Category Archives: facebook

Detoxing in Facebook

Detoxing my facebookAfter all that winterval indulgement it’s time to strip everything back and detox. So today I slipped into Facebook for a while and removed myself from the more trivial or no-longer relevant groups and removed a large number of applications.

I no longer have a fun or super wall – so don’t try to send anything there. I’m missing out on gifts, pimps, zombies etc. I couldn’t say goodbye to my pets quite so callously or LOLCats and of course, real stuff associated with real people like Hugh’s widget and Luke’s Blog Friends have to stay. I’m going to try really really hard to resist the lure of useless crap but I’m human and a sucker for shiny things so be gentle with me.

I’m not joining in with this FB backlash, they’re not worth it – I really can’t get my knickers in a twist about whether Scoble’s there (I was still in his friend queue anyway…) or whether Che Guevara is an appropriate icon to use – I think Robert was being more Tuttle than Trotsky in all of this. As for their draconian TOS, if they don’t change, they’ll become irrelevant and they’ll be left with a whole load of my shit that’s even less valuable to them than the few pence it’s worth now. Just like friendster, ryze, ecademy, myspce etc before them. At least it seems easier to get your account deleted with FB, you just write a script that pings your page more often than a hooman might and Bob’s in your extended family.

Relationships, Online and Off-

fbfwSo here’s some of the thinking behind the Tuttle Club idea. I’ve talked mostly about what it should be, to help people understand, but there are actually some important things to say about *why*, which really help me see what is important to keep in and what things can go by the wayside.

Once upon a time all there was was offline – so much so that we didn’t think about it, we just walked over the street and talked to people. And they took our lunch money and told us to bugger off. Sometimes we built more positive relationships too. I think it’s odd that we have to remind ourselves that this was the case but we do, increasingly, especially as time goes by and more and more people come into the world who’ve never known anything different – you know, people who were *born* in the 80’s – weird.

Then we moved into a kind of binary place where you were either one or the other – from 9600 to 14.4k to 8MB broadband, for lots of people you’re still either online or offline and online means being sitting at a computer.

However increasingly it’s whatever (and wherever) works. The boundary is blurring and we can see a time when we’ll be always on, which means that on is as meaningless as off used to be, the distinction may disappear.

A quick reminder – what we’re talking about is ways of people connecting with each other. When I first got an internet connection pre web, there were three things pretty much that you’d want to do. Email, Usenet News and MUD (Multi-user Dungeon) – ways of finding things like gopher, veronica and archie were ways of finding people who’d created cool stuff as much as finding the cool stuff itself. I never was much of a gamer, so I was attracted to reading and writing and getting to know people through usenet and e-mail. Now Web 2.0 is supposedly doing something new, but it’s simply giving people more sophisticated ways of doing what we’ve always been doing on the net.

So I’m asking whether there’s any real difference between online relationships and those we do offline, whether you draw the distinction between based on where they started, or where most transactions currently take place. And the answer seems to me, to be no, there isn’t any significant difference, what is more important is that relationships can be enhanced by interaction online and off- and that these different types of interactions build a deeper, stronger sort of relationship than those that only happen in one “place”. I have more and more of these relationships, people who once I would only ever have read or read about, I see face to face and we get to know each other better and then our relationship online is even stronger.

My “friendship” group then (and put on one side the question of the definitions of “friend”) gets bigger and more diverse and so the question of the Dunbar’s number comes up – 150? WTF? I have more than 300 facebook friends and for every one of them, I can think of a little circle of others who aren’t there, or whom I’ve not yet linked to.

The Facebook friend wheel shines a bit of light on this. I can see the little communities, constituencies, compartments that hold people together in the way they are grouped around the wheel. This is how we’ve managed the transition between the pre-industrial world of only being able to meet at most a hundred or so people in your life to where we are now where potentially you can have some contact with hundreds of thousands. We compartmentalise. These are my friends in my team. These are people I go to the pub with. These are my “friends” in Accounts Payable. These are the people I know who are into ska. These are my golf friends. (This is the me-focused way of looking at the fact that I belong to multiple communities as JP’s talking about this morning). This reduces the cognitive load – if we’re only really comfortable with up to 150 people but we have to deal with more, then we can handle it by divide and conquer – we only have to deal with a smaller number at any one time. Before social software we all knew the potential stress of having members of more than one group meet up with each other (that’s one reason why weddings can break people). Before this point we could get away with being different people in different situations and to a certain extent be dishonest with some groups of people about who we are or who we want to be. What online social networks like Facebook do is make these communities or compartments explicit and then shares that with everybody. It therefore just got harder to keep those people apart – great opportunities for innovation in my social graph, but oh bugger, *they* are going to find out about *that*.

Now, this is just a prelude to the other thoughts that I’ve included in the presentations I’ve done at Web2Open and barcamplondon3 and the feedback I’ve had is that it’s really useful to see the background. As usual, I’ve done it the wrong way round, should really have written it out, then made a presentation then talked about it, but I really can’t be arsed to do things the way I should. I’m writing this at barcamp by the way, so that might just be a reaction to being in a place where the average person thinks that it’s *very important* to do things *the right way* gaaah!

FB photo fun

FBFriends @ 23/08/07Thanks to Friend Block I can see all of my 238 friends profile pics in one place.

Some observations (NB, I can’t count very well) I leave it to you to suggest interpretations:

8 have not provided a picture at all and so are represented by a ‘?’

3 are represented by hand-drawn caricatures of themselves and 1 has a Simpsons avatar.

There is one cartoon character (Pinky), one stuffed toy and one toy cartoon character.

There is one cat in sunglasses and one cat with the mouth of a shark. One person is a pair of Lions, possibly copulating.

4 have some other form of graphic design (I can’t think of a better description at the moment).

Four people have pictures of themselves further processed with an imaging tool.

10 people have included other people in their profile pictures mostly people with their spouses and children.

Four people have pictures of themselves as children.

One person has two heads (or perhaps two faces)

Two people have their names in the shot.

21 of those who have photographs of themselves have chosen monochrome images. Most of these are men.

Of those with simple headshots about 30 are not looking into the camera.

Around 20 have one hand up to their face in some way.

7 are wearing sunglasses.

One person has a parrot. One person has a snake.

Yes. These are my friends.

[UPDATE: Since posting, it has come to my attention that two of the monochrome folk have gone coloured *AND* both put on shades – co-incidence or conspiracy?]

Danger… Danger, Will Robinson!

BathroomI was writing a comment on the previous post and feeling constrained and then remembered “It’s my blog, I don’t have to use the comments if I don’t want to”. Which is kind of part of what I was trying to get at before. I also wanted to separate this out from the comments because I don’t want it to appear that what I say is directed at anyone who has commented on that post already or may comment there in future. OK, disclaimers and excuses and apologies out of the way.

This is what I’m happy doing:

I’m happy sharing all sorts of personal details and information about me online – in fact some people have said read my blog in order to find out more stuff about me. That doesn’t mean that I will share everything online. I’m not at all likely to publish my PIN numbers, passwords and the memorable information scripts to my bank’s security theatre. I’m not bothered about you knowing where I live, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give you a key to my flat.

That’s a fairly good summary of my privacy position. It makes sense to me. You may well take a different position on privacy. If my position doesn’t make sense to you, that doesn’t make either of us right or wrong, it just means that we make different sense of the world. I know that some people feel uncomfortable about this level of openness.

I’m completely cool with you taking whatever position you like on information that you consider to be private to you. The potential for conflict arises when we share information but we don’t share a view on the appropriate level of privacy. You might try to shut me up. I may tell your secrets. Shit happens.

The question is, in a globally networked, hyperlinked, 24-hour world isn’t the inevitable movement towards a more liberal approach to this sort of privacy, simply because the cost of establishing and then enforcing the rules in an increasingly complex network of relationships is way too high (always assuming that enforcement is still possible)?

FB – Fluid Boundaries, Fixed Behaviours, Friends Behavingbadly

fbfwCharles Frith (one of my fave twitter buddies btw) writes about two types of people Cold War survivors who see the world as black and white, good and evil and behave guardedly online with spy-like pseudonyms and ‘Post-Coldies” who are more comfortable with a zillion shades of grey and who let it all hang out.

It’s a difference that Helen also touched on in her thoughtful post on social media

Charles also points out that post-coldies don’t mind their friends meeting up, whereas the others will do anything to keep “different” areas of their life separate, even to the extent of lying to their “friends”. No wonder there’s such drama at weddings & funerals.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I feel very much at the post-coldie end of the spectrum but I’m not sure that the Cold War hostilities are the source of this separation, more that these are another manifestation of the same thing – the ancient tussle between what it means to be an individual and what it means to be part of a group, whether that group is at the level of 1:1 relationships, household, village, city, nation or continent (not to mention, planet, which is a whole other metaphysical adventure in itself).

I think another way of putting it is to say that some people are most comfortable getting their rules or boundary conditions from the group and others who are most comfortable setting their boundary conditions themselves. To each of these, the other’s behaviour can seem threatening and dangerous. I would argue that the former lead to more rigid behaviours while the latter lead to more flexible opportunities, but I’m aware that I may have a blind spot around this… and of course we’re talking about preferences, not necessarily hard-wired characteristics.

Ha ha, an example has just sprung to mind. This post is going to be a bit rambly. There are people who will tell you that a post needs a beginning middle and an end, a meaningful title, a relevant illustration and well-constructed tags. Tough shit – this is my blog and I make the rules.

In this context, I’m also thinking a lot about my facebook friending. Whenever there’s a conversation about social networking, sooner or later, Dunbar’s number is quoted – usually people describe it as “the limit to the number of real relationships one person can have” or something equally vague. It’s 150 and it’s more complicated than that description, but I’m thinking, OK, I have more than 150 friends on facebook, what does that mean in the context of Dunbar’s number? Specifically there seemed to be a paradox that although I was over the “limit” there are still a whole bunch of my friends and people with whom I have fairly intimate business and personal relationships who aren’t even on Facebook, let alone “friended” by me.

What I’m thinking at the moment is that I have, until now, (and in common with the cold war survivors) tried to manage groups of up to 150 people in my head – that’s why it feels so difficult! Of course 150 isn’t a limit on the number of people you can know, it’s really a limit on the number of people you can have meaningful relationships with without resorting to further rules and socially agreed boundaries.

So compartmentalising isn’t in itself “a Cold-War thing” or even “a bad thing” it’s a way of keeping our groups of relationships manageable. What online social networking does is to highlight that compartmentalising goes on, that people compartmentalise in different ways and allows for an external representation of a much larger number of my relationships than before which allows you to understand or infer (perhaps correctly, perhaps not) what my rules and boundaries are.

Of course this is probably all covered in Anthropology 101 but I much prefer learning from experience.

Social Media Café

RFH Cafe SocietyI just want first to distinguish this from the events that Chris has facilitated through Social Media Club. I am involved with Social Media Club in London, and what I’m talking about might well be a place to host Social Media Club (or even Social Media Cafés!) and I love both concepts – but neither are what I want to talk about here – I’m talking about a place, not an event.

Phew! Perhaps I’d better start again…

This comes from a number of conversations I’ve had with people in London about having a place to meet, hook up, get groups together, socialise, train people, co-work etc. I blogged about something in a slightly different context about 3 years ago and the idea has been frothing in my head for a long time. I’m thinking of a confluence of the creative, tech and entrepreneurial tribes who are currently gathering around social media and online social networking. I’m talking about the kinds of people who are regulars at Coffee Mornings, Open Coffee, Social Media Club, Chinwag Live.

So far it’s as concrete and as fluid as this:

We (whoever we are – the united socialmediatistas of hereabouts) acquire a space that we can use for the above-mentioned types of activities. It might be laid out as follows (though do not get hung up about physical orientation, upstairs/downstairs front/back doesn’t matter as much as the ideas of separate spaces for different activities).

Ground floor is open to the public, a café style space with good coffee, tea, snacks, fussball, space invaders and the like – maybe the odd plate of eggs bacon chips and beans. Plasma screen shows a rolling twitter timeline from all our mates. An alternative to constantly having to find somewhere to meet up and have coffee and a place where people love you using the wifi.

First floor (don’t get hung up on the physical orientation, just a separate space) is for members & guests. Not a posh exclusive (male) type of private members club (you know where I mean), but something softer, gentler, more suited to creative & geeky types than just to the thrusting entrepreneur. Facilities are flexible meeting rooms, desks and co-working spaces and more exclusive lounging, chatting space with coffee & tea. It’s a bit quieter up here.

Second floor (again really just another separate space) is for media production – podcasting & video-blogging equipment for hire – soundproofed studios, maybe some helpful techies to guide the uninitiated.

Questions:

Why? Why not take an existing institution and warp it into what we want? Now that we are, just, starting to see that there’s a group of us interested in the same things, I think it would be good to have a place of our own.

When? I may be biased by the number of people I mix with who don’t keep normal office hours but I think this is an all-day & evening thing, though possibly not at weekends?

Where? London, I’m pretty certain, but where is our spiritual home? Soho, Shoreditch, South Bank? Somewhere that doesn’t start with ‘S’?

Who? Who will come, who will be members, who will use which facilities? I’m starting a group in Facebook to guage interest and carry the conversation forward. Also what kinds of people do we need to make it happen – property development, deal-makers, investors, staff as well as potential members and customers.

What? Salons, open spaces, meeting (verb), meetings (noun), training, improvising, podcasting, eating, talking, working, collaborating, farting about, other activities with no predefined or explicit purpose, interesting pursuits. What else?

How? Yes.

More questions please – and answers if you have them.

[UPDATE: If you want to help, there’s now a wiki for you to scribble on and a Facebook group to join.]