Social networking

I joined Facebook almost a year ago. I now have 169 friends. I only have 8 applications. Today I removed the «Groups» and the «Causes» applications. I found several old friends/classmates/colleagues on it that I had lost contact a while ago. And I have convinced a few people to join this social network. Every time I tell someone who does not have an account on Facebook «you should join», they ask me: «But what is this facebook?» and so far I’ve had a hard time defining it in 1-2 sentences… So last night while driving back from Milan after a Ludovico Einaudi concert, I gave it some thought: what is facebook?

Probably the most concise and brief description is «a more fun way to stay in touch with people» (thanx, Chiara). It is a collection of services that you might find outside of facebook separately, but there they are all bundled together, with a few novelties. So, here we go, a description of facebook, for the un-initiated:

  1. facebook lets you have a profile, with a picture, work and education details, your favorite movies, music, books etcetera
  2. you have a collection of friends. they must also have an account at facebook. you can see the friends of your friends (the famous friend-of-a-friend, or FOAF, principle)
  3. you have a news feed, which gives you a (weighted) list of the updates of all your friends
  4. you have a status, which you can update with short sentences whenever you want, and your friends receive this update (this is commonly called micro-blogging, like twitter or jaiku)
  5. you have some basic messaging, much like email
  6. you can upload your photos, and when you do your friends get notified, and you can tag people in them, and add comments…
  7. you can join groups, causes etcetera
  8. you can add applications, which let you play games with your other facebook friends, find out your favorite colour, when you will get married, if you are sexy, which «friends» character you’re most similar to, and so forth

So there you go, the 8 basic dimensions of facebook. My take on all this:

  • Personally, I completely ignore the applications, it is (in my opinion) for people with way too much time on their hands.
  • Today I also gave up on groups and causes, because it didn’t seem to offer anything after you joined (except for some spam messages from the «causes» app, like «sign this petition to stop child abuse» etc, which honestly doesn’t help anyone).
  • The messaging I don’t like because it’s yet another messaging centre, and I have gone into great effort to centralise all my communications on gmail.
  • After creating my profile in the begining, i haven’t changed it much. As for other people’s profiles, usually the most interesting piece of information for me is where they work now…
  • I don’t add my photos to facebook (because apparently they own them afterwards), I add them on picasa and have an application that showcases them in facebook, without actually importing them. However it’s interesting to see other people’s photos (picasa does the same for your friends who have picasa albums)

So that leaves 2, 3 and 6: friends, news feed and micro-blogging. Two remarks:

  • The micro-blogging is a novel principle for me. Many people have written about this. Basically you can write things like «i’m excited about the XYZ concert tonight», whereas you would not send everyone an email with the same sentence inside…
  • The FOAF principle is the most interesting one so far, since this way I found a lot of lost contacts. However, this is again a novel principle: when I add someone to my gmail contacts, I cannot see his/her addressbook. And I don’t know if I would want all my gmail contacts to see my contacts… It’s the privacy issue. But I guess it’s different on facebook…

So, anyone else wanna join facebook?

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