Flutterby™! : Social software redux again

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Social software redux again

2004-01-30 19:56:40.326644+00 by Dan Lyke 19 comments

I've been playing around with Orkut a bit (Thanks, Dori!). I think it's more interesting than Friendster, mostly because they've got ways to group and search by interest, but three things come to mind:

First, for any automation of a social networking system I need a way to quickly determine which friends will and won't be okay with participating in that system. I'm fine with my email address being out there, I depend on technology to filter the crap, and so far that's doing okay. I know others aren't, so when it's time to invite new people I have to think about if I believe they'd be interested, email them to see if they are, then go back and enter that into the web site.

The second bit ties back to that "if I believe they'd be interested" thing. These web sites allegedly trade social capital. The problem with social capital is that while it grows when it's invested, as we've repeatedly seen it's very hard to automate investing. The best networkers pick and choose who among their acquaintances meets whom. Every introduction is spending a little "social capital" in the hopes that it will be repaid by that connecting having extra value to those introduced.

Last, as I run through it, I start to wonder why I'm giving away all of this stuff to a third party when I could just use blogs. It'd be a much better idea for me to fix my trackback code and work on automated common link discovery systems than to type lots of stuff into a place where I no longer have any control over it.

[ related topics: Sociology Net Culture Social Software ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-30 20:18:12.082913+00 by: Diane Reese

Has anybody other than me tried tribe.net? I rather like it, as a diversion, and I've made some contacts through friends-of-friends and through entries in various tribes I've attached myself to. (Quite a few Burning Man-related tribes there, by the way; dunno if that's as is in other social networking systems.)

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-30 20:20:18.798151+00 by: aiworks

Good points... along the lines of #3:

I think that the big players in IM are best positioned to make something like that work, espcially since they already have a list of interconnected people (i.e. buddy lists). A stray IM message from someone is considerably less effort to dismiss than a stray e-mail (espcially considering the built-in blocking/rating that these systems have to penalize abusers). Furthermore, you could get the IM provider to offer some kind of anonymous middle tier for people to figure out if they really want to reveal enough information to talk to each other directly (like craigslist does).

I have this vision of something popping up with a prompt like this: "Do you want to talk to John? He's a friend of Fred who's a friend of Mary who's a friend of Joe (MrPolly123). Click here to see John's profile."

Now, I do realize that not everyone's is an IM user (I gave up on it quite a while back). But I think that the average IM user and the target Friendster user is pretty close to the same thing.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-30 21:13:48.884087+00 by: Mars Saxman

I joined Friendster and hooked up friend-relationships with everyone I knew who was also a member, but never actually figured out what it was *for* unless you were looking for a date. Is there more you can do with these new systems?

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-30 22:53:19.466233+00 by: Dan Lyke

Diane: nope, Six Degrees[Wiki] fell flat with me way back whenever it was, I got added to Friendster[Wiki], got a few additions to it because a couple of friends were looking for dates, but realized that they were actively fighting the people trying to implement the features that might make it worthwhile. The feature was the fictional character that you could be a "friend" of, like "Burning Man", or "the north bay".

Orkut has formal implementations of those features in their "communities", but it turns out those features just aren't all that compelling. I can either try to kick-start a community there, or I can try to kick-start it here. Better I should do it here.

Mark, Brian Warner has been working on a system to do some of that third-party assistance with email, although I've just untarred the system to play with it. More once I get a chance to play with it.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-30 22:58:18.497144+00 by: Diane Reese [edit history]

Mars, as I hinted above, at tribe.net I've made acquaintances (not yet friends) with people associated with people I already know, and had some decent conversations with them. I've poked through the discussions on about two dozen tribes I've joined which match my interests (varying from "Firesign Theatre" to "Smug Hybrid Owners" to "20 Things" to "Happy To Be Over 39") and have learned quite a lot, picking up links to sites I was glad to have visited and contributing to valuable (and silly) threads in most of them.

It's sort of like a big huge Flutterby, with easier access to discussion topics and more encouragement to get to know one's fellow posters. Or so it seems to me. (I have no idea how Friendster or Orkut differ from tribe.net, so we may be talking about very different beasts, dunno.) I recognize lots of names/tags here, but it's not easy to find out much more about y'all, or to find ways to contact you offline if I want, and the search feature here doesn't work for me, so I can never find old discussions when I want to. And if I wanted to group a bunch of Flutterbarians together (a la in a "tribe"), I'd be completely at sea.

tribe.net makes that all very easy, and I'm semi-hooked.

(addendum) Dan: I see our posts passed in the night. (Afternoon?) You may want to explore tribe.net a bit, I think it may be able to do what you say the other social networking sites cannot do.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 01:19:45.750351+00 by: meuon

I've been impressed with the interface and abilities of Orkut.. but not the content and discussions people are having.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 03:02:21.937132+00 by: John Anderson [edit history]

FWIW, I just opened a tribe.net account as 'tribe@genehack.org'.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 07:38:14.518352+00 by: crasch [edit history]

To date, I've found Livejournal to be the best "social networking" site. First, because it's primarily a journal site, you can find out much more about someone than you can through Friendster or Tribe (or at least it seems that way to me.) There are a lot of pathways to finding friends on LJ:

  1. When you create an account, you can create an keyword interest list. Each keyword becomes a hyperlink to a list of all the members who share that interest.
  2. Each LJ user can also specify a list of "friends". I've found a lot of interesting people by looking through the friend lists of my existing friends.
  3. Funny/interesting comments people have left in mine or other people's journals.

Of the other services, Tribe seems to have the most useful features (I'm "crasch at openknowledge.org" on Tribe, if you'd like to add me). So far, I don't see any compelling reasons to create an account on orkut (aside from its affiliation with Google).

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 21:25:47.823272+00 by: Mars Saxman

Livejournal works because it offers a reason to keep coming back. The social network aspect is secondary to the weblog system. You can stop by every day and check your friends list for new posts, or make new posts yourself; getting to know people and their friends proceeds organically from there. Its big weakness, however, is actually a cultural problem. Livejournal users all seem to use pseudonyms for their account names and random photos or illustrations for their user pictures. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to find people you know from the real world, or to connect people you find via livejournal back to their real-world identities. It's great, though, for maintaining the feeling that you know someone even if you see them infrequently.


#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 21:32:09.290052+00 by: Dan Lyke

This discussion leads to a couple of things:

  1. How can I encourage people to fill in their user account info, so that when you click on their name you can see something interesting?
  2. What would it take to write a "social software manager" tool, so that I could keep my networks sync'd over the various different sites, and be informed when something interesting happens at any of those accounts?
  3. Shall we form a "flutterby.com" tribe/community/whatever on each of these?

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 21:52:24.529082+00 by: Dan Lyke

Okay, there's now a flutterby.tribe.net tribe, if anyone's interested.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 22:12:14.390686+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Diane; okay, you've piqued my interest. [Following in John's footsteps] I can now be found on Tribe as tribe@freyheim.net. I'm not sure how much I'll get out of it, but I'm willing to give it a spin. I've been trying to find a way - that works with my personality - of doing just this kind of social networking (meeting new people through existing friends, as opposed to trying to turn strangers into friends somehow) in meatspace. This was part of my reason for accepting Dan's invitation to come be part of the Flutterby core. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make much progress in the actually physically meeting people department - which feel I need to focus more on than creating new online-only relationships. Mars; I've seen the picture issue you describe in other organizations. Some folks at Humongous Entertainment[Wiki] tried to start an internal Yearbook kind of thing (the seed for my in-progress HE Alumni site) to foster more socialization. What we found is that most of the creative types we had working there insisted on using the profile photo as a means of artistic expression - with the same results you've noted: It becomes pretty useless for the purpose for which it was intended.

Dan; the problem I have with the User Account Info here on Flutterby is that I can't figure out how to reach it for the other members (mine's always been filled out). Clicking on their name only gives me a list of posts they've made.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-01-31 22:18:20.024772+00 by: Shawn

Clicking on their name only gives me a list of posts they've made.

Oh... okay. (Remove foot from mouth.) Apparently this is because they haven't provided any info.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-02-01 01:11:10.554072+00 by: Diane Reese

And if I haven't already found you and offered to befriend you, tribe-style, you can find me as dereese at mail dot com (in the email field for searching).

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-02-01 22:53:50.391689+00 by: crasch


I agree that Livejournal works because it gives people a reason to come back (to read each other's journal posts). I don't know that the extensive use of pseudonyms is a big problem though--if I want to find out somebody's real life identity, I can always just ask them. Another thing I like about LJ is that the software is open source, and you can easily download all of your posts -- this reduces the risk that if they become an evil corporation, I can just transfer my stuff to some other LJ clone.

That said, I do have several complaints with livejournal:

  1. they still don't allow you to do key word searches on your old posts.
  2. there's no formal way to indicate your relationship status (single, married, etc.) or to indicate that you're looking for someone to date/be friends with, etc.
  3. "friend" is too intimate a word to describe most of the people I've listed in my friend's list -- "people I find interesting to read for some reason" would be more appropriate.
  4. although you can download all your posts, you can't download your comments on other people's posts. I find that I'm often more verbose in comments than I am in my posts.
  5. the mechanism for classifying posts is clumsy, and requires you to classify them after the fact, rather than as you're making them.

#Comment Re: Social software redux again made: 2004-02-04 03:28:36.883021+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Did anyone notice that Tribe.net has added support for "mature" content since yesterday? You can now agree to a mature content addendum to the use policy, specify whether or not you want to be exposed to mature content and both set your own profile with, or nominate other items (tribes, profiles, etc.) for, a mature content flag.

I've been poking around on Tribe for a few days now. I've never used any of the other services, so I have nothing to compare it to, but in general it seems kinda-sorta cool. I like some of the concepts, but I'm not crazy about some of the implementations. And I've found that some stuff doesn't work at all like I thought it would. These are my observations and gripes:

It seems like they've [presumably] set up a database schema which they are completely ignoring when it comes to actually using the data to hook people up. I think they could be way more intelligent about how they use and compare member data.

#Comment Re: tribe's new mature content flag made: 2004-02-04 05:14:57.862532+00 by: Diane Reese

Did anyone notice that Tribe.net has added support for "mature" content since yesterday?

Yes, I noticed that. Must have been some flap about somebody's nipple shield or something... ;-)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-02-09 18:22:05.431871+00 by: Dan Lyke

SF Gate article about the social software boomlet.

Another irritation for Girard is the number of unsolicited sales pitches he receives from other users. Girard said he gets an e-mail at least once a week from a stranger who has tracked him down through his various business networking accounts.

In other words, it's just like having a weblog, only someone else hosts it and controls the content.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-02-10 00:36:50.471431+00 by: Shawn

it's just like having a weblog, only someone else hosts it and controls the content

I've been having exactly those thoughts as I play with it. I'm still thinking I kind of like it though. Mostly I'm waiting to see if my tinkering and occasional postings result in any bites.