Archive for the 'social networks' Category

Even those who try to protect privacy disclose information

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We all (in this class) know that Facebook applications allow developers to view your profile page, and while this is a feature of Facebook that we discussed weeks ago, it seems that the AP is just now starting to take it seriously. This CNN story touches upon the discomfort that users feel when they learn of their lack of privacy.

“People seem to have this idea that, when you put something on the Internet, there should be some privacy model out there — that there’s somebody out there that’s enforcing good manners. But that’s not true.”

Are these expectations of privacy reasonable? If so, how do we get the law to reflect these expectations?

A Human Rights Web Difference

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This is an interesting story on CNN right now. A UC Berkeley grad student was arrested while attending an anti-government rally in Cairo and used a Twitter message to to tell his friends. They then posted the message (and others that followed) on their blogs, and eventually UC Berkeley sent a lawyer to get him out of jail.

Facebook: Your One-Stop Shop for Web Updates

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Two announcements this week indicate that Facebook is on its way to becoming even more of an update site than it already is. First, Facebook is going to integrate updates from Flickr, Yelp, Picasa, and Delicious into the News Feed. Second, Six Apart, former owner of Live Journal, has developed a Facebook App called Blog It, which will let you update your Facebook status, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and LiveJournal all at once. I find the first announcement very exciting. But I also found it surprising given Facebook’s increasingly strong position in the market for on-line photo sharing. Why increase the visibility of Flickr and Picasa to Facebook users that currently use Facebook to share photos? Evidently Facebook thinks they can expand their audience and uses to a wider population, but I think they risk losing their core users to other sites.

Facebook-era politics: more talking? or just more clicking?

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This blog has a post talking about a panel discussion hosted by NYU entitled “How the Web is Changing American Politics,” which featured Arianna Huffington, among others. (Politics group, I tried to see if this was on your blog/ wiki but couldn’t find it…sorry if I’m duplicating anything!) From the blogger’s account, it seems like it was all about how great Obama’s campaign has been about using Facebook and other social networking sites to his advantage — rather than about a more fundamental impact on politics. Then again, maybe online social networking IS a fundamental change in politics. This post raises a few questions about Facebook-era politics and its implications.

First, in social networking sites’ advent onto the political scene, are we entering an era where Americans wear their votes on their sleeves much more than before? And if so, does that matter?

We’ve been talking a lot about how grassroots approaches are more en vogue than ever, in part because of the Web…but I wonder if the other side of that is that voters “pick sides” more conspicuously — by joining Facebook groups, becoming a “supporter” of their favored politician, etc. (I know I have been much more up front about my allegiances this time around, largely because of Facebook.) This may not be a bad thing if it means more people are engaging with the issues and contributing to the political debate. On the other hand, I think there’s a legitimate concern that social networking sites might lead to politics becoming more of a superficial popularity contest. Now that people can broadcast their political preferences with the click of a button, I see the potential for quite a “bandwagon” effect. Ultimately, will the benefits from increased political participation outweigh the potential harm of fostering (or deepening) a “herd mentality” among voters?

Second (and harder to answer): is Web political involvement (including on Facebook) as meaningful as “real world” political involvement? When people join politicians’ Facebook groups, are they strengthening democratic ideals? Or encouraging a sort of “democracy-lite” society? (In this respect, we run into a familiar question: is the Web a substitute for or add-on to real-world behavior/ media/ relationships?)

NYT columnist Thomas Friedman has one view, expressed in this article that appeared in the Times last fall. Trippi (who thinks the internet has encouraged campaigns to engage people in “real dialogue”) and DW seem to have a different view. In Broadcasting and the Voter’s Paradox, DW (who will kill me for quoting from his writings) says: “Voting is gloriously paradoxical. Each person gets one and only one vote, equal to everyone else’s. When we vote, we are mere faces in the crowd, yet we rejoice in our mere-ness. Yet with that one vote, we express what is unique about us.” And later: “We don’t yet know what the effect will be now that we have remembered that democracy is about connecting as much as about standing alone in a voting booth facing a lonely, existential decision.” So he seems to think Web involvement may end up being MORE meaningful in some ways.

Will voting post-Facebook still involve expressing “what is unique about” ourselves? Or will we veer too sharply toward becoming “mere faces in the crowd” of our Facebook groups? Will we really do more talking and “connecting”? or just more clicking?

Chatter, chatter, chatter

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Facebook has introduced live chatting with your friends when you’re online and so are they. (See Facebook’s blog post about it here).

Some preliminary observations – I was glad to see that they allow for the ability to go “offline.” (Can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to avoid my friends!) I tested it out as well (I was intrigued) and out of the 10 or so lines of text I sent, about half didn’t go through (apparently there’s still some bugs to be worked out!). One thing I would comment that I don’t like, is that I can’t pick and choose who I have on my chat list. Why does Facebook automatically assume that since I’m Facebook friends with someone, I also want to talk to them?? Seems odd to me….

The idea of chat is nothing new, but I feel slightly annoyed by Facebook adding this feature. I already have Skype, msn Messenger, AIM, and gchat, not to mention my cell phone, my land line, my four e-mail accounts. I think people can reach me if they want to. (but what if I don’t want them to??)

Also interesting to note, seems Facebook has learned from the past. Right in the blog post announcing the chat feature is a paragraph on privacy. Facebook seems to understand that this issue is important to its users, and bringing in new features without consideration of privacy will create a bad-for-business backlash. (Who can forget the “newsfeed” debacle)

The web has definitely made a difference in how we communicate, and how much we communicate. But like we said in class, what about the quality of how we communicate?

I was talking to some of my friends (the live ones, not the Facebook ones) today about this new feature. A comment from one of them – “Facebook is about to implode because of its overwhelming usefulness”

Effective privacy disclosure on photo-sharing sites

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On the heels of some discussion about whether disclosure notices can actually work, I encountered this example of what I view as effective “fine print”: while exploring Kodak Gallery’s new slide.com feature (which allows you to export slideshows from your Kodak Gallery albums to other photo and social networking sites on the Web — Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, etc.), I saw this message:

Remember that any pictures you include in a Slide.com slideshow can be viewed and used by visitors to slide.com and other websites where you publish your slideshow, according to those websites’ terms. Please use care when deciding what pictures you include and where you publish your slideshow.

I think one thing that makes it effective is its use of non-legalese — it reads like another person is gently warning you to proceed ahead with some caution. Good job, Slide.com

Making the Web less different?

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An article in the NY Times describes how an Internet start-up, Vivaty, is attempting to make the Web social world a little bit more like the “real” social world. It is creating virtual graphic chatrooms like those of SecondLife, but having them accessible from a web browser.

Is this making the Web less different but making more of a Web difference? Better technology allows us to emulate real life much more than ever before, and at the same time it allows us to do things we’ve never been able to do before, such as “chat” with someone who is half a world away.

Live music festivals — beneficiaries of the web difference in the music world?

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“The record business, or at least that of the major labels, is foundering, as CD sales spiral downward. But South by Southwest thrives on the plain fact that people still love music: making it, hearing it, dancing to it, even marketing it.” -Jon Pareles, NYT

The NY Times featured an article this past week on Austin’s South by Southwest music festival, and it made some interesting observations about today’s music industry that I thought were relevant to our discussion of the web difference in the music world. The author reiterates the point made in class that more and more musicians will turn to concert sales to make their living (as opposed to record sales). He ultimately characterizes the festival as “as close as the concert business gets to a level playing field.” He adds, “Big names and small play the same beery clubs, through the same sound systems, without their accustomed arena video setups or undistracted audiences.”

So in the growing popularity of these live music festivals, we see another example of the Web breaking down barriers to entry in the music business, a development which we in turn expect to improve information flow, increase choice, and drive competition.

I don’t know much about the festival, but Wikipedia says it is the largest revenue-producing event for the city of Austin – bigger than things like UT football games and even the more storied Austin City Limits music festival! (For more, see this article.) So it seems clear that the internet – by bringing about phenomena like the decreasing importance of major record labels, the popularization of off-label music on the Web, and increasing fan demand for live concerts – is also having a significant impact on local, non-Web entities like local governments/ economies. I think all this is interesting because music is one area where the Web has enabled a distinct online culture (MySpace, Bradsucks) to develop, but everything we’re seeing now suggests that the benefits from this online community are being transferred to (or at least shared with) the non-Internet world.

Brad of Bradsucks seemed to be focused more on the opportunities to make (and distribute) a new kind of music that have been made possible by the Web. He said he was less into the live performance opportunities, and is happiest when he’s at his computer, mixing and recording songs. But for many other musicians, the internet is changing the landscape of the live music industry and, in so doing, creating all kinds of opportunities to do what they love most – perform in front of a music-loving audience. All in all, it seems like the web difference in the music world has benefited all musicians. I wonder if this is truly a Pareto improvement vis-à-vis the artists themselves – or if there are some musicians out there who were happier before all these changes?

Clay Shirky tonight (Thursday)

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The probability is 0.989 that you will enjoy hearing Clay Shirky talk tonight about his new book: 6:00 PM, Austin West Classroom, Austin Hall.

Draft Lessig?

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Last Monday, Rep. Tom Lantos, who represented the CA-12, passed away after a battle with cancer. Shortly after a special election to fill his seat was announced an online movement was already in motion to try and draft Larry Lessig to run for the vacant seat. A great story is currently up at Ars Technica about the effort which includes a shout out to our own JP (who created the Draft Lessig Facebook Group).

A few thoughts of mine and some more links after the jump.

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