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.

Join Diaspora

Monday, March 14th, 2011 02:29 pm
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken face to face)
Diaspora, a distributed, privacy-conscious social network is in alpha release. I signed up today (user ID < 50,000) and there's definitely a lot of room for feature growth, which on the plus side means it's a really clean and simple interface. But the most important feature of a social network is having people you want to share with, so if you're interested in an invite, let me know.
flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
Facebook announced this week that when you visit Pandora for the first time, they'll hand over all of your friend information so Pandora can set up your station with music your friends like. This is the sort of "What were they thinking!?!" news I hear about Facebook every six months or so. The frequency of such moments is the main reason I don't have an account on Facebook. For the most part, Facebook's march toward making all your social information public wouldn't be a big deal if it had started that way. Nobody gets upset about Twitter followers or LiveJournal friends being public because they've always been that way. But when people provide information on the assumption it's private and then all of a sudden it's public, they tend to feel betrayed.

Tech Crunch included a screen shot of my Buzz post referencing that link in an article about Google engineers concerned about Facebook privacy. I don't know if they also write stories about Microsoft employees blogging about iPhones or Qwest employees tweeting about their Sprint service or Subway employees declaring the Double Down is gross.

On the other hand, Facebook made some positive announcements at f8 (is their conference really pronounced "fate?"). With Open Graph, you'll be able to build a social network out of pieces that aren't all housed in one place. So if you decide you don't like Facebook, you can move to a different site, but people can still "friend you." And you can add a little HTML to your blog and then someone can "like" it on Facebook or any other site supporting Open Graph.

The following is a Slashdot comment I posted in response to the assertion
once something hits the internet its out there, no privacy promise by a huge corporation is going to protect it.

BS. People send millions upon millions of email messages a day and have a reasonable expectation that their email providers and any SMTP hops along the way are going to keep them private. If a webmail provider suddenly decided that everyone's email address and all the addresses of all their contacts were to be public (unless you opt out), that would rightly be perceived as bad behavior and a violation of users' sensible assumptions. The path of least resistance opt-in flow for Google Buzz had the end result of publicly listing the names of some of folks frequent contacts (who'd also opted in). It created a big uproar and Google quickly changed the wording to make it clearer what would be public and how to keep it private.

I access my banking records through the Internet on a regular basis. I use this convenient system instead of paper and phone calls precisely because I trust the privacy promise provided by my bank. A bank that suddenly decided to make everyone's financial information available to the world on the web by default would quickly lose a lot of customers and get a big fine from the regulators. I don't think we need a Federal Department of Regulating Facebook, but I do think we have a right to expect companies to stick to their privacy promises and suffer customer-based consequences if they fail to live up to them.

One thing The Cloud can do better is give users control of their data. Google's Data Liberation Front is a good model: If a user decides they don't want to use a cloud provider's services for whatever reason, it should be easy to get all their data out of that company's control and import it in to a different cloud provider (if desired). Take it a step further: As a user of service A, I should be able to select certain information to share privately with my friend who uses service B. Like telephone companies and the post office, the service providers should transmit and present that information, but they should have no option to change the parties who can see it.


Caveat: Court orders and other legal actions can force a provider to reveal private information without the approval of that information's owner. This is true of banks, cloud providers, and internal IT departments. So yes, if you're planning an elaborate murder scheme on the Internet, don't assume it will only be seen by your co-conspirators. But if you're closeted at work and out to your friends, you have a right to expect your social network won't suddenly decide to make "Orientation: Gay" the first thing people see when they Google your name.

Twhy Not?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 11:44 pm
flwyd: (Trevor Stone Character)
When [livejournal.com profile] sandbar asked where everyone on LJ had gone, I said they'd probably migrated to Twitbook. With RSS feeds down last week, I noticed that a lot fewer people are posting to my friends page than, say, two years ago. I've shared my distrust of Facebook before, but as an outsider, Twitter's made a good impression, despite the stereotypical ridiculousness of tweets. So if you like, you can follow @flwyd. If you'd prefer not to, I won't take offense. The proximate reason for signing up is to have a single feed for people I want to follow rather than each twit's feed separately in Google Reader.

What I like about twitter:
  • By default, everything is public. That means people can participate without joining. (You may have noticed I don't make protected LiveJournal posts either.)
  • There's a handy API for accessing all that public content. That way, anybody can come up with clever ways to turn tweets into birdsong.
  • The medium is restricted. Great art often comes from tight restrictions. It's also neat to see creative solutions to limitations in a communication medium.
  • To match the simplicity of the medium, the interface is clutter-free. (Compare to Facebook or especially MySpace.) The API encourages folks to make interfaces that suit them even better.
Things I don't plan to do:
  • Tweet what I'm eating for breakfast, how many emails I got last night, or that I'm taking a shit. Not everything that matters in the moment matters in the memory.
  • Automatically repost my Twitter activity on LiveJournal. If you want to read my terse tweets, you can do so from Twitter (or an RSS reader). If you want to read my verbose blog posts, you can do so from LiveJournal (or an RSS reader).
  • Use Twitter instead of e-mail or instant messaging. Seeing out-of-context replies on Twitter seems kind of jarring, so I'll try to make my replies amusing to a passing stranger.
  • Start texting. I still dislike the U.S. mobile telephony ecosystem, particularly the absurd profit margins cell phone companies make on SMS.
  • Give Twitter my GMail password so it can figure out who my friends are. Just add me manually; my Twitter email isn't in your address book anyway.
I've subscribed to a few staff-run twits (@whitehosue and @TheOnion) and a few famous people, plus a few folks I know personally. I reserve the right to unfollow anything that gets annoying or lame. Feel free to follow me; if I don't follow you back it's not that I don't like you, it's that based on your recent activity, I don't want to read everything you say. But I'll still respect you more than the two sex spam accounts that were following me within minutes.

I don't plan to use LiveJournal any less (not that I have much room to fall after my post count in July and August). It's been a long time since I posted quick updates about my daily life here, anyway. I anticipate LiveJournal will still be my best place to work out thoughts by typing out loud.
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