Tagsocial networking

Leaving Facebook

I deactivated my account on Facebook on New Years’ Eve [1]. There was no specific reason or motive for doing so. I’ve been living without the Facebook app on my phone for more than 6 months now [2] and have not missed it much. I used to access Facebook via the browser on the phone and laptop using the web view interface. It works just as well if not better in case you’re wondering.

So why did I quit a social networking site that I’ve been using for the last 12 years [3]? Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. Why wait for the new year to begin your resolution, right? []
  2. Admittedly, after hearing about Facebook’s attempts at tracking our location even when we’re not using the app []
  3. Yes, I opened my account back in 2005 when Facebook was open to only college students in select universities. I used to enter the classes I was enrolled in to find my classmates to add as friends. I still had some of them as friends []

Twitter Recommends Who to Follow. Or does it?

"Who-not-to-follow: Find out who I have explicitly un-followed. Do not ask me to follow them. Find out people that you have shown me that I have ignored, do not show me those people. If they have appeared 3 times on my sidebar and been ignored (less than 3 actually), that is an explicit (but no click) thumbs down."

Exactly my beef with recently-introduced Twitter's 'Who to Follow' feature. Unlike other social networks, Twitter doesn't offer you options to turn off features that you don't like or want. Probably in terms of simplicity and intuitiveness, it makes sense but as tweeting matures and advanced users want to err…tweak their usage, it may be needed.

[Link to Twitter Recommends Who to Follow. Or does it?]

Social networking meltdown?

So this is how it feels to blog, huh? Well, Twitter is down and Facebook is having issues so my dear blog, I return.

Tweeting Too Hard

We know that Twitter is a dream come true for narcissists and we know our share of them, right? (Heck, someone might even consider me as one.) But Tweeting Too Hard is an awesome Twitter mashup that never fails to disappoint in unearthing the best (worst?) ‘offenders’ out there.

Convert FireFox to a Social Networking Browser

FireFox v3.0 released a few hours ago and as promised, it definitely seems faster and less of a memory hog than its predecessor. I already had a taste when I installed its release candidates. Also, if you were attracted to another browser, Flock for its social networking capabilities, Keith D’Souza at Techie-Buzz offers excellent advice on installing just the right add-ons to your FireFox browser to Flock-ofy it. I already use Del.icio.us and Stumble Upon toolbars that has helped make my bookmarking more prolific without consuming too much time and distracting me from my browsing or online reading.

NY Girl of My Dreams – Found Her!

Guy sees girl in a subway. Can’t muster up courage to ask her out. Goes home. Makes an illustration of “the girl of my dream”. Posts it online [Video] .And now CNN wants to talk to him. . Awwww! or Ewwww! You decide.

Update 1: The bugger found her! Sensibly, he isn’t providing any more updates and has removed his contact information from the page. Turns out she was an intern at Blackbook.

Update 2: I guess it wasn’t to last for long. Gawker has confirmed that Patrick Moberg, the illustrating dude and Camille Hayton, the subway ‘NY Girl of my Dreams’ have broken up. Their web 2.0 romance lasted all of 2 months and Hayton cited ‘communication problems’ and said, they are still good friends over email.

Facebook’s Application Mess

If you are on Facebook, you must have seen your inbox flooded with hundreds of invites either to bitch slap, chug a beer, share a secret, or test your movies trivia IQ. At first, it seems exciting and fun to add all kinds of widgets and goof off doing mostly inane things with your profile and friends but after a while, it gets tiring. You can always tell who has recently joined Facebook by the intensity of their activity in adding apps. While opening up the Facebook API was the best thing Mark Zuckerberg did for his business, it isn’t turning out exactly well for the normally clean interface of the social network. Once I was asked which social network I prefer. I answered Facebook without hesitation simply for the reason that it was clean, easy to navigate, and looked professional as compared to Orkut and MySpace. But if you visit the profiles of Facebook addicts, you might think you have landed on a MySpace page with all the bling. You have to scroll down a mile to write on their wall.

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Pownce Invites

I had heard of Kevin ‘Digg’ Rose’s latest venture, Pownce [definitely a weird name] and as a matter of habit, entered my email id for an invite. But after reading many reviews, I found it quite similar to Twitter where I occasionally post updates so I wasn’t too keen on getting one. But I guess, the less you want something, the more likely you are to get it. Well, it works that way for me. So I got an invite from Pownce and created a profile just for the heck of it although I don’t plan to update it. The interface is interesting and it has few different features than Twitter. But who knows, I may choose one over the other. However, right now I am drowning in social media memberships now and am looking to trim some deadwood.

In any case, I know there are quite a few out there who would like invites. I have six three six four invites and can send them over. Just leave your email id in the comments. You may drop me as a ‘friend’ after you register.

Update: Pownce has opened up membership to all. So I guess, this post for handing out invites is obsolete now.

Class Distinctions in Social Networking Sites

Danah Boyd has an interesting insight on the composition of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook [via Boing Boing]:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

That is an extremely interesting observation considering that now anyone can join either sites. But does the fact that Facebook only recently opened up its membership, contribute to this distinction? MySpace had this clunky interface filled with shoddily designed profiles whereas Facebook was more aesthetically pleasing and neatly organized; almost like the difference between graffiti filled neighborhoods of the inner cities and the smartly manicured lawns of the suburbia. At least in our urbanscape, entry is restricted by income and social classification but on the Internet where entry is free, unhindered and often anonymous, why should such glaring classifications exist?

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Digg gets buried by its own users

Digg literally got a taste of its own medicine yesterday. The users that generate (or rather link to) content for Digg openly revolted against the website causing it at one point to collapse. It all started when a user posted a story to an 32-character encryption crack code used to circumvent the DRM restrictions of HD-DVDs. The industry instantly went into damage control and cited the DMCA and asked Digg to remove any links to stories that posted the encryption code. Digg, partly to avoid the legal ramifications and partly due to the fact that HD-DVD sponsors their Diggnation Show agreed and began removing stories and even banning users who had posted the stories.

The news got out pretty quickly and for a user-generated site to control the stories posted, it was the proverbial shit hitting the fan. Whether or not, Digg was right in removing the stories, the famed Digg mob took over and began inundating the incoming stories queue with the banned code either in the title or within the excerpt. Many of these stories hit the front page and at one point last night, the first two pages of the Digg front page had nothing but stories pointing to the code. The top stories in all categories pointed to the hex code [screenshots after the jump]. After hearing that Digg admins were furiously removing or even blocking entering the code, users got creative and posted the code in cryptic yet obvious ways such as photos on Flickr or citing that hex code as serial numbers of fake softwares. It was so big that the story hit the BBC and CNet early today.

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MyBlogLog Services and Communities

I joined MyBlogLog long before it got the blogosphere buzzing and subsequently got acquired by Yahoo. Although the site is much more than a log site now with the social networking tools and all, its core function of tracking the outclicks on your blog is what first attracted me to it. I liked the features so much that I opted for its paid pro version for DesiPundit.

Since DesiPundit is mostly a link-blog, it is quite important to know what the readers are clicking; not that we do anything nefarious with the data which by the way, is completely devoid of any personal information. MyBlogLog collects some rich data for us tracking counts for ‘where readers came from‘ (referral logs), ‘what readers viewed‘ and most importantly, ‘what readers clicked‘. The pro version ($24.95 for a year) allows us to generate reports for a data range on the above data. In our new design, we even included a feature called, ‘Second Chance’ where we listed the posts that readers loved to click and alternatively post that we wished readers would click.

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Aapka Video: Review

After making this post on bloggers being paid for reviewing products, I opened an account on ReviewMe to give it a shot. I didn’t expect many requests but I received a review request from Aapka Video and am posting my review below. Note that this is a paid review but I will try to be as objective as possible and it helps that ReviewMe stipulates that the advertisers cannot require a positive review. So here goes:

The Web 2.0 phenomenon is spreading rapidly across the globe and a prime facet is video sharing sites. India was kinda slow to adopt blogging or podcasting although it is gradually picking up steam now. The latest fad is video sharing sites. YouTube and its subsequent buyout by Google has motivated a lot of wannabes. Aapka Video is one such site that claims to be “a new service aimed at the budding Mani Ratnams and Karan Johars.” The emphasis is on desi videos and nurturing “desi video makers.”

For the bare facts first, the site allows you to upload videos in various formats after creating an account. You can then share or embed the videos on your blog or MySpace profile via the usual methods. From the point of the user, you can view as many videos as you want without registering. You can mark a video as offensive and probably after enough people have marked it thus, Aapka Video may require you to register to view ‘offensive content’ . But currently, I don’t suppose there are enough votes to mark any video as overly offensive. Let me break the rest of the review into Good, Bad, and Suggested Improvements.

The Good:

Currently the interface is clean, ad-free even without Adblock disabled. The videos are classified into six distinct categories – General, Entertainment, Comedy, Sports, News & Blogs, and Travels and Places. In addition, the site also encourages use of tags after uploading a video for easier searches. There is little or no lag time before a video starts playing but I use a cable connection and haven’t tested it on a dialup. The homepage features the ‘specials’, which may be of interest to the vistors on a particular day. Currently, Tendulkar’s 100s are featured since the Master Blaster hit yet another century in the ODI series against the WI. You can browse the videos by selecting Viewed Today, Recently Viewed (how recent?), This Week, This Month, and All Time.

The Bad:

The biggest drawback for me was that the videos refused to play in Firefox. I had to use IE7 to play the videos (can’t remember the last time I opened IE). This is a big drawback if they wish to appeal to the tech savvy crowd in India or elsewhere. The offerings are mostly dominated by raunchy videos or ‘hot’ scenes from desi movies or music videos. Almost half of the videos in the ‘Most Popular’ videos features such content with titles like mujra masala, female wrestling, and <insert actress name here> kiss. But this may be more of a criticism of desi Internet surfing habits. We haven’t yet gotten over our pron fascination. God knows how many years before we do.

Since this site purports to promote user generated videos, I see no specific emphasis in this direction and most of the clips are copyrighted material from Indian channels. The maximum size of videos is 100MB, which doesn’t allow for large-size videos which in fact might be a blessing in disguise. But until then, we have no hope for documentaries at least in continuous format.

Suggested Improvements:

The website could promote user-generated videos on their front page to encourage members to focus on such content instead of uploading music video clips. Since their tagline says, Director Ban Jao, they ought to make this the primary focus of their service. The site also better test for multi-browser compatibility but I’ll let that go since the service is still beta. Since video sharing is relatively new to India, it would help to have tips for budding ‘video makers’.

Incorporating user roles and control like Digg can help generate interest and promote interactivity. They could also offer a paid account for larger videos. The categories are basically useless due to overlap and wrong categorization by users and the site would be better off with tags only. Also, it seems that almost 90% of the content is in entertainment category so Aapka Video would be serve their interests and their visitors interest by focusing on this segment instead of spreading it too thin.

Conclusion:

I am not sure India is ready yet for online video primarily due to bandwidth constraints that impede accessibility in India. We are already inundated with 24-hour news and music channels, so what else are the desi video sites offering apart from the ripped content? Should we promote a funny home videos section first on television and then urge viewers to upload their home videos to a video sharing site? Probably so. The TV show can be a filter-show for the best videos submitted and the website can be a treasure trove of the rest.

The other potential waiting to be tapped is indi-filmmaking. Various film and television institutes across the countries can be invited to share their student works for feedback or for general viewership. Give us more than just a desi-named YouTube.

Promoted on Digg

After submitting 79 stories on Digg over the past one year (I know, that’s pathetic), one of my submitted stories finally made it to the front page. I have been active infrequently on Digg and probably would constitute as the 89% member [by the 1% rule] occasionally crossing over to the other 1-10% group. I have been burned quite a few times by many of my ‘quality’ links not being dugg enough to land on the front page. The maximum diggs I got on my submitted links was 15 and that wasn’t enough especially after Digg tweaked their algorithm. I gave it up few times and instead chose to contribute on Digital Journal, where incidentally I found the story that landed me on the front page [finally] on Digg. I didn’t even realize this until I checked my Digg profile as I do once a day.

The story that got promoted by actually just a screenshot of a FireFox browser with all possible extensions and add-ons enabled. You never know what people will like but I guess with a niche audience that has clear biases toward anything to do with FireFox, PS3, Wii, or Digg-stories, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The story is going strong with 3094 diggs so far and is currently the top story for today. To be honest, this story was submitted almost a year ago (but didn’t land on the front page) with a different URL but I chose to resubmit it because, hey you never know if it might be an idea whose time has come, right? Yay!

I know, people make a post when one of their posts lands on the Digg front page and I am getting happy just because my ‘submitted’ link made the front page. What can I say, I am easily pleased.

Facebook adds blogging features

I signed on to my Facebook profile [yup! I have one, like millions of other college students in the US] earlier today to see a new feature – Notes. Essentially, Notes are nothing but blogs on Facebook where you can share your thoughts with your ‘campus friends’ although they refuse to call them blogs “because then you’d be a blogger.” That weirdness aside, they allow you to import your existing blogs and syndicate the contents on your Facebook profile.

One nifty feature is that you can tag your friends if you talk about them in a post. That will send them a notification that they have been tagged in a “note”. Similarly, you can search for notes that have tagged you. Like other Facebook features, the privacy level is maintained. Marshall Kirkpatrick at Techcrunch was disappointed that they couldn’t embed a YouTube video or even a Javascript code. But I guess, I can live with that.

Right now, I may not syndicate this blog which is anonymous at least on the face of it and the link to my other “academic” blog is posted on my profile. I don’t use Facebook as much as some of my other friends do so any added features aren’t really helpful to me. But I am glad that Facebook is incorporating such interactive features. I prefer Facebook any day to the largely fake world of MySpace.

Isolatr

The antithesis to social networking — Isolatr. Go away! I am busy…like always

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