Monday, December 1, 2008

Facebook and Web 2.0

Web 2.0 technology has drastically impacted people’s experiences on the World Wide Web. This new and innovative technology has allowed for the development of people to be able to interact and communicate with any user which has access to the Web. According to O’Reilly (2005), Web 2.0 is “a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from the core.” Social networking sites have allowed for inter-connectivity in which people come together to form an online community to discuss current affairs, share opinions, and reach out to form friendships or relationships. One of the most popular and oft used social networking sites available is Facebook. Facebook has incorporated several of the features that Web 2.0 technology has exemplified regarding user to user activity. As with any large business that incorporates interactions between users, Facebook has encountered negative aspects and potential problems that could affect future communication. I have found that Facebook has become a powerful tool of communication in which the benefits outweigh the potential harms.

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, a student at the University of Harvard, wanted to create an online year book that showed the accounts of students at the college. According to Michael Hirschen (2007), Facebook was created to “allow students not only to gawk at one another's photos but also to flirt, network, interact.” As popularity began to soar throughout his college, Zuckerberg opened the possibility to all other colleges around the United States.

A brief overview of Facebook’s functions must start with the ability for any user to create a profile just by having a valid email address. A profile is similar to a “biography” of a person’s life; it consists of stating ones name, hometown, birth date, and a lot of other personal information that if one chooses can fill out. Along with personal identity, Facebook gives the option to tell about personal interests, relationship preferences, and any other favorite activities that people wish to display. After a profile is created, users reach out to establish friendships with either people whom they have an offline relationship with or somebody they are looking to establish a new online relationship with. This is done through what Facebook has established as “friend requests.” Facebook also allows the opportunity for people to come together to form a particular community through the process of group formations. This application brings together users, who in most cases are complete strangers, to discuss their similar interests and express opinions in an asynchronous format. Lastly, Facebook has recently integrated a synchronous chat style through the form of messaging. This faster and more rapid style of communication has many of the same features as American On-line’s Instant Messenger. Users can view on a buddy list that is logged onto Facebook and available to chat with.

Until recently, most members of the Facebook community were under the age of 30. During the start up of Facebook, access was granted to those students who could use a valid email address to verify that they were a college student. As with most successful businesses and organizations, Facebook chose to expand its limits in which members could create a profile and access the network. Anybody with a valid email address could create an account and become a party of the social network. College students are still the primary users of Facebook, but high school students and older adults have been rapidly increasing in popularity.

One of the most basic but oft used features on Facebook is the “Wall” application. This application allows for users to publicly display comments on each other’s profile pages in an asynchronous form. Most of these comments are brief questions regarding how a person is or a witty comment about what they are doing. The “Superwall,” according to Stone (2007), “lets Facebook members leave messages, photos or videos on one another’s profile pages". The main upgrade to this application is it allows users to leave interactive media in a public form. If a person does not want their comment to be public; there is also a form of “email” on Facebook. This interaction allows for people to write longer, more personable messages that can lead in depth conversations. Both applications have enhanced the way users can communicate and have created a form of privacy.

Another social interaction that has occurred of Facebook is the allowance of a “News Feed”. This new feature acts like a daily log of all of the activity that friends in your network have been doing or updating. For example, the log presents to you new photos or comments that are posted within other friends profiles. One can also chose to have a twenty four hour live update into the events and actions that is taking place they are partaking in. The Mini-Feed feature made it a lot easier for people to keep up to date with event and happenings in others live rather than browsing through each particular profile to see if any updates were made. A lot of complaints were put forth when this tool was introduced, and several people called it the “Facebook Stalker Tool.” People did not have the need to know every update that occurred amongst their friends, nor did they need all of their friends to follow every move they did on Facebook. After complaints, this tool became an optional feature in which one could limit the amount of information that is displayed both about them and what they see about others.

Another Web 2.0 technology that Facebook has incorporated into its network is the ability to blog. Blogging acts much like a personal journal, but is available for friends and family to view publicly. This blog is kept under the section of My Notes and can be written in, edited, or deleted at any time. Often times this is a place where people use to either vent about a topic or gain feedback from others pertaining to a subject matter. Also, this is a fast and efficient way to reach out to a large audience to keep everybody posted on you daily occurrences. For example, it is quicker to post a note about an upcoming event or about a public reminder in the blog rather than individually call every user. Also, this section can be set to have only certain individuals the ability and opportunity to read about your blog.

Another feature that has made Facebook so successful is the easiness to reach out and connect with people through linking. When two people become friends on Facebook, the friend list of each other is exposed and some people find this a better way to view people who they may have interest in. Facebook also has a “People Who You May Know” application which accumulates the people that have a certain number of mutual friends. This application is also optional but allows for a two way channel of communication.

Privacy regarding any online activity that one may do is often a cause for great concern. Whether a person is checking their email, paying online bills, or displaying information, privacy has become has major topic. According to Vara (2008), "Facebook has gone to the extent of allowing each individual to treat each of their friends on their own basis"(p 7). That is, the amount of content that can be viewed by people’s friends can be limited to the desired amount. This is particularly important when managing the content that is shared between family, friends, and coworkers. The ability for family to read personal issues rather than coworkers has made for an important advancement concerning privacy.

There are some potential drawbacks to using Facebook. The issue of identity management has become a growing problem in social networks. Identity management is the act of portraying a certain self image to look desirable in the eyes of an audience. A profile account can contain different information across numerous aspects of one’s life such as personal activities, favorite books or movies, and relationship preferences. In an online form, it is very easy to display to others a particular self image in which one might not actually be. For example, people may be reluctant to present that they have a particular sex preference that goes against society’s norms or that their political views may portray a negative image of themselves if it goes against the rest of their friends. There is no technological or social constraint that limits the information people want to display about themselves. This can lead to other problems such as stereotyping certain individuals. In cases when the first interaction one may have with another is through a social network, prejudging is often a problem. Upon arriving at a new college as a freshman, many students “friend” each other on Facebook to find out who people are and what their interests are. If roommates are chosen because interests were aligned, although they were deceptive, it could cause for major problems and concerns.

Another potential problem that has occurred and will continue to occur is in the form of online safety. According to Stone (2008), “Facebook has reached an agreement with 49 state attorneys general to institute a broad set of principles intended to protect young users from online predators and inappropriate material.” This is a positive first step in order to keep younger children from being violated online unknowingly. When Facebook was first started, it allowed only for college students to form accounts and use the network. Young adults were less susceptible to any forms of stalking or harassment for the sake of understanding violation principles. With students as young as five years old now using this site, Facebook needs to monitor the events and make aware the potential hazards that can occur through their site.

Facebook has established a reputation as being a community in which users connect to communicate across a broad spectrum. Besides just individual interactions, Facebook can be a useful tool in getting information out about important issues such as politics or a crisis. According to Palmer (2008), social networks can be used as a“...tool developed for online socializing have been co-opted to help out in times of crisis" (p 24). He uses the example of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, and shows how people positively responded to information about the crisis. The possibilities of outreaching to numerous individuals could be beneficial to all users if properly instituted.

Facebook has allowed for people to branch out and expand their horizons to people all over the world. This powerful tool of communication has allowed users to create or maintain friendships that occur both in the online and offline world. Although there are some potential drawbacks and dangers with using an online social networking site, the affordances Facebook allows in redefining how people communicate can be beneficial to people who utilize the system for its focused agenda. This Web 2.0 application has redefined communication development across the world.

O’Reilly, Tim. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved August 21, 2008 from

Hirschen, Michael. (2007). About Facebook. Atlantic Monthly, October Vol. 300, p. 148-155.

Stone, Brad. (2008). Facebook Agrees to Devise Tools to protect Young Users. New York Times, 05/09/2008.

Vara, Vauhini. (2008). Facebook Increases Privacy Options. Wall Street Journal, Vol 251 p. b7.

Stone, Brad. (2007). In Facebook, Investigating a Theory. New York Times: 10/4/2007.

Palmer, Jason. (2008). Emergency: 2.0 is coming to a website near you. New Scientist, Vol. 198, p24-25.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Keeping Connections in Social Networks

Shirkey (2008) focuses on how relationships within social networks are built and maintained, and some of the strategies that are necessary in order to control vastly expanding networks. The Small World network is used to explain the important functions amongst groups, mainly focusing on the theory of “…small groups connect tightly, and then you connect to other groups” (p. 216). This strategy allows for individual groups to form a stronger relationship between each other, but it is necessary to have a group member that reaches out and links to another group among the network. This horizontal structure is particularly effective because most users aren’t vital to the existence of the network, but only those who are considered as the connectors between groups. These social networks allow people to reach out to friends of friends to gain more knowledge about similar interests that occur between groups.

Another focus of Shirkey in the chapter is how “good” ideas are brought about in organizations. It is best to mix in outsider’s opinions and ideas to gain a 360 degree view of the organization. This will help prevent only mainstream thoughts and ideas that often occur when taking opinions from only with a specific department.

As a current user of both Facebook and MySpace, I often find myself looking through my friend’s buddy list to discover connections that I might not have realized on the surface. Some people that one may want to relate to might slip through the cracks, but the network allows for groups to link out to other people. The theory of having a couple of highly connective people can easily be related to my personal experience in social networks because I have a couple of people who everybody seems to know and have a personal connection with. These people would be vital to the existence of social networks.

Shirkey, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power if organization without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Final Observations on Awful Announcing

In my wrap up of the week of observation, i want to discuss a couple of comments I made with regards to some articles and my level of interactivity among the community. i did notice some patterns that took place in the comment sections of the blog. Most people either didn't comment at all or copied your quote and pasted it into their own comment, usually responding with an "lol" or "haha great post". Very few times were people called out for the content of their posts, and the only significant time I can recall was during the Sunday football games when people disagreed on the teams they were rooting for. There seems to be a common understanding of the community at Awful Announcing; It isn't a place where people go to argue politics or to vent about their lives. It is a place where people can visit and find entertaining information about sports and leave comments that add to the enjoyment of the blog.

Kendall on LiveJournal

Kendall (2007) discusses problematic factors that occur if people chose to express their thoughts and opinions in an online journal. Over the course of two years, Kendall looks at several examples on the website LiveJournal and how people may change their style of writing and their personal thoughts to conform to public acceptance of the writings. Four main themes are incorporated into this experiment and observation which include private journal vs. public performance, efficiency vs. audience management, control vs. connection, and Autonomy vs. the desire for comments.

In some of the examples, there are many reoccurring observations made. People are less likely to deeply express their true emotions and often leave out details of how they feel because it people are worried about the effect of their self in other’s views. Also, the managing of an audience can be a cause for great concern. LiveJournal is a useful tool to get spread information, such as getting engaged, to a large number of people simultaneously. But one problem that may occur is how we interact with certain groups of people. The way a person is around their family can be completely opposite when interacting with social friends, so therefore the context of the message can vastly differ. One last problem is the struggle between control and connection. People can enjoy the control over what they read and post on LiveJournal, but sometimes experience problems when people try and connect with them by commenting on an entry. One of the interviewees said it was “really weird to me to comment back on my own journal” (p. 10).

As opposed to a typical journal, an online journal in which friends and family can read and react to will definitely change the nature of your posts. In my personal experience with posting public information about myself, I’ve felt constrained to saying or listing my exact thoughts or actions simply because they may not be interesting or appealing to other’s thoughts about me. For example, if I was to write a journal that had to do with my personal relationships, I wouldn’t want my mother or father reading into detail every account of my private life.

Kendall, Lori. (2007). "Shout into the wind, and it shouts back." Identity and interactional tensions on LiveJournal. First Monday, 12. Retrieved on August 21, 2008 from

Essay 4: Blogging

Over the past few years, the Internet has introduced a new way for people to display their actions and opinions to a worldwide audience. This new technology, called blogging, has transformed how people interact in the online community. Any user, whether they have experience or are a novice, can easily set up and maintain their blog to discuss any issues, feelings, or personal accomplishments to allow either restricted or public users to view. For my assignment, I have chosen to view the blog Awful Announcing for one week in order to overview and comment on the nature and makeup of this blog. Awful Announcing has two main contributors that post multiple stories daily pertaining primarily to sports. Each entry consists usually of a picture or media clip followed by a short excerpt of the author’s personal opinion. The main theme of the site is to provide humor over knowledge in a casual and informal style. Aaron Barlow (2008) discusses what makes a blog successful, taking six key points from David Benjamin Auerbach’s blog “Waggish”. These six key points include The Short Horizon, Quantity, The Gestalt, Specialization, Instant Feedback, and Need for Triage (p. 75-76).

Awful Announcing has one of the highest authority levels on the blog search engine Technorati. This advises users the particular blog has been interlinked to a high number of other blogs. The first point in successful blogs is the short horizon. This term deals with a blog posting short entries. On Awful Announcing, each entry consists of about one hundred words or less, and can be read rather quickly. Depth and details of each story are not the main focus of the entries. Instead, the authors try to incorporate witty and partially inform readers to the topic they are discussing. This is necessary for successful blogs because people don’t have the time or patients to read a three page story on a sports game or interview.

Quantity is the next point that is emphasized for successful blogging. This point relates closely to the short horizon in the sense that blogs are meant to be kept short, but also posted often. Readers want to be able to read or chose to read from as many postings related to their interests as possible. Posting too many stories in which readers have to select from is more appealing than not having any entries for readers to view. Over the course of a week, there were approximately twelve new entries daily posted on Awful Announcing. This high number of posts has allowed viewers to be able to read all of the day’s news stories in about fifteen minutes .

The gestalt is the third point of focus which pertains to the structure of the blogs. Successful blogs are seen to be less detailed and profound than a typical published article on a major news network. There isn’t a sense of wholeness or completeness regarding the story. Awful Announcing follows this same pattern in writing their entries. Only segments of articles will be looked at and discussed in their columns. Now this may be a problem in a highly respected media outlet that leaves out part of the story to frame or shape the audiences view on the topic, but with blogs they are less professional and briefer.

Specialization of one topic at hand is the next criteria to accomplish a desired community. Awful Announcing has a main focus to deal with top sports stories and mistakes that occur in the sports media. A couple of articles a day did relate to other top stories around the world, particularly to the presidential candidates and the election. As a reader, these stories did not throw off or turn me away from this blog because sports should be viewed as a past time, not as a lifestyle. Being able to extend into national news events once in a while does not take the main purpose of combining humor and sports away.

Instant Feedback is the ability for users to read and respond to the topics that are posted on the blog. Unlike many media outlets, blogs allow for people to express and debate their particular points of view regarding an issue. After every article, there is a comment section that allows members to convey their argument or to contribute humorous remarks about the discussion. This is important to both the users of the community and the authors as well. Public opinions allow for the authors to react and maybe help shape the content that is published on their site.

The sixth and final criterion is the need for triage. This theme has to do particularly to blogs as a whole and not to one particular site. Auerbach argues in Barlow’s book that “a role for aggregators/gatekeepers to point people to selected pieces of content was inevitable” (p. 76). This idea is stating that when people are looking for particular information about a topic that it is important the people have some sense of direction in determining the quality of the content. With millions and millions of blogs, users may view them as consisting only of unique content and not understanding the sources that it may have came from. Sites such as Technorati for example allow users to search for a particular blog that they want to read, and it has a rating system to assist people in finding what they are looking for.

Awful Announcing has all of the criteria that have been stated for creating and maintaining a successful blog. In my exploration into the blogosphere, it is become apparent that the content and structure are a strong determinant in the success of the blogs.

1. Barlow, Aaron. Blogging @merica: The New Public Sphere. CT.: Praeger Publishers, 2008.

Awful Announcing Observations

Awful Announcing, even after my assignment is done, will become an everyday site that I check out. Today I saw the best feature that was posted on the blog. It is a complete schedule of all of the NFL games for the upcoming weekend, and lists the specific times and channels that each game will be on. Also, the voting was in for the quotes of the week and it was humorous to read everybody's reactions on the "awful announcing" that occured during last weeks game.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11th

Awful Announcing seems to be a very interactive blog where users take place in a lot of events. For instance, users get to vote for the "Pammy Awards" which basically lists the most outrageous quotes from the week that announcers have said, and put them into a voting forum. Another feature is a create the caption contest where the blog posts a random photo and users get to use clever one line phrases to sum up the actions in the photo. Sunday was the busiest day of the blog, particularly due to the NFL. Comment sections were heavily overloaded during the afternoon games with people expressing their opinions about the games going on.