My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and 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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venting my contempt for orkut

As i write this, it’s down again. But that doesn’t mean that i haven’t been thinking about it. And dear god, everyone and their mother has written about it. At the bottom of this rant, i’ve included some of the ones that have been making me think (and i’ve been reading a *lot*).

OK… so my take on Orkut.

1) What the hell is up with the elitist approach to invitation? That’s just outright insulting and an attempt to pre-configure the masses through what the technorati are doing. Social networks are not just a product of technologists. Everyone has a social network and what they do with it is quite diverse. To demand that they behave by the norms of technologists is horrifying.

2) Are trustworthy, cool, and sexy the only ways that i might classify my friends? (Even Orkut lists a lot more in his definition of self.) And since when can i rate the people that i know based on this kind of metric?

And goddamnit CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT. Cool as a techy? Cool as a party kid? Trustworthy along what fucking axes?

3) Explain to me why one must be a friend to be a fan of someone? The role of fan is inherently a power differential, not an equalizer. (Don’t get me wrong: on Orkut, there’s definitely pressure to reciprocate.) The people that i’m a fan of are not my friends; they’re idols; they’re people that i read on the interweb but do not know.

It is sooo weird to read which of my friends are a fan of me. Does that mean that the rest are only following social custom in linking to me? Does that mean that they don’t really respect me? [Or does it mean, like it means to me, that it's too bloody weird to consider checking off that fan bit?]

And worse… i can see who is a fan of others. This means that i can check on my friends and figure out that they’re using the fan feature… just not on me. Hello, socially awkward.

4) What’s up with the popular crowd hierarchy both in visual and Friends/Communities listing? Have we not learned that this motivates bad behavior?

5) Hell, haven’t we learned ANYTHING? We still have articulation. But worse, now that everyone is paying attention to this, the network isn’t growing naturally. You jump on. Fast. And connect to everyone you recognize. WTF? And what the hell are you supposed to DO once you get on the damn thing?

6) And boy is it irritating that everything is broken. I know it’s an alpha, but it’s too popular to withstand the interest. Can’t change picture on certain parts. Can’t delete account. Can’t get rid of picture. And what’s up with the regular crashes?

7) And then there are the Terms that show contempt for academics. There’s a blanket ban on robots, collecting information, reverse engineering, and other “unauthorized” use (hello, fair use). You can’t even link from the damn thing (i.e. i can’t identify myself outside of the constraints of Orkut… like on my own site or identifying a research project in which i’d like people to participate. Thus, i can’t use a social networking tool to fucking social network). Of course, there’s not much appreciation for anyone else either. THEY OWN EVERYTHING YOU POST!!! You CAN’T OPT OUT! Complete registration only.

And don’t worry… they can modify the ToS without any notice.

I’m sure more rants are to follow. But in the meantime, tell me why i’m wrong. Cause i’m cranky and disappointed. Everyone’s all excited because it’s Google. But i feel like i just met Jar Jar.

…….

Boris – traffic stat comparisons of Orkut vs. other sites

Anne on why she deleted her account. [Also, i want to read the link to the failure of social networks, but they've reached their bandwidth limit. Stupid fucking ISP.]

Jill on the patchwork view of one’s network

Jay on a fantastic metaphor, paralleling Orkut with a hotel lobby or cruise ship

Foe Romeo on a social network ideal

Anti-Mega on why Orkut lacks innovation

David on the politics of the ToS wrt ownership of identity

Marc Canter on being banned from Orkut

Wired on Social Nets Not Making Friends

Liz – an Orkut analysis

Ross on why Orkut doesn’t work for him

Weinberger on the problems with the expectation to increase nodes

Clay on the Orkut craze

Dina on her blog as her social network (and why Orkut)

Update: additional references

Jeremy on why Google needs Orkut

Lee – another good rant on Orkut

Mary on building a social network site in 24 hours… on privacy… and on collecting baseball cards

Halley on Orkut invitation frustration

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139 comments to venting my contempt for orkut

  • A la sombra

    Aclaraba edmz hace unos das que “Orkut no ofrece premio alguno a aquel que logre agregar a ms personas a su lista de amigos”. Lo cierto es que es ms bien lo contario, nos castiga: la polmica Orkut jail ya…

  • EMD

    To the author of “venting my contempt for orkut”

    STFU. You sound like a real loser.

    Why don’t YOU go and write some code and come up with something that you think is better than orkut?

    It’s always easier to critisize, isn’t it?

    You’re a fucking loser with a big “L”.

  • EMD: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2004/02/19/why_i_dont_build_right_now.html

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to harass instead of taking the time to offer any constructive information.

  • A la sombra

    Aclaraba edmz hace unos das que “Orkut no ofrece premio alguno a aquel que logre agregar a ms personas a su lista de amigos”. Lo cierto es que es ms bien lo contrario, nos castiga: la polmica Orkut jail ya…

  • A la sombra

    Aclaraba edmz hace unos das que “Orkut no ofrece premio alguno a aquel que logre agregar a ms personas a su lista de amigos”. Lo cierto es que es ms bien lo contrario, nos castiga: la polmica Orkut jail ya…

  • A la sombra

    Aclaraba edmz hace unos das que “Orkut no ofrece premio alguno a aquel que logre agregar a ms personas a su lista de amigos”. Lo cierto es que es ms bien lo contrario, nos castiga: la polmica Orkut jail ya…

  • Ochre

    I heard of Orkut today. I can’t think of anything more arbitrary. It seems to simply be a list of people you know through degrees of separation.
    Reading over the posts here, I see so many people saying things like: “I’d like to get an invite to see what its all about” WTF?? How did this happen? It seems that everyone’s meme filters have gone out of control..

    The idiot monkey mentality that drives these things, the grasping-for-meaning-in-other-people fraudulence, the self-indulgent social-humanistic wankery.. Its all getting a little too much. Why don’t you fucking idiots do something external instead of creating cyber-enclaves?

  • I just found out and signed up for orkut right now. Some quick impressions… A little better, a little worse than friendster for interface, groups etc. But no new paradigms, other than the invitation-only aspect, which has probably thrilled a whole of technorati and explains why there are so many people that I sort of know already signed up.

    So, the question is, why bother to sign up, if nothing is really new? If you’ve already filled out your lengthy form for match.com or friendster or whatever, why do it again? Perhaps the invitation-only aspect is signficant; an exclusive club has more control over the tone that is set, but this only could continue only as long as the community stays small. I’m still waiting for the social network that I will have a use for, once I’m done playing with it.

  • Michael

    Zephoria, i agree with most of your critique.
    1) Invitation: It just makes sure that there are people that you know already – and it’s a marketing trick: increase attraction through limitation.
    3) friend to be fan: must be a bug ;)
    5) Connect to people with similar interests, communities, of course its another medium, besides our mail accounts, mobile, SMS, etc. and that sucks …
    7) Agree, though a few lines below the statement they own everything, they deny it again. That’s how i understood it.

    There went a lot of work into the conception and implementation of Orkut, though it doesn’t look like much. I assume it is really beta as most functions are quite rudimentary (as you say), some even misleading and others not very consistent (for example there should be a separation between “friends” and business” contacts; that you have to click on “edit profile” two times and that there are different stages, though redundant, quite confusing; there is a also a confusion between “search” in the navigation menu, the search in “friend finder” and “add a new friend”, among others you mentioned) i think this is due to the fact that its still in beta, an experimental phase – with more, and better conceived functions in the future. 2) Time will tell if the ratings (cool, …) and “fan” functions make sense; it’s part of the maturing of the system (of the whole genre) and adds the necessary playfulness. Once people are tired of it it will disappear … For the guys that coded it these are just minor conceptional bugs. IMHO

  • Moira

    On why I didn’t join orkut.

    For me the internet is a place to meet people I don’t know and possibly will never meet. Giving informations about myself to be used by google? Signing a contract with them and agreeing for them to use anything I post as they wish? No thanks. Not in my lifetime.

    There are healthier ways to socialise without having to ask Google.

  • orkut rants part II

    it seems i’m not the only one who got steamed about orkut. i just did it a few months later than lots of other people… danah has hit a lot more points in her entry about orkut, and has linked…

  • orkut rants part II

    it seems i’m not the only one who got steamed about orkut. i just did it a few months later than lots of other people… danah has hit a lot more points in her entry about orkut, and has linked…

  • orkut rants part II

    it seems i’m not the only one who got steamed about orkut. i just did it a few months later than lots of other people… danah has hit a lot more points in her entry about orkut, and has linked…

  • orkut rants part II

    it seems i’m not the only one who got steamed about orkut. i just did it a few months later than lots of other people… danah boydhas hit a lot more points in her entry about orkut, and has linked…

  • orkut rants part II

    it seems i’m not the only one who got steamed about orkut. i just did it a few months later than lots of other people… danah boyd has hit a lot more points in her entry about orkut, and has…

  • jen

    I’ve had some invites to Orkut, but didn’t bother after my two-day experience with Friendster. I have lots of friends already and I’m not a lonley, socially awkward person. But on Friendster, I suddenly was. I hated trying to represent myself with a photograph (which one to pick?) and reducing my existence to books and music other people wrote. Everyone in it seemed egotistical, spastic or boring. I was embarrassed for my friends as they each fell into these categories. Also, I have plenty of friends that I wouldn’t recommend as friends or for relationships. “He’s cool, but he’s unstable and smells really bad” or, “I’ve known her since 5th grade, but she’s irritating and lies about being able to play guitar.” I finally quit after two days when I logged in and was informed that I was connected to 7,000 and some people. I already felt ridiculous, but then, ironically, I felt very lonely.
    Orkut sounds even worse. It sounds very limited, elitist and what? No way out? Freaky. And the homepage asking, “Who do you know?” is shallow and pathetic. I find myself doubting the people that I DO know when they invite me to join Orkut.

  • my passward and secreat is changed by some one please help me

  • invite me!

    invitation only obviously makes everybody crazy to be invited.

  • tony

    Ochre,

    I don’t know why you can’t think of anything more arbitrary; the internet is about connecting people, and in its rudimentary phases, plotting connections and degress of separation is fairly sensible for a system designed to build on those connections. That said, I don’t have much use for online social networks (I have a friendster account, but I only bother with it when another person I know appears on the network. Other than that I have no real use for it). My interest was rather in seeing what this little Google venture amounts to, seeing as it has recieved its fair share of negative response from people here. There’s no “grasping-for-meaning-in-other-people fraudulence” at work here. Anyway, comments here have convinced me to avoid registering even if invited for as long as this service remains in this ambiguous testing phase and shows itself to be either an uncharacteristically underhanded marketing tool or a useful network of some kind.

  • Phil’s got some great things to say

    Second post inspried by Ted’s post – points at what Phil Wolff has been writing…..

  • Friends?

    Yes, I am aware that I am not the first person who has written about this, but perhaps someone out there is interested in my view Yesterday I joined Orkut. I had been given an invitation by a friend (and…

  • Friends?

    Yes, I am aware that I am not the first person who has written about this, but perhaps someone out there is interested in my view Yesterday I joined Orkut. I had been given an invitation by a friend (and…

  • Just a passer by

    “So stop telling me to shut up and stop using the thing. If you don’t want to hear my rants, don’t read em.”

    One could also say if you don’t like the idea of orkut – don’t use it. Simple, isn’t it?

    Also orkut is not a public service provided by the government but is instead PRIVATELY OWNED and thus doesn’t need to apply the principles of democracy and doesn’t need to be available to everyone.

  • Just a passer by

    “So stop telling me to shut up and stop using the thing. If you don’t want to hear my rants, don’t read em.”

    One could also say if you don’t like the idea of orkut – don’t use it. Simple, isn’t it?

    Also orkut is not a public service provided by the government but is instead PRIVATELY OWNED and thus doesn’t need to apply the principles of democracy and doesn’t need to be available to everyone.

  • B Wong

    I havent been invited to Orkut so I really can’t give any insight to why some of the problems are there. What I can give is the fact that this is new…ALPHA if what I read was correct.

    There are a lot of growing pains with new applications/software that people are asked what they think of the software in itself.
    What do you not like about it?
    What do you like about it?
    What changes do you think might help the community?
    If you have a bitch about the way something works…..instead of just bitching about it, come up with possible solutions! At least give ideas to help make it better. Bitching by itself does not do anything to help unless you are looking to raise blood pressure.

    Now, with that said, Is anyone able to send me an invitation? Or tell me how to go about getting an invitation?

    Thanks!

  • janzak

    Oh, boo hoo – they offer a network where people feel special and gain contacts for the price of information on our interests.
    Oh no! Maybe they can improve their services even more! Big deal, we’ll probably profit from it in the long run anyway.

    And if you say “I don’t want them to sell my valuable information on without getting paid!”… that’s just lame. First of all, you get ‘paid’ by being able to network on Orkut. The more you network and gain contacts, the better for you (because you think it’s fun) and for Google (they might gather information). It’s a mutual thing.

    Try to find a decent, ‘real’ job where they pay you for telling them what you have in your room.

    Get real, it’s not terrible that people feel special whilst other benefit on it.

  • janzak

    Oh, boo hoo – they offer a network where people feel special and gain contacts for the price of information on our interests.
    Oh no! Maybe they can improve their services even more! Big deal, we’ll probably profit from it in the long run anyway.

    And if you say “I don’t want them to sell my valuable information on without getting paid!”… that’s just lame. First of all, you get ‘paid’ by being able to network on Orkut. The more you network and gain contacts, the better for you (because you think it’s fun) and for Google (they might gather information). It’s a mutual thing.

    Try to find a decent, ‘real’ job where they pay you for telling them what you have in your room.

    Get real, it’s not terrible that people feel special whilst other benefit on it.

  • Alex

    Could someone invite me into the Orkut community so i can see if it really is as horrible as some people say.

  • Alex

    Could someone invite me into the Orkut community so i can see if it really is as horrible as some people say.

  • Lys

    Hello, I’d like to be invited too… can someone help me? Tks!

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