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The world “diggs” virtual farming for social gaming online [#RusTechDel]

Russians and Americans both love virtual farming?

The popularity of  Zynga’s “Farmville” for among Facebook’s 400 million users is well known. Given 69 million active monthly players, Farmville is bigger than Twitter.

A less publicized statistic is that users of Russia’s top social network, VKontakte.ru, also have a farming application the top social game.

Earler today, I met Nick Wilsdon, a Russian online marketer, by following the #RusTechDel hashtag on Twitter.  (In doing so, I was reminded again that #hashtags on Twitter are like channels on cable TV.) I asked Wilsdon if he knew how many unique visitors vKontackte & others receive monthly.

Wilsdon answered with a quick report on vKontackte and Odnoklassniki.ru. According to the statistics he cites, “Happy Farmer” has more than 6 million users and revenues estimated at $200 million dollars per month.

Judging from the gallery of Happy Farmer fans at English Russia, the social game has inspired a passionate following.

And, as a post at The Next Web points out, a farming game is atop the list of most popular social games in China.

Whether or not gaming addiction is an issue, China’s burgeoning social gaming market shows how popular – and profitable – this phenomenon has become.

As VentureBeat’s reporting on online faming games suggests, there’s a “new agrarian revolution” in China. It’s tempting to summarize a global interest in social gaming on the farm as a common virtue, as millions tend virtual gardens for a few minutes every day across different cultures.  It would be lovely if it spoke to yuor shared interest in growing things.

Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to virtual farming parallel to perils of factory farming in the real world: the profit motive.

As Elliott Ng writes:

Some fear that this new social farming revolution may not contribute to the positive development of society. A central feature of social farm games in China is stealing vegetables. Official state media People’s Daily reports that 70 percent of users on Kaixin001 cite it as their favorite feature, and it has even spawned the popular phrase “How many vegetables have you stolen today?”

This key addictive feature has created news stories of business executives “obsessed” with stealing vegetables and broken relationships over vegetables stolen on the night shift. The game is so addictive — with players setting alarm clocks at all hours of the night to check crops — that it 
“destroys jobs and relationships.”

“Simplicity and stickiness are behind the global epidemic of farm games. Anyone can learn to grow crops within minutes and reap a reward for getting friends — or the entire office — addicted too,” said BloggerInsight Co-Founder Lucas Englehardt.

There’s a business in serving that intense interest, along with providing others a means to slay monsters in World of Warcraft. There’s no small amount of psychology at work behind the incentive structures of these games, as designer look for ways to induce users to spend money on virtual good or services. And, as Michael Arrington pointed out in “Scamville” in TechCrunch last year, the “social gaming ecosystem” can lead to bad behavior.

For good or ill, however, more of us are planting virtual seeds each day.

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At the NPR and PBS unconference, 2009 is the year of “We, the media”

John Boland at Pubcamp

John Boland at Pubcamp

“TV, radio and pro journalism still matter in this new ecosystem”-John Boland, PBS.

This past weekend, I attended Public Media Camp, an unconference at American University in Washington, D.C.

I came away from the two days of sessions, talks, informal discussions, random encounters and rapid-fire information exchange inspired, exhilarated and a bit exhausted. That last is why it took a day to get a post up. By its nature, I couldn’t go to everything. What I did attend, I tried to take notes upon and livestream to Livestream.com and uStream. When it comes to the archiving that video, unfortunately, I endured two crashes and suffered from the lack of a decent mic. Happily, much better video will be coming online from other sources over the next week. What follows are my thoughts, links and video from “Pubcamp.”

Citizen Journalism and public media

The first session of the day remains one of the most memorable. Citizen journalists and local bloggers have much to learn from – and about – one another. “We the media” is a theme I pick up later in this post. Suffice it to say that democratization of the tools for information sharing has taken some producers unaware and left many stations understaffed, at least at the level it takes to effectively engage with those in the community creating the content. That said, many NPR editors and writers are doing quietly effective work in finding, engaging and collaborating with bloggers in the community. I mentioned Universal Hub in Boston, although I’ll leave it to Adam Gaffin, Radio Boston and WBUR to relate exactly how well that relationship works.

@jessieX referenced the tensions in this session in her post on generational differences, “My Takeaway,” where she captures the insight she shared with me in person.

Video of the  citizen journalism session is available on-demand.

Tools for curation of audience-generated content

This was one of the best attended sessions of Public Media Camp and, due to any number of reasons, one of the best, at least in my view. The standing room-only group was organized into as a circle and shared dozens of useful tools and services that can aid stations and editors in aggregating, organizing, filtering and curating pictures, video and text generated from listeners.”We all want to open up the floodgates to UGC and crowdsourcing but there’s issues of trust,” said Andrew Kuklewicz.

My favorite metaphor from Public Media came from Andy Carvin here, in the idea of “trust clouds,” or the social network of people around us that represent who we can believe, retweet, link or otherwise invest with our own reputation. A tool for doing just that if at Trustmap.org. Newstrust.net also came up as “a guide to good journalism.”

Such tools and relationships are critical to both the use of user generated content by stations and the decision of readers and listeners to trust and, in the social media world, pass on information. As I commented during the session, increasingly consumers of media follow bylines, not masthead. To borrow David Weinberger’s phrase, “transparency is the new objectivity.” By showing readers how and where the audience was sourced in real-time, media organizations can make a stronger case for the veracity of such information.

Tools included:

Greg Linch shared the approach to curation that Publish2 takes: “Social Journalism: Curate the Real-Time Web.”

Social Media Success

The most obvious case study in social media success may be Andy Carvin himself. The impact of his efforts have been deep and far-reaching throughout NPR’s shows and staffers. As Amy Woo put it, “I feel the same way about Andy and his tweeting as I do about Diane Rehm.”

Carvin offered compelling examples of success, like an NPR partnership with content discovery service Stumbleupon to create a reciprocal connection w/Twitter. With a little tweaking, a retweet can equal a stumble.

Another site, criticalexposure.org, “teaches kids to take pics as a way to be advocates for social change,” said Carvin.

He also said that NPR’s Facebook fan page generates some 8% of NPR web traffic. Their testing shows 1 post every 60-90 minutes is ideal for audience. That connection came courtesy of a listener, at least at the outset: The NPR fan page on Facebook was created by a fan. That fan then gave it back to the organization, says Jon Foreman. Carvin’s curation of public radio content took it to the next level.

Hurricanewiki is likely to be cited as a classic case in social media success, where more than five hundred people came together, organized through Twitter by @acarvin. You can see the results  at Hurricanewiki.org. Carvin also created a hurricane resources community for Gustav on Ning, built in about 48 hours.

One example that came up in multiple sessions is NPR’s Vote Report . Jessica Clark and Nina Keim wrote a report on it: “Building #SocialMedia Infrastructure to Engage Publics.” And while Carvin pointed out where Vote Report fell short, the idea behind enabling listeners to “help NPR identify voting problems” holds some promise. The use of social media for election monitoring is spreading globally now, as can be seen in Votereport.in in India.

The was a different issue with InaugurationReport:- volume. Carvin said that there was simply “too much social media content to effectively curate.” By way of contrast, even a few hundred engaged listeners could effectively use the #factcheck hashtag by http://npr.org/blogs/politics to fact check the U.S. presidential debates in real-time.

Greg Linch shared a collection of social media guidelines curated at Publish2, including NPR’s social media guidelines. There’s a careful eye keeping watch here on the ethics that go with the new territory: the @NPR ombudsman was present (she’s @ombudsman on Twitter) and brought attention to how the public will relate to any perceived bias shown on social media platform.

A standard for conduct matters. It’s not all peaches and cream, after all, given the ugliness that online discourse descend into on many occasions. “Posting on our site is a privilege, not a right,” said Carvin regarding the scrum on comment trolls, online spammers & NPR sites.

Video of the social media success session is available online at uStream.com.

Public Media and Gaming

One of the more entertaining and creative sessions at Public Media Camp was the hour on gaming. Educational gaming can raise literacy rates in children, after all – could NPR deliver further by reaching into this interactive medium? Nina Wall (@missmodular) said, in fact, that PBS Kids will soon have available an API similar to NPR’s for educational games.

An excellent summary of this discussion can be found at AmericanObserver.net. Video of the public media and gaming session is available online at uStream.com.

PictureTheImpossible is one intriguing example of the genre. The online, community-based game jointly developed by RIT & the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

The discussion also included  Kongregate and their “social gaming” model, which provides a platform & revenue share for developers. Could NPR follow suit?

Or what if NPR created a fantasy league for news? Points could be accrued for newsgathering, with players trading shows or writers.

It’s been done for politics – check out the case study of an @NPR fantasy league, from Julia Schrenkler: Minnesota Public Radio’s “fantasy legislature.”

My favorite suggestion, however, came from Andy Carvin: a social “Wait, Wait, don’t tell me!” game where the audience can create news quizzes and then challenge one another on Facebook or the Web.

Social Media FAIL

The first FAIL from Andy Carvin? When the hype around crowdsourcing with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk didn’t deliver. Here’s the Wired story on questions about crowdsourcing.

Video of the social media FAIL session is available on-demand. Amy Woo and other attendees offered many more examples of failures.

Apps for Public Media

The last session of Pubcamp kicked off with a description of @AppsForDemocracy by Peter Corbett. Interesting examples about:

ParkItDC helps people find parking in DC, including which meters are broken.

AreYouSafeDC shows potential threats.

StumbleSafely is a guide to bars & avoiding crime in DC.

FixMyCityDC is a web-based application that allows users to submit service requests by problem type.

And the winner, DC311, enables iPhone access (download from iTunes) to the District’s 311 city service site, coupled with a  Facebook App.

There’s more to come: In 2 years, the vision laid out by Corbett  includes “muni data standardization, open civic app ecology and the ‘real-time muni web.’ And in 5 years, the vision for includes ideas seemingly lifted out of science fiction: augmented civic reality, AI-driven civic optimization & “virtual flow working.”

What could be created for public media? Apps that enable listeners to create channels from the API for specific topics. Apps that combine real-time data feeds from government sources with local bloggers and radio stations. Apps that allow listeners to help filter the flood of information around events, like the Vote Report project.

Why develop such apps? Andy Carvin believes that  “the line between content, services & apps is blurring. To create a more informed public, it now takes more.” To not create such innovation would, in effect, be irresponsible.

More posts, eclectica and public media resources

The PBS News Hour has partnered with the Christian Science Monitor on “Patchwork Nation.”

The work of Doc Searls at the Berkman Center on “vendor relationship management” came up, mentioned by one Keith Hopper. More details at http://projectvrm.org.

FrontlineSMS.com is a free group text messaging tool for nonprofit that is useful in disaster and crisis response.

Swiftapp.org was shared by @kookster: free, #opensource toolset for crowdsourced situational awareness.

Plenty of social media application develop is going on at PBS. Their social media guru, Jonathan Coffman,  pointed to the tools at PBS.org/engage.

The Participatory Culture Foundation has launched Videowtf.com.

Economystory.org is a cooperative effort of public media producers to provide financial literacy.

Check out Radio Drupal and Radioengage.com for open source public netcasting information.

Session notes for @PublicMediaCamp are going up at the wiki at PublicMediaCamp.org and are being aggregated under #pubcamp on Delicious.com by Peter Corbett.

My Takeaways

There a lot of smart, savvy, funny geeks in public media, passionate about delivering on the core mission of education, media literacy and good  journalism.

This same cadre is pushing innovative boundaries, whether it’s engaging the audience, creating new technology platform or expanding the horizons of computer assisted reporting. Database journalism is alive and well at NPR – just look at this visualization of the U.S. power grid.

Vivian Schiller said during her keynote that “2009 was the year everything changed.” Out of context, that statement drew raised eyebrows online. In person, there was more clarity. The massive disruption to the newspaper and traditional media industry is now resulting in significant layoffs and a seachange in how people experience events, share information and learn about the issues. Despite the issues presented by ingesting a torrent of new sources of information, the concept of “We the media” has deep roots, given that so many more people now have the ability to contribute news and help analyze it now that the tools for communication have been democratized and often made freely available online.

What’s missing in that fluid mix of updates, streams and comments is trust in veracity. As we all move into the next decade of the new millennium, the central challenge of public media may be making sense of the noise, taking much the same approach that it has in the past century: report on what’s happening, where it happened, who did it and why it’s important, with a bit more assistance from the audience. Given the loyalty of tens of millions of listeners, “we the media” might just have some legs.

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digiphile: Next up from @acarvin’s presentation of #socialmedia successes: @VoteReport: “Help NPR Identify Voting Problems” http://j.mp/1fysxf #pubcamp

digiphile: Next up from @acarvin’s presentation of #socialmedia successes: @VoteReport: “Help NPR Identify Voting Problems” http://j.mp/1fysxf #pubcamp
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Top 50 Twitter Acronyms, Abbreviations and Initialisms

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

This past January,  I wrote up the “Top 15 Twitter acronyms” for @pistachio‘s Touchbase blog. As readers rightly pointed out, many were abbreviations or initialisms – hence the title for this post. I followed that up with a “Top 10 NSFW Twitter Abbreviations.” This list combines the two, and includes key additions like HT, RE and FML. If you have others you think I missed, please add ’em in the comments – and follow me on Twitter!

@
Reply to [username]

AFAIK
As Far as I Know

b/c
Because

BFN
Bye For now

BR
Best Regards

BTW
By the Way

DM
Direct Message. d username sends one.

EM
Email

FB
Facebook

FF
Usually #FF for Follow Friday. #FollowFriday is supposed to work better than it does. If you #FF someone, take the characters to explain why.

FFS
For F–k’s Sake

FML
F–k My Life

FTF
Face To Face. Also, F2F. Or the Fair Trade Federation. Many other options.

FTL
For The Loss

FTW
For The Win

FWD
Forward

FWIW
For What It’s Worth

HT
Hat tip

HTH
Hope That Helps

IMHO
In My Humble Opinion

IMO
In My Opinion

IRL
In Real Life

JV
Joint Venture

J/K
Just Kidding

LI
LinkedIn

LMAO
Laughing My Ass Off

LMK
Let Me Know

LOL
Laughing Out Loud

MT
Modified Tweet

NSFW
Not Safe For Work

OH
Overheard

OMFG
Oh My F–king God

OMG
Oh My God

PRT
Partial Retweet (at the start of a tweet). Sometimes “Please Retweet” Old School: Party

RE
In reply to. As in, use RE for @replies on Twitter. Used in front of the @ to ensure all followers can see the conversation. Further ontext: “Community, @replies, #fixreplies and Change

RR
Re-Run

RT
Retweet

RTF
Read The FAQ. RTFF shows up too. RTF also stands for Rich Text File.

RTFM
Read The F-ing Manual

RTHX
Thanks For The ReTweet

SNAFU
Situation Normal All F–ked Up

SOB
Son Of a Bitch

STFU
Shut The F–k Up

TMB
Tweet Me Back

TMI
Too Much Information

via
My one cheat: “via” is not an abbreviation or acronym. It simply means that a tweet is from @username, though in some cases it may mean that it’s also an exact retweet. Tricky, this online user-defined lingo and twitribution is.

WTF
What The F–k

WTH
What The Hell

YMMV
Your Mileage May Vary

YW
You’re Welcome

BONUS:

Since this list was first published, some of these have become more popular and others have emerged. RT is still – by far – the most frequent acronym. New additions are added below, along with many suggestions in the comments.

TIL
Today I learned.

NB
Nota Bene. Make sure to read the comments, where there are many great additions.

ICYMI
In Case You Missed IT [HT @BrianStelter]

Update: Justin Kownacki thinks we should stop saying “in case you missed it” on Twitter. (That includes ICYMI, too.) I agree.

CX
Correction

RTQ
Read The Question or Retweet Question

STFW
Search The F —ing Web

TL
Timeline

TL;DR
Too long; Didn’t Read.

TT
Translated Tweet.

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RLRT: Real Life Retweet. To repeat on Twitter what someone said in person.

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MIT Panel: “Machines with eyes & texting spies” [privacy]

"Spies and texting eyes panel at MIT"

"Spies and texting eyes panel at MIT"

“Big Brother has nothing on growing up as a minister’s daughter in a small town.”

Shava Nerad, Development Director / former Executive Director of the Tor Project, offered that trenchant observation in the context of a panel on privacy held at the MIT Museum earlier this month,”Machines with spies & texting eyes: The shifting lines of public/private.” As she noted, she’s been writing provocative things on the Internet since 1982 so this isn’t exactly out of character.

Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, moderated the panel.  Judith Donath (Director of the Sociable Media Group), Aaron Swartz (Founder of watchdog.net and reddit.com) and Benjamin Waber, (Researcher, Human Dynamics Group at the MIT Media Lab) joined Nerad behind the table.

The event put special focus on the MIT Media Lab‘s Sociable Media Group’s exhibition, “Connections.” When asked about the purpose of the exhibit, Donath said that “We wanted people to step back and think about privacy. One mundane step after another has brought us to a deeply transformed world.”

Shava noted that “mischaracterizations of your identity are more likely to result than the real thing at the exhibit.” That result is “an artifact of scraping,” where data is pulled from many pools online without context or interpolation.

In general, the exhibit is meant to pull into focus Donath’s central question: “What is the cost we have to pay in terms of privacy to cement society together?”

You can take a virtual tour of the museum (from 2008) below:

Using the dry wit that makes his public appearances so enjoyable, Zittrain kicked off the panel with an explication of prurient. As he noted, prurient is a “funny word.” It refers to something that attracts you and then a moment later disgusts you. It’s wholly applicable and useful to our relationship with privacy in our changing world, as lifestreaming, Twitter, Facebook and mobile technology rapidly intermingle our public and private selves.

As Norath noted, “we’re all leaving trails of data…email, every time we comment, when we go through FastLane, when we go shopping. Some we’re aware of, some we’re not. There’s a growing shadow behind us.

The privacy panel recognized that the data trails left by teens online may be particularly meaningful for future employment or educational opportunities. Is acting out on Facebook a way of showing off imperviousness?

Nerad noted just how how persistent data is. In reply, @zittrain suggested declaring “reputational bankruptcy” at 18. Hilarity ensued. Shava suggested extending the age to 25.

Regardless, a “data shadow” is a useful metaphor for these data trails that accompany our online activity, especially when combined with the work of the Sunlight Foundation and Watchdog.net, the “good government site with teeth” project started by Swartz. It’s safe to say that we’re all watching each other now. Adding to the lighthearted but thoughtful tone of the discussion, @aaronsw recalled the day @EFF‘s Kevin Bankston was caught smoking by Google Street View.

Benjamin Waber noted that with Bluetooth scans on cellphones you might be able to accurately track who might be infected by a disease. As Zittrain quipped on one case, referring to swine flu, you could even epidemiologically trace it back to “Pig Zero.”

Waber makes the comparison to the membership cards offered by Shaws that enable consumers to receive discounts in return for registering. “If we owned our Bluetooth data, could we sell it? You get something for your data, for giving up your purchasing patterns. If your cellphone distributed certain information, would you be willing to trade it?”

The panel took note of the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. with regards to @Google Street View. Protections around privacy and awareness of the impact of mobile video on it are greater there, perhaps by virtue of the technological edge that exists with Japanese society. Does greater tech penetration result in greater awareness of privacy issues? An Aussie in the audience notes that this privacy discussion appeared to be predicated by being held in the U.S. “When you’re a net importer of culture, you’re used to skirting around things.”

sociometer

sociometer

In Waber’s case, certainly, one would have to note that the privacy discussion is both academic and our in the real world. He passed around the “sociometer” that Waber and others are using to conduct research with at the Media Lab. Zittrain quipped that it “reminds me of an alithiometer” — a reference to Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” epic fantasy trilogy. This geek guffawed. To be fair,  in many ways, this device is downright magical, at least when its simple form factor is compared to its function. A sociometer is a wearable sensor package for measuring face-to-face interactions between people.

Afterwards, I was lucky enough to go out for Chinese with the panelists , where@zittrain further moderated a “roundtable” on the potential for malicious use of@Amazon‘s Mechanical Turk. @aaronsw @bwaber and @zephyrteachout and others contributed to a vigorous discussion of Google’s role in privacy, dominance of search and the role of citizens and law in encouraging more transparent government and corporate practices.

There’s more on electronic privacy and online governance at the Complexity and Social Networks Blog at Harvard and some thoughtful comments on the event page on Facebook.

Readers interested in privacy may also find WeLiveInPublicTheMovie.com of interest.

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dana boyd on social media evolution and digital ethnography

facebook myspace orkut bebo linkedin
Image by .Andy Chang. via Flickr

dana boyd kicked off a discussion on the ROI of social media in Cambridge with a rapid-fire, necessarily abridged keynote on the history of social networks and their associated digital ethnographies in the United States. dana boyd presented on her research (available at zephoria.org/thoughts). A longer version of her presentation. “Living and Learning with Social Media,” is available online, though without the pretty pictures.

Her first point is that social media isn’t new, either as a concept or platform. It’s just part of a broader part of Web 2.0. She framed Web 2.0 for different audiences in the following ways:

  • For the tech crowd, Web 2.0 is “about a change in development and deployment; constant innovation; perpetual beta; open source/real time”
  • For the business crowd, “it’s about hope. Emerged from bust. Bubble 2.0 followed.”
  • For users: “It’s about organizing communication around friends, communities of interest. Boundaries became blurred.”

One clear distinction boyd made was between social network websites and social networking sites. The former are distinctly not about finding jobs; they’re about finding communities of interest. When rhetorically discussing how social network sites gained traction in the US, boyd cited the network effects created by these self-organizing communities of interest.

When she looked back at the history of these communities, she started with Friendster. (Paul Gillin noted Classmates.com as the first in “Why people love social networks“earlier this week). Friendster, as boyd noted, was designed to be online dating. The three original demographics that populated it were gay men, the “digerati,” and 20-something hipsters that cycle around the playa — aka “burners” at Burning Man.

The trouble Friendster’s leadership found is that “Fakesters started popping up.” These fake profiles, of bands, places or really anything that wasn’t an authentic person with a personal profile, were seen as polluting the community — at least by Friendster’s leadership. They tried to stop it and were faced by a  rebellion. The infusion of Fakesters was followed by another wave: indie rock bands that wanted to connect with fan. Both, in boyd’s words,’ fueled the ire of Friendster and were encouraged to leave. And, in quick order, the early adopters left, moving to Tribe.net or, in the case of those musicians, to Myspace.

Facebook’s introduction followed soon there after, growing meteorically since then, alongside of MySpace. As Boyd noted, however, along with that growth came a series of “digital panics” over culture and risk as embodied in these social networks.

The assumption tended to be that MySpace was about social deviance and sexual meetups, an image that was fueled by sensational reports of sexual predators and exploited teends in the media. Part of this was a division of between Facebook and MySpace in the US that boyd had famously written about in “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace” and her subsequent response. Boyd’s dissertation, “Taken out of context,” deals with precisely this issue.

The castes and tribes called out aesthetic differences between the two massive social networks but, as boyd pointed out this was about class. As played out in media, this lens shaped how we understood them, though the websites were functionally and practically quite similar.

For those look for ways looking for ways, to measure the utility or effectives of social networks, Zephoria suggests measuring network density. Look at the activity of clusters. Look at stickiness. If someone is using it but none of his or her friends are, they aren’t likely to stick around. Look for way to measure the health of the community – not just individuals.

When discussing the differences betwen adults and teens, boyd sees fundamentally different cultural, socioeconomic and power structures in play. Teen conversations can look inane from the outside — at best. boyd suggests thinking of them as hallway conversations, part of the process of “digital social grooming.” As she notes, you can have isolated kids in the corner offline too. Wall posts on Facebook are, in her eyes, simply forms of ritualistic hallway talk.

As knowledge workers joined Facebook, they started hanging out with friends — but what they did there was fundamentally different than the teens. Adult are much more likely to create status messages that broadcast outwards, while their “About me” sections are basically resumes, rarely offering up to date bits. Teens are more likely to include what they want friends to know about now.

boyd also noted they way that social media is shifting, including the relevant demographic. The median age of Twitter, for instance, is 31 and shifting higher. Teens aren’t engaging with the site at all. As boyd wryly noted, “for some reason, it’s more the Demi Moore” crowd.

Why? It may be an issue of power, which teens generally don’t have with respect to US society, especially with respect to building digital tools themselves. All of us care about how searchable we are, particularly with respect to the about people who have power searching for data, like law enforcement, potential bosses or academic institutions. We haven’t always been searchable, a reality that boyd put a geeky spin on when she noted that “Mom would have loved to be able to write “grep” or “find” to track me down as a kid.”

Virtual worlds didn’t escape notice. When asked about how social network mixed, boyd first refined the question: “anything that allows us to create social space w/avatars” vs 3D immersive online environments. She noted that teenagers aren’t using Second Life but are using console or online gaming environments to escape and have fun. Such world necessarily require real-time synchronous interaction, which is quite powerful for those who can get online at the same time to play, say, World of Warcraft.

Given that mobile phones are still the number one way to get online, however, there are inherent limits. (That could change if WoW really does work well on the iPhone). Virtual worlds therefore require “dumbing down” or different access patterns. And, in fact, boyd said that “70% of teenagers share the password for their social networking sites with their friends” so that their virtual identities could be curated by others. For the security-minded, this is of course anathema, but for a teenage member of a digital tribe, this is apparently close to the norm.

boyd talked about other cultural differences that vary by country and platform.  Cyworld, for instance, a social network in Asia, is shared family experience. She notes that micropayments are working in Cyworld, sometimes in unexpected ways. “You can buy poop on a friend’s profile, which they then have to pay to clean up.” When she noted that she would “like to see that on LinkedIn,” the audience enjoyed a chuckle. More seriously, however, she observed that as long as teenagers are part of an “oppressed demographic” in the US, our social networks won’t be like Asia. The US market is just beginning to get “all you can eat text messaging plans.” She suggested that the audience “consider the weirdness of someone else having to PAY to receive your message” and the worst cases where cyberbullies blasts someone w/txts, incurring costs.

In closing, boyd noted that social networks and social media in general are here to stay.

As we all create our digital identities, teens and adults alike are aware of the reality of “invisible audiences” that require us to adjust our projections to those who might see us. Once of the central challenges of social media use is how we adjust in the absence of social cues when the rules are still a moving target. The numerous firings that have now occurred after poorly-considered status updates bear witness to this reality. Firing is relatively minor compared to consequences elsewhere, as boyd noted in the the example of journalists in China. They write at two different levels to escape the censors to convey information.

There is now a massive blurring of public and private spheres. boyd doesn’t see privacy as dead — “it’s just very, very, very confused right now.”

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When shouldn’t an organization use social media?

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
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Facebook broke 200 million users this month. Wikipedia is one of the most well-known websites in the world. Blogs affect stock prices. NPR is all over podcasting. Celebrities talk about Twitter on late night TV. The POTUS even used Twitter to announce he’d be taking questions for his livestreamed townhall at the White House with Google Moderator and blogged about it. Heck, President Barack Obama’s Open Government Directive will encourage Federal agencies to tweet and use other social media tools to achieve greater transparency.

Paul Gillin made some excellent points in a recent BtoB Magazine article, “When to avoid social media,” that I think Sarah Peres undersells in her recent post on ReadWriteWeb, When NOT to use Social Media, without perhaps giving full weight to his experiences talking to large enterprises about how they use technology.

I find Gillin’s last point most compelling, given that privacy and regulatory concerns that pertain to social media are an area I’m paying close attention to right now — and not just because I work at a public company myself:

Privacy and regulatory concerns. While a few health care companies have started blogs and social networks, most are proceeding with justifiable caution. If you’re in an industry where people can go to jail for what they say in public, you should be careful. Much as I hate to say it, you should probably get the lawyers closely involved.

Most large enterprises and governmental agencies have protected, proprietary or personally identifiable information that they can face considerable liability for disclosing or failing to protect against a data breach.

In those environments — and let’s be clear here, we’re not talking about a “handful of examples,” given the proportion of the economy constituted by big business, government, law and healthcare — jumping in to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other public-facing social media tools may hold much more risk than reward if it’s not done carefully. For attorneys, for instance, individual features like “Recommendations” on LinkedIn may pose ethical issues. Paul’s right; if such an organization doesn’t have a strategic vision or buy-in from upper management, they’re likely better off staying out of actively — and be clear with staff that that is the expectation for them as well. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be doing active brand management; just that posting publicly may not be optimal.

All of this pertains to social media as it exists on the public Internet. Once the various tools, including blogs, wikis and microblogging platforms, move behind the firewall, however, many of the issues posed by corporate communications and data leaks are addressed. That is, if the software is secured like rest of the enterprise’s systems. Adoption of social media tools in the form of collaborative social software at enterprises, or “Enterprise 2.0,” provides an entirely different value proposition and list of considerations that I’ll leave to folks like Professor McAfee to pose. I would note that if the CIA could create, extend and maintain an Intellipedia, there’s hope for even the most hidebound, hierarchical organizations to follow suit.

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Unofficial Poll: Greatest rock guitarist ever?

I had some fun creating a Twitter poll tonight using Twtpoll.com.

After I asked who the “Greatest rock guitarist ever?” was on the way home and received 10 great replies, I used #alexasks and Twtpoll to try to turn those answers into a quick quiz.

I’ll wait for a bit and then ask on Facebook, where I expect more friends might contribute.

It’s an apologetic homage to #andyasks, where HBS professor Andy asks his followers a different interesting question every day. Mine was impromptu but satisfying.

Here’s the result.

My answer? Like Peter Townshend at Rolling Stone I gotta go with Hendrix.

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Filed under music, poll, social bookmarking