Friday, June 29, 2007

YASNSD (Yet Another Social Network Schism Discussion)

FireDogLake's siun pointed this evening to danah boyd’s paper on the potential social schism between Facebook and MySpace. danah is one sharp cookie. I'd caught the paper earlier in the week via SmartMobs.

However I disagree with her premise that there is a socio-economic bifurcation between the two technologies.

Facebook was originally launched by students at Harvard to allow students to keep in touch with one another as well as do self-promotion. It caught on and has rapidly caught up with and in many cases outpaced other “YASNS” (Yet Another Social Network Software) programs.

Because it was designed as something more like a hybrid communication tool-cum-yearbook, it doesn’t serve the same purposes that a blog fulfills, although it’s possible to syndicate (cross-publish) one’s blog content to their own Facebook page. MySpace, on the other hand, was designed as a YASNS with more blog-like capability including customization of HTML, while serving as a social communication tool.

Having used multiple YASNS, including Multiply, Orkut, MySpace and Facebook, I have to say that MySpace is the biggest f*cking pain in the ass to use. It’s doggy-slow, has a crap user interface, highly limited in terms of customization. (Take note of the discussion regarding MySpace's application and coding at Wikipedia for more details – it's not just me making this observation.) The folks who use it most often are folks who generally avoid blogging because they see it as more demanding than MySpace. Facebook, by contrast, is stripped down just as danah says, but the folks who use it do not perceive it as a substitute for blogging, rather a tool for augmenting blogging (just as the FireDogLake community is using it). They prefer the leaner and effective interface that users find at Facebook; is it possible that the real schism is that the folks using Facebook are generally more technologically adept and less tolerant of crap interfaces and applications? That’s a question danah didn’t explore.

Another rebuttal I offer to the question of schism: Multiply and Brazilians. I have virtually abandoned my Multiply page for nearly two years, and yet I still get messages every damned week from Brazilians. They LOVE Multiply. Why? Is the real issue the interface yet again, in relation to the local culture and not economic or educational strata? Yet another question danah didn’t explore.

We're observing technologies that are moving targets; in the short period of time I've been on Facebook (about one month), new widgets and applications have been added or upgraded. Certainly competing programs are doing the same tweaking. Perhaps in another year there will be far less of a gap between the communities of these different applications – or there will be another entirely different YASNS that we'll be watching and comparing.

Hi Rayne,
I was a day late to the facebook thread. Figured I'd have better luck finding you here... :-)

We’ve been busy here. Peanut #2 was born and is now 2 months old. So we’ve been… occupied. So I’ve downgraded to lurker for awhile. Thanks for the shout out, and I’m around and usually behind a few posts. :-)
CONGRATULATIONS!! So happy for you and your spouse, must be just getting over that initial dose of sleep deprivation and already through the first growth spurt, into the second one. I'll have to watch for your reemergence when your Peanut #2 is another month or two older. ;-)
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