Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: the Facebook/LinkedIn Potential ShootOut and What We Might Lose

There are a whole lot of us caught in the crossfire of words about how one social networking platform is going to "kill" the other, which, quite honestly, won't be good for the majority of us....Let me explain...

First, I'm glad that LinkedIn now enables us to upload photographs! And Adam Nash explains, in part, why it took so long to do so:
However, before we could add photos to the site, we had to give considerable thought to the best way to integrate photos into a professional site. Privacy is an incredibly important issue to us, and we wanted to make sure we had the right controls in place. As a result, all members will have the option to control whether their photo is visible to their connections, their network, or everyone.

What Adam's talking about here are concerns that adults have when using social networking platforms. Adults who are building careers in "traditional" or "legacy" (read: conservative-thinking, which is most) businesses have very good reasons for making sure that their privacy is guarded, that maybe some people can't see their photos, and that the photos present the right image.

No pics of drunken frathouse beer-busts nor of doing "body-shots" off your sorority sisters's belly-buttons thankyouverymuch. Those won't help you land a job in investment banking....

LinkedIn isn't about mating-and-dating or make-new-friends-but-keep-the-old or of our profs finding better ways to connect with us outside of class--it's about business and networking for business. It's about finding jobs.

I wonder though: do our young men at Facebook really know all that much about that kind of thing? Or about the life-relationship-friend kind of thing that, in adulthood, has far more shades of gray than it did in college...

Which leads me to the latest on Facebook: the addition of feature for grouping your friends. This app will supposedly help us "group" our friends and make it easier to manage them. Stowe Boyd makes an important point about this when he says we want "groupings"--tagging "our friends with as many associations as we like..." so that "we can share things in the most flexible ways possible."

This would be nice, and could help those who use Facebook for *everything* manage their space. But should we keep all of our online selves on Facebook in the first place? Sure, that may be fine for some of the elites of Silicon Valley, but when I think about it, do they keep all of *themselves* online on Facebook? One of the many things adulthood has taught me is that, sometimes, people *say* they're completely transparent when, in fact, they aren't. This may sound sexist, but I've often found that it's men who are great at compartmentalizing--so great that I think it's lead to the phrase "the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

We all have dark sides. We all have secrets. Our lives often are shades of gray. It is in negotiating the complexities of adulthood that we learn the importance of privacy.

Maybe it's because we've had a younger generation grow up with adults prying into their lives as never before that we're now seeing a generation of young people, many of whom are now developing the same types of platforms and apps we use daily, who belive that we simply have to get used to having less and less privacy.

This is very, very scary.

Donna Bogotan took a couple of good shots at Facebook...notably calling out Fortune's David Kirkpatrick on his "swooning" over Facebook/Zuckerberg. I really get Bogotan's ire. There's too much hoo-ha over new ways Facebook would like to intrude on our lives, and there may be reasons for this that have little to do with making our online social lives easier. There could be (as Bogotan raises in her post on Kirkpatrick) some very nasty stuff that might "aid" marketers while invading our privacy:
Kirkpatrick (in Forutne): The Internet is rapidly moving toward a world in which advertisers are able to target their messages to those most likely to be responsive. While this is often painted as an invasion of privacy, in fact it is a service…the ads we see will quite often be ads that convey the information we want. If software algorithms can help marketers identify what sorts of goods and services we are most likley to buy, it is a benefit, not an intrusion

Hmmm...can anyone say The Pudding"? Can anyone see a linkup between The Pudding's services and Facebook???

Yet Bogotan's also levelled a scathing indictment of Nick O'Neill's post re Facebook's new "killer" app (the whole "groupings" thing.) O'Neill likes to be a cheerleader for Facebook--and maybe in being a cheerleader he's also an influencer. But I wonder the level of impact his cheerleading will have on the world outside of the Silicon Valley.

I'm more concerned about what Kirkpatrick is saying and doing. He's got a bigger megaphone--mainstream media--thus a bigger audience and, dare I say, far bigger influence (contrary to popular beliefs about the demise of msm.)

As for me, I'm becoming *very* concerned abuot what sorts of apps Facebook's adopting, and about its talks with Google. I am extremely concerned about the invasion of privacy thing, as much as I am about NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation of Facebook. I am also saddened that I might have to (at some point in time) pare down my Facebook profile and delete some of the personal things I've put on it--stuff that's actually been a nice way of letting some of my business contacts know more about me--because it may become "inappropriate information."

I don't agree with Kirkpatrick: I don't want to be advertised to at every turn of the corner I make online. I don't want "targeted" advetising period.

And I want both LinkedIn *and* Facebook to thrive because, unlike O'Neill, I understand the shades of gray of adulthood. I like the separation of church (personal life) and state (business life.) That's the only way I can have the "freedom" to be myself online.

Think about it.

Update Alan Patrick notes that if ".. one is a "less favoured friend of X" may make one sever ties, or - worse from Facebooks point of view - lose interest in the whole thing." hmmm...well, maybe it will cause a decrease in hype, that's for sure. and Muhammad Saleem thinks about the targeted advertising thing, too.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CT Forum to Host Newmark, Boyd and Wales on the Tech Revolution

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT next Wednesday, Oct. 3, you may want to check out Tech Revolution--a panel discussion between Craig, danah and Jimmy and moderated by Jonathan Zittrain....

The panel was put together by the good folks of the Connecticut are $55, $45, and $25 and it appears they're still available.

me?...I may be on my way to Somewhere Else...or working on another proposal....but I'm glad to see those great folks out in my neck of the woods! It's about time someone hosted this kind of a panel out here, and to esp. discuss the world of social media,--which seems, in the minds of most folks, to be confined to the realm of MySpace. Oh, it's a lot more than that for sure!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trolls, Civility, and the Right to Challenge the Status Quo

My friend Adam Tinworth, who blogs at One Man and his Blog recently wrote about Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, and mentioned how some folks call Keen a "troll"---"Well, here's the thing. Many people on the leading edge of the Web 2.0 movement think we should ignore Mr Keen and his polemic about the horrific consequences for our culture of participatory web culture. "He's just a troll," they cry. "Don't feed him."...The problem is that he's far from alone in his views..."

Now, I've heard this myself about Keen--and other than the fact that he's not a tall guy, Keen really isn't a "troll" in the true and traditional Internet community use of the word.

Quite frankly, the term is nowadays being thrown around far too loosely and is being used--along with the "incivility" argument--as a way of silencing disagreement or challenge to thought of bloggers we may find ourselves in disagreement with.

It seems that now, we should only say Nice Things all the time. We must only post comments in agreement--there is no room for Calling It Like It Is...because this is "Incivil" and "troll-like" behavior...

Now, let's get back to clarifying the troll thing.

If you've spent any significant time online, in the pre-"social media" and pre-Sierra Affair days, you'd know that a "troll" was an entity--not a person--who'd come on to a newsgroup or message board or a blog or anywhere where people would gather. There were several ways to know a troll. The first, and most glaringly obvious, is that a troll will never post under his/her real name. Trolls are usually anonymous or pseudonymous Back in The Day when *everyone* used a screen name, telling a troll took a bit of time. If you were a regular part of a community, even a "newbie" could look like a troll. That's part of why there has been so much debate over the years over anonymous comments and transparency (yes, some of it has to do with credibility, but it also has to do with troll-slaying.)

Yet now, even if people are signing real name posts that question or challenge a fellow blogger, they, like Andrew Keen, can find themselves called a "troll." When they are clearly NOT a troll--as in the traditional sense of the word--because they are bothering to reveal their true identity. (please note that there are still a preponderance of anonymous or pseudonymous trolls--it takes awhile to understand a troll in context and syntax. most people just haven't had the requisite amount of time online or in communities to understand these subtleties. hence it makes it so easy to call someone a "troll" who isn't.)

What a "snarky commenter" is, then, doing is challenging the thought of the person who made the post. This person may take serious umbrage over being challenged. Many people cannot handle a challenge (even some very high profile people--who seem to be getting far more sensitive these days) and are now resorting to either calling others "trolls" or claiming "you're being incivil!"

Therefore, the most important reason we should not throw the "t" word around is that it will eventually inhibit discourse. It will create more and more echo chambers because no one will be able to say anything Not Nice. The result will be that we'll have more and more people claiming that blogs are echo chambers--now, with proof that they're echo chambers.

Just because no one disagrees with you doesn't mean everybody thinks your right.

If we cannot disagree with someone's blog post without being called a troll (or without getting attacked, or called incivil, as what happened to me recently) then we're in serious trouble.

So, Andrew Keen isn't a troll--but he is challenging the happy-happy-joy-joy status quo of Silicon Valley. If we don't like what he says, we don't have to link to him, nor to post about him. But he's not a "troll."

Now that we've got that cleared up, I'd like to move on to Aldon Hynes' post letting the catchy and snarky become the enemy of the good”. In the post, Aldon writes why he's taking a break from the political blogosphere:
It [the phrase that is the title of the post] reflects part of the reason I’m spending more time napping on my porch overlooking Fountain Street and less time engaged in some of the hand-to-hand verbal combat in the political blogs. There are some great masters of catchiness and snarkiness in the political blogosphere. Yet I also worry that many of the let their catchiness and snarkiness get in the way moving their causes forward...

Yet Aldon is also concerned with the First Amendment fate of Avery Doninger, a Burlington, CT high school student who was not allowed to run for senior class secretary because she called administrators "douchebags". Is it really criminal to call an administrator a "douchebag" on your blog (which, btw, even on LiveJournal, is public information)? So far, the judges think so. But Norm Pattis points out on his blog post that it wasn't necessarily the use of the word "douchebag" inasmuch as "she appears to have violated a school policy about civility and the proper means of working out disagreements with administrators. And in part because her off-campus speech had an impact on school activities."

So, Avery Doninger challenged the status quo in a rather inelegant manner, actually got a rise out of some fellow students (ah! the keyboard is mightier than the sword!")was deemed "incivil," and silenced.

I guess, then, that Florida law enforcement was justified when that douchebag of a student who dared challenge John Kerry was brutally tasered for his "incivility" towards a public figure....

Actually, I never thought being an ass in public was a crimial--or torturable--offense. But, I guess in a "civilized" world, Order is more important than challenging a public figure.

Which leads me back to some criticisms I've been dealt lately. When I posted a serious (post lost due to Blogger error)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Social Networking for the Dead" and Our Lives Afterward

Well, once again Nick Carr's given me a bit of a laugh--as well as something to think about--by unearthing of a Guardian Unlmited story on "a kind of social network for the dead." But other than the obvious (and funny) jokes on Nick's blog, appears to be offering an important service to those of us left with the business of life once our significant others have passed away...

Let's face it--our little egos hate to think about the impending doom of death. We trip through life knowing it will get us eventually--but like teen-agers, Eventually seems a long ways away. Yet people die every day without leaving adequate instructions on what we're supposed to do about their burial, the bills, and lots of other things we may not even know about. Even worse is the plain fact that lots of us who are well under Retirement Age really never think all that much about just going to a lawyer and drawing up a will--even after we do the domestic partnership, or get married, or have kids (well, sometime the kid thing becomes the tipping point--but not always.) Still, a will doesn't cover *everything* that The People We Leave Behind will have to deal with.

And, honestly, when was the last time *you* talked about this stuff with someone who loves you?? When was the last time you said "so, honey, if I die tomorrow, don't forget that the electric bill's due on tuesday and clear out the diamonds from my safe deposit box in Boston..."

But, all jokes aside, if you've ever gone thru the death of a parent (my Mom died 2 yrs ago), a close relative, or anyone whose life has been bound in some way to our own, there are always things that are left unsaid. Sometimes we never know his/her Last Wishes,and we could very well be in the dark as to what to do and how to handle things. Even if we know our loved one's Last Wishes, in cases of catastrophic events, such as that in the life of Terry Schiavo, there may be someone, somewhere, who disputes our intimate knowledge and claims they know our beloved's *true* last wishes.

Something like YouDeparted, and the information left there by us or our sig others, could clarify any ambiguities, as well as help with other decisions that must be made in the time immediately following our death or the death of someone close to us.

And, when you think about it, when so much of us live a great portion of our lives online, doesn't it make sense to leave some of that kind of info out here too? It is, perhaps, a lot easier than going to a lawyer? Esp. for us who are potentially squeamish about the idea of death and wills and all that legal stuff...

With looking at this site, I'm also reminded of Respectance, the online memorial site that also has a social networking component. Here's Respectance's About page that explains how it can be an important place to meet others, share memories, and ease the grieving process.

Also, my friend Jill Fallon has kept blogs on death and surviving a loved one's death-- Legacy Matters and Business of Life--for quite some time now. I wonder what she might think of something like (other than that the name might not be so terrific.)

Those of us whose lives are lived in the moment, who may never yet have suffered a significant loss of another from our lives, might not feel a need for something like YouDeparted or Respectance, or need the advice on Jill's blogs. But, frankly, eventually, the death of a loved one will come crashing down on us and we'll feel something horrid--something we never knew we could feel. And, we will still have to deal with the business (both literally and figuratively) of life afterward. So, we can get funny about "After Life" where our Second Life avatars might go--that's perhaps because we really don't want to admit that we just might be so vulnerable, and mortal, that we won't know what to do next if something happens to us in Real Life. But some folks are. And that's, perhaps, a good thing.

Update: Russell Shaw polls the public on whether or not we might use something like, and adds some details.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Social Network vs. Social Graph: It's The Same Thing, Only Different (or so they say...)

Apparently, the Project for Excellence in Journalism's use of the term "user news" rather than the more accurate "social news" (as applied to Digg and Reddit) wasn't enough--Dave Winer has noticed the growing use of the term "social graph" to obfuscate our understanding of the term "social network"....

Which is kinda what I figured when I first saw the term "social graph"--along with thinking its use was to promote a particular Facebook app called the Social Graph.

Dave goes on to talk about "Graph Theory" (I know a bit about this because when I was an undergraduate, getting a degree in math, I studied this stuff. I proved theorums about how many edges you'd have to traverse to get from one point to another. There are many types of Graph Theory graphs, directed and undirected, for example. Some that you'd need two colors to paint, or three, but none need more than four...)

Which reminded me of a particularly sadistic 10th grade English teacher who had us "graph" the social relationships between characters in books like Orwell's "Animal Farm."

We were supposed to be learning how all the characters were emotionally or plot-ly interconnected (or not)--but the exercise, which employed the use of an A-shaped character grid-- actually worked to bring our grade-point averages down for the class.

So, when I saw "social graph" and then "user news" something in the recesses of my brain reminded me that sometimes folks like to make things more complicated than they are simply to keep the rest of our gpa's down...

Another reason nobody got the character graph thing was because relationships between characters in books--or people, for that matter--aren't *that* mathematical. Character relationships (whether those characters are in books or IRL) are messy and sometimes complicated far more than four colors or an A-shaped grid can handle--as much as they are prone to subjective interpretations by the reader (i.e. "what does this book make you feel?")

And, yes, having a fun little Facebook app that will do the graphing *for* us can be cool. But if you're not one of Facebook's Cool Kids, adopting every app that comes along, you might not "get" the whole Social Graph thing.

And is it really all that important to call "social networks" the more mathematically correct "social graphs" (or to call "social news" the off-base "user news"_ in the grander scheme of things? Not really. But if these obfucative terms are used often enough by a certain number of high-level geek types who get regular media exposure, and the ear of the marketing community, "social graph" could become as ubiquitious as the term "content" (or the more disparaging "user-generated content.")

more As usual Nick Carr makes me laugh and Stephen Spalding pushes the ROTFLMAO factor with How to Write a Web 2.0 Glossary

a.m. Update: Marc Cantor's explains
some subtleties
between the terms social graph, social network, and social media. And if the social graph remains JUST about the data, that's fine. It's when it begins to become either a blanket term encompassing both social networking and social media (a still hotly-debated term that's vastly misunderstood by the general marketing population) then it becomes problematic. And I think that's what lots of us don't really like. I often feel we're in a time when there are lots of terms being invented for marketing purposes, not because they clarify what's going on. We've got term upon term--a moving forward of terms that leaves many people throwing up their hands and retrenching into Web 1.0 thinking. And that's not going to help businesses or the economy move forward.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New survey sez we don't like sex as much as we used to (thanks to the web...)

Reuters reports today on the results of a survey conducted by venerable ad agency JWT finds that out of 1,011 Americans, 20 percent said they spend more time online than they do having sex....

Well, to be honest, if I were having more sex, I certainly wouldn't be spending so much time online (ha!)

The survey also found that only about 1/5th of those surveyed could go without the Internet for a week...while 21 percent said they could go without it for only a couple of days...
"People told us how anxious, isolated and bored they felt when they are forced off line," said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting at JWT, which conducted the survey to see how technology was changing people's behavior.

"They felt disconnected from the world, from their friends and family," she told Reuters.

Mack also acknowledges that some people "communicate, entertain, and live" almost entirely online, eschewing TV for downloads, and IM for f2f....calling these folks "digitivity denizens."

I'm not sure about the "digitivity" part, but I know lots of folks like me who tend to live in here...lots more who live here more than I do. The trick is to find balance between the two worlds. It can kind of be like living in two countries, but there are things about f2f life that can't be duplicated in here...

Like sex.

And I don't think they'll ever be able to duplicate it inside this box. :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog-Culture Changes: Paul Krugman launches one...

...titled The Conscience of a Liberal, and the Times axes Times Select (which some thought was a crappy idea in the first place) ....

but I wonder if this means the Times will get more "bloggy"--which may not be a great strategy. Blogs may be fine tools for quick, on the fly publishing, as well as for publishing personal opinions, but blogs are more than tools....

When I spoke to a couple of journalism classes at the University of North Carolina, I realized how much blogs are more than just tools and to say they are "just tools" diminishes their cultural significance and impact. There is a whole culture out here, a community, that's grown in many different ways--and now has many more branches than folks like Rebecca Blood, who wrote "The Weblog Handbook" in 2002, could see at that time.

Blood's book, now, should be recommended reading to *any* journalism class that desires to understand blogging. You can't quite understand what's going on now if you don't understand the milieu in which blogs developed...

and what's happened out here that would compel someone like Paul Krugman to jump into the medium (although I did find he did not respond to his comments--then again, neither do many "newbie" bloggers. That's something you learn in time.)

I would, though, hate to see the Times become one giant blog network. That would, IMO, simply look like an attempt to subsume another form of media that should remain separate--not just because it gives "The People" voice, but because it has its own culture and thus its own signficance...

and, may I say, it's own history...

Think about it...

Digg's Social Networking Blossoms: Tipping Point or Second Phase?

UpdateChief Digger Kevin Rose posts (finally!) about the changes (with video.)

BusinessWeek seems to have got the scoop on Digg's new social networking features--before they were posted on Digg's blog...but aside from that factor, Digg's new stuff looks to make it more MySpaceable, or perhaps turn it into an alterna-Facebook:

Digg's new emphasis on user profile pages is also designed to let users better define their presence on the site by posting multiple photos, personal interests, biographical information, and even links to a member's personal blog, social network profile, or Web page. With the addition of these features, it will also be possible to control whether that content can be viewed by all Digg users or just designated friends.

As before, the profile pages will still feature those stories that an individual user has submitted to Digg as well as the site's overall tally of how many users also "dug" that story. But in addition, readers will be able to view a history of an individual user's comments on stories. The new features are "going to give everyone a bit of an identity on the site," says Rose.

Now, we can all sit around and speculate/prognosticate about what all this means, but perhaps the best commentary (and the most important) comes from the Digg community itself. Follow this thread:
Dumb idea.. I don't want digg to turn into fucking myspace. Keep it the way it is and instead of adding these dumb ass features, add a fucking pictures section....

(response#1)It's all the "new" Diggers who brought the plague of stupid inbox images and wacky jokes to the front page. The next wave of Diggers could render Digg more useless and unrecognizable from its formerly great self.

(response#2)Well, at least we still will have Reddit, and I really mean it.

In all of this, I'm reminded of the communities I was involved with over the years, that either were hacked by trolls (thus causing new security features that hindered discourse) or had new features added that were, to me, kind of confusing (as in when I kept getting invites to parties Washington D.C because someone I didn't know found his way into my "friends" list...)

So, I really empathize with the Diggers who built this community. They helped create the space, and it more than likely feels like they're losing control of their space. In the early days of a community it's like you're picking your friends as much as they are picking you. When things get bigger, and more features to encourage "openness" are added, it can feel like someone else--Big Mother?--is somehow picking your friends *for* you by giving you entire dossiers on them...

what happened to the joy of discovery?

Which leads me to think that some network developers often forget one big thing about community spaces--sure, they put up the architecture, but it's the people who make the community sing. They're the ones who add value to the community, make it popular....

Make it popular *enough* so that advertisers want to put their messages there...

Which may be part of Rose and Adelson's rationale for adding all the community-revealing bells and whistles:
For Digg, more registered users mean more people whose interests the company knows enough about to show them targeted advertising. In July, Digg announced that Microsoft (MSFT) will be the site's exclusive provider of targeted ads for three years (, 7/25/07). The deal came after a year of talks with various ad providers, says Adelson

Mathew Ingram comments that the new features will help Digg "to grow and deepen its relationship with its members and users, this [putting in more features] is one of the ways to do that..." but I'm thinking the relationship it really wants to deepen is with Microsoft.... Also see Eric Berlin (often insightful)offers some sanguine commentary ...

I think, though, that the upbeat views of the new features miss a few points about online communities of affinity like Digg: sometimes there's a strong professional or even personal reason for not having a huge profile (or any *traceable* profile) on a particular social networking site...first, there's the "retaliation from employers" fear--a very real one at that. Then there the new annoying, nagging fear of being pounced on by intrusive "targeted ad" programs (esp. those nasty flashing things, or that stupid dancing guy offers low-cost mortgages to anyone over 40.)

Stephen O'Hear puts hammer to nail (I think) with this:
The result is that the site’s content becomes even more relevant and social to its users, while at the same time providing even more hooks for advertisers.. .The isn’t conspiracy theory stuff, it’s just the way any ad-funded site works which feeds off its users’ social graphs. MySpace is refining its data mining and ad-targeting, Facebook has plans to the do the same. We’re now really starting to see phase two of the social networking phenomenon kick-in. Monetization.

So, yes, these new happy-social features will make Digg stand out among the pack of any of the new social networking sites out there, and might even make it a go-to place for different kinds of news (that all depends on who feels comfortable there--there is no guarantee this will happen) but the bottom line of it all is the whole monetization thing. Facebook's been pushing the widget-thing. Digg decided to push the expanded profile thing. Both are ways of bringing in more money by finding out more information about community members...

Whether or not the new features will succeed (either community-wise or monitarily)remains to be seen, but there's one sure thing that will happen: the new features will indeed change the Digg "neighborhood." New folks will come in and some of the old folks who built the place might feel a bit itchy and move on. The site may indeed grow with new people, and new social connections may form, but it will never be the same, and, in light of this, Digg's value as a "social news" site *may* change.

Another thing that might happen: some of the core members may go off and form their own community. This happened with the core group of socialble movie buffs I met at the New York Times Film Forum in '98--who, after driven crazy by trolls and lots of other features that made the old forum really uncomfortable, went off and founded the Third Eye Film Society.

So...original Diggers...if you don't like the changes, create your own space! It's in your power!

I wonder, though, how the social features are working for Mashable!...and if Cashmore's thinking of getting into the "rate the news" game...

Also see: the comments are great at Duncan Riley's post about Digg-book-space a

Further reading: Dan Kennedy looks at Digg and Reddit in light of the PEJ survey, and reminds us about NewsTrust--where you can rate the news *and* be social. NewsTrust is a different kind of news community--one focused on what many would call "hard news", and has a totally different demographic than Digg. So, if Digg's looking to capture a "hard news" crowd (and I'll say it again) making things more open-social might not pull in that those folks...

MySpace mines its user profiles for targeted "data-driven" ads

and on what could go wrong with widgets Cory Treffiletti points out the eerie similarity between all the widgets-as-marketing tools hoo-ha and "buzz that surrounded desktop applications in the late '90's." How many of our new young-gun social networking widgetmisters remember these days? Sometimes looking back can help prevent disaster ahead.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PEJ issues new study on "user-news" sites

The latest look at the ever-changing world of newsgathering was issued today by for Excellence in Journalism. "The Latest News Headlines—Your Vote Counts" is an attempt to understand the emerging church of user-rated social news sites--and, like a middle-aged guy trying to hit on a 22-year old, completely misses reality...

First, PEJ starts by asking the questions:
If someday we have a world without journalists, or at least without editors, what would the news agenda look like? How would citizens make up a front page differently than professional news people?

Curious hypotheticals indeed. Kind of like "what would the world be like without religion?" or "what if I'd never been born?" Even Dan Gillmor notes that these might be the wrong questions...

Dan also notes
We are not heading to a world with no editors. A portion of the editorial role, at least the part of the editorial role that involves picking stories, is moving to community-driven sites. Digg, Reddit and others in the PEJ survey are crude approximations, however, of what is coming.

Rather, a better characterization might be that these are online socializing experiments revolving around the gathering and sharing of news stories that are relevant to a particular group of people in a particular period in time

All are relative to a time and place because all are linking together a particular demographic around social interaction. Social mores change and blow the bejebus out of social networks. Can anyone say Friendster??

James Robertson said in his criticism of Nick Carr's blistering commentary that Carr "misses the point on social sites like Digg, Reddit..." Yet I would venture that it's not Carr that misses the point, but the PEJ study that misses--and misinterprets--the point of these sites. And for the same reason that Robertson points out: these social news sites aren't meant to point people to the stories of the moment. People can find those already. People who use social news are often looking for something different--and what that is relates to their particular interests (mostly tech-oriented.)

If someone managed to put together a social news site based on the latest in celebrity gossip, you'd find not just a vastly different community than on Digg and Reddit, but you'd also find that the #1 stories of the day are vastly different (hmmm..maybe this is something we can demonstrate w/ Technorati's Topics feature???)

All in all, the PEJ study should be taken with a hefty grain of salt: its focuses on a small snapshot in time (June 24 to June 29, 2007) and on a culturally and socially relative phenomenon and uses the wrong terminology to describe the phenomenon. Sites like Digg, Reddit,etc. are not "user-news" sites. The "users" aren't creating content on those sites, but are pointing to content in other places. The more accurate term is "social news" sites. And because they are "social," their communities revolve around a particular affinity, not on geography or general news--hence their narrow focus. Further, assumptions should not be made about people who use these sites, since the amount and types of news consumed by any individual who frequents these sites in all probability varies from participant to participant.

If you project too much, you can get in trouble

Perahps the better lessons on the phenomenon--ones that are relavent right now--can be found in the changes coming to Netscape's Digg-like social news least Netscape can admit when something didn't work quite so well, and shift strategies. I'm not sure if most other corporate owned news outlets could do the same.

update Scott Karp makes a similar point only with graphs!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technorati's Topics and the Changing Value of Blog Rank in an RSS World

Today, Technorati announced its new Technorati Topics feature. In its own inimitable way, Technorati is indeed responding to what blog readers want--giving them a continuous "river of news" (as Harrison Hoffman describes it--even though some couldn't figure out how to make it stop long enough to click a link...)

And of course there's been lots and lots of feedback on this--but something I'm noticing in all the feedback, is how things have changed out here in the blogosphere regarding how we view authority--and even rank--of blogs...some of this may have to do with RSS readers and trackbacks, as much as it has to do with keeping the non-blogger blog readers happy.

Now I'd been thinking quite a bit about this since Dave Sifry's resignation and all the talk about Technorati's "irrelevance"--because when I came into blogging (almost 3 years ago now--with my personal blog which is no longer viewable) Technorati was pretty much the gold standard for figuring out where *you* were in relation to all the other bloggers out there...we talked about things like "linklove" and "link whoring" and that sort of stuff because it was through linking to one another that many of us even got readers.

These were the days before RSS readers became popular and before Google launched its blogsearch.

Blog readers were mostly other bloggers, and it was other bloggers who helped the news consumers find good stuff by pointing to the good stuff via blogroll permalinks and post links. This was how you, the lowly blogger, built influence and authority--esp. if you could get in an A-lister's blogroll....

So, how did Technorati figure out your rank? And why was the A-list so important? I'll state right out that I don't know all the machinations of the algorithm that does this, but let's go back to both permalinks, posts links and "linklove" for a moment. Permalinks occurred when someone put you in his/her blogroll in their sidebar (now, we have widgets and stuff that do this.) A-listers were always getting bugged for blogroll permalinks because those links could send major traffic to a new blog and build reputation (one of my first big A-lister blogroll links was from Halley Suitt, which did indeed help--see this discussion)

Because many A-listers got so many requests for permalinks, many stopped keeping blogrolls (including Jeff Jarvis--wish I could find his 2005 post on it--was a good explanation.)

Blogroll permalinks never "aged out" of Technorati's calculation of rank--because this particular link was always present whenever blogs were scraped...

Enter the post link--which was a link in someone's blog to one of your posts. This could also bring in reader traffic, but it "aged out" of Technorati's rank calculation after a period of time.

And "linklove"--well, that was a concept that I'm not sure we really care about that some blogs are more about advertising and making money from advertising than they are about building friendships, community, and thought-influence...

Ways of measuring and reading blogs have dramatically changed since 2005--with the popularity of Trackbacks, RSS Readers, Tags, and other social news sites like Digg and Reddit and a plethora of other ways to find blogs beyond Technorati...

But the strange thing is, the traffic and links and popularity generated by these new services are very, very hard to pull together. Technorati's ranking system (as long as it was pulling in all your links on a timely basis) was really the best for figuring out your importance...

This raises the question of why was Technorati rank so darned important that we'd bug the bejebus out of someone for a permalink? Well, as I recall, part of this had something to do with discussions at the time about advertising on blogs. Before Google Ad-Stuff became ubiquitous (notice I did not say good) ads got to blogs only if blogs had big traffic. And still, blogs that make anything beyond what might be considered "pin money" have to have really, really big traffic. But back then, the chance of even getting, say, Henry Copeland's BlogAds to look at you, you had to be a high-traffic blog--and those were only the A-list...

Now, though, the idea of the A-list is even a bit strange. Who constitutes the A-list nowadays? Does it even matter when there are so many different ways and devices for people to keep track of one particular blog? Will A-list status one day depend on how many subscriptions one has through Feedburner, Netvibes, Bloglines, MyYahoo, and GoogleReader, linked with how many trackbacks and comments occur on a post on a particular day (yes, even popular blogs don't get comments *every* day, so this is a specious measure.) And what about pageviews? Well, maybe that's irrelevant, if we consider time spent reading a blog vs. clickthroughs (which can easily be gamed--sometimes just by adding "sex" somewhere in your blog)--a change in thinking about metrics that was recently proposed...

Or will the A-list go away totally--and one's "authority" or "popularity" or whatever you want to call it become contingent on the influence one has in a particular community or with a particular group of people? Is it now more about the readers and newshounds--folks we used to call "lurkers"--and not about what goes on *just* among the bloggerati?

The landscape is changing quickly, folks. No dobut about that....and maybe in the end it won't matter about the community of bloggers as much as about meeting the needs of the "customer."

one quick note: as a compulsive stat and rank watcher, I've noticed that Technorati hasn't kept up with gathering up my post links in the past week or so, some of which have come from great places like Dennis Howlett at ZDNet and Richi Jennings at Computerworld's IT Blogwatch (who may, for all I know, have found me via Techmeme.) So, my rank has stayed the same. Does it matter? To me, in some ways yes--because folks still look at that. In others, it's being acknowledged by Dennis and Richi that means, perhaps, a bit more. I am, though, waiting for all those links to catch up...please...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Perils of Social Networking Part 3: Lifestreams, Reputations, and Potential Destruction

This a.m., I started taking another look at subsequent conversations regarding the gathering-up of all the various bits of our online information (our reputations)by services like (as well as UpScoop and Trustfuse.) And this has renewed my unease with services that gather up all those bits and bytes about me that are out there...

Some of it has to do with Steven Hodson's post on "lifestreams" --who's promoting the idea, and a dangerous, dark side to all of it:
At first this idea of lifestreams might seem to be nothing more than ego puffery and a legitimate way to keep track of what you are doing around the web but what happens when some-one other than you creates your lifestream. After all who else could care enough to know what you are doing all over the web.

Steven points out in his post, that there are lots of people who might be interested in this information, not just you and your ego. Nefarious marketers and identity thieves are the most obvious. Paranoid potential employers (for whom a legal background check might not be enough) are another. And then there's the FBI and those kinds of folks who are looking for "terrorists" under every rock...(even though they've probably had their own ways of making our information talk for longer than we're aware.)

and what could happen if something--like a mixup in identity--happens (think Brazil)

Because there are no guarantees with search and the gathering up of personal intelligence--even Google's supposed timeliness of the entries in its index can't be guaranteed...

A couple of weeks ago, I got an invitation to Spock and I started the registration, but something kept me from completing it. I enjoy following my "profile" online, but I'm also starting to worry about the aggregation of me....

The majority of us might not be ready to have so much of our information--so much of our selves--searchable by anyone for any purpose. Yet it's not just that we're not ready, it's also that we don't fully know or understand what's going on. We are bombarded, daily, with all sorts of requests for our information, so many requests to register for this or that site in order to just leave a comment or have our voices heard. We are bombarded with hype(esp. if you're in certain industries) how we must be doing this or that with our online selves.

We are even told that, in this incredibly competitive job-world, that we *must* be online, lest we miss out on potential employment.

Eventually, the transparency many of us believe is an important aspect of our blogging and our reputations online, may suffer...because none of us is perfect, and sometimes that imperfection bleeds out... Can we trust others not to hold that untowardly information against us in some way? I'm not sure...

On Friday, danah boyd wrote an important post on controlling your public appearance:
Carefully crafting and cautiously managing one's public image is a critical aspect of living in a mediated public world. Every advice column I've read warns people of the dangers of living online. I think that this is idiotic. People need to embrace the world we live in and learn to work within its framework. Don't panic about being public - embrace it and handle it with elegance.

She's very right--yet this somehow echoes what adults of past offline generations had to do, if they were going to climb both the corporate and social ladders that were/are part and parcel to achiveing what is considered the American Success Dream. I remember some advice from the last century about never going to a psychiatrist, lest your employer or others find out and thus believe you to be "mentally unstable." While in many realms this is no longer such a big deal (good mental health being almost like good oral hygene) we are now confronted with the necessity of monitoring our online lives and creating an identity/self/personna that is socially acceptable.

That is, if we want to be accepted socially....

So I am brought back to the idea of online civility--and perhaps all these reputation management things are a way of forcing online civility. From my own experiments with my online identity, I've found that to express one's mind in criticism of others can end up branding one as "unable to play nicely with others" (as well as other untowardly euphemisms) as much as it can bring one attention....

And I've found a curious irony--how some folks with very high reputations, and very carefully crafted online personnas, may use anonymity to level criticisms (whether on blogs or in comments on blogs or other places online.)

Because the pressure to be nice is, perhaps, quite a bit stronger out here than we are be lead to believe by all the hew and cry an hype, hype, hype...and for someone who's personna is one of nice might not want a verbal nasty to get out from under that joucular veneer...

All is often not what it appears to be.

So, I am left with the decision about what to do about my online reputation. My Google results are very good--and I'm happy with that. Yet I'm not sure I want one-stop-shopping by some entity other than Google. I don't know if I want a "lifestream" of me out there--even if that "lifestream" might keep me from getting invited into some secret society of kewl kidz.

Maybe in some ways it's not worth it.

We are not all Paris Hilton or Hunter S. Thompson or William S. Burroughs. Clara Bow was never totally forgiven....and Chaplin ended up leaving the country...

Maybe we all need to think about very, very carefully and very, very seriously about online reputation aggregators....maybe we need to be more pro-active and dam up the lifestreams out there before they become raging torrents that threaten social destruction....maybe the "opt out" choice is the most important one we can do for our Selves...

maybe so...

Update There's lots and lots of discussion going on re all of this, but I'm reminded of something I found out about (and wrote about) in December: marketing intelligence company Umbria's Umbria Connect program that sifts through blogs for customers, gathers up urls, and sells them in lots of 25. I was bothered by this--esp. about the selling of my url. But there were others who said that the urls are "public information" that anyone can get anyway. So what if a company was gathering them and selling them? Perhaps what we're seeing with Rapleaf and others is a step above--the next step--of information gathering-up that may have been spurred on by ideas like Umbria Connect. I don't really know for sure. Just something to think about.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Rapleaf Mea Culpas, Explains Its Existence

Every morning, like a good (curious, ego-maniacal) blogger, I check my stats. I want to know who's reading, for what length of time, and who's linking. Sometimes stats are the best way to find out who's linked to you on a particular day--and today, I found a link back to the Rapleaf corporate blog....

I thought, oh, geeze...another entity that's peeved that I said something un-cool about them... but that wasn't the case at all.

Rapleaf's entry Startups, privacy, and being wrong is a mea culpa for some of their aggressive marketing mistakes as well as an explanation of what they're up to (which really isn't all that "nefarious"...) Here's part of the explanation:
Rapleaf searches the Internet on people much like some of the more well-publicized services such as ZoomInfo, Wink, and Spock. Rapleaf is a giant system that evaluates billions of pieces of information on over 50 million people, growing by a few hundred thousand people a day. This is a lot of information.

People are sometimes taken aback because of the breadth and depth of Rapleaf’s search. Unlike some of the other services that search on name, our search is based on email address. We are essentially the largest, deepest, and fastest email search engine.

But we do more…

We gather this information to allow users to control it...

Auren Hoffman, Rapleaf's CEO, goes on to explain more about what they do and how they do it--which makes the post a very good read about their business. He goes on to explain where they found all the information about us (quite frankly, that's what's scary) and explains where and how they went wrong. From the "you've been searched" emails to the multiple privacy policies on their various products, Auren ownes up to them.

Honestly, I'm really proud of him for doing just this. It took a lot of guts to eat this particular bowl of crow-laden sheep intestines, but, hey, the guy believes in his product, knows he's not doing anything shifty, and is willing to put all the particular out there to explain it to us.

And it's ok. Rapleaf, you're forgiven :-)

Also see: A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, authored by Jospeh Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Mike Arrington--and supported by a number of great people, including Auren (I support this measure, too...) Jospeh Smarr's post about this is quite wonderful.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

DoJ deals blow to Net Neutrality: Pay up or Shut Up

Make no mistake--the U.S. Dept of Justice is acting like the muscle for the Telco Dons....check out what the DoJ believes is fair in these comments on the issue of Net Neutrality
The Department of Justice cautioned against imposing regulations that could hamper the development of the Internet and related services in response to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry regarding broadband practices. In its filing the Department said that some regulatory proposals offered by various companies and organizations in the name of “net neutrality” could deter broadband Internet providers from upgrading and expanding their networks to reach more Americans.

The term “net neutrality” encompasses a variety of proposals that seek to regulate how broadband Internet providers transmit and deliver Internet traffic over their networks. The Department stated that precluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service “could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers.” If the average consumer is unwilling or unable to pay more for broadband Internet access, the result could be to reduce or delay critical network expansion and improvement.

The Department said in its filing that it may make economic sense for content providers who want a higher quality of service to pay for the Internet upgrades necessary to provide such service, arguing that “any regulation that prohibits this type of pricing may leave broadband providers unable to raise the capital necessary to fund these investments
Check out this from Russell Shaw at ZDNet and the AP distillation of the DoJ opinon in WaPo...

Excuse, but, what about all that money we're paying *right now* for broadband access? And what about all those regions where the telcos won't go and wire-up? The bit above about "unwilling or unable to pay" is an absolute joke when companies like Verizon have not just refused to wire places, but are actively seeking to sell lines in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine...

Another joke is the line about content providers. All content providers want people to find them--large or small. Right now, content providers can get with SEO and get their stuff up in search and easy to find. If it downloads too slow maybe it's got something to do with the way the site is built (like, maybe it's garbage-laden crap??) and that the idea of some getting better access because they pay for speedier connecting isn't going to make a site any better.

And get this:
The Department also noted that differentiating service levels and pricing is a common and often efficient way of allocating scarce resources and satisfying consumer demand. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, allows consumers to send packages with a variety of different delivery guarantees and speeds, from bulk mail to overnight delivery. These differentiated services respond to market demand and expand consumer choice.

This speaks to a complete inability to understand how content is delivered over the Internet. It's not like some little magic gremlins are zipping content around out here. We may call the Internet the "Information Super Highway" but it ain't like driving on the Turnpike! (where you *do* have to watch for those high-speeding postal trucks...)

And what about the impact of having to pay for access on citizen-powered sites? Bob Niles at OJR starts the conversation on that issue:
The industry's plan, however, would charge individual publishers different rates for bandwidth based on negotiated deals. AT&T, for example, could cut a deal with Fox News, serving its content to subscribers at a faster rate than that of the New York Times. And people-powered sites from DailyKos to Free Republic would be left with the digital scraps, their readers waiting while AT&T gives higher priority to requests for webpages from its corporate partners.

We have to stop squabbling about "gatekeepers" amongst our own ranks and look at who *really* could become the official, pay-for-play gatekeepers in this mess.

Guess that's one way to shut up those pesky bloggers and citizen journalists....

Let's face it, folks--the telcos want to have control not just over who's allowed to have service (which they already do with their feigned inability to wire rural areas) but what those who do have service are allowed to access. In an odd way, it can also be seen as some bizarre form of parentalism--as if they're saying to various sites "When you grow up enough (make enough money to pay us), you can have access to all those people out there. Otherwise, we can't allow them to see you..."

Yet the DoJ ironically concludes:
"While cautioning against premature regulation of the Internet, the Department noted its authority to enforce the antitrust laws. “Anticompetitive conduct about which the proponents of regulation are concerned will remain subject to the antitrust laws and enforcement actions by government as well as private plaintiffs, and the Department will continue to monitor developments, taking enforcement action where appropriate to ensure a competitive broadband Internet access market,” the Department stated."

So, we should allow the Telcos to do what they want, and wait till anti-trust suits are filed against them?


Therefore, we should let the telcos do what they want, *then* bring it to court and *then* figure out through long, costly legal battles if they are engaging in anti-competitive conduct.

Doesn't this seem kind of counter-intuitive? And won't this put the U.S. further back with broadband access than it already is, not move us forward? And why does the control of where and what gets wired in this country have to be in the hands of the telcos anyway??

Perhaps because we're spending too much money fighting some other country's civil war? (oops! got a bit political there....)

Meanwhile Terry Heaton looks over Accenture’s new Global Content Study 2007 (which interviewed over 100 "leaders and decision-makers in the media and entertainment sectors" and finds this telling tidbit:
Asked what they believed was a top threat to the business, over half of the executives (57%) identified “consumer-based competition” or “user-generated” content

yow! Really does make you wonder if there's some sort of collusion between the telcos and the media and entertainment big-wigs. Now, if we could only get proof before we have to file those anti-trust suits...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Perils of Social Networking, Pt. 2: Facebook opens up, Quechup stains, fighting Rapleaf's enfolding

It's not just what's going on with Quechup and Rapleaf and old news stories from the NYTimes archives following us around that we have to worry about: tonight Facebook will open up to public search...thus making many of us a bit more antsy about our privacy...

Danny Sullivan though reminds us that the idea of this really isn't new--that when most of us signed up, we were given the option whether or not we wanted to be searched. Sullivan notes, however, that the default used to be that profiles NOT enter searched--and "Today's announcement is probably an heads-up that the default is being changed to on for all Facebook users without actually explicitly saying that." with the default now being that your profile will be in search unless you opt out of search.

I double checked my Facebook profile this morning when the message about the change came up, and opted out of search. It's one thing for employers or others whom I might do business with to find my LinkedIn profile. This morning, I created a custom url for that. But Facebook is my private space. I don't want search there--and not just because I don't want business contacts there. I don't want curious marketers who'd like to spam me, or other (what I would consider)nefarious types finding out about me.

Ross Mayfield also wrote yesterday about some of the perils of social networking...specifically the invasion of privacy aspect on some of these networks that are now offering financial incentives:
If Bob signs up for it, he is opting into the graph, but he doesn't opt in to spamming Sally. Sally is included in the graph, whether she opts in to register or not. Over time, even if Sally resists, she is modeled as a node in the graph.

At first, this doesn't seem to matter. But if Bob adds relationship details like they are dating, and then her husband John opts into the graph and adds the detail they are married, you get the idea. But it is far worse, when the value of the network isn't the relationships, but simply the contact information. This is the case with enterprise social networking, particularly for sales. Many don't realize that Jigsaw actually pays people for submitting business cards of people they have met. Yes, there are financial incentives for people to register you into graphs without your knowledge.

Yesterday, I knew there was something bothering me about all those invites I keep getting for various social networks, and now I know--that in this brave new world where tons of people are looking to mine our information and monetize whatever they can get their hands on, we stand to become nothing more than "contact information" rather than good business connections or friends.

Ross, however, raises the notion of trademarking himself/his identity. Which got me to thinking: if we are to consider our online images as our "personal brand," then perhaps we will have to institute some sort of trademarking in order to protect that "brand" from people who want to exploit it for their own gain.

What a weird, weird world we're creating...

More about online privacy (or lack thereof): Om Malik alsodoesn't like where this is going ...Mike Masnick discusses the Trades Union Congress in the UK recommend that corporations not block employees from using Facebook during work hours--but I'm not sure that encouraging them to use social networking sites in light of the "new" policy at Facebook is such a great thing either...and Mark Glaser writes about some other ways people can find out about you without Facebook (quite disturbing.)

also see: Doc Searls says
FaceBook is unilaterally deciding to expose its members to who-knows-what, in addition to friends looking for friends. Giving members opt-out is lame, retro and and a breach of faith.

What we call “online social networks” mostly are not. They are private walled gardens that exist for reasons that are far more commercial than social. We need to remember that.
Yes, we certainly do need to remember that about this space. No one's going to give us private space out here--well, at least maybe not for free. And then that changes the whole idea of social networking anyway.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thinking of using Twitter in your business? Don't even know what the heck Twiter is? Jeremiah Owyang's written possibly the best article on Twitter and its potential use in social media strategies: Web Strategy: What the Web Strategist should know about Twitter

Who uses Twitter?

Without access to demographic information, Twitter is for the highly engaged, early-adopter, pro-technology user. This is the ‘influence’ community, meaning they will shape the direction of others in each of their respective lives. It’s highly likely that these users participate in other forms of online publishing and communication like blogging, Facebook, or use mobile activity. In short, it’s the ‘coolkids’ of the webspace, and yes, that includes John Edwards.

So, now I know why all my cool kid friends were telling me to get on Twitter. Man, I hate when they're right ;-)

The Perils of Social Networking Part 1: Where in the World am I?

Like a latter day Carmen Sandiego in the social media landscape, I often wonder "where in the world am I today?" This hit me last night as I was filling out my new profile on Mashable which I think I got, quite accidentally one day, by leaving a comment on one of Pete Cashmore's posts...

which I discovered last night around 1 a.m. (ok, early morning then) while googl'ing myself, and then felt some odd compulsion to keep filling out the forms...although I didn't customize my profile all that much. Just didn't have the intestinal fortitude to tinker with the MySpace-like interface...

Yet, just the other day, I was going through my card catalogue and looking up various social networking sites that had sent me pitches over the past year and I signed up for. This nostalgia came upon me after getting two requests to join from Quechup (and then this a.m. a notification that "someone" had been searching for me at Rapleaf--(will someone *please* tell me who that "someone" was??)

In my 4x6 index card catalogue, where I keep all my registration information in basic alphabetical categories, I discovered logins for stuff like:

  • Bloggoggle

  • and
  • the Speaker's Wiki (not nec. a social networking site--but I did update my profile a couple of months ago)

  • a number of logins to wikis or other kinds of sites for conferences

  • a whole host of newspaper website logins

  • Bloglines, Digg, reddit, Stumbleupon, and my never-updated MyBlogLog and Flickr accounts....

  • and the list goes on...and on...and on....

    on any particular day I could be more places online than I'd have time to visit if my entire day was dedicated to f2f social interaction.

    So, the question comes down to what do I really need out here? What can't I live without and why can't I live without it?....

    Currently, I make time for LinkedIn and Facebook--for lots of different reasons. I'm learning to like LinkedIn for that professional stuff. Some folks have found me on LinkedIn who haven't found me on Facebook (perhaps it's because they don't see a need for a Facebook profile?) And even though there are overlaps in my network, I wonder if the folks I know on Facebook are linked mostly because they like me, while the LinkedIn folks like me but also might see an advantage to having me as a professional connection (and not just someone who occasionally makes them laugh or pisses them off--dual nature, you know.)

    When things are professional, you don't necessarily care about the last book someone read or the music they're listening to right now. Maybe for some folks that's a consideration for hiring (really funny that Dave Weinberger and I have similar movie tastes, that is, according to the Facebook Flixster app...) but for many it's not as important as what someone's marketing or writing creds might be...

    Yes, I know...I can hear y'all saying that it might be a happier place if we were hired mostly on our hobbies and social habits rather than where we worked and how we got along there--but maybe we're asking far too much from our jobs and have far too little time for in our personal lives.

    And maybe that's what's all behind all this mad dash for the best new social networking tool--some strange need to combine our work lives and our personal lives into one seamless ball of constant phone calls and emails and questions about this or that thing that needs to get done yesterday...

    When maybe what we need is to learn appropriate boundaries between the work and the social that consist of more than just a week or two out of the year when we (try to) walk away from it all.

    Honestly, I love to socialize online--but it's important for me to keep track of where I am and I must have a reason (a why) for being there. I can't be in every single social network because "someone" was checking my online reputation, or there's some remote possibility that someone will find me there and hire me for something...

    In a sense, that reminds me of when I was young and figured if I hung out at the right New York nightclubs, somebody would "discover" me. Well, that obviously didn't work :-)

    So, it comes down to personal time and personal resources. I have limited amounts of both--which might become even more limited if I were working full-time at something unrelated to life online. So, it's important for me to carefully pick where my profile lands, and to perhaps Just Say No to some of these social networking sites.

    Further, there might even be a very good reason for Just Say No--that I don't want too much of me scattered and then abandoned across the vast landscape of the Internet. Mostly because I don't really know what might happen to Me if the site goes under. Sure, I've read the Terms of Service on each site--but do you think I have the capacity to remember them all? Yikes! I'm good with names and faces but Terms of Service are a bit of a stretch....

    So, it may come down to going in and deleting a number of superfluous social networking accounts, and not signing up for other social networking accounts if they appear to be superfluous. I'm not the Paris Hilton of the Internet and a totally full social networking dance card might actually keep me from doing the kinds of stuff that may create meaningful cash flow (which, right now, is rather low.)

    With social networking sites, there can certainly be too much of a good thing...and we will have to eventually decide for ourselves which of these things is the good one for us in our current social and career situations. If we let others tell us, we could end up not even knowing where--or who--we are on any given day.

    just my $.02....
    Update Chris Heuer notes and apologizes for any Quechup-related spam that may have got sent out under his name. Makes a very important point about ruining trust. Also see this on Quechup spam from Dwight Silverman.