Monthly Archives: September 2010

Strong ties, weak ties, social software and online friendship

Relationships are hard. Friendships take time to build, even if annealed in the heat of a moment. Often they’re situational, forged in school, work, church, or sporting teams, and may fade over time if not renewed regularly.

Online social networking can change that, to a certain extent, but asking people with whom you have weak ties to continually renew them asks a lot. Those with strong ties may tolerate it and continue to follow new accounts, accept requests, correct links or the like. Or even a Like. Until we have an interoperable social graph that can be saved, exported and imported between social networks, we’re wedded to our investments in sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and whatever is coming next, whether it’s Diaspora, Foursquare, Ping or Twitcher. The relationships we build in those networks are the social ties that find, as Professor McAfee put it.

To ground that risk in recent events, my colleague in tech journalism, George Hulme, accidentally deleted his Twitter account this month and has had to ask people to follow the new one. Tough row to hoe, though all of the social capital he’s amassed means he’s already back to 583 follows and 42 lists.

People with weaker ties are unlikely to reconnect unless their interest is sufficiently strong based upon the perceived value of the reconnection. Social karma derives in part from the strength of that past relationship.

I think that’s variably true on the Web, at work or on private social networks. The value of link, follow or fan differs from network to network, as does its permanence. To stop following people on Twitter is much different than to unfriend someone or Facebook or delink on LinkedIn, for instance. In a workplace, where enterprise social software is deployed it could be a huge issue.

These technologies allow us to enrich our networks with many important weaker ties, although sometimes at the cost of investing in reinforcing the stronger ones.

In that vein, I’m looking forward to a family celebration tomorrow where the social circle is as wide as the dinner table, deep as a lifetime and the tweets come from the trees around the patio.

Here’s to being better friends.

UPDATE: Shaun Dakin shared some research in the comments from Paul Adams, a usability researcher at Google, that’s relevant. The Real Life Social Network v2.


Filed under friends, social bookmarking, technology

Priceless: Futurama lampoons the eyePhone and “Twitcher”

As a huge fan of Matt Groening, a long-time Apple customer and a serious Twitter user, I found a recent episode of Futurama, “Attack of the Killer App,” to be crackling good satire. Excerpt below:

Yes, I know this all blew up back in July. I saw it tonight, and it made me laugh. The episode pokes fun at pokes fun at Apple and iPhone customers in all sorts of ways, along with viral video and Internet culture. As Engadget pointed out, Futurama critiqued modern gadget and social media obsession using 50s technology. The folks over at also highlighted that this is far from the first time Futurama has satirized Apple:

Futurama’s focus on Apple is, of course, nothing new. Series co-founders David X. Cohen and Matt Groening are both big Apple nerds. We previously chronicled Futurama’s subtle and comical use of Apple and Mac references over here.

The viral Twitworm that creates many zombies is one of the best pop references to botnets and IT security I’ve seen recently, too. And there was one more (seriously geeky) detail that Engadget, Edible Apple and Mashable missed:

“When did the Internet become about losing your privacy?” asks Fry.

“August 6, 1991”-Bender.

Why? That was the day when Tim Berners-Lee posted “a short summary of the WorldWideWeb project online. The real world has never been the same since.

WorldWideWeb – Executive Summary

The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system.

The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.

Reader view

The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (“virtual”) document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (“HTTP”) is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.

The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme. To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.

UPDATE: Ok, ok, sharp-eyed readers: The AVClub totally got that Bender reference.


Filed under research, scifi, social media, technology, Twitter, video

Dupont Farmers Market and Adams Morgan Festival


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From Washington to Mount Vernon


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