Archive for November, 2005

SSA: User-defined social networking

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

The most successful social networks appear to strike a balance between familiar content/activity and abstract openness. These sites seem to reflect the efforts of their users to push towards that balance. A strange example of the evolution of the social networking ecosystem comes in terms of ethnicity and culture. I was struck by Joe’s comments with regard to Phillipino people and Friendster. I’ve observed the same phenomenon with the children of Brazilian immigrants and Orkut.

At the start of last year, my students used social networks that reflected their ethnicities such as MiGente, Blackplanet, and Asian Avenue. After a few months, I noticed that students were managing accounts on multiple services. For example, out of a desire to better represent their offline networks, Latino students created profiles on Blackplanet. By September ’05, MySpace had trumped the competition.

In fact, a student recently told me that Friendster is for white people and MySpace is for people of color. In other words, despite the fact that every user’s first friend on MySpace is the ubiquitous dorky white guy, Tom, the users are defining cultural expectations of the space for themselves.

(If this interests you, I stand by my call for open social inter-networking.)

SSA: biz talk outside of IT

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

This debate seems constantly in danger of slipping toward Dilbert concerns. Characterizing management as stupid and workers as essentially adept does not accurately reflect the experiences I have had as a temp in more traditional (non-IT) corporate environments.

It is interesting to try and expand the “Hollywood model” (temporary teams organized short-term around specific projects) to industries such as insurance or healthcare. Although processes may be virtually identical from company to company, confidential data is critical. Could a geographically disparate team be organized around a thorny auto claim made on a rental car in a foreign country? Photographers local to the crash document the scene for an analysis group local to the insured relying on an outsourced archival department for supporting documents.

From an educator’s perspective, the Hollywood model twists in yet another fashion. While a small group comprised of both full-time educators and those outside of the school community might be most effective at planning and executing a lesson, it is not necessarily true that that group would be most effective at actually succeeding in teaching a class. This is because success in the classroom relies heavily on sustained, trusting relationships between students and teachers. Perhaps an essential component in applying the Hollywood model to education is dividing the teacher’s role of trusted-adult from information-supplier, performance-assessor, etc? In this way, schools might have a full time staff of advisor-teachers supported by part-time consultants from the community who can supply high-quality, up-to-date information?

Corante SSA most bloggable

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

In just a few hours, my alarm will wake me for the Corante Symposium on Social Architecture. Rebecca bought a new laptop and I’m now continuing my 8 year free-PC streak as the happy owner of a 700mhz Thinkpad. It is my youngest machine. Running Ubuntu, it’s quite peppy.

I’m a little uneasy at this move towards portable computing. One of my least favorite aspects of tech-oriented conferences has been the socially vile practice of sitting lost in one’s laptop as a speaker is ignored at the front of the room. As I experiment with using QWERTY for note-taking rather than my trusted pen&paper system, I am going to pay special attention to my behavior with respect to the rest of the human beings in the room.

I wonder how many other attendees consider a 7:30am Tuesday wake-up to be sleeping-in.