Monthly Archives: July 2003

user frustration towards Friendster

The following message is being posted to various Friendster message boards, revealing user frustration towards Friendster. While i’m fairly certain that the accusations in this message are completely inaccurate, the hostility is stunning.

Subject: Disseminate The Truth About Friendster

Message: John Abrams is running friendster into the ground,. He refuses to acknowledge that his servers are broken into a minimum of three times a day, and his sys admins refuse to return email. the truth about friendster is that it its a ploy to get 2 million working emails so they can sell them to marketing companies who send you spam.. Recently, he struck a deal with another company to sell the list at 15 cents an address. This one deal was worth over 300k…. none of this money is spent on the friendster network, as many of you can tell by the difficulty involved in logging on and navigating the site. here is a snip from an email snatched in transit being sent from john abrams himself to an unnamed employee of an e-mail marketing company..



My name is John Abrams, founder and lead geek of Since we opened our site to the public earlier this year, he have amassed nearly 2 million working email addresses. We feel that the address list we have would be very valuble to your business and are willing to negotiate a fair price for this information. We cannot garuntee you exclusive rights to the list, but we can garuntee an email validitiy rate of > 96%.

–end snip–

this bastard is selling your email address, to more than one spam fuck. The frienster network claims to be able to hold up to 2 million simultaneous visitors, but in reality the number is less then half of that. All of his servers are runnining PIRATED aka ILLEGAL software and he only has 15 ipaddress… The whole network is connected to the internet by small wires compareble to your dial-up 56k modem realitive to the task. Friendster is tanking fast, lets all throw rocks at the drowning boy.. Burn in Silicon Valley, John Abrams, you lying rat bastard. Die. You should never have questioned my kung-foo by asking me to hack into your own account you fucker. You think I haven’t been watching you.. 5 years in prison gives you a long time to think about shit, now its your turn.


Please copy this message in it’s entirety and paste it on your own bulletin board and help spread the word.

censoring images

Many “community” sites allow users to upload pictures as part of their profiles. These pictures are often required to be non-pornographic (can’t let the kiddies see porn) and must be images of the individual profiled (can’t allow for copyright violation). I received an email today from a Friendster user who had her image removed from Friendster for being deleted as a violation of their policies.

This brings up an interesting issue. What does it mean for these sites to censor images? There are two categories of images that they must not allow: porn and copyrighted material. As we all know, porn’s legal definition is simply a judge’s statement “i know it when i see it.” Copyright is a bit clearer, but the question is how to determine whether or not an image is copyrighted unless the copyright owner notes that it is not part of the public domain and thus must be removed.

By choosing to censor images in the grey area, Friendster is putting itself in a really questionable realm. By monitoring this material, they are declaring what is appropriate speech and extending a public statement that they are responsible for what is on their system. That’s an interesting and precarious position.

For those who are interested, the image in question is a photoshopped portrait of the woman depicted in the profile. Upset with Friendster’s decision, she attempted to contact Friendster. To no avail. She wrote again. No response, no action. From her letter:

My primary profile photo is suddenly “not approved”. I’m very curious to know why. May I contest its removal?

“We suggest you upload a high-quality photo of yourself that is clear and current.”

The “Zombie” photo I was using until somebody (I guess with differing aesthetic opinions) reviewed it is both current and clear, and is most definitely ME, simply with photoshop color-enhancements.

The guidelines themselves state that “your photo may be as creative as you like.” Having read this, I see no reason why my main profile picture was taken down. I’m not exposing any naughty bits or using profanties. There are no children or animals in the photo, nothing forbidden by your site. Granted, it’s an odd photo, but it’s an expression of who I am, and it hurts no one.

Friendster’s lack of response to her objection to their policy is also quite interesting. Given that the site is censoring material, what responsibility does it have to correct its own mistakes and poor judgement?

This situation is a clear reminder of why trouble is brewing when an external source tries to maintain and “own” one’s profile, social network and presentation of self. In privatized spaces, is there such a thing as freedom of speech?

raver aesthetic

My hair has always been my playground. I make a mess out of it, change its color, chop it to bits and am constantly trying to figure out how to make it represent me; it continues to fail. Yet, all told, i can cope with the mop on top of my head. Of course, every couple of months, i contemplate the idea of dreading my hair. I have to admit that i love the cyberpunk raver aesthetic – a mix of colors, dreads, dirt and and flare. While i’ve buzzed my head every few years, i’ve never managed to dread the growth that emerges post-buzz.

Today, a friend sent me a link to an article entitled “Raver Revolution: Before West Coast dance music ‘tribes’ get political, they’d better clean their toilets.” ::sigh:: Taking a look at the first image on the page, i don’t think that everyone appreciates this aesthetic as much as i do.

In all seriousness, this article is actually interesting beyond just my reflections on my relationship with my hair. It discusses the emergence of “tribes” in reference to Burning Man / DJ culture and questions the power of this movement.

Continue reading

Too much broadband in the water supply?

Forbes just published an interesting piece about online culture in South Korea, arguably the most wired society in the world, where access to broadband is unprecedented and even your parents know what avatars are. If this is what our high-speed future looks like in the U.S., we should be thankful the bottom fell out of the telecom industry.

“When the Slammer virus shut down Internet service for several hours in Korea in January, the whole country suffered from withdrawal symptoms, says Ken Lee, chairman of Korea Telecom, the nation’s biggest broadband provider. Some 10% of the general population and 40% of 13- to 18-year-olds are addicted to the Net, says Dr. Kim Hyun Soo, 37, head of Korea’s professional society for psychologists specialized in treating Internet addiction. “I have seen kids who have not left the house for two years,” he says. ”

Acute lack of irony: the kid in the article who is punished for stealing money from his parents to accessorize his avatar can’t surf the net past midnight and is forced to spend time with his family . . . watching TV.

Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion?

Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion? is an article by Eric Norlin as part of the DigitalIDWorld conference. Summary: “The Digital Identity ecosystem is a large one. One of the corners of that ecosystem is the “social software” movement. Many of the individuals and companies involved in social software talk about identity in terms of ownership. In this article, Eric examines whether the power of identity lies in ownership or assertion…”

My problem with this article is that Eric doesn’t ground what he’s referring to when he talks about idenitity. From my definition of “idenity” there’s no question about who owns identity. Identity can only be owned by the individual, because it is far more than simply the validity that someone exists. The problem is that most people think of identity as what facets people present, what data people produce, and what bits can provide authentication. The thing is that identity can’t be copied and stored, but the pointers to and output of one’s identity can be.

Also, when it comes to the power of assertion regarding one’s identity, everyone must read Judith Donath’s “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community.”


Dan Brickley’s comment
on an earlier post reminds me that i’ve never even introduced the FOAF (Friend of a Friend) Project. Part of this is because i’ve heard so many conflicting stories about what FOAF is and what FOAF is not that i feel too naive to properly address it.

To the best of my understanding, FOAF is a document framework that would allow you to articulate categories of and relations between people and information.

As Dan noted in his comment, FOAF poorly addresses the nuances of relationships between people. Because they couldn’t determine how to weight or contextualize the relations between people, they went with a standard “knows” relationship (similar to Friendster/Ryze, etc.). Of course, this is certainly the easiest approach, but it fails to truly capitalize on the value of nuanced relationships.

Dan continues on to remind us that FOAF is a distributed document type that has both its strengths and disadvantages. This is where i see FOAF as *potentially* having a great advantage. As a distributed tool, FOAF can easily be connected to one’s functional behavior and not simply rely on their strength in articulating their social network. What i mean is that if one is able to maintain the actual document of their relationships, it could easily be generated by their email/IM/SMS/phone behavior.

People know how to contextualize their relationships to others; they do so regularly through their behavior. The biggest weakness in Friendster is that it expects people to articulate their relationships. People are *dreadful* at this. So much of relationships is about showing face, about having relationships that are purely for mutual advantage and have nothing to do with liking one another. Professional friendships out of need. Yet to say that these relations are equivalent to that of one’s lover or one’s mother or one’s actual friends is utterly foolish. To suggest that people want to connect all of their friends with all of their other friends is naive.

My hope is that the FOAF folks will figure out how to move away from articulated social networks and emerge as a tool for people to evolve their networks through behavior. Of course, this will also require a level of privacy and non-publicness that is not currently in any of the FOAF specs i’ve seen or heard about.

fakester genocide

In one of the responses to my survey today, i received a great note from someone bemoaning the “fakester genocide” on Friendster. S/he argued that it was through these fakesters that s/he found known (old and current) friends or familiar strangers. For hir, the primary use of Friendster is to connect with actual friends (and dating happens to be a fun side element).

Aside from the clear usage model for this user, i love the term “fakester genocide” in reference to the deletion of artificially generated characters. In my head, this truly conjures up an image of a child horrified of the genocide of the imaginary people, or the stuff animals.

my capitalization rules

In my moving notice yesterday, Rory made reference to my odd rules for capitalization. As many folks know, my name does not have capital letters in it. When i was going through the process of changing my last name (and cementing the non-capitalization of my name), i did a lot of thinking about rules around capitalization in general. It always bothered me that “I” was a special case in english. Of course, i find it inherently indicative of the culture that we live in.

Well, it bothered me enough that i decided that i didn’t need any capital letters when i refer to myself. Not only is my name not capitalized, but i’m not that special. Plus, one of the main reasons to capitalize the letter was to typographically indicate it in a culture where everything was handwritten. In computer-land, it’s easy enough to see it separate from the rest. Of course, i still believe in capitalizing certain things – those of importance and letters at the beginning of a sentence to indicate that a new sentence is about to begin. Wouldn’t it be a bit funny though to start capitalizing You since i definitely believe that You is more important than i. Tehehe.

I will refrain.

Fact of the matter though is that my capitalization rules are just part of my quirks (except for that associated with my name, which are due to my mom’s quirks).