More on Social Networking

A couple of days ago I posted about SN (note that there’s been an edit since then) but due to the length of the piece and my parents coming over for dinner, I didn’t get to fully track a couple more ideas that I’ve been thinking about.

Primarily, it’s about emptiness and space within SN and the web. I mentioned the Krotoski article that talked about the cheapening of each new link, the overcrowding of SNs. Danah Boyd has famously written about White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook(pdf) and now /. is asking Is Twitter Rendered Obsolete By Google+? pointing to the original article at Computer World:

It’s only a matter of time before Twitter becomes a ghost town.

While Google+ will soon do all the things Twitter does, Twitter can’t support a long list of the things Google+ supports. Conversations, for example. Each post on Google+ can be followed by comments where users can hold a detailed and satisfying conversation about the post. On Twitter, commenting is awkward because when you comment, your comments are not generally seen by the poster’s other followers, but by your own followers, who probably did not see the post. You see a lot of replies on Twitter referencing posts you never saw. For a social service, Twitter is pretty antisocial.

Agreeing or not is pointless really – the test will come over the next year or two. When I tweeted this link two days ago, a lot of writerly friends responded with resounding guffaws, a response I both expected and respected. Remember that there are other players, and other losses – MySpace on the slide, evidenced which Murdoch recently sold for $35 Million – a loss of over US$600 million in 2011 dollars.

But for me, the far more interesting thought experiment is the abundance of now-empty spaces. I can’t find a link but I remember reading how North Koreans were using the fan forums of the James Bond film Casino Royale to communicate surreptitiously with each other. I can see similar things happening with SNs – sure, people left MySpace in droves, but until they bulldoze the site it’s their for the taking. Like a Texan ghost town it’s just sitting their waiting to be used by someone or something, unlike a Texan ghost town it’s perfectly accessible from anywhere (that has the internet). I see genres and sub-genres, communities and sub-communities infiltrating and setting up shop for the relative privacy they are offered – something that is distinctly helped by the bad suburb/bad address moniker. I even envisage a future, a distorted extrapolation of the abandoned malls and amusement parks, where hipsters descend on these spaces in droves because it’s the “new hip” – not far from the CD revival of 2020.

Last night I listened to Thomas Gideon’s third SN rant on his “The Command Line” podcast (warning: nerd content alert) and was quite impressed with his breadth of analysis and reasoned take – looking at benefits, costs and futures. In particular it was the way he (or his work mate) likened starting afresh on a SN as an experience not dissimilar to the experiences that Linux users have had over the last 15 years – installing over and over again, fine tuning, re-assessing, trying new products – and I identified with it immediately. I am the Linux installing demographic (since 1998), and that exactly mirrors my feelings about picking up G+ – I’ve been a slow but steady user, and I’ve been taking my time to get to learn it. I certainly don’t expect it to be the last one I use.

Hopefully though, someone, sometime soon will come up with something that can do this:

1. If the post is under 140 characters, some of the words randomly get turned into #-tags and its posted to twitter.
2. If it’s over a page and filled with self indulgent introspection, then it gets posted to LJ.
3. If it’s got links to cute cat pictures, then it goes to Facebook.
4. If it goes to Facebook or Twitter, it goes to G+ with my Facebook/Twitter “circles” turned on.
5. If it’s full of half naked photos, it goes to MySpace
6. If it’s long and self indulgent but about something technical, it posts to Reddit. Unless it’s also a rant that no-one is going to read, in which case it goes to my personal blog.
7. If it has media in it, I guess it goes to Tumblr? Is that what Tumblr does, when it’s not aggregating porn links and home handyman projects? I don’t know. Just send it to Tumblr to be on the safe side.
8. If I’m doing something stereotypically Indian, it also posts everything to Orkut.
9. If it’s a new meme, or absolutely disgusting, it posts to 4chan and then burns all the evidence.
10. 3 weeks later it autoposts that last post to Reddit.
11. Under no circumstances does it ever post anything to Google Buzz.

I’ve searched for the canonical version of the above, without success – the best acknowledgement/credit I can provide is via Amber Carvan -> David Gerard -> Morgan Jaffit.