Facebook is the path to Krypton

Will Richardson posted an interesting link today. The link tells us that Facebook is growing by 600,000 users a day and that a lot of those user are over 25. Many are over 55.

Thinking about how many people are jumping into social networking — which is, in a way, a substitute for real world networking — got me thinking about the planet Krypton, Superman’s homeworld.

If I’m remembering my lore correctly (and recent plot lines in the comic series may have changed this), Krypton was a barren and cold place whose inhabitants isolated themselves in their homes, eschewing physical contact with other people. Physical contact and even meeting in person was distasteful and only done when necessary. (See also E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”)

Is Facebook a gateway to this? Will we become so distanced from our natural world, so lost in the virtual one that we forget our connection with the world around us and eventually let mad scientist/dictators destroy our planet, leaving only a single survivor rocketing toward safety on some distant, habitable world where he will grow up to become a champion for truth and justice?

I’m just saying it’s possible. That’s all.


On 25 random things

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. …

It’s not easy to pick 25 random things about yourself to share on Facebook.

A new chain letter of sorts is making its way around Facebook: the 25 random things letter. Recipients are asked to jot down 25 random facts or anecdotes about themselves and pass the note on to 25 other friends. Some of the entries are serious, some are smart and some reveal facts about people that you might never have otherwise found out.

One of my Facebook friends admitted in her profile that she recently had a brain tumor removed. Another recounted her habit of picking at a scar on her lip. A guy I have friended likes eating sardines right from the can. Another friend admits that she can drive a tractor and vaccinate a cow, though most of her students think her a city girl.

Some of these letters are the kind of randomness that comes from sitting down at your computer trying to generate randomness. You can tell these ones by the way the facts run into each other, as if thought up as a stream of consciousness. Others letters are itemized studies in brevity and wit. You can tell these by their longer entries, each with their own point and vaguely hidden message.

As I sit deciding whether to write a list of my own 25 random facts, I also wonder whether this sort of sharing is healthy. On one side, there is the everyday “be safe on the Interwebs” argument, the one that reminds us that sharing too much information online can have awkward, unhealthy, immoral or even dangerous consequences.

A second point to consider is whether I want to jump onto another Internet meme. I stopped responding to e-mail chain letters last century, and I don’t do things like join Facebook fan groups or play little games online. I don’t read “I Can Haz Cheezburger,” and I consider most of the things people laugh about online to be old news. I’m a dastardly Web elitist in that way, so joining a popular meme like this at a time when it’s actually popular makes me squirm a little.

But I have to think that the another side of this is the psychological side — it might be good for us to take a good, hard look at 25 points about ourselves. Sharing those things, things we might not be comfortable admitting, could be a catharsis. It could actually make us feel better about ourselves.

Frankly, I don’t think anything, even slightly embarrassing things or even too-personal things, you post to a 25-things list is going to have that much of an effect on your friends. It might help them understand you better, and no one’s going to laugh at you behind your back because, inwardly, they all want to write a list of their own and are just waiting for the invitation to do so.

The perfect epilogue to this little post would be for me to have an answer to the quandary that inspired the post. I don’t. At least, not a complete answer. I’m almost certain to write a list of 25 things, but I’m sure that when the time comes, my mouse pointer will hesitate over the “post” button as I wrestle with these same issues over and over again in my mind. To share or not to share…

Comment snobbery

Do you comment more on blogs that make it easy to comment? I think the answer to that question has to be yes. But as I looked at my Disqus comment list today, I realized that most of the comments I have actually made on blogs in the past month have been made on blogs that use the Disqus engine — and most of those comments have been made on Louis Gray’s blog, for some reason. I don’t know, I guess his writing is just commentable or something…

Anyhow, what I’m wondering is this: Do any of you out there in the great big blogosphere find that you are commenting more on sites that use these comment aggregation systems, such as Disqus or InstateDebate?

If you do find yourself commenting more on one of those sites, then I wonder if you also find yourself commenting mostly on sites that use that particular comment system. In other words, has the advent of such cross-site services broadened your blog commenting or narrowed it?

Disqus on iPhone

Has anyone else had issues with the iPhone/iPod Touch interface for Disqus? I can’t seem to get the thing to recognize the fact that I have unapproved comments waiting, even when I know for a fact that there are messages waiting to be approved. Even then, being able to click on the messages in the iPhone layout and approve them is hit or miss for me.

Maybe my trouble is unique. Maybe it’s been resolved, too. I haven’t checked back in a few days, but lacking anything else to write about at the moment, I thought I’d throw the question out there.

Delicious or Diigo?

A year or two ago, I decided that the bookmarking tools built in to my browser, Firefox, didn’t do enough for me. So I opted to start using Delicious. It kept all my bookmarks in one place, and I didn’t have to be on the same computer to use them. Plus, I could apply copious tags to my bookmarks. I have watched first plugins and then Firefox itself add this feature to the browser over the years.

Then I watched a video on YouTube by Michael Wesch. The video is awesome, but that’s beside the point here. In the video, I saw Wesch highlighting things online and annotating them. A free-frame of the video revealed to me that he was using the bookmarking service Diigo.

I tried out Diigo, found it lacking, and moved on. Then Delicious came out with its pretty, simple, elegant site redesign. I love it. But… I missed that ability to take detailed notes and highlight my saved pages. So recently I reinstalled Diigo’s Firefox plugin and have been using it religiously — though I have told Diigo to port all of my bookmarks into Delicious so that they’re mirrored at that site.

Here’s the deal. Diigo seems to offer all the features Delicious does and more, but I’m still unsure whether I want to move into using only Diigo. What do you all think? Do you use a social bookmarking site to store your reads? Which ones? Do you prefer Diigo to Delicious? Advice?

Once more on the Twitter authority thing

This passage comes from Dan Gillmor’s “Principles for a New Media Literacy,” originally published as part of the Media Re:public project at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. I think it unwittingly provides a great example of why “number of followers” is a poor gauge of authority on Twitter (and any social networking site).

We have come to learn that the tabloid’s front-page headline about Barack Obama’s alien love child via a Martian mate is almost certainly false, despite the fact that the publication sells millions of copies each week. We know that popularity in the traditional media world is not a proxy for quality.

Original here

Gillmor is spot on. The number of people who buy your magazine or click onto your Web site or add you on Twitter is not a measure of your authority or quality, in the print world or in the digital one.

In which the author summarizes the authority-based tweet debate and then finds something new to write about

Well, the issue of authority-based searching on Twitter is here to stay, even though Loic Le Meur, the guy who started all of this by asking for some sort of authority search feature on his blog, has amended his opinion. He points out now that “authority” was a poor word choice that resulted from the fact that he speaks French first and English second.

Given this amendment, I’d like to say that authority-based Twitter searching is nothing more than an academic exercise, debated by bloggers across the Web in their posts and in their comments on other people’s posts. But I cannot say that because at least two developers have come out with sites to search Twitter based on the number of followers that users have.

These two new sites are Twitority and Twithority. Twitority’s tagline says “Authority based twitter search,” and Twithority’s says “Twitter Search by — Authority.” Both of those sites are still sticking by the word authority, though I wonder how long that will last when the discussion hasn’t yet managed to come up with a solid definition of authority as it pertains to Twitter. (The comments in TechCrunch’s latest on the subject offers some good ideas, though.)

Of course, not everybody cares about Twitter and any authority its users might derive from their status as Twitter users. On TechCrunch’s , commenter Scott C. writes:

Because “twittering” makes NO SENSE. It’s somewhere between a text message, an instant message and an email…and there’s just no reason to have it. It’s sortof like “micro blogging” via Tumblr. You either write nothing or something. Anything inbetween is ultimately a waste of time and energy.

The commenters on that TC post, some of them at least, see Twitter as just another fad, a “mutual admiration society” within “the largest echo chamber in all of tech,” that is, TechCrunch itself.

Kara Swisher at the Wall Street Journal’s “All Things Digital” blog goes into a little more detail about the perceived importance of Twitter.

I think, though, the real story is the endless echo chamber of Silicon Valley that seems to persist in overestimating the meaning of Twitter, especially compared to so much more that is going on in the tech industry.

With only about six million registered users (with a much lower number of active ones), Twitter gets written about as if it were a mover and shaker extraordinaire, instead of just being what it is: An interesting status-alert start-up that makes zero revenues and turned down a very large buyout offer from another once-too-overhyped start-up (Facebook).

Well, after yet another week in the real world, I am here to tell you, precious few people still have any clue what Twitter is or how it works.

Is Twitter’s importance overrated? Maybe, but I think a larger and more culturally important issue is highlighted by one of the comments on Swisher’s post.

Continue reading “In which the author summarizes the authority-based tweet debate and then finds something new to write about”