Monthly Archives: January 2005

call me Countess

When Scott was signing up with United, he found that he was required to give a title. Of course, rather than just having the generic ones, they went all out. Choices include:

Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss, Dr, 1sgt, 1stLt, 2ndLt, Adm, Baron, Baroness, Bishop, BrigGen, Brother, Cantor, Capt, Cardinal, Cmdr, Cmst, Col, Count, Countess, Cpl, Cpo, Dean, Duchess, Duke, Elder, Ens, Father, FleetAdm, General, Governor, Gysgt, Hon, Imam, Judge, Lady, Lcpl, Lord, Lt, LtCmdr, LtCol, LtGen, LtJg, Ma, Major, MajorGen, Mcpo, Mgysgt, Minister, Monsignor, MostRev, Mother, Msgt, Mstr, Pastor, PettyOff, Pfc, Po1, Po2, Po3, President, Prince, Prof, Pvt, Rabbi, RearAdm, Rev, RightRev, Scpo, Senator, Sfc, Sgt, Sgtmaj, Sir, Sister, Smn, Smn1, Smst, Sp4, Sp5, Sp6, Sr, Sra, Srta, Ssgt, Swami, TechSgt, VeryRev, ViceAdm

Mac mini for the masses

I’ve decided that the Mac mini shall be bought by Mac fetishists for the people in their lives for whom they provide all technical support. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, bosses. etc.

For this to work effectively, Mac must include one key application when they release Tiger: SOLITAIRE.

Dealing with Culture

[posted to OM]

People who have relationships with each other often have shared interests, values and tastes. As collections of relationships evolve, cultures form with collective interests, values and tastes (that may not resemble any or all of the individual members’). There are shared cultural practices and activities embedded in these cultures.

There are two ways of looking at this – through the foci or through the group. There appear to be communities that follow particular interests, say a music genre. But also – and this is important – there is a higher probability that your friends share the same interests as you than a random sampling of people. In other words, if you really like David Bowie, your friends are more likely to like David Bowie that a random collection of the same number of people. Of course, this does not mean that they all like David Bowie or that any of them like him as much as you do. Likewise, this doesn’t mean that the biggest David Bowie fan is your friend (although you’re more likely to have something in common with this person than a random stranger).

Cultures often form within social network clusters because members of the group tend to share things in common. Additionally, when people like each other, they are interested in trying out each other’s passion. Try dating someone who *loves* David Bowie – you’ll find yourself listening to him too.

Now, think about all social networking tools. They have all proliferated based on social network clusters – friend groups with dense network overlap. A lot of these groups have brought their groups’ culture with them and it is these cultures that people often recognize. In the early days of Friendster, this is why people thought Friendster was all gay men, all Burners, all whatever. The indie rock kids have invaded MySpace, the Burners took over, Brazilian culture has dominated Orkut. Depending on the cultures that an individual participates in, one service or another feels far more appealing.

Anyone interested in creating sociable applications needs to understand that this dynamic is natural and the product of very excited individual(s) spreading a product to their friendgroup. Why a group really values a particular software should be a problem to solve, not an act to suppress. Attempts to disrupt culture often disrupts a lot more than the narrow culturally defined group – this is the problem with social networks… attitudes flow through the networks just as much as information.

Culture emerges in most social technologies that bring people together. Like it or not, the company who has created the tools is faced with the responsibility of supporting that culture, particularly with hosted tools/communities. This can be very tricky when a company fosters a culture that they did not expect or want (a.k.a. it’s not a population that can be squeezed for money). What to do becomes an ethical question.

The irony is that most social technology companies want the whole world to use their service. The world includes a vast array of different cultures and communities, not all of which are compatible with each other. So when the cultures have to interact because of the tool, it is fundamentally impossible to actually have all cultures involved if there are conflicting ones. Take the homophobes and the queers – they really don’t go well together. If you choose to support the queers by making your tool queer-friendly, you will piss off the homophobes. And no matter what, those two groups really don’t want to have to interact with each other on the site.

Therein lies an interesting problem for builders of social tools – how to support culture, what to do when you have issue with the culture that emerged and how to deal with the fact that you can’t get everyone to use a social tool if the interface will reveal the values of the other one or if members from conflicting groups will have to interact.

On a Vetted Wikipedia, Reflexivity and Investment in Quality (a.k.a. more responses to Clay)

[Also posted at M2M]

In response to Clay, i *definitely* do not believe that Wikipedia should be ignored and i definitely do not believe that Britannica is better – just different. When i said that Wikipedia will never be an encyclopedia, i am definitely referencing the current definition (although being flexible on the fact the definition does state book form). Whether the definition will expand, who knows but i don’t think it matters. Both encyclopedias and Wikipedia are knowledge resources and they will always be different. If legitimacy requires a definitional change, i’m worried. Why does it have to be an encyclopedia? Why can’t it simply be Wikipedia?

In this (long) entry, i want to make 3 points:
1) A vetted Wikipedia can have complementary value;
2) Reflexivity would be of great value for entries that interpret (not necessarily for entries that are about empirical facts);
3) Authority has to do with knowledge, investment and risk.

Continue reading

On LiveJournal and subcultures

LiveJournal is not a single community – it is a collection of communities. It is not all subcultural, all youth, all anything. Yet, for subcultural populations, LJ plays a very special role. It is for these communities – those who have found a safety net in LJ – that i decided to step back and write a piece for Salon – Turmoil in Blogland. I am not arguing nor do i believe that Six Apart is bad, misguided or clueless. I am fully aware that this sale is quite valuable for many different groups involved. And i’m very well aware that Six Apart (or at least Mena Trott) gets the value of personal communicative blogging. Yet, LJ culture is unique and often chaotic and scary. To nourish this will take a commitment and responsibility that i’m truly hoping Six Apart will embrace. For the subcultural populations on LJ, this decision will be key and it’s important that Six Apart works to learn from these communities before altering the social fabric in any way. For example, for many of us, there’s nothing comforting about pro-Ana communities, yet they’re very present on LJ. Understanding why these communities flourish on LJ says a lot about both the tool and the culture we live in. Efforts to destroy them will be devastating to the individuals and communities involved, even though the behavior seems so self-destructive. The trick is not to be patronizing, but to understand.

So, enjoy the piece. And thank you so much for the ongoing commentary – i’ve learned a lot from the different perspectives people have offered.

PS: to clarify on broader commentary – i identify as a blogger and i blog on four public sites, one private one, and various class ones. I also keep a private LiveJournal although i used to keep a public one. That said, most of the perspective that i’m offering comes from my interviews with bloggers and LJers, not my own personal experiences.

social contract vs. guiding principles

Have i mentioned how much i hate lawyers?

Why is social contract changing to guiding principles?

Lawyers didn’t like “contract” in the name “social contract” because it does not have the structure of a contract. The principles are the same, though. Six Apart doesn’t want to kill LiveJournal. Don’t worry — I thoroughly screened them to make sure they weren’t evil.

from Brad’s announcement

The term ‘social contract’ does not come from legalese – it’s an ancient political theory with a rich history. In short, a social contract is a set of culturally agreed upon norms that help maintain social solidarity. In most cases, the elements of the social contract are never explicated or concretely agreed upon – they just become norms. In almost all cases, people give up freedoms because it is good for the society as a whole. Thus, elements of the social contract are usually articulated as “that’s just wrong” or “you just don’t do that.” Lying, stealing, cheating, killing… these are all things that fit into the social contract. Of course, many elements of a society’s social contract are written into stone through law but the social contract came first.

Guiding principles are not the same as a social contract. A guiding principle is what those in power, those building the system, those who are actually doing the structural guiding are seeking to achieve. A social contract is something that is culturally accepted by all parties. For example, as a guiding principle, spam avoidance means that the creators will do everything in their power to make LJ a spam-free service. As a social contract, everyone involved will do their damnedest to rid the service of spam.

I know that the intentions are the same and that the goal is to just be careful of legalese, but one of the things that makes LJ so special is that there is a social contract between the participants. This needs to be maintained for LJ’s culture to survive, even if the term is being removed from its legal cannon.

it’s official

brad says so. mena says so.

I really appreciate their explanations. Although some thought otherwise, i do very much respect both companies and all people involved. It was also nice to see some of my issues addressed head on. I do believe that everyone has good intentions and really wants to see a merger be beneficial for everyone. Of course, i’m still concerned. I’m concerned because i think that the greatest effect will be on those who aren’t reading this or any of the other announcements. But only time will tell and i will definitely be watching with great interest.

On a lighter note, i’m *very* humored by Mena’s reference to her days of wearing black.

Jonathan Harris

I went to a great talk today by Jonathan Harris. He demoed various aspects of his artist work, most notably the visual news reader 10×10, wordcount (a tool that would make George Carlin proud) and Understanding Vorn – a fantastic visual entrance to LiveJournal (which also reminds me of why i love Quizilla). All of these pieces connect language to images and create a really compelling mechanism for accessing information in novel ways. Fantastic interactive art, absolutely fantastic.

It sends shivers down my spine to see someone who knows how to construct visual images in a compelling manner. Damn i love that shit. Harris also made me very happy by referencing a friend of mine from Media Lab days – Golan Levin (another brilliant visual artist).