The Social Graph is Neither

Last week Forbes even went to the extent of calling the social graph an exploitable resource comparable to crude oil, with riches to those who figure out how to mine it and refine it.

.. In order to model something as a graph, you have to have a clear definition of what its nodes and edges represent. In most social sites, this does not pose a problem. The nodes are users, while edges means something like ‘accepted a connection request from’, or ‘followed’, or ‘exchanged email with’, depending on where you are.

.. the old country, for example, we have two kinds of ‘friendship’ (distinguished by whether you address one another with the informal pronoun) and going from one status to the other is a pretty big deal; you have to drink a toast with your arms all in a pretzel and it’s considered a huge faux pas to suggest it before both people feel ready. But at least it’s not ambiguous!

.. There’s also the matter of things that XFN doesn’t allow you to describe. There’s no nemesisor rival, since the standards writers wanted to exclude negativity. The gender-dependent second e on fiancé(e) panicked the spec writers, so they left that relationship out. Neither will they allow you to declare an ex-spouse or an ex-colleague.

.. You can call this nitpicking, but this stuff matters! This is supposed to be a canonical representation of human relationships. But it only takes five minutes of reading the existing standards to see that they’re completely inadequate.

.. This obsession with modeling has led us into a social version of the Uncanny Valley, that weird phenomenon from computer graphics where the more faithfully you try to represent something human, the creepier it becomes. As the model becomes more expressive, we really start to notice the places where it fails.

.. The problem FOAF ran headlong into was that declaring relationships explicitly is a social act. Documenting my huge crush on Matt in an XML snippet might faithfully reflect the state of the world, but it also broadcasts a strong signal about me to others, and above all to Matt. The essence of a crush is that it’s furtive, so by declaring it in this open (but weirdly passive) way I’ve turned it into something different

.. Declaring connections is about as much fun as trying to whittle people from a guest list, with the added stress that social networking is too new for us to have shared social conventions around it.

.. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there’s a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!

.. Asking computer nerds to design social software is like hiring a Mormon bartender.

.. friendship is not transitive. There’s just no way to tell if you’ll get along with someone in my social circle, no matter how many friends we have in common.

.. Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers – that’s the social graph.

Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.

.. We have a name for the kind of person who collects a detailed, permanent dossier on everyone they interact with, with the intent of using it to manipulate others for personal advantage – we call that person a sociopath.

.. Open data advocates tell us the answer is to reclaim this obsessive dossier for ourselves, so we can decide where to store it. But this misses the point of how stifling it is to have such a permanent record in the first place

.. Give people something cool to do and a way to talk to each other, moderate a little bit, and your job is done. Games like Eve Online or WoW have developed entire economies on top of what’s basically a message board. MetaFilter, Reddit, LiveJournal and SA all started with a couple of buttons and a textfield and have produced some fascinating subcultures. And maybe the purest (!) example is 4chan, a Lord of the Flies community that invents all the stuff you end up sharing elsewhere: image macros, copypasta, rage comics, the lolrus. The data model for 4chan is three fields long – image, timestamp, text.

Now tell me one bit of original culture that’s ever come out of Facebook.


How Instagram Opened a Ruthless New Chapter in the Teen Photo Wars

Millions of teens have migrated much of their daily photo-messaging to Snapchat, which offers many of Instagram’s perks in a more private venue. Could Instagram lure them back? And how did Snapchat—an app that some adults find impenetrable—attract so many kids in the first place?

.. With Snapchat Stories, they have the expectation that their friends will see it, but with Instagram, you can’t really trust that it’s just your friends who will be seeing it.

.. If you exchange snaps with someone for more than three days in a row, a number starts to appear next to their name on the app. This signifies that you have “a streak” going with them. Every day you keep the streak going, the number counts up. After a 100-day streak, the 100 emoji appears. And an arcane set of emoji start to appear next to their name on Snapchat, too: Emojipedia has an explainer of what these mean, but a yellow heart, for instance, signifies that you and someone else are “best friends”—that they are the person you send and receive snaps with the most.

.. Rob: Are you intentional about the streaks? They’re not an accident?

Rob’s Brother: Yeah, they’re not an accident. I have not initiated that many streaks. I think you just ask someone who you want to spend more time with if they want to have a streak. It’s also like—for people who are going on Snapchat everyday, it’s not a big deal to add another streak. And then the more streaks you have, the better it looks.

.. Someone’s Snapchat score is the sum total of all the snaps they’ve ever received, all the snaps they’ve ever sent, and all the snaps they’ve ever posted to their story. It is publicly viewable and the object of some teasing. My Snapchat score is 10,085.

.. Rob’s Brother: I’d say that the higher the number of your streaks—I don’t how to put this—the more streaks you have and the higher they are, generally, the more “popular” you are, in air quotes.

.. Rob: Do you have a sense that’s an average number?

Rob’s Brother: Yeah, that’s pretty average. Most people are near where I am, with a score in the 10,000s. But then there are people with 15 streaks, four of them into 200 days, and their Snapchat score is 400,000.

.. Like, the better you are at Snapchat, the better you are in the social hierarchy of school.

.. Rob: Do you find people do that thing where they post something to their Snapchat story that’s only aimed at two to three people? Like, someone is trying to send a message to someone they like, or someone they want to be better friends with, but they don’t just want to send a snap directly to them.

Rob’s Brother: Oh, you mean like the “anyone up” post, or something like that?

.. Rob: Like, this is a thing as in—snapping your own internet usage?

Rob’s Brother: Well, I do not do this. And I don’t think many people do. But it’s a thing.

.. Rob’s Brother: I think stories are also more casual on Snapchat still, and less formal, than they are on Instagram. It’s a more casual way of saying, look at me, I’m hanging out with friends, I have a life.

Rob: That seems a part of the candid thing.

Rob’s Brother: Yeah, exactly. Just taking candid pictures of your friends doing things is advertising to the world that you don’t spend your whole day inside watching TV.

.. Rob: The bad candid picture of your friends—I feel like it’s also a way of being like, look, we’re so cool, we don’t even have to look cool, I don’t need to make this person look attractive in any way. But I might be reading too much into it.

Rob’s Brother: I think on Instagram, if you make someone look unattractive, that’s what you’re saying. On Snapchat, there’s an assumption that you’re advertising all this stuff only to your friends.
 .. Rob: So, on Myspace, you had a couple hundred friends, but only your top eight friends displayed, and—this was slightly before my time—but there was a lot of status-seeking in which eight friends you displayed and what it meant. You might have someone in your top friends, but did they have you in their top eight friends? People got knocked out.
.. There’s not a huge amount of talking about Snapchat. There’s more talk about Instagram than Snapchat.
.. Rob’s Brother: When you first get Instagram, you Instagram stuff a lot.Rob: Gotta build up that archive.

.. Instagram at this point is just pretty pictures and occasional life events that I want to advertise. And Snapchat is, like, here’s a thing that’s funny, and here’s a joke about it. Or, I’m bored, and here’s my face that looks like a dog.

.. Instagram just feels too formal. Like, “everyone’s gonna see this”—I feel like, often, Instagram is your first impression on a lot of people.

.. Rob: It is! It is the most public part of most people’s internet persona.

Rob’s Brother: And as you use Instagram to get a first impression on other people, you realize that people are using yours to get a first impression on you. So then you change it.

Rob: You start performing for a generic internet person, or a generic high schooler, and you start performing less for your friends.

.. Also I feel like people don’t post on Instagram as much during the winter, because people definitely want to show off the beach day, but they know that people don’t really care about them sipping hot cocoa and doing homework.

.. People carry their phone during the summer a lot more than they do during the winter, because it’s a lot less likely for your phone to fall out of your pocket and immediately be ruined.

I also feel like, winter is during the school year, so you get to communicate with your friends more, and they know what you’re doing more.

.. Rob: So Instagram is almost like a postcard-y medium? It’s like postcards for teens.

.. Rob’s Brother: It’s like a personal Instagram that’s private, and it’s only got like 25 followers. It’s not for the likes, and it’s not for anyone else to see. And you post, like, very personal things on it.

Rob: So it’s like people using a private Twitter? So Finsta is like you and your 19 best friends?

Rob’s Brother: You and your 40 best friends. I think generally if someone’s in your grade, and they want to follow your Finsta, you accept them, but there isn’t that much on a Finsta, honestly. If you’re not their friend, it’s not that interesting.

.. Rob’s Brother: Yes. Correct. It’s mostly complaining and bad selfies. Roasting teachers. They’re generally not that interesting. I feel like they’re almost the equivalent of a diary.

Rob: I mean, I know adults who have private locked Twitter accounts and they use it mostly for complaining about work or family stuff.

Rob’s Brother: Yeah, it’s mostly for complaining. And people with Finstas don’t want people to see them complaining because A, if you don’t know them, it translates as whininess, and B, if you do know them, you have a chance of being mean to somebody. The other appeal of a Finsta is that your parents can’t find you on a Finsta.

Guess My Age, Instagram Edition

Researchers can tell how old you are based on your Instagram likes.

.. There are plenty of adults who use the social photo-sharing platform, but deleting photos that aren’t well-liked enough is a distinct behavior among teens who use the site, according to researchers at Penn State University.

.. Adults also post more diverse topics, which may be a reflection of disposable income that allows for vacation or travel, Lee suggests.

.. Maybe because, as one 14-year-old explained, Instagram is basically over and everyone is Snapchatting instead.

.. A basic taxonomy of Twitter faves would have to include the following uses, at least:

• When you genuinely like the tweet
• When you genuinely don’t like the tweet; also known as a “hate fave”
• When you want to mark a tweet to revisit it later
• When you want to acknowledge that you’ve seen a tweet, but without text; also known as the farewell fave
..My colleague Megan Garber has delved into these shades of like, and the farewell fave in particular, in more detail. “With a single click, I can do something that is actually extremely difficult to do in the digital context: end a conversation,”

How Facebook Warps Our Worlds

THOSE who’ve been raising alarms about Facebook are right: Almost every minute that we spend on our smartphones and tablets and laptops, thumbing through favorite websites and scrolling through personalized feeds, we’re pointed toward foregone conclusions. We’re pressured to conform.

.. “And one of the things we want is to spend more time with people who think like us and less with people who are different,” Haidt added

.. this information is utterly contingent on choices we ourselves make. If we seek out, “like” and comment on angry missives from Bernie Sanders supporters, we’ll be confronted with more angry missives from more Sanders supporters. If we banish such outbursts, those dispatches disappear.

.. The Internet isn’t rigged to give us right or left, conservative or liberal — at least not until we rig it that way. It’s designed to give us more of the same

.. We construct precisely contoured echo chambers of affirmation that turn conviction into zeal, passion into fury, disagreements with the other side into the demonization of it.

.. We question their wisdom and substitute it with the groupthink of micro-communities

.. Haidt noted that it often discourages dissent within a cluster of friends by accelerating shaming. He pointed to the enforced political correctness among students at many colleges

.. “Facebook allows people to react to each other so quickly that they are really afraid to step out of line,” he said.