14 Oct 2010

Coping with social networks

Although I rejoined Facebook after I quit, I am still interested in how these sites screw up:
  • Renting friends, for example, as an extension of Facebook's abuse of "friend."

  • Facebook's "add your friends to this group" has backfired. Zuckerman's notion that we need to share everything and give everyone access meant that he was added to the Man-Boy love group without being asked if he wanted to. Be careful who you "friend."

  • Malcolm Gladwell nails it in this "Revolution will not be Tweeted" piece discussing the difference between weak links (useful for getting a job) and strong links (useful for saving your life). Don't mistake one for the other.

  • And, of course, XKCD has something to say:

Bottom Line: Humans are not easy to engineer, and they shouldn't be.


  1. We are social creatures and crave social connection. What brought you back to FB?

    These sites screw up because we let them. One of the reasons is that it is not easy to pick up roots and leave once we decide they are scum. We can only limit our use of the site while we begin using another. That's how many made the transition from MySpace to Facebook. And there will be another to replace FB one day. Let's just hope our data shared on the site is more portable by then.

    I gave up on FB a while back, only check it once in a while, do not share photos on it (but I use Flickr), and really post interesting things I think every one of my 250+ "friends" want to hear.

    Suprisingly, the conversations, links, photos, and shout outs, are almost the same every other week or so when I go back. :-)

    I also can shed some light on the 'add your friends to this group' feature. It is a feature of other groups services around the web. For example, I run a Yahoo! Group for my family. Anyone in the group can add a new member. The difference between FB and Yahoo! is that adding a member to a Yahoo! Group is not broadcast to everyone and their mother, and the list is not public unless the user makes it so. Zuckerberg and crew probably did not even consider that their users would not want such info broadcast. Nobody thought to look at the oddball medical conditions with groups on Yahoo! or Google or other similar services.

    A big reason such a review did not occur is the corporate culture. Nobody wants to be slowed down when launching new features. This is especially true in a startup company. First to market is the battle cry, even in larger firms such as Yahoo!. Yet legal, policy, and security reviews (not to mention QA) take time and slow down products enough to let smaller, more nimble competitors make it to market first, albeit with limited feature set and bugs.

  2. @DFB -- totally agree. These services are interesting and maybe useful, but certainly do not live up to the hype. Of course, we have a whole hype industry, so maybe the problem goes deeper :)


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