From some recent jesush comments, recast as an instant message so I don’t look like a complete Luddite when talking yang about social networking:
using_the_whole_fist_doc: facebook and myspace and all of those social networking sites that require me to be a member to see anything are horseshit.
al_abut: as for the closed garden debate, I’m on the fence. there’s a lot of shit that people don’t feel like airing out in public so the semi-private nature of it is actually a draw for many people, not a deterrent. i don’t give a rat’s ass but a lot of people i do give a rat’s ass about do care, so that’s my prostitute’s rationale.
Here’s the longer-form critique I have of Myspace and Facebook.
- They’re designed to pump up membership and page views, first and foremost. Al mentions the semi-privacy angle above, and that’s fine–it’d certainly be possible to build in privacy (make a blog post visible to only people who are logged in, or even restricted to friends and family accounts) and make the default condition that content is viewable by everyone unless the writer explicitly configures their stuff otherwise. But that’s not the way this stuff works. If I go to someone’s Myspace page, I generally get an awful-looking mess of favorites, friends, thumbnailed photos, a flash music player playing some shitty mp3 or other, and a fraction of the user’s latest blog post. Then I have to click on something–and log in–to see anything else. Facebook is even more exclusionary–I can’t see a damn thing without giving up my username and password.
Also, once I logged in, if I wanted to read something like this blog entry in Myspace I’d have to click about twelve times to get to this point, with ads all over the place on each subsequent page. (I don’t know what stuff like this looks like in Facebook. I’ve never seen a Facebook page, though I’ve read about the framework.)
That’s really annoying, and I’ma go ahead and opt out of that whole system.
- You’re subject to the whims of the Internet. Let’s say I’m a new web user. I decide I want to start building a profile, contacts, a blog, or whatever, and so I choose the most popular of these systems and bust a move. A few years later, I’ve got my online presence just the way I want it. I’ve turned into a compelling blogger, with hundreds of posts to my name. The world is my oyster.
Only a few years ago I would have chosen to do all this stuff on Friendster, and now I’d be fucked because nobody gives a shit about Friendster anymore.
- You’re handing the keys to the bus to someone you don’t know and can’t trust. The people running Myspace and Facebook might seem like great guys. Maybe they are great guys–and yes, I know Tom Anderson is your special Myspace friend, that’s very nice. But Tom Anderson sold out. Here’s how tomorrow’s meeting might go:
ii. sell our user list to anyone with two nickels to rub together.
iii. search the content of all our users for potentially embarrassing phrases. generate press releases with this content and real names for anyone who doesn’t pay a “Privacy License Fee”.
What order do we roll these out in?
Tom Anderson: uh…
Murdoch: all at once. I like the way you think.
Anderson: That’s not the vision we had for Myspace going forward, sir.
Murdoch: change of plans, bitch. Make it happen, or I’ll give Myspace to Lachlan to play with.
Now, I’m not saying that will happen. I’m saying stranger things have happened.
The value of your online presence is generally proportional to the amount of work you put into developing it. If you want to click around for hours friending people and leaving one-line 133t-speak comments, I’m sure not about to sign up with Facebook just to hang out with you and do the same thing, no matter how much I like you in real life.
On the other hand, maybe you’re fighting the good fight and putting yourself out there and being a compelling content creator… in that case, you can do yourself and the entire Internet a favor and hook up with a system that gives you as much control over your content as you can get. It’s really really affordable to get your own domain, your own web space, and your own blog installation. Then you can say what you want, link to what you want, and not worry about the system you’re using suddenly being infected with evil incarnate and screwing up all your stuff.
Unless you suddenly turn evil, in which case I guess it’s cool.