My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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The Value of Fakesters

[temporary vacation pause as i haven’t left town yet.]

The more i talk with people, the more i feel as though Fakesters provide a very valuable role in the spread and value of Friendster. Let me explain.

How many users who surf Craigslist read Missed Connections or Best of Craigslist? Rarely do these have value other than humor, yet humor brings people back to the site for pleasure and fun.

Surfing Friendster for Fakesters is like treasure hunting… people love running across these icons of creativity. It motivates them to surf around the network, far more so than simply searching for a date. Dates happen accidentally this way. This is probably a preferable functionality anyhow, as desperate searching is rarely as meaningful as accidental connection.

When people are seriously looking for people, they don’t want Fakesters to be connectors (i.e. searching in the gallery), but when they come across them via surfing, they click on them only if they value them. If not, they’re ignored. Rarely do i run into someone who wants Fakesters obliterated; often, they just want them to not impact their network numbers or their Gallery.

Fakesters motivate people to be more creative with their Profiles. Fakesters remind users that Profiles are only an articulated performance of self and not to be taken seriously, even in the cases of Realsters. Fakesters remind users that an articulated network is not the same as one’s real social network and thus doesn’t have the same level of trust and accountability as one’s “real friends.”

Although Clay argues that Fakester.org is inherently stupid, i personally love that folks are tracking the issue. The tension between the Fakesters and Jonathan is growing and i don’t think that Jonathan realizes the impact of his decisions. Fakester Revolution may represent the extreme and opinionated minority of Fakester appreciators, but these voices are definitely being heard by the press and impacting the average user, who thinks that Jonathan’s censorship is just pushing things a bit too far.

Somehow, i’m guessing that Friendster will not be nearly as novel and interesting when the creativity is all obliterated. We’ll see when i return in September…

[back to genuine vacation. just out of curiosity, i wonder if Friendster’s traffic will be impacted by the rush to the desert.]

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