Hat Tip Stephen Downes
I've been doing a content analysis of "burning questions" that were submitted as part of some pre-workshop information I collected from participants to help design an upcoming workshop. One of the questions:
How to address concerns about privacy, security, and avoiding spam overload that comes with social media and social network sites?
Vladislav Chernyshov, a self-identified geek and masters student at Novosibirsk State Technical University (NSTU) in Novosibirsk, Russia and who is currently working on a next generation social network project called Genome identifies five major "burning" problems with social networks.
He points out these problems with current social networking practices.
(1) the lack of sufficient privacy protection
He is talking about the fact that we have different levels of intimacy with our social networks or social graph, but due to privacy issues we can't manage them. Charlene Li called the problem a lack of granular social graphis in her keynote, Future of Social Networks, at Graphing Social Patterns in March 2008
In his post, Chemyshov points to a natural order of intimacy that reflects the richness of our human relationships and that social networking designs/technology must enable us to better manage this.
In a post called "Linked In:You Tell Me" by Monica Hamburg that Chernyshoy points to illustrate the problem, there's a comment by none other than Rob Cottingham who is his witty style gives us the kind of scaling of intimacy:
- Personal friend
- Family member
- Business friend
- Partner (you’ve done business together)
- Members of an organization
- Blogging buddy
- Creepy high school acquaintance
- Can’t remember, too embarrassed to admit it
- Got drunk together at conference, messed around, not sure how far it went
- Got drunk together at conference, messed around, absolutely horrifically certain how far it went
- Someone who was willing to Digg my blog post
- Frequent teammate in flame wars
- Let’s face it, I don’t know them… but they’d be one hell of a trophy friend
So, what can you do in the meantime until the next generation of social networks is born? Understand how privacy controls work on social networks. Here's an instructional video about how they work on Facebook along with some advice from Jeremiah Owyang.
(2) the overflowing of social messages
He is talking about the how easy it is to get distracted and overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes to you. He points out that social networks do not have an efficient way to cut through the clutter to what matters built into the features. Put another way, how do you efficiently deal with all the vampire invitations that your friends on Facebook send you?
The way around this problem (on Facebook at least) is to use tools like ignore all that allow you ignore all stupid invitation with a single click and Facebook's recently implemented "ignore requests from this friend" feature.
(3) the low quality friendship maintenance
Here he is talking about the fact that social networks can allow you surpass the number of personal contacts (150) a human has the capacity to maintain or the so called Dunbar number. Chemyshov says that this “quantity over quality” trend is wrong because we completely loose all richness of in-person interactions and relationships. Or as Liz Strauss says: “The wider I go, the shallower I get”.
The Wall Street Journal's article "Is there a numerical cap on how many friends we can have?" says that new research suggests that social networking sites will help humans surpass this limit. Last word from Prof. Dunbar: .."isn't sold on the idea that social networks make his number outdated. The research, he says, "made us realize people don't know what these wretched things called relationships are -- and that helps explain why we're so bad at them."
What's the workaround? Friend policies.
Vicky Davis and Judy O'Connell offer educator's perspective on the whole question of friending and friend policies. As Vicky noted on my Facebook profile a while back,
I just wonder this, Beth. In school we tell everyone, "Never add a friend of a friend, only add people you know." and many of us are building our network in this way. Aren't kids who add friends of a friend learning valuable networking skills? It is important to remember this, but also that we are creating a vast disconnect between what we tell students and what is going to make them successful in the future!
It is a good idea to set a friend policy. The goal is not necessarily to collect the largest number of friends, but to build relationships. But there are different approaches. Well known blogger and social media guru, Robert Scoble adds all friends. Shel Israel prefers to establish a connection first. (BTW, a huge big hat tip to Connie Reece who pointed me to the notes from her session on social networking at Blog Orlando awhile back.)
(4) the poor performance of advertisement filtering
He offers some good examples of the mismatch in targeting of ads. There is more here. This point doesn't bother me so much because I don't pay attention to the ads on Facebook.
(5) the lack of identity management
Here's his description of the problem:
Because Facebook owes your data, not you. You cannot save all your data on your computer. Basically, you cannot import or export your data.
So, let me enumerate all things you can’t do:
- You can’t import/export your data
- You can’t control who see what about you
- You can’t watch who know what about you
- You can’t ask some new web service to read your name, email, contacts ,etc. from your social networking site during sign-up
- I’m sure, you can continue this list by yourself
I don't think these reasons are enough to say no all together to social networks, but good to understand some of the challenges from a structural point of view.
Jan Chipchase, Future Social
Dana Boyd, Facebook and TechCrunch the costs of technological determinism and configuring users