Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From the Useful to the Inane

I joined Facebook late this summer after some gentle coaxing from my friend Joe. After creating the account I went about searching for friends (the 35 and over demographic, while growing, is still somewhat unrepresented), adding applications, joining groups, uploading some photos and wondering if I shouldn't poke the Facebook doppelgangers who share my name. Perhaps I'll start a group for my fellow Chris Breitenbachs, if anything to discover where the Christopher Breitenbach from Poughkeepsie, New York picked up the fantastic Spiderman shirt he's wearing in his Profile picture.

An article in last weeks Economist had this to say:

Facebook has made two genuine breakthroughs. The first was its decision to let outsiders write programs and keep all the advertising revenues these might earn. This has led to all kinds of widgets, from the useful (comparing Facebookers' music and film tastes, say) to the inane (biting each other to become virtual zombies).... Facebook's second masterstroke is its “mini-feed”, an event stream on user pages that keeps users abreast of what their friends are doing—uploading photos, adding a widget and so on. For many users, this is addictive and is the main reason they log on so often. Jerry Michalski, a consultant, calls the mini-feed a “data exhaust” that gives Facebook users “better peripheral vision” into the lives of people they know only casually. This mini-feed is so far the clearest example of using the social graph in a concrete way.

That seems about right. Seeing what films my friends have checked out or what books they're currently reading offer small but intimate glimpses into their lives. I like that. Should they desire to turn me into a virtual zombie, that's fine. The "mini-feed" is even better, an aggregate of everything my friends have posted. Just today, for example, my friend Dennis updated his Profile picture, Joe and Heath saved some links on and I took a look at what book Jeanne is reading.

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