Thoughts on Session 2

How important is geographic proximity in social networking?

Anders Albrechtslund briefly mentioned the trend of geotagging in social networking sites. He specifically mentions mobile social software apps that use your location information (Mobile Social Software, or MoSoSo). One MoSoSo application that I use from time to time is BrightKite, which allows you to post where you are, along with an optional note or picture. However, you do not need to use a MoSoSo application to post your location. A popular use of Facebook status messages and Twitter is to post a little message about where you’re going. Users usually do this in order to get other people to join them (some people call the meeting of friends via Twitter “Tweetups”). Users may also mention it to get comments from their friends (i.e. Is this restaurant any good? Did you like this movie? etc.). I’ve been following some people in the Twitter community here in Hawaii and found that it is an excellent way of finding out what’s going on in the city.

In his paper, Albrechtslund seems to have mentioned MoSoSo because surveillance is different in this context. Certainly, the user is now making even more information available. Besides their personal information and interests, they are now posting the places they frequent the most. Like most social computing applications, MoSoSo applications tend to have privacy filters that allow you hide updates to people that are not in your friends list. Some applications also allow you to change the accuracy of your posts. For example, in BrightKite, you might want to let your friends know exactly where you are. For people you don’t know, you can set it so that BrightKite only displays the city your posting occurred in. When displaying location data, the user really needs to be careful of where they are when they post. When applications were first made available for the iPhone, many users posted pictures from their house. This wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t also posted their location for everyone to see! As far as I know, Flickr does not have the same type of privacy filters that MoSoSo applications have. Even though I have my privacy settings set, I’m wary of using any MoSoSo application while I’m at home. This is one way in which surveillance in MoSoSo applications differ from surveillance in SNSs.

Galston’s article briefly mentions “accidents of proximity” and how people online choose to be friends with people based on interests and not because they randomly encountered them while walking around. However, a big reason why people friend each other in MoSoSo applications is because they frequent common areas. This is what drew me to the local Twitter community. I think then that it is only natural that in any SNS, people will expand their network beyond their friends by first adding people that live nearby. I’ll investigate this by joining the SNS 20 Something Bloggers.

20 Something Bloggers is “a place for all twenty something bloggers to get discovered or find other bloggers they relate to”. It’s a relatively small SNS (4,456 members at time of posting) based on Ning. The requirements are that you must be between the ages of 20-29 (which I am) and that you must have a blog (which means that some members may be reading this very post). Joining 20 Something Bloggers was relatively easy; I provided my name, profile image, some brief information about myself, and a reason why people should read my blog. The membership request is then sent off to an admin who needs to approve it. Thus, the membership is somewhat stronger than other SNSs, but the request was approved in a few minutes. I first performed a search for “Hawaii” in their groups section. After finding none, I searched the members list for people in Hawaii. The search returned 14 members (not including myself). In the groups tab, I found a few other location based groups (Nebraska, Kansas, Nova Scotia, New Yorkers, etc.). I always thought that people from Hawaii had a great deal of pride for where they come from and was surprised to see that we had no representation on 20 Something Bloggers. Perhaps I will create the group and blog my experiences at another time.

How many voices can you listen to?

cartoons drawn on the back of business cards

Comic from gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards"



I can definitely relate to the points brought up by Hague in the article “Usefulness and the Banality of Business”. Take the iPhone App Store for instance. The 3rd top paid application (as of this posting) is Sound Grenade Pro (iTunes link), which plays “seriously sickening sounds”. One of the top reasons for buying the app is to annoy friends and co-workers. The application costs $0.99, of which Apple takes 30%. I have heard that an app needs to sell about 500 per day to make it to the top 25. This means that Sound Grenade Pro is making about $350 per day! Maybe I need to stop trying to think of “useful” applications and just go for whatever comes to mind. Something useful could come out of my Twitter feed even if they’re just from people posting about their everyday lives. Perhaps a person I’m following on Twitter is wondering why I follow their “useless” posts.

Rosen’s article “Virtual Friendship and the new Narcissism” discusses how many SNSs prominently display the number of friends you have and that it encourages “frantic friend procurement”. I’m being followed by people on Twitter who follow in excess of 20,000 other Twitter users? Maybe I’m contradicting myself, but following updates from that many users seems useless to me. It’s far too much to process at any given time. It’s definitely a badge of honor for these “super users”, but maintaining that many social connections, no matter how weak, has to be a chore. If a super user were following Thordora, would they have noticed her tweet about smothering her baby, let alone done something?

I noticed on Facebook that there is a group doing the “Six Degrees of Separation” experiment. I would think that when tracking these connections, every user will probably go through at least one “super user”; one that has a lot of weak connections to other Facebook users. While their results have not been published, I would like to see if there are indeed six degrees of separation or if it’s fewer. I would guess that a user on Facebook has at most 3 degrees of separation from a super user (for most users, I would guess that it’s probably 2 degrees). I would also think that these super users are probably connected to each other (they’re all trying to boost their friend count after all), so maybe another connection or two until you find the user who is closest to the person you’re looking for. I’d love to see the results of the experiment and see if my thoughts are correct.


6 Responses to “Thoughts on Session 2”

  1. 1 keokilee February 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    If you’re looking for other random social networking sites to try, here’s a link to a Mashable post from a few days ago. This is where I found 20 Something Bloggers.

  2. 2 Rich Gazan February 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Interesting point about Twitter superusers. With such a volume of tweets to follow, it’s hard to imagine there are enough hours in the day for those folks to have anything in their life to tweet back about. Then the question becomes their motivation, other than watching the number of contacts grow. Might it be akin to people who leave the television on for company?

    I definitely think there is such a thing as a community of a manageable size, and 20 Something Bloggers seems to fit that description. You mention that you’re the only person from Hawaii, and I suspect you’ll get some follows because of it. Represent us well!

  3. 3 Linnea February 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    The six degrees of separation concept is interesting…I just wonder though at what we consider a connection. Is there a critical mass? I remember high school and the popularity contests. I have never understood the drive to have the most friends. I think it’s the quality that matters. And, if you think about it, there is a certain exclusivity to RL popularity contests…. I have different terms to describe my real world relationships. I have best friends, friends, and aquaintances. I have family, colleagues, and peers. We rank our connections with terminology like this in RL, but, in my experience thus far, there is no way to explicitly rank our connections online other than to befriend or defriend. We must keep the rank in our heads or by sorting “friends” into different groups. It would be interesting to see just who I am “connected” to…I just would wonder at the true nature of those connections.

  4. 4 as_ics691 February 7, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Thank you for your insights into the different types of “geotagging” options. I haven’t heard of BrightKite. It’s interesting (and somewhat ironic) how we make more personal information available (even though to select groups) to set up a more advanced (secure) privacy filtering. I also enjoyed reading your comment on the importance of geographic proximity in social networking. This is one aspect of social computing that I haven’t given much thought to. In my own experiment with social network sites for this assignment, I picked a couple of groups that are bonded by the common interest in all things Southeast Asia rather than geographic proximity (my academic background is in Southeast Asia studies). As far as I can see in the publicly accessible profiles, the members are quite spread out around the world (though mainly in the Asia-Pacific and Europe). After reading your post, I can certainly see how geographic proximity matters to some users because they are looking for current information that could have immediate impact on their plans and activities (i.e. where you dine and hang out tonight, what movies to catch this weekend etc).

  5. 5 Stacy February 8, 2009 at 11:42 am

    And I thought I was doling out too much information! I guess you should call me old fashioned. I just can’t imagine using an app like Brightkite but I can imagine my 20something nephew using it. While scary and interesting at the same time, geotagging and location information software is the new frontier for me while being indispensable for someone younger. Having started out this life with relatively low self-esteem, it wouldn’t occur to me that anyone would be that interested in my day to day life. After I joined facebook, however, I find myself posting inane little nothings for the whole community to see like, “I’m doing laundry” or “We just won our soccer game”
    Why? Why do I do this? Don’t forget that I’m also spending time reading the other banalities posted by my cohorts. Sometimes,
    there is a golden nugget posted that is so clever and funny, we all get a kick out of it. For instance, we started posting comments that included old commercial tags. You know, “my baloney has a first name…” and “I’ll have another Nutter Butter Peanut Butter sandwich cookie…” but so cleverly wound into conversation that it was indeed a beauty to behold.
    I guess that one-in-a-million gem of a post is what I hang around for. For the most part, I feel a connection to the people in my community and that connection comes out of the banality, the normalcy, and the reality that we are all human and we all do laundry.

  6. 6 Manda February 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    It seems that a lot of people are adding other Twitter users simply to get exposure; they’re not reading 20,000 users, obviously. Just due to my location on twitter I’ve been added by a few clearly commercial accounts (Ala Moana, a reality TV show based here). A blog I read has a twitter account to alert of new posts. Several companies have twitter accounts where consumers can leave messages @ them and there’s a surprising rate of response. So there’s certainly individual social communities that form on twitter, but there are business communities that form as well…and people who add others just to get friended back, and read.

    In terms of why people might read your twitter, I think we have an inherent curiosity about other peoples’ lives – especially so if we know that person. But sometimes people just want to read about someone because they think they’re interesting, or have a shared interest – no, it’s not “useful” in that it produces money for us most of the time (unless you’re Tila Tequila), but it’s a look into someone else’s life that may reassure or be relaxing. Unless, of course, you’re the Theodora readers.

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