Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

flwyd: (raven temple of moon)
The problem with social networks is that they present the same context for all sharing, no matter what the content. Even with LiveJournal friends groups and Google+ circles, your heart wrenching post about inner demons might show up between two lolcats and people think you're a let down when they want a laugh. Or your flippant lolcat might show up between an article about child abuse and a video of an earthquake and you come across as an uncaring douche.

In real-life sharing the people in the audience aren't the only determinants of appropriate sharing. The context they've created is also key. The things we share with a couple friends at a rock concert–passion, dance, exhaustion–are different than what we share with the same people in a coffee shop–analysis, discussion, confusion‐even though they're both done in public.

I don think big social network sites are able to tackle this well. The goal of UI designers is to create a simple mental model for users interacting with the system and the goal of software engineers is the create a simple operational system for interpreting user actions. Neither goal is helped by a flourishing diversity of contextual social norms. I hope all the bulletin boards and topic-focused sites survive in an ecosystem dominated by the Twitbooks. Because humans do really well when they can use location and appearance as cues to social behavior.
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