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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Abrams at SXSW: the MP3

I now have an MP3 of Abrams’ talk at SXSW. (Thanks Tom Chi!!)

It was actually really really good to listen to it again. Since i was so frustrated by the first time, my expectations were really low this time (as opposed to my high hopes before). This meant that i listened and ignored all of the places where i disagreed with him and focused on the fun anecdotes. There are many fun anecdotes embedded into the talk and that was good to listen for. If i had time, i’d go through and challenge different parts of the talk. That said, most of my disagreements are philosophical. For example, i don’t believe that the social awkwardness in Friendster is parallel to social awkwardness in everyday life. There are new issues and those must be addressed.

But anyhow, i wanted to pull out the section that really got my goat the other day.

“We’re all sick of the social networking thing”

Ryze: “It was a business networking site…” When he thought of Friendster, it wasn’t about dating. “I wanted to build a mainstream service. I thought… this isn’t business networking… this is *social* networking. Friends, dating, anything to do with that kinda of stuff. So that’s how i thought of the term social networking.”

Other people thought of businessy things… “And now there’s this whole kind of thing where people are talking about social networking. And they’re referring to any service or site that has these similar concepts.” Like Spoke…. “This is salesforce enterprise software deal – really quite different.” “And now they’re calling this a space.”

So, the problems are two-fold. First is the visceral response that i got when Abrams so casually described how he found the term social networking in his creative efforts. He then goes on to assumed a shared understanding of the term he’s adopted and is upset because everyone else is talking about social networks. He suggests that they are doing something very different to what Friendster is doing and that they should not be considered social networks.

When Spoke talks about social networks, they are actually using the term *far* more accurately to its definition than Friendster. People use their social networks to do business; social networks are about people and relationships, not simply networks that are used for social events. What makes Spoke far closer to the target is the fact that they are deriving behavior-based social networks instead of relying on people articulating them. Thus, they are actually representing social networks, not performance.

As i think about this, the reason that this got my goat was because it is a repurposing of a term that has lots of history and value because Abrams thought that he was the first to come up with it and capitalize on it. The most insulting part is that Abrams critiques sites using social networks to complete other tasks because they aren’t doing exactly what he did. These sites are not simply social networks by self-definition only; those of us on the outside saw them as such too. Take Ryze. Ryze isn’t business networking… it’s social networking for a business context. This section makes Abrams come across as ignorant. And that’s quite disappointing.

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