millions of people. Now outsiders can capitalize on that information in a safe way, pulling from users’ expressed interests in their profiles, building on their stated intention to attend events, or simply giving them more dedicated tools for expressing themselves. The outside apps will be woven into a structure that’s already been built and is utilized every day.
Users can upload and record videos directly to their profiles and send them as messages to friends. They will also be able to upload video directly from their mobile phones.
Facebook is clearly pushing the personal video angle, saying “We’ve designed the application to discourage misuse, and our users agree only to upload video of a personal nature that is about them or their friends, or created by them or their friends.” Videos will not be public or downloadable; they will only be playable by a member’s friends and networks.
Making it even more important that educators understand social networks and “mediated publics.”
Monday, May 21, 2007
MySpace buckles on sex offender data
Faced with legal demands from several state attorneys general, MySpace.com said Monday it will immediately begin sharing data on the registered sex offenders it has identified and removed from the popular social networking Web site. [...]
[MySpace general counsel Mike] Angus said the company hoped to have data moving by Monday afternoon.
“We’re going to get most of it out today,” he said. “We have zero tolerance for those creeps. We don’t want them on our sites.”
CNET News.com’s Caroline McCarthy talks about MySpace’s about-face.
LATER: As reported in the NY Times.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Health Insurance: less for health, more for implants
Health insurers are offering cosmetic surgery discounts. They’re not paying for the surgery, but they’re offering in-network discounts to attract members. Reasons: 1) Demand for cosmetic procedures is growing. 2) One insurer says the discounts “make our plan more attractive to employers and members.” Meanwhile, a report finds that “despite having the most costly health system in the world Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ Compared with five other nations-Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom-the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system.” Cynical view: Yeah, but we have the best jugs.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
MySpace responds to AGs pressure on predators
MySpace is glad to comply - “In the 12 days since the software has become operable, we have deleted and removed every registered sex offender that we identified out of our more than 175 million profiles” - but notes that turning over names would violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and tosses it back at the states:
[MySpace chief security officer Hemanshu] Nigam instead suggested that politicians could be taking different measures to combat sex offenders’ presence on sites like MySpace. “We need cooperation from lawmakers to drive mandatory sex offender email registration legislation at the federal and state level to make blocking predators from community-based websites a more efficient process,” Nigam wrote. “Our hope is that the Attorneys General who signed onto this letter, and other websites, join us in pushing this legislation into law.”
The eight attorney generals (Georgia’s among them) finding fault with MySpace are acting out of craven political self-interest rather than any real child-safety interest. Statements like “I tell parents every day that MySpace is a dangerous place for teenagers,” don’t bowl me over with wisdom. Real child safety advocates take a different view:
“I haven’t seen in my 12 years of working on these kinds of issues a company jump through as many hoops and respond as quickly and diligently as MySpace,” said Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough, an Internet safety organization.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Teens choose colleges from websites, not MySpace
The Chronicle (subscription):
Fewer than 10 percent of high-school students used MySpace, Facebook, or YouTube—three of the most popular networking sites—to gather information about colleges, according to the report, “College Search and the Millennial Generation,” which was produced by Eduventures Inc. The research-and-consulting company plans to release some of the findings this week.
Still, colleges and universities that find effective ways to convey information through those channels, as well as in blogs and chat rooms, could gain an edge in recruiting, the report says.
Its findings come from a national Web-based survey of 7,867 high-school juniors and seniors conducted this year. The report also draws on student feedback from 12 focus-group sessions held at schools in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Orlando, Fla.
Most students surveyed (84 percent) said they used colleges’ Web sites most heavily in their research, followed by personal recommendations (75 percent), campus visits (64 percent), and college viewbooks (64 percent).
Hardly even a tantalizing tidbit, I’d be curious to learn more from the report. Alas, I don’t expect much of it will be available for free.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Facebook Marketplace launches today
A college town too small for its own Craigslist site, this may be the only game in our town. Read/Write Web:
Social network Facebook is set to launch a classified service to its users on Friday, according to the New York Times. The service will be free, though Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg told the Times that the classifieds, which will launch under the name ‘Facebook Marketplace,’ might someday provide a source of revenue for the company.
Users will be able to create classifieds in four categories: housing, jobs, for sale, and other. Ads can be restricted by network or friends list, and can be broadcast to a user’s “news feed”—which is a Twitter-like stream of information about the actions of a user’s friends.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Educators, Social Networks and “Mediated Publics”
danah boyd has posted an essay titled Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What? It’s a wonderfully concise encapsulation of much of her thinking on teens and social networking sites. Here she discusses the distinguishing characteristics of these mediated publics:
Social network sites are the latest generation of ‘mediated publics’ - environments where people can gather publicly through mediating technology. In some senses, mediated publics are similar to the unmediated publics with which most people are familiar - parks, malls, parking lots, cafes, etc. Teens show up to connect with their friends...while mediated and unmediated publics play similar roles in people’s lives, the mediated publics have four properties that are quite unique to them.
1. Persistence. What you say sticks around. This is great for asynchronous communication, but it also means that what you said at 15 is still accessible when you are 30 and have purportedly outgrown those childish days.
2. Searchability. My mother would’ve loved the ability to scream “Find!” into the ether and determine where I was hanging out with my friends. She couldn’t, and I’m thankful. Today’s teens’ parents have found their hangouts with the flick of a few keystrokes.
3. Replicability. Digital bits are copyable; this means that you can copy a conversation from one place and paste it into another place. It also means that it’s difficult to determine if the content was doctored.
4. Invisible audiences. While it is common to face strangers in public life, our eyes provide a good sense of who can overhear our expressions. In mediated publics, not only are lurkers invisible, but persistence, searchability, and replicability introduce audiences that were never present at the time when the expression was created.
The last section, An Educator’s Role, is particularly valuable. In it she advocates education through conversation and engagement, finds that group settings are ideal and shares questions she’s asked to help young people examine their relationship with social technologies and mediated publics. Her four practical steps are an invaluable guide:
1) Create a profile on whatever sites are popular in your school. Learn the system and make a profile that represents you. Use your own profile and your own experiences to introduce conversations in the classroom - this way they will know that you are online and that you too find it weird figuring out what’s appropriate.
2) Keep your profile public and responsible, but not lame. Add your favourite song; add photos of your cat playing; write about your hobbies. Put blog entries up about these issues and your own experiences in handling them. Write them as personal reflections rather than lectures. Not all students are going to read your manifestos, but you will be setting a standard.
3) Do not go surfing for your students, but if they invite you to be Friends, say yes. This is a sign that they respect you. Write a kind comment back to them if appropriate and make certain to respond to comments that you receive. If something concerns you, privately ask why they chose to put a particular item up on their page, rather than criticise their profiles. Ask about their lives; don’t demand that they behave as you’d wish. Show that you care, not that you dictate.
4) The more present you are, the more opportunity you have to influence the norms. Social network sites are not classrooms and they should not be treated as such. The goal in being present on these sites is not to enforce rules, but to provide responsible models and simply be ‘eyes on the street’ (Jacobs 1961).
Mediated publics are here to stay; yet they are complicating many aspects of daily life. The role of an educator is not to condemn or dismiss youth practices, but to help youth understand how their practices fit into a broader societal context. These are exciting times; embracing societal change and influencing the norms can only help everyone involved.
I’ll be forwarding the document (available in MP3, Word, PDF or blog formats) to the local high school principal - with whom I’ve spoken about Social Networks at some length - and updating my Facebook profile.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Map of online communities
Pre-order a poster here.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Facemash -> Facebook
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is profiled in Fast Company:
[I]t was old-fashioned breaking-and-entering hacking that spawned Facebook--and Zuckerberg was the culprit. Zuckerberg grew up in the well-to-do New York suburb of Dobbs Ferry, the second of four kids and the only son of a dentist (he has no cavities) and a psychiatrist (insert your own mental-health joke here). He began messing around with computers early on, teaching himself how to program. As a high school senior, at Phillips Exeter Academy, he and D’Angelo built a plug-in for the MP3 player Winamp that would learn your music listening habits, then create a playlist to meet your taste. They posted it as a free download and major companies, including AOL (NYSE:TWX) and Microsoft, came calling. “It was basically, like, ‘You can come work for us, and, oh, we’ll also take this thing that you made,’” Zuckerberg recalls. The two decided to go to college instead, D’Angelo to Caltech and Zuckerberg to Harvard.
That’s where the hacking episode occurred. Harvard didn’t offer a student directory with photos and basic information, known at most schools as a face book. Zuckerberg wanted to build an online version for Harvard, but the school “kept on saying that there were all these reasons why they couldn’t aggregate this information,” he says. “I just wanted to show that it could be done.” So one night early in his sophomore year, he hacked into Harvard’s student records. He then threw up a basic site called Facemash, which randomly paired photos of undergraduates and invited visitors to determine which one was “hotter” (not unlike the Web site Hot or Not). Four hours, 450 visitors, and 22,000 photo views later, Harvard yanked Zuckerberg’s Internet connection. After a dressing-down from the administration and an uproar on campus chronicled by The Harvard Crimson, Zuckerberg politely apologized to his fellow students. But he remained convinced he’d done the right thing: “I thought that the information should be available.” (Harvard declined to comment on the episode.)