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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commissioned Fakesters?

Andy reports that all of the Anchorman characters appear on Friendster as Fakesters while a banner ad for the movie runs in the advert section. Has Friendster stopped its ban on Fakesters so long as they’re commissioned?

Update: Friendster really is supporting this. And they don’t see the irony in it. “What Friendster is doing with these movie-character profiles is actually a brand-new paradigm in media promotion.” Oh dear god.

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18 comments to commissioned Fakesters?

  • Zarathustra

    Hey, so I’ve been just periodically checking the WEB (period), and even then just to check on e-mails and stuff. Been completely out, and then I stay up late tonight to catch up on old times, and I get this : http://plainlayne.dreamhost.com/. There’s a more detailed explanation here: http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/9028023.htm
    I dont know if you remember but Layne would comment on my site from time to time, was one of the first persons to link my site etc. Wow. The thought crossed my mind, and then I thought why would anyone do this for free (the writing was that good). It had to be a personal cathartic experiance. I was right, just that the logic was applied in the wrong direction. Just felt like telling someone I used to know in the blog realm?
    Still blows my mind away though…

  • Patrick

    It’s just another nail in the coffin for friendster. Such an asinine marketing is clearly a desperate attempt to get some revenue.

    Methinks it is time to start a “friendster goes belly up” pool…

  • Tony

    yes,they probably will go belly up but i don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to garner some revenue(they’re obviously in financial problems). It’s cheesy and really a weak attempt but capitalism seeps into everything. next thing they’ll become a dating service and charge users to send messages…

  • Mike

    I never understood why it’s so upsetting to people that they couldn’t have Fakesters.

    How much fun can it be to have a hundred accounts named “Jesus Christ”, each with 400 friends ?

    Why is the attempt to get revenue a bad thing ?

    Is that to imply that Tribe, Orkut and Myspace aren’t in it for the money ?

  • you miss the point. the point is, it’s lame to squash people’s spontaneous creativity, then turn around and mock up that very idea as a desperate attempt to generate the revenue you are losing in large part because you saw no value in the creativity you squashed.

  • you miss the point. the point is, it’s lame to squash people’s spontaneous creativity, then turn around and mock up that very idea as a desperate attempt to generate the revenue you are losing in large part because you saw no value in the creativity you squashed.

  • you miss the point. the point is, it’s lame to squash people’s spontaneous creativity, then turn around and mock up that very idea as a desperate attempt to generate the revenue you are losing in large part because you saw no value in the creativity you squashed.

  • you miss the point. the point is, it’s lame to squash people’s spontaneous creativity, then turn around and mock up that very idea as a desperate attempt to generate the revenue you are losing in large part because you saw no value in the creativity you squashed.

  • agh, damn safari cookie bug. erm, apologies for multiple posts. 🙂

  • I remember seeing George Bush and John Kerry profiles on friendster a few months ago and thinking that was *almost* the same thing.

  • mike

    I don’t think that I’m missing the point. I can’t use a free email service like Yahoo in a way they don’t intend, and they put their expectations in their terms of service. I don’t know why people think Friendster would be any different.

    Yahoo expects me to use their service in the way they intend. Within certain limits (i.e., size, amount of emails per day, etc.), I do. I can BUY more space, or the right to use a more “premium” email service from them. How is that different from Friendster charging a company to have movie characters’ profiles ?

    Having Fakesters, in my opinion, degrades the network, for the things that I use it for.

  • Well, i hate to break it to you, but you’re not the only one on the network. And while Jesus Christ may not be fun for you, he’s obviously a gaff for his 400 friends. Besides being fun (for those of us who enjoy fun), i think of Fakesters as an interest twist on meeting people you have like interests with. Sure, i can follow the ‘interest links’ – that’s what they’re intended for. But the Fakesters are serving a function similar to what the interest links do (connecting people together), and despite the fact that the developers didn’t consciously intend to create that function, it nevertheless now exists. The users have created it. (why do i suddenly feel like i’m caught in the movie Tron? anywho.)

    i don’t care what kind of technology you develop, you will never succeed in controlling users’ behavior. i can see trying to prevent/repair malicious or destructive user behavior – but harmless, creative, fun behavior? Why? What’s the point? So you can save your extra few Mb of storage space and a bit of server processing power at the expense of alienating the very audience you wish to attract? Lame. It’s like a bratty little kid that gives you his toy to play with and yanks it away from you when you come up with something interesting to do with it that he hadn’t thought of. (and then, of course, he turns around and sells your idea. Even more Lame. with a capital L.)

    i am having a hard time imagining how Fakesters could really be so unpleasant for you, actually. i personally am tickled pink every time i log in (infrequently, these days… Friendster is boring.) to see the irreverent mug of Patsy Stone in the list of my friends. it makes me smile. it reminds me that there are other people out there in the world who get as tickled by Ab Fab as i do. It reminds me that life has a lot in it to laugh about. It’s fun. Call me crazy, but – if you’re trying to build a social network that people want to hang out in… wouldn’t you want it to be fun?!?

  • Mike

    I just don’t think that Friendster is about “controlling” their user’s behavior, and the militant action about the use of Fakesters just seems silly to me. To each his/her own, I guess….your experience is different from mine.

    I laugh about alot on Tribe and Friendster and Orkut, and most of it is because of the creative works in the profiles and testimonials of people who I see there, which makes me we want to meet/talk with them.

    Fakesters are unpleasant for me because I encounter enough “cleverness” here in San Francisco in real life, actually. It’s actually refreshing to see people honestly putting a name behind saying something interesting for a change.

    But hey, what do I know ? I live in a “bubble” I guess. Like I said above, to each his or her own. I have a feeling that most of the users on Friendster (or Tribe, or Orkut, or Multiply, or MySpace) will use these services whether or not they accept Fakesters.

  • Mike – your response brings up this question: does creativity need to be tied to some specific identity in order to be enjoyable? Is it important that i know the names of all the actresses/actors in the films i watch? Do i need to know who painted that beautiful mural on the side of the community center to appreciate it? San Fran has a fantastic queer pride parade – do i need to know everyone who’s in it to enjoy all the colors? For me, the answer is no. Fakesters are just a new form of fiction, and it’s an interactive fiction, which makes it even more interesting. i highly doubt that the Fakesters are intending to somehow ‘hide’ behind their fake identities. They’re just throwing out their creativity ‘for free’ and don’t seem to be attached to their ‘real’ identities’ getting ‘recognition’ for it.

    Which begs the question – what is a ‘real’ identity? Your response hints at this perceived split between ‘real life’ and ‘virtual life’ that i don’t necessarily buy into. i think there is a sense in which one could say that all identity is a fiction. But that’s probably a topic for another thread… 🙂

    re: “I just don’t think that Friendster is about “controlling” their user’s behavior, and the militant action about the use of Fakesters just seems silly to me.”

    Well – to set up an ultimatum that says “if you perform this behavior, we will delete your profile” – it’s pretty hard not to construe that as being ‘controlling.’ That is essentially the definition of control: “To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; to regulate; to hold in restraint or check.” Regarding the existence of ‘militant action’ about Fakester profiles – if it exists, i haven’t seen any of it. Seattle in ’99, Quebec City in ’01 – those were some militant actions. No one’s in the streets with molotov cocktails fighting for the Fakesters.

    re: “Fakesters are unpleasant for me because I encounter enough “cleverness” here in San Francisco in real life, actually.”

    There must be a damn lot of creativity going on in San Francisco if you have reached that saturation point of having seen “enough” of it. i don’t think of ithaca as particularly creatively impoverished, but i have not myself gotten to the point of feeling like i have reached my limit. “Enough of that creativity, already! No more!” Admittedly, i’m in a bubble myself (isn’t everyone in a bubble?) because my worldview happens to be all about promoting everyone’s inner creativity (in whatever strange and glorious form that may take), and i don’t think that’s typical. So, as you say – to each her own. 🙂

  • Mike

    Doctor Paradox…I see your point, but I think you misunderstood my earlier comment, and I think that is my fault for not being clear. FWIW, I have accounts on most of these social networking sites, and I use them for various reasons. I’m not defending just Friendster in this case, I’m defending them all. You’ll see my point below.

    One small thing is that I didn’t say “creativity”, I said cleverness. I guess I only got about a minute or so enjoyment from seeing Jesus Christ’s profile, or the Budweiser Frog profile. But that is a matter of opinion, and you a have a right to yours.

    But as to the topic of “control”…if I use my Yahoo email account to send unsolicited email to users, in many circumstances, they may cancel my account, and that is their right. They can do that, with no regard to the content of my emails, no matter how creative they might be. So is Yahoo trying to “control” my behaviour ? No, they are limiting it.

    Here’s some more help. Friendster’s applicable Terms of Service says:

    “# Your profile must describe you, an individual person. Examples of inappropriate profiles include, but are not limited to, profiles that purport to represent an animal, place, inanimate object, fictional character, or real individual who is not you. ”

    interesting. This of course is all only applicable to the extent that Friendster will be able to enforce any of these Terms, I’m assuming…since they might have not a 100% exact science down for identifying who is real or not.

    either way, let’s take a look elsewhere:

    from Orkut’s Terms of Service:

    ” Other examples of illegal or unauthorized uses include, but are not limited to:

    – submitting false or misleading information.
    – submitting Materials that infringe, misappropriate or violate the intellectual property, publicity, privacy or other proprietary rights of any party”

    so it sounds like I won’t be able to register my “Adam Rich” or “Robert Plant” fakester on Orkut, either, hmm ? Why aren’t people up in arms about Orkut ? (p.s. for more fun, go back and read the privacy policy from Orkut. It makes Friendster’s look like a treatise from Richard Stallman.)

    let’s keep moving on, though, shall we ? From Tribe.net’s Terms of Service:

    “Tribe.net reserves the right to delete accounts created by users who appropriate the name, likeness, email address, or other personally identifiable information of another individual. Tribe Networks, Inc. reserves the right to refuse the Service to any user. ”

    “You understand and agree that Tribe Networks, Inc. may review from time to time and delete any content that violates this Agreement or which might be offensive, illegal, or harm the safety of or violate the rights of other users and members.”

    A little bit of vague language, but it doesn’t look like a “Forrest Gump” profile that I might make there is at all safe from deletion.

    Of course I don’t think that anyone is surprised by these Terms of Service. Are you ? At least MySpace comes right out and says basically that they get to do whatever they want with what you post, and that’s that:

    ” MySpace.com reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject, refuse to post or remove any posting (including email) by you, or to restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the Website and/or Services at any time, for any or no reason, with or without prior notice, and without liability.”

    So here are these other social networking sites, building into their Terms of Service, the exact ability to do what Friendster has done in the past, and no one seems upset about them. Why is that ?

    I suspect that it’s for a couple of reasons. One is that Friendster’s popularity exploded so quickly, and the fakester revolution/destruction was that much more heard about. Can you think of any reasons ?

  • Mike

    Also…my use of the word “militant” might not have been the best term to use. I said that because of the effort people have taken while being upset that their fakester was removed. Like this:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FriendsterRevolution/

  • thanks for the ToS review, but i’m aware of all of that. i am not arguing that there is *never* any reason developers might want to exercise control over their users (as i stated above, regarding minimizing malicious damage, etc.). you have to cover your ass as much as possible, sure – but it would be wise to exercise that control with great caution and for good reason, so that you’re not stepping on your well-meaning users’ toes. the Friendster developers are legally ‘right’ in their actions, yes, but what is ‘right’ is not always what is ‘good.’ i’m saying that, philosophically, in terms of their business ethics – what they are doing is alienating the ‘cool kids’ they say they want to attract – the creative users, and the ‘hubs’. the users who are bringing in new people, amusing other people on the network and bringing them back. It is a control method that is not very, as you say, clever. if you’re trying to establish a fun, creative space, but you treat your users like some authoritarian parent, your social network is doomed.

    re: “So here are these other social networking sites, building into their Terms of Service, the exact ability to do what Friendster has done in the past, and no one seems upset about them. Why is that ?

    I suspect that it’s for a couple of reasons. One is that Friendster’s popularity exploded so quickly, and the fakester revolution/destruction was that much more heard about. Can you think of any reasons ?”

    i can think of one fantastic one – that there’s only so much time in the day, man. You’ve got to pick your battles. i’ll start picking apart everyone else if/when they start acting Lame. right now i’m still in the honeymoon phase with most of them (e.g. Flickr is the coolest thing since sliced bread. i’m fairly confident i could create accounts for both robert plant and forrest gump with impunity, if i had a mind to it.). Friendster is just a relationship that went sour. Plenty of fish in the sea. 🙂

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