Thing 13: Forums

(Thanks, Toothpaste for Dinner)

Okay, we get it. Usenet is old. Usenet is actually super old. If internet years were like dog years – and they are – then Usenet could be your grandmother. But the reason we still talk about it is because it started a trend that got incorporated into nearly every aspect of the World Wide Web. As… soon as the World Wide Web was started, anyway. Usenet is actually older than it.

(I know.)

I’ve actually already blogged about several websites that use forum-style threaded conversations. Sick of Livejournal yet? Yes? Too bad. Livejournal’s “comments” section, which are beneath every post in a community or personal journal unless the poster specifically removes that option, open up compressed threads more conveniently when there is reply after reply after reply after reply after… yeah.

And if you clicked on any of those links, you’ll notice that everybody has a little icon by their username which is 100 pixels by 100 pixels. Even in the more traditional boards, these are pretty common – although they’re often 75×75 or even 50×50. DeviantArt makes great use of their message boards, especially the ones that show up underneath every individual piece of artwork. This is great for people to leave constructive feedback or even just a compliment, although they do tend to get mired down in a plethora of winking faces and other emoticons.

And, actually, can we talk about these things for a second? These little happy faces and banging-their-head-against-the-keyboard-faces and the flirty kissy faces? Because they are tacky. They have been tacky. 1996 is a long time ago, now, and we have moved on to better things like image macros and animated gifs to make our point if words are not enough. Into the future, people! Class up these forums, wherever they might be!

And seriously. No more emoticon images.

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Blog Post 3: Social Networking

(XKCD‘s most recent comic is relevant to our interests)

As of today, if you do a Google search for ‘facebook scandal’, you will get 14,000,000 results. While I’m sure that some of those stories refer to individual instances (which we’ll talk more about later), a great number of those have to do with huge TOS changes and infringements that have been going on as far back as early 2008. The biggest scandals aren’t between individual parties on Facebook so much as between Facebook and its users as a whole. People are upset about everything, but perhaps most reasonably about assumed privacy. The idea that manually opting out of having our information sold to private parties — and that taking care to make certain information, posts, pictures, and other media private or restricted only to a select few is actually meaningless if the interested party is willing to pay cash up front — seems dishonest if not actually illegal. It doesn’t help that Zuckerman has been quoted saying some less than advisable things about the intelligence of people willing to trust him with their personal info. This is driving several users to make statements by removing their content completely.

Quit Facebook Day is happening on May 31, 2010. The specially dedicated website offers reasons why people are quitting, options for interested party, and a counter in the right column that (as of this post) numbers at 12526. That’s almost 13,000 people.

Therein lies the problem with this whole debacle. To Facebook, its advertisers, and its investors? 13k users is a drop in the bucket. Hell, if that number reaches 30k by the end of the month it still wouldn’t have anybody changing policies that are clearly so profitable. According to OpenScandal (linked above), here’s their financial breakdown of 2009:

# $125 million from brand ads
# $150 million from Facebook’s ad deal with Microsoft
# $75 million from virtual goods
# $200 million from self-service ads

Facebook is rolling in money. Rolling. In it. The online journaling site Livejournal was recently outed for allowing pop-up ads with embedded adware that they almost definitely knew about, and did not remove once they were explicitly informed. And why would they? As a business model, most members of the site, whether they pay for extra features or simply ‘pay’ by seeing the ads at the tops of their screens, don’t understand what they’re giving up… or don’t care enough to switch to a less popular service that has more honest policies. Until or unless the customers unite more effectively and use their buying/ad-looking power to strong-arm these companies to look at something other than profit, we’re going to see these headlines over and over again.

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Blog Post 2: Microblogging

So, this Twitter thing.

I’m coming up on 1k tweets on my personal Twitter account – something I made back in the beginning of college, used for a few weeks, and recently returned to (first for one of Professor Whalen‘s classes, then for personal use. And you can tell that it’s an important daily tool because in one of my recent tweets I wondered aloud why I was drinking so much orange juice lately.

I’ll give you a moment to allow that philosophical depth to sink in.)

Mind you, there are people that are employing Twitter much more impressively than I am. What is important to remember about the site is that it’s a medium – no more, no less. You can have incredibly banal people reporting what traffic is like, or you can have stuff that’s really funny, or really important, or maybe both.

For funny, we turn to Drunk Hulk.

Drunk Hulk is an example of a fictional (and in this case inebriated) character who has a regularly-updated blog. Drunk Hulk reacts to the news of the day and often comments on pop culture and fashion…
…and sometimes on more pressing matters:

That’s not to say that all of Twitter is just for fun. The social networking capabilities of this site are huge, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by major interest groups. Quick searches of hashtags and commonly used words reveals lots of useful Twitter groups as well. GLBTadvocates is exactly what it says on the tin – they update regularly with news about discrimination in legislation, Focus on the Family, and reliable charities to donate to promote marriage equality. OnTopMag is another good example. It focuses not just on US issues but also links to international articles as well including linking to stories taking place Portugal, Argentina and Brazil.

Twitter is everything. It’s social networking, it’s keeping in touch with family, it’s common interests, it’s advocacy… but perhaps most importantly, it is drunken superheroes.

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