Just before Christmas [I have only just waded through my RSS feeds] the Wall Street Journal had a piece about the problems of defriending people:
Unfriending online “friends” is emerging as the latest offense in the world of social networking.
People who are so easily offended are highly unlikely to talk to me long enough to ever make it onto my “friends” list, but nonetheless my defriending decisions have occassionally been controversial:
1) My brother: defriended for having appalling taste in music and expressing it regularly in his status.
2) My girlfriend: defriended when her annoying friends’ comments started appearing in my newsfeed.
Defriending is a necessary part of the long term use of social network sites, after all, do we really want to spend the rest of our lives with a social life clogged-up with those friends we made as five year olds?
The biggest problem with the current defriending system is its secretive nature. Defriendees would probably be more accepting of a defriending if the defriender was forced to inform them of the reasons why, rather than letting them find out on their own. Defriending without telling them why just strikes me as rude. It is worth noting, however, that however well you explain why you defriended your girlfriend, she is highly unlikely to be understanding.
I just noticed that my Facebook blog widget is publishing in French for some reason:
Words fail me.
Looking at ComScore’s top U.K. web rankings for September 2008 there is one big story: the greatest broadcaster the world has ever known (i.e., the BBC) has been overtaken on the web in the UK by a social network site most famous for ‘the poke’ (i.e., the Facebook).
Whilst I have never been one to subscribe to the Daily Mail’s mantra that ‘the world has gone to hell in a handcart’, you can’t help but despair on days like this. The future’s bleak, the future is filled with flying sheep and zombie bites. It will be interesting to see how the Mail deal with the story. Do they spin it as the “BBC letting things slip” or “Armageddon due as world’s youth communicate”? So much fear and hatred and only one small paper.
The BBC has a massive site with loads of great stuff, but unfortunately most people just go to the same few small areas. Everyone should go to the BBC this minute and surf an area they haven’t been to before!
One of the most interesting stories of the last week has been Facebook’s introduction of their lexicon tool, “a tool to follow language trends across Facebook” (via All Facebook). Whilst the information provided is very simplistic, merely showing the rising and fall of the terms’ popularity rather than specific numbers, it will be interesting to see how the popularity of terms equates to those that are searched for in Google (available via Google Trends). Are those terms that appear in wall posts the same as those that appear in Facebook wall posts? And do they follow the same trends?
For a quick comparison I took data from the two services for the term Christmas, a popular term that could be expected to vary over the year:
Unsurprisingly they both peak around the Christmas period, although the peak is much more pronouced on Facebook…all those Merry Christmas posts. To a certain extent the differences in these graphs is to be expected, but I’m sure that there will be a host of far more interesting comparisons in the months ahead.
As I sat in my dentist’s waiting room yesterday (no work necessary, thanks for asking), I read a report in the Daily Telegraph about the first man who has been taken to court in the UK for allegedly harassing his ex-girlfriend via Facebook.
Whilst all new communication technologies seem to eventually make it to court for allegedly involving harassment, surely after the first unwanted sheep or two had been thrown in the ex-girlfriend’s direction, or he had poked her once too often, she would have simply de-friended him. As the trial is only up the road I am almost tempted to go along later in the month and find out exactly the role Facebook took, surely it was a minor part that the media have decided to focus on.
UPDATE: The defendent has been cleared according to the Register 27/03/08
One of the Facebook issues that is often discussed is the juggling of friends from different spheres. Would you want professional colleagues seeing what you had been up to on a drunken night out? The vicar to see your debauched holiday snaps?
An issue that is often overlooked is whether you really want to know the continuous goings-on of certain people’s lives. Today I finally gave up and de-friended my brother:
Whilst his status could not be seen by any of my friends, and he never felt the need to write inappropriate comments on my wall, a person’s status can slowly drive you mad.
Unfortunately de-friending on Facebook is a rather un-momentous affair. Merely being asked if you are sure you want to go ahead, told you won’t be able to undo it, and told that the person will not be informed. Facebook should allow you to inform the person and provide the reason if you wish. As it was I had to resort to the traditional email to explain my actions. Maybe I should have looked for a de-friending application that offered to send some sort of animated e-card.
In the heat of summer when I was an avid Facebook user, before the fatigue kicked in, I signed up for the Poke 1.0 conference, an afternoon conference on the topic of Facebook. I am pleased to say that despite my own fatigue with Facebook, the conference was definitely worth the train fare (and not just because the university paid for it).
For me personally the highlight (with just the one lecture still to go) was the initial (primarily quantitative) talk on the use of Facebook in the UK, basically according to Neilsen’s Netratings whichever way you cut the cake its the UK’s biggest social network. They provided many more details than is usually provided in the press releases of sites such as Compete and with the promise of slides and videos of the conference being placed on the London Knowledge Labs web site, it will be worth looking up.
Whilst the commercial speakers were giving quantitative details, the academics seem to be stuck with qualitative data. Stuck is probably a bit of a harsh term, after all qualitative is a recognised methodological choice. I do wonder however how much is choice and how much is the lack of access to the quantitative data. There seems to be a need for greater collaboration between different departments and between commercial organisations and academia.
AllFacebook have pointed to a Facebook poll which asked Facebook users the question:
Would you pay $3.99 a month to not ever see ads on Facebook?
Unsurprisingly 95% answered with a ‘no’. Whilst there may be a bit of quibling about the suitability of the wording of the question, the result is far from surprising.
The average Facebook page is filled with rubbish, people throwing sheep, buying beers, being bitten by zombies (or werewolves or vampires), with the list of pointless applications growing on a daily basis. Scrolling amongst the rubbish the adverts are often a welcome moment of sanity, a welcome exit strategy from the turmoil of Facebook.
Anyway, even if you did pay for an ad-free Facebook, there would still be numerous ads included in the embedded applications. Only a fool would pay.