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

  • Orkustras in the Kiddie Pool

    Is your posse on OrKut your orkutstra?
    Although of late it has become rather trendy to trash OrKut, and many of the criticism are valid, I think folks may be missing the point.
    Many people joined the fray, had a frenzy of friend inviting, and then in…

  • I’m glad y’all want to take the time to read my rants, and even better that you post (even if anonymously). But you should probably realize that i’m an academic. I STUDY things. Right now, i’ve been studying online social network services. No one put a gun to my head to join any given service. I do this as a researcher. I write rants for the random folks who want to listen to them (and to vent my inner demons in an unconstrained form since academic papers require a lot more framing of the discussion).

    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.

  • danah boyd on orkut

    Social network researcher/academic, Danah Boyd, has a number of important points to consider surrounding Orkut.com, Google’s new social network tool….

  • danah boyd on orkut

    Social network researcher/academic, Danah Boyd, has a number of important points to consider surrounding Orkut.com, Google’s new social network tool….

  • Orkut spent already?

    Orkut might be spent which would make since as orkut is Finnish slang for orgasm. Seems like a bad thing to name a busines you would want to last for awhile. Reminds me of a joke a friend of mine…

  • Denouncing social software

    Denounce, a parody site, is all over social software this week: Friendster Secretly Shares Member Information with Government Amazon Launches New Social Network Called “Pricekut” And if we’re really into ranting about visible networks, danah boyd’s apo…

  • Denouncing social software

    Denounce, a parody site, is all over social software this week: Friendster Secretly Shares Member Information with Government Amazon Launches New Social Network Called “Pricekut” And if we’re really into ranting about visible networks, danah boyd’s apo…

  • Indignant

    Hmmm… well, I, for one, appreciate your rants. However, I almost think that some of the features in Orkut are *fishing* for strong reactions. I mean, some of this stuff is too dorky to be true. Rating your friends as fun, cool or sexy? Ick! But it would fit in with the Google model to just try it and see what kind of reaction they get– to get numbers to back up their design intuitions, and to use people’s reactions to design better categories. I mean, when is a service with a 5 digit user population still Beta? When a company’s user testing model relies on presenting minute changes to small percentages of a large user pool as a basis for their design decisions.

    As for the exclusivity– I think it’s Orkut’s way, for now, of preventing “fake people” from being added to the site and contaminating their data. If there are only people who are linked to people at Google, the developers have some way of making sure that the web they get– articulated or no–is a reflection of real-world networks instead of imaginary-world networks. It actually suggests that *somebody* is interested in this for the data, not just for the business opportunity.

  • Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Danah Boyd’s rational…

  • Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Danah Boyd’s rational …

  • Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Danah Boyd’s rational …

  • Christopher Allen Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Christopher Allen Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Dana…

  • Christopher Allen Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Christopher Allen Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Dana…

  • Christopher Allen Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Christopher Allen Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Dana…

  • Christopher Allen Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Christopher Allen Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Dana…

  • Christopher Allen Sebastien Paquet in Orkut Jail

    Christopher Allen Sebastien writes about how he got locked out of Orkut, possibly by alerting people to what he thought was a security hole (which turned out to be a UI defect). He shared a cell with Marc Canter. On the must-read list about Orkut: Dana…

  • boyd on Orkut; Meskill on the YASNS numbers

    apophenia goes apoplectic on the subject of orkut #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:…

  • Zephoria – What’s a beta with users in the five digits? If you let something spread that far, it’s not a beta..

    Er, why? Currently it’s under 20000 people (if I read it correctly). I think that’s a piddlingly small number. Assuming that part of what they are testing is how it travels as it grows it makes no sense to limit growth or to suddenly declare it as non-beta once it passes a certain mark.

    Personally I like Google’s brand of wide beta testing. See news.google.com, still in beta and yet highly useful, even if the occasional article shows up with the wrong picture or in the wrong place.

    As a self proclaimed “academic” I find your first point very strange. From an academic perspective I’d expect that seeing how Orkut grows from it’s initial seed state to be very interesting. I hope Orkut present some sort of data on how the network grew and changed. To proclaim that it is some attempt to “preconfigure the masses” (whatever that means) is ludicrous. It’s just a starting point. How it grows from there depends on real social networks. Will it initially grow faster amoung the more technologically inclined? Of course (not least of all because they are more likely to check their email once every five minutes rather than let the invite sit on their email server for a day before looking at it) but that isn’t something you can adjust for.

    Orkut is part toy, part experiment and part something useful. No matter what they change or how much they tweak (as they surely will be doing) it will always be part toy, part experiment and part something useful. It will never be a “perfect” representation of the real world. It won’t bring us a socialising nirvana. It won’t be the ultimate answer to any particular problem. There’s a lot of things it won’t do. But that isn’t the point really. It does more than it would do if it wasn’t there.

    And Gollum’s profile is worth a chuckle.

  • The Sidewalk the Walkers Built

    I’ve always been interested in architecture. At one point I seriously considered studying architecture in school, but my interest is and remains more that of a hobbyist than of a practiitioner. But I still keep up with stories about innovative design p…

  • Orkut is scaring me

    I’ve been meaning to write about this for days, and haven’t had a spare moment. Here’s what some other people…

  • 404notfound

    “Invitation-only is a convenient way of making sure the graph of all users remains connected. There are good reasons for enforcing that constraint that have nothing to do with elitism.”

    I don’t want to express a stance on this whole orkut issue either way, lest somebody take my comment the wrong way and start flaming, but one thing about this statement that I feel I should point out is that not everybody is connected as one giant network. If that were the case, then the little message on the home page about being connected to X number of users through Y friends would match up with the total number of orkut users (which you can find out by doing a search with no parameters set). At this point, there are about 3000 users that I’m not connected to.

  • Urkel

    There’s been a lot of talk about Orkut lately: what works, and what doesn’t; who can get in, and who can’t; whether ‘friend’, ‘cool’, and ‘hot’ are enough to capture all the nuances of the modern relationship. But we here…

  • Urkel

    There’s been a lot of talk about Orkut lately: what works, and what doesn’t; who can get in, and who can’t; whether ‘friend’, ‘cool’, and ‘hot’ are enough to capture all the nuances of the modern relationship. But we here…

  • Urkel

    There’s been a lot of talk about Orkut lately: what works, and what doesn’t; who can get in, and who can’t; whether ‘friend’, ‘cool’, and ‘hot’ are enough to capture all the nuances of the modern relationship. But we here…

  • Urkel

    There’s been a lot of talk about Orkut lately: what works, and what doesn’t; who can get in, and who can’t; whether ‘friend’, ‘cool’, and ‘hot’ are enough to capture all the nuances of the modern relationship. But we here…

  • Denouncing social software

    Denounce, a parody site, is all over social software this week: Friendster Secretly Shares Member Information with Government Amazon Launches New Social Network Called “Pricekut” And if we’re really into ranting about visible networks, danah boyd’s apo…

  • Anthony Mohen

    I’m tempted to agree with 404notfound. Google’s strength as a business model thus far has been it’s interest in a wide number of internet functions (absorbing Blogger, for instance) to experiment with how these affect the flow of information around the web, and how Google can expand on them. That said, I’ve yet to see Orkut in all it’s primitive glory, but from your description it is in dire need of more fine tuning (friend/fan certainly seems a strange pair of categories with which to assess all the people you know personally).

    Also, pathetic loser that I am, this is my attempt to seek an invitation. If any Orkut users are feeling generous, send one my way.

  • Best social software? Orkut? No, Epinions.

    I tend to agree with Danah about Orkut. In particular, I think Orkut does not model the real social network of an user. I speak of Orkut because is the buzz of the moment and its being in affiliation with…

  • Best social software? Orkut? No, Epinions.

    I tend to agree with Danah about Orkut. In particular, I think Orkut does not model the real social network of an user. I speak of Orkut because is the buzz of the moment and its being in affiliation with…

  • Best social software? Orkut? No, Epinions.

    I tend to agree with Danah about Orkut. In particular, I think Orkut does not model the real social network of an user. I speak of Orkut because is the buzz of the moment and its being in affiliation with…

  • d2r

    social software: representing relationships

    In all the recent talk about social software (particularly a lot of discussion generated by the release of Orkut, see Ross’ Why Orkut doesn’t work, Wired’s Social nets not making friends, Cory’s Toward a non-evil social networking service, Anne’s Socia…

  • this is all very interesting for me to read… i’m not an engineer and i haven’t been invited to Orkut ;)

  • Mandrake

    The opening statement on this site is a tryout for some “un-named” fraud attempting to pose as an intellectual. Yeah, you think too much, like myself sometimes, but what do you add to it (maybe the same to any other curiosity you encounter) CONTEMPT? …If it’s interesting enough to capture your attention and disdain, be worthy of oppinions by suggesting fixes rather.
    -Iddentify yourself or be ignored for lack of backbone.
    Take it from me, in my buisness, (latenight entertainment etc.} it can be time saving and productive to weed-out all the non-biz individuals trying to break thier way in, from the circle of expierienced pros you want to meet.

  • Mandrake

    The opening statement on this site is a tryout for some “un-named” fraud attempting to pose as an intellectual. Yeah, you think too much, like myself sometimes, but what do you add to it (maybe the same to any other curiosity you encounter) CONTEMPT? …If it’s interesting enough to capture your attention and disdain, be worthy of oppinions by suggesting fixes rather.
    -Iddentify yourself or be ignored for lack of backbone.
    Take it from me, in my buisness, (latenight entertainment etc.} it can be time saving and productive to weed-out all the non-biz individuals trying to break thier way in, from the circle of expierienced pros you want to meet.

  • There are just as many ‘Heathers’ on Wikipedia, applying social criteria to destroy the serious encyclopedia purpose of that project.

    The phenomena is known as “sysop vandalism”, and some services using similar software seem quite determined to avoid it

    http://consumerium.org/wiki/wiki.phtml?title=sysop_vandalism

    There’s a lot of good general discussion of the issues there at Consumerium, where they plan a form of social software that will attract lots of highly motivated and outside-funded attackers.

    Accordingly, it will be where the principles of social network service cohesion will be proven, or proven wrong. Very very highly recommended. And an extremely worthy project besides.

    Having an objective other than ‘hanging out’ is a pre-requisite for growing actual respect for others. Consumerium satisfies that criteria. Wikipedia used to, but now does not. And orkut and friendster never did.

  • Fruity Caligula

    At least it’s a cleaner, faster who’s who’s of the web (with actual photographs!) than could be nabbed previously.

  • dondi

    hey mebbe it’s a troll..mebbe you’re doing just what they want you to do. Does opening your mouth spread the cold? I suppose if you just calm down and take it for what it is, it will all fall into perspective.
    Mebbe it’s like an episode of “Home Movies”
    6 months it’ll all be a…. nothing.
    How many participatory(??) websites endured? The internet has done a wonderful job of giving certain kinds of people a life, whether its enriching or not remains to be seen, I guess the question is: Are you one of them?

  • I’m still trying to understand why this is even worth venting ‘against’. It’s a community website. You link to your friends and they link to theirs. And that’s about it. As far as I know no puppies were injured in the process. Chill. ;-P

  • apophenia: venting my contempt for orkut

    apophenia: venting my contempt for orkut…

  • Orkut

    I was recently introduced into the orkut community. Interesting little social experiment. Weblogs all over seem to be commenting on it, and complaining about it. Robert Love had a pretty positive post about it, but links to another post that…

  • Orkut

    I was recently introduced into the orkut community. Interesting little social experiment. Weblogs all over seem to be commenting on it, and complaining about it. I noticed that Robert Love was a user on orkut, and he had a pretty…

  • Readers’ letters and ‘social software’

    An impudent, imprudent member of the Faithful 5

  • Martin

    I´ve been thrown out of orkut two times the last
    three days without any explanation at all.
    help@orkut.com and support@orkut.com won´t
    answer, and orkut@stanford.edu definately won´t ! :) To me it´s extremely antisocial to invite people to a community and then throw them
    out without any explanation, I´d say it´s worse
    than antisocial. In any other social context it would be closer to sociopathological and in any case extremely rude. I wonder if it reflects the minds of the people who run orkut ?

  • Whew! Am I glad I trusted my gut instinct and declined the two invitations I got. I did go as far as looking at the entrance page where I was supposed to say I’d sign on, but the stupid questionnaire was enough to put me off forever. I never fill out marketing surveys or anything with those robotic questions meant for sheep. No, sorry, that’s an insult to sheep.

  • There is an APOPHENIA of global dimensions recorded in http://www.religionsAREone.com:

    Although we have thought that the intervals among the six monotheistic religions are random, because we were all taught that religions are utterly disconnected and incompatible with any ordered and related calendrical progression,they are, nevertheless, MORE than interrelated:

    They are of ONE numerical entity. They are actually all products or sums of 2520, the most unique number in our digital system! The Cosmic Painter has drawn the intervals among the six historic monotheistic religions in an order of digital symmetry, numerical symmetry and historical symmetry, and no one has ever pointed it out until a layman posted http://www.religionsAREone.com

    Juel
    Juel Design Studio.

  • scarum

    There’s something I don’t get…
    Why isn’t there some site where you can get automatically invited to this “secret society” ?Hasn’t anyone been able to crack the system and blow it wide open, provoke a reaction from Google, to see if it indeed is the can of worms of bad intentions as many suspect?

  • scarum

    There’s something I don’t get…
    Why isn’t there some site where you can get automatically invited to this “secret society” ?Hasn’t anyone been able to crack the system and blow it wide open, provoke a reaction from Google, to see if it indeed is the can of worms of bad intentions as many suspect?

  • 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 Orku 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 contario, nos castiga: la polmica Orku jail ya…