Giving In To The Social Networking Craze
So with the change of job, I'm eager to keep in touch with all (well, some) of my former colleagues. In the past this has taken the form of sporadic individual emails of decreasing frequency. So, I'm experimenting with the latest craze, social networking sites. Some very early impressions follow.
It's is the latest thing with the cool kids and I can see why. It's very addictive. I'm compulsively hitting reload to check for updates. Accumulating friends is like levelling-up in an RPG. Preening your profile page is also quite fun.
Kottke likens Facebook to AOL, a walled garden that shuns, rather than embraces, the internet. An "intranet for you and your friends". This is completely accurate, but it's the reason why I like it. For a while now I have struggled with deciding what facts to reveal online about my real life identity. On facebook I know exactly who is going to read it, and have generally no dillemas about what to post.
The use of email addresses to make connections between people is very clever. If I have your email address I am probably a friend of yours (within some loose approximation). Hence I will allow you to know information about me like my work history and other facts that I will not divulge online but will happily to anyone I meet in person.
There is of course some information that I am quite happy to divulge online, and I think this is what Kottke is talking about. The missed potential for facebook users to contribute to the wider internet is significant, and worth keeping in mind when posting content there. Not to mention: can you export your data? There are times when you want your facebook profile to point to content stored elsewhere.
So here's how I got started with Twitter. I've got into the habit of updating my status in my IM service of choice. Certain friends often do the same. One day, it seemed almost as if every single one of my online contacts was in a discussion via their status line. OK it was only "how much coffee have I had" type of interaction, not exactly an intellectual discourse on classical French poetry, but it changed throughout the day and amused me and I'm sure I'm not imagining it.
So I tried out Twitter and .. it's nice enough. A bit of fun. Set up the twit-by-SMS feature. Then turned it off after receiving the first SMS.
Then I discover that facebook also has a status field. So now my three main weapons of online presence are IM status, facebook status, and twitter.
And the element of surprise.
What I'd really like is to update my status once -- preferably in the IM client because I have that running anyway -- and have it propogate to the others. Is that too much to ask? Then there will be pointless and banal one-liners for all!
To this end I installed Audioscobbler, as it was known. At the time the young'uns were demanding to listen to their own types of music in the car. Unbeknownst to me, these were quickly accumulated into my Audioscobbler statistics. And to this day you can still see The Wiggles in the top artists list in my profile.
With my new laptop, I set up a new last.fm (as Audioscobbler is now thankfully known) client and hopefully the anomalies will slowly become diluted.
Also last.fm is a fantastic place to explore people's music tastes and get recommendations. Anyone who remembers the late, lamented Audiogalaxy will recognise the same type of voyeuristic thrill of perusing other people's music tastes, except this time you can see what they actually listen to.
So there you have it, three interesting social networking sites. As long as you don't have any stupid corporate censorware blocking access, give them a try. And please be my friend, I need the XP...