Twitter Lists to Reestablish Microblog Credibility?

Twitter lists have yet to emerge from beta, but the world can’t seem to get enough of the new Twitter feature. Organizing a great deal of your content and contacts into well-organized groups, Twitter lists is a feature that has been heavily requested and highly anticipated for some time by Twitter users.

Though group organization has been available through third party Twitter applications for some time, the direct feature implementation from Twitter means that the feature will be more widely available to Twitter users.

The introduction of this feature also offers a glimpse into Twitter’s long term goals for the company. Not to say that Twitter updates are far and few between, but a company that has such a working relationship with a large number of developers has the ability to disrupt its own platform when introducing a new native feature. Whether it alienates developers by minimizing the use of their own application or distracts Twitter from its core competencies in its effort to maintain rapid growth, feature updates have become an interesting perspective towards the future of Twitter.
Continue reading

Teens, The Internet, and the First Amendment

first-amendment

Organizations don’t like it when you complain about them. Especially when you do so in a public manner–online. The matter of First Amendment rights in the online realm has been a hot topic for debate for several years now, and things aren’t cooling off.

As Helen A.S. Popkin mentions, the debate may actually be heating up. High schoolers and college-age students have a tendency to say their school sucks. It’s what they’re supposed to do. In retrospect we eventually learn to cherish the days of absent responsibility and channel the anger that thrusts us into independent thought. This even appears to be particularly popular in the U.S. But for some reason the Internet has brought about a plethora of new issues with which to discuss one’s rights to the First Amendment.

Call it cyber-bullying or chalk it up to adolescent defamation. The Internet has an odd impermanence about its ability to archive and retrieve data due to its sheer size, but putting your hatred for a school or a faculty member out into the world [wide web] can easily come back to haunt you.

We can talk about the First Amendment until we run out of oxygen to breath, but I’d rather leave that up to the courts. The fact remains that saying bad things about people and organizations can hurt their feelings and damage their pride. You can expect them to retaliate. In many cases, they retaliate with disciplinary actions, long-standing negative affects on their academic records, and lawsuits.

How ironic that high school and college students get to learn, first hand, about the ultimate case of payback when it comes to the expression of their First Amendment rights. Seeing the growing pains of self-expression play out on the Internet merely reminds me of the social strains brought about by new technology, its assimilation, and its eventual acceptance. This is all particularly poignant as it deals with new forms of communication, complete with widespread access to these new forms of communication, and the cultural implications that lie therein.

In the end, however, I think it’s important to remember that there’s nothing really new under the sun. Everything we’re dealing with has a core issue that has little to do with the technology itself but of human’s ability to coexist within a healthy social structure. There’s no reason for parents, faculty, attorneys or judges to scratch their heads at teenage social networking nonsense. Even in its early years, my mother recognized the fact that the Internet was yet another way for her daughter to communicate with the world, and that included the world’s individuals. Therefore, the same principles apply, regardless of one’s offline or online status.

It will still be a challenge, but any attempt to get this message through to teens and young adults will be gratuitous in the end.

Has Corporate Greed Taken the Personal Perspective Out of Blogging?

greedyHas blogging lost its personal touch? Blogging started out as an online diary, publicly sharing one’s life experiences. then blogging became a business, large enough to threaten print media as we know it.
What happened to all the personal blogs? Does anyone read those anymore?

Just as people once kept diaries through the days of discovery and exploration, the process of documenting one’s thoughts and experiences hasn’t really disappeared–it’s merely shifted. These necessities of human culture bend and evolve along with other trends and fads that define eras.

So what of those personal blogs? They haven’t disappeared, and we didn’t stop reading them. They’ve simply morphed into readily accessible, byte-sized status updates. In a word, microblogging.

It takes such a small amount of time to tweet a passing thought, making it immediately viewable and searchable to the world. to make the process of sharing one’s experiences even easier, we’ve begun to automate the aspects of that process that don’t even require thought. Your GPS location can be auto-posted on Twitter. A photo taken with a camera, mobile phone or webcam can be auto-loaded into Flickr. Your life, in digital form, can be synced across multiple devices and organized accordingly. This all makes for easy access of your life’s content later on down the line.

Yes, tweets seem simple and fleeting. Yet the presence of Twitter and the applications its platform supports are changing the way in which the globe communicates. It’s not that blogs are becoming less personal–it’s just that we’re quickly progressing the way in which we utilize and value the information we’re already sharing with each other.

Aside from the natural necessity to improve upon an established system, we also witness the corporatization of that system. As I’ve already noted, the once diary-like versions of weblogging have irreversibly been shaped int a string of commodities that are monetizable and support their own economic subsets. The same process will happen to microblogging, and it is already under way.

In order for a system to become a viable option made available to the masses, it must first be financially supported and sustained. Call it corporate greed, but certain aspects of a phenomenon such as Twitter would not be possible without the economic structure it both creates and advances from. The result is a mad dash from investors, analysts and users to figure out why something has become so popular, and how money can be made from that popularity.

The economy driven by a service like Twitter can be shaped into a force with some help from corporate omnipresence. Yes, such a corporate takeover could provide the incentives for global innovation within the microblogging industry. Just look at the battle going on between Facbook and Twitter, constantly reminding us that the implementation of an idea matters for more than coming up with an idea. In this way, the true value of a product of service becomes rather subjective, and the general public can oftentimes be more easily swayed.

Even as we shift from one form of journal entry to another, we find that the ability to share out thoughts is never lost. The corporatization of that thought-sharing has helped to change the way in which we blog over the past several years. We need to determine how much of the microblogging trend will be given to the monetization process, and how much of it will simply be used to share experiences with one another.

How Skanky. Model Blogger Sues Google for $15M.

Once an anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port now faces the interesting dilemma of having her identity revealed. Perhaps her Skanks in New York blog is something she wanted to keep as her own little secret, but that’s a rather impossible option now. Stripped of her Internet veil, Port is feeling a little vulnerable and victimized. How could her identity have been revealed?

After posting an unflattering photo of cover model Liskula Cohen, she found her Blogger.com registration information being handed over to Cohen by none other than Blogger owner Google itself. Cohen had sued Google in order to have the identity of Port revealed in an effort to have the photo removed from the website. In an CNN interview, Cohen insists that she didn’t want the photo being posted online and accessible to the public forever.

Now Port is suing Google for $15 million, claiming that her right to anonymity was violated. That’s a pickle.
Where does the true problem lie? With bloggers being treated like tabloid publishers and Google being placed in the middle, we find ourselves in the midst of an interesting social debacle that truly highlights the way in which online publishing is interacting with our culture.

Should Port be able to sue Google, seeing as Google was merely complying with the court ruling based on Cohen’s initial lawsuit? And should Cohen be able to sue Google merely to find the identity of an individual that was publishing anonymously because she was caught doing something she now regrets? Ultimately cases such as these will determine the way in which companies like Google extend features to their users because of the level of legal risk and involvement from the government.

When it comes down to it, there isn’t really a right or a wrong answer as far as privacy, web anonymity, and the right to free speech goes in the cases of Port and Cohen. In a sense, everyone got caught red-handed and Google is the medium by which the world discovers the skeletons in people’s closets. We just have some more fodder for privacy advocates and celebrities alike to use towards their own goals with the publishing industry.

Bloggers, take this as a lesson learned. Your anonymity is not guaranteed. Models, remember that portions of your life are public and that tangible evidence of your life (i.e. photos) are very easy to publish online.

Social Media is Killing You. Take These Pills 4 Times Daily.

drugsHave you ever noticed how many diseases have seemingly cropped up in the past few decades? You know, those illnesses that sound a little too specific to be believable, like Restless Leg Syndrome. Not to downplay anyone that has circulatory problems, but there are a lot of diseases out there that sound made up, yet they’re shamelessly curable by drugs sold by large pharmaceutical companies.

Even if they don’t sound made up, there are some diseases that don’t have to be applied to everybody just so certain sects of the drug and medical field can prosper. Not every female is depressed, and not every kid needs to be on Ritalin.

You have to admit that some conditions simply become medicalized.

But if you take a historic perspective on the types of conditions that become popular in a way, there’s a correlation between the number of people that think they suffer from that condition, the number of doctors that prescribe medication, the amount of money pharma companies pour into research, development and marketing, and the amount of press that condition receives in the media. So you can make a fairly educated guess as to which condition will become medicalized in the future.
I just wonder when it will be social media’s turn.

We already saw it with television, and we’ve actually seen it with Internet usage as well. You’ve all seen the news reports of child obesity, violent behavior and several forms of social withdrawal linked to watching too much TV or spending too much time in front of the computer. But the true test of extreme medicalization of a given condition is how specific can you get, while still making it applicable to nearly any member of the general public. Social media? Bingo.

It fits all the criteria. Everyone partakes in social media, and some doctors working somewhere for some drug company can do enough research to convince other doctors, the media and the world at large that online social media is the very bane of our existence. Now take these pills four times daily.

There are already studies out there measuring the actual level of social interaction that can be carried on in an online environment, and how those interactions vary from the interactions witnessed in person-to-person interactions. This will eventually link back to a person’s mental health, liability towards antisocial developments and the general fear for the well-being of future generations.

They’ll lose out on all the value of, you know, the things we grew up with. Sonic the Hedgehog and Animaniacs. Things of that nature. And we’ll worry that their brains will melt and their muscles will atrophy. We’ll then turn to Pharmacia, Baxter, Glaxo Smith Klein and Eli Lily to tell us what to do about it. We’ll take pills that make us adverse to Internet socialization by speeding the headache-creating factors of staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Then we’ll return to the drug companies for something that will alleviate our headache so we can get right back to posting pictures on Facebook.

Oh, the vicious cycle of medicalized conditions.

As someone who sits in the house all day, in front of the computer and on the Internet, knee-deep in social media, I can give you the cure. Go outside and get some fresh air. Take a dip in the pool, eat lunch at an outdoor cafe (without your computer companion), walk your dog at the park and have a drink with some friends. Make sure your life is balanced.

Mobile Games Are Shrinking My Brain

nokia-n96-mobile-phone-with-second-life-video-game

I love video games. Puzzles, mostly. I was that kid that always had a book of crossword and logic puzzle books in my purse, on my nightstand, in my carry-on luggage. I suppose that need for accessible entertainment carried over into video games, because I couldn’t be happier with the improvement of mobile gaming in the past few years. But maybe it’s becoming a detrimental aspect of my life.

I mean, my phone is always with me. There’s no longer a need to have multiple versions of the same game on multiple devices for multiple places. One little cell phone packs in all the entertainment I need, whether I’m in the car or in the bed. It sometimes takes me hours to fall asleep, and believe me; Backgammon on my cell phone has been my saving grace.

But that right there could be the problem. Maybe it takes me hours to fall asleep because I’m so busy playing Backgammon on my phone. I’ve found myself pulling out my cell phone while in the car with my boyfriend, or at the dinner table. Waiting in line or waiting for a movie to start, I just can’t seem to help myself.

I constantly need to be mentally stimulated and occupied at all times. I can’t even simply watch television. I’ll start playing a game, even in the midst of the most enthralling History channel program. Sure, I think it’s awesome that I can multitask, but I also know there’s no such thing as true and absolute multitasking. Just because I’m doing more than one thing at one time doesn’t mean I’m doing any one thing particularly well.
I think my brain is shrinking. I should probably delete all the games off my cell phone. It’s too damn handy. It’s like My Buddy, or more like Kid Sister. I am a girl, after all. And I’m fearful of the future of mobile devices, because I know how much I’ll always love them and their game-playing capabilities.

Ah, games.

I try to make myself feel better by noting the types of games I’m playing–brain teasers and board games that keep the mind astute. But then I recall my days of high school, and lugging around a book bag before they came with wheels. The front pocket was always full of tiny toys and cutesy trinkets that fit atop my pencil erasers and surely distracted my fellow students and teachers alike. So I guess I’ve always been this way. Always in need of some mental stimulation.

Yet this is the world we live in. There are a lot of businesses that are going to take advantage of people like me, always needing to indulge myself in constant cerebral tinkering. Our culture is full of instant gratification and the mobile phone has brought such joy straight to our pockets. And as I sit back and witness this trend in all its wonder, I’ll be playing Backgammon on my cell phone all the while.

White Flight. The Economy of Facebook and MySpace.

Facebook and MySpace have been at war for years now, with the two major social networks vying for world domination, claiming country by country, demographic by demographic. A recent speech titled “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online” by Danah Boyd of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society begs the question, why does there seem to be a race and class divide when it comes to Facebook and MySpace?

Is Facebook really more elite, with MySpace having become the “ghetto” of online social networking? It’s an interesting question that forces us to look at social networks in a new light. Chris Matyszczyk of CNET likens the shift from MySpace to Facebook to the white flight we see all too often when a once-established neighborhood becomes a little too diverse for its white residents.

An interesting perspective, and one that’s readily able to relate to in American culture. It’s a major part of our history and has been so even before the days of the modern suburbs. But it also speaks to a long history of institutionalized classism as well as racism, which often go hand in hand. Is that really the level of analysis we’re ready to apply to online social networking? If that’s the case, then there are some serious questions we need to be directing to the founders, executives and investors of both MySpace and Facebook.

But first let’s look at the Utopian side of things. Both Facebook and MySpace are online social networks, meaning that they’re virtual pieces of property and can be accessed by anyone that has an Internet connection. Utopia, right? Not really. There was already the long-standing matter of Internet access as it applies to the race/class divide. If you’re a racial minority and economically deterred, then Internet access is a novelty. You are relegated to public access Internet points and your mobile device, which may or may not be a smart phone capable of high functions for social networking.

While the technology divide is narrowing, it becomes less and less of an issue for the purposes of this particular case, but it cannot be entirely ignored, especially as it was still a factor when both MySpace and Facebook were launched and began to gain major traction.

But another factor I find noteworthy is the approach employed by each social network in question; MySpace began as an online tool for getting musicians set up with their own website, while Facebook began as an exclusive network for Harvard students. MySpace came about when the only other major option for widespread social networking was Friendster, which also targeted the college-age demographic. The tactic used for MySpace included posting photos of scantily clad users and enticing new sign ups. Facebook required a confirmed .edu email address just to let you in the front door.

The two strategies towards growth, new user acquisition and existing user retention are vastly different and inherently attract different crowds. So is this race/class divide self-selecting or in fact more institutional? If the trend is self-selecting then we can attribute much of the world’s view on these social networks to be indicative of current mentality for those that use the networks. We can also expect to see some changes with both MySpace and Facebook. Perhaps Facebook will too become a dated neighborhood, run down by the “wrong crowd” and witness another white flight to the next hot spot. And that hot spot would likely be a revived and gentrified MySpace, full of nostalgia and gritty determination to be hip.

We’d also be able to apply these theories to other social networks, and I don’t think online social networking has been around long enough to draw any solid conclusions in that regard. This is mainly because very different strategies are applied to each social network that is launched, and many of the social networks we’ve seen in the past decade have been rather niche. From LinkedIn to BlackPlanet, you can expect a different crowd no matter where you go. There will almost always be a different crowd with a different objective. Fortunately these are all factors that Boyd studies in her ongoing work and research in social media.

What’s disappointing is the fact that these strategies can ultimately lead to an overwhelming sense of distinction based on race and class, especially when you think of the business concerns revolving around the spending power of the actual demographics on MySpace and Facebook versus the widespread perception that could either deter or encourage the stimulation of an economy around each network. From developer apps to advertising campaigns, the affect that race and class distinctions have on any business is real.