There was a moment that it seemed like a proliferation of flickr-like webservices would result in a network of deep shared pools of cultural resource, from which every user could build expressions and applications, but the “entrap and surveil” economics of platforms kicked in.
And now we have no history, and rather than communicating via visualizations of our own shared cultural record, we are left waiting like dogs for treats as facebook decides to surface one of our own images from 3 or 8 years ago. Don’t try to search the graph! Advertisers only.
Saturday, April 21st, 2018
Friday, March 30th, 2018
On moving from silos to your own website:
Over the last year, especially, it has seemed much more like “blog to write, tweet to fight.” Moreover, the way that our writing and personal data has been used by social media companies has become more obviously problematic—not that it wasn’t problematic to begin with.
Which is why it’s once again a good time to blog, especially on one’s own domain.
But on the other hand…
It is psychological gravity, not technical inertia, however, that is the greater force against the open web. Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.
That’s true …which is why brid.gy is such an incredibly powerful service for, well, bridging the gap between your own personal site and the silos, allowing for that feeling of ambient humanity.
Sunday, February 11th, 2018
In trying to decide on his indie web approach, Dries gives an excellent breakdown of the concepts of PESOS (Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate to Own Site) and POSSE (Publish to Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere).
Sunday, January 14th, 2018
If only our digital social networks were to exhibit this kind of faded grandeur when they no longer exist.
Friday, September 1st, 2017
John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio García Martínez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin · LRB 17 August 2017
Triple the hand-wringing in this combined review of three books:
- The Attention Merchants: From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention Is Harvested and Sold by Tim Wu,
- Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine by Antonio García Martínez, and
- Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us by Jonathan Taplin.
What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality.
Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Much of our courage and support comes from the people we read and talk to and love online, often on the very networks that expose us—and our friends—to genuine enemies of freedom and peace. We have to keep connected, but we don’t have to play on their terms.
Saturday, December 5th, 2015
A wonderful sci-fi vignette from Matt.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
It’s all about the signalling.
Friday, July 13th, 2012
I think Derek is on to something here. Maybe online communities and profit are simply incompatible?
The bigger you go, the harder the road. Meanwhile, small, focused, and yes, exclusionary community sites flourish.
You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Robin Sloan compares Facebook and Google in an interesting way:
Really, Facebook is the world’s largest photo sharing site—that also happens to be a social network and a login system.
Google is getting good, really good, at building things that see the world around them and actually understand what they’re seeing.
Saturday, April 21st, 2012
Albert-László Barabási and Robin Dunbar are among the authors of this paper — it’s the scale-free network equivalent of the Avengers.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
This post from Maciej might initially seem negative but read it through to the end: there’s a very powerful positive message.
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Reminiscences of the BBSs of yesteryear that could in time be applied to the social networking sites of today.
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Responding to Malcolm Gladwell's recent piece in the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer argues that the strength of weak ties *does* extend to social activism.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
An examination of behavioural contagion in social networks.
Sunday, January 4th, 2009
The spread of happiness, obesity and smoking habits through social networks.
Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
My new motto is "The Social Graph is a Spherical Cow."
Friday, April 25th, 2008
As promised by Kevin Marks in the Q&A after my panel at South by Southwest, the Google Contacts API now supports OAuth. w00t!
Wednesday, November 21st, 2007
Brian's article on portable social networks is a clear and concise introduction to the subject with explanations of the technologies involved.
Saturday, November 3rd, 2007
The nerdier nether-regions of blogland have been burning through the night with the news of the OpenSocial initiative spearheaded by Google and supported by what Chris so aptly calls the coalition of the willing.
Facebook has an API that allows third parties to put applications on Facebook profile pages (substitute the word “widget” for “application” for a more accurate picture). Developers have embraced Facebook applications because, well, Facebook is so damn big. But developing an app/widget for Facebook is time-consuming enough that the prospect of rewriting the same app for a dozen other social networking sites is an unappealing prospect. That’s where OpenSocial comes in. It’s a set of conventions. If you develop to these conventions, your app can live on any of the social networking sites that support OpenSocial: LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo and many more.
Some of the best explanations of OpenSocial are somewhat biased, coming as they do from the people who are supporting this initiative, but they are still well worth reading:
- Anil Dash from Six Apart writes about OpenSocial, killer apps and regular people (a phrase that rubs Brian up the wrong way),
- Marc Andreessen of Ning describes a new universe of social applications all over the web,
- Ted Rheingold of Dogster lists 10 reasons why OpenSocial will be very beneficial and
- Jeremiah Owyang makes explaining OpenSocial to your executives a whole lot easier by providing some jargon-busting definitions:
- Social Network:
- An existing network or community where people of similar interest share. MySpace, LinkedIn, and Hi5 are examples.
- Mini-application, app, widget:
- These applications, created by third party developers or your company can sit on top of these existing thriving communities of connected people.
- Platform, Container, Social Network:
- Where the mini-applications sit on top of and interact.
- The common code shared among platforms and developers of mini-applications.
That’s all well and good but frankly, I’m not very interested in making widgets, apps or whatever you want to call them. I’m interested in portable social networks.
At first glance, it looks like OpenSocial might provide a way of exporting social network relationships. From the documentation:
The People and Friends data API allows client applications to view and update People Profiles and Friend relationships using AtomPub GData APIs with a Google data schema. Your client application can request a list of a user’s Friends and query the content in an existing Profile.
But it looks like these API calls are intended for applications sitting on the host platform rather than separate sites hoping to extract contact information. As David Emery points out, this is a missed opportunity:
The problem is, however, that OpenSocial is coming at completely the wrong end of the closed-social-network problem. By far and away the biggest problem in social networking is fatigue, that to join yet another site you have to sign-up again, fill in all your likes and dislikes again and—most importantly—find all your friends again. OpenSocial doesn’t solve this, but if it had it could be truly revolutionary; if Google had gone after opening up the social graph (a term I’m not a fan of, but it seems to have stuck) then Facebook would have become much more of an irrelevance—people could go to whatever site they wanted to use, and still preserve all the interactions with their friends (the bit that really matters).
While OpenSocial is, like OAuth, a technology for developers rather than end users, it does foster a healthy atmosphere of openness that encourages social network portability. Tantek has put together a handy little table to explain how all these technologies fit together:
|social application||OAuth, OpenSocial||developers|
I was initially excited that OpenSocial might be a magic bullet for portable social networks but after some research, it doesn’t look like that’s the case—it’s all about portable social widgets.
But like I said, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve really got a handle on OpenSocial so I’ll be digging deeper. I was hoping to see Patrick Chanezon talk about it at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin next week but, wouldn’t you know it, I’m scheduled to give a talk at exactly the same time. I hope there’ll be plenty of livebloggers taking copious notes.