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Somewhat social, not very networky

Your Humble Blogger has been meaning to write a note about Facebook and Google Plus, and I suppose the latest FB foofaraw is as good a place as any to start. FB, as you may know if you are on it, has changed its news feed as part of a bigger change in the way it wants people to use the software. A lot of people hate the change, including, natch, Your Humble Blogger. Not that any of us liked FB’s interface before, because it stinks on ice, but we had grown accustomed to it, perhaps had put in some effort to customize it to our own preferences (as much as we could), and now—BAM!—it’s all screwed up again.

The thing is this—people don’t like Facebook. We like interacting with our friends and our friends, our old high school classmates and cousins and so on and so forth, but we don’t like the Facebook itself. Maybe some people do, but it seems to me that most of us don’t. This isn’t terribly surprising, as most of us don’t like much of our software. I don’t like my word processor. It works, and that’s good, but I don’t look forward to using it. I don’t like livejournal; people did seem to like it for a while, and perhaps a lot of people who use the site more than I do still like it a bunch, but I have the impression that the bloom has gone off the proverbial. I have the sense that people like Twitter, that they enjoy the whole interface (however they are using it) and like to be on it; I’m not on twitter at this time, so I don’t know. I know that a lot of people like Pandora, that using Pandora is pleasant or fun in addition to listening to the music. I like Google Reader, which I use as my aggregator. I like YouTube, actually, now that I think about it. Facebook? People don’t like Facebook.

Of course, I don’t like Google Plus, either. This was made worse by the fact that Google Plus doesn’t like me—or, rather, they don’t want people using pseudonyms on Google Plus. As Your Humble Blogger is pseudonymous, one of those people who has been using the same nom de net for years in a variety of places, this makes Google Plus seem very unwelcoming, which affects how I think of their set-up. Not that they have actually kicked me out—but I am lying low over there, and have transferred my Google Reader and Calendar to my proper name account, for fear of losing them altogether. If any of y’all are at all interested in the whole nym fight, which is actually quite interesting, there are plenty of places to read about it from people who are more interesting and have more at stake than YHB, but here I’ll just state that it got me off on the wrong foot as far as liking the thing.

Not that Google or Facebook need me or anybody else to like their product. They just need us to use it. If Microsoft proved anything, it proved that people will use products they don’t like using. They might be the right products to use, even if they aren’t likeable. So I suppose the question is what product to I use? What do I want from a social network?

The first thing about social networks, of course, is the desire not to be Left Out, that when something interesting happens, we will be in on it. And, in fact, they are terribly useful for that; I have found out about events and performances, personal milestones, sales, and all sorts of things ranging from the tiniest trivia to sparks to Act Now. My initial foray into Facebook was because an old high school friend of mine died, and I didn’t hear about it for a month or so; I guess am unlikely to miss such a death or a birth or a marriage again for a while. So that’s all right.

Other than that, I suppose what I really want from a social network is for my clever, witty friends to amuse me constantly. My preference is for them (y’all being a good subset of them) to do it at greater length, on their own blogs or on mine. Google Plus seemed to be set up for multiple paragraph notes and comments interspersed with the one-liners, but I’m not seeing a great deal of that—of course, I’m not seeing a great deal of anything, because most of my clever, witty friends either aren’t on Google Plus or aren’t posting things to amuse me (because I am Outside the Circle—the Circle metaphor really, really isn’t working for me over there) with four or so friends posting every day (some multiple times) and another two or three posting on occasion. That’s not going to keep me amused, particularly if the notes are brief enough to be the soul of wit.

People talk about the death of blogging, you know. Not just about this Tohu Bohu and how rarely I post these days, but that in general people no longer want to have their own blogs to write posts about the things that interest them, when they can participate in a greater stream of a social network. Unfortunately, social networks are mostly terrible blogging platforms (I suppose LJ/dream is an exception, there—LJ seemed to do the social networking thing and (to a lesser extent) the blogging platform thing very early and very well, and had almost no influence on the social network craze) (except on dreamwidth and similar sites, I suppose, which themselves aren’t very influential on the craze). One reason why Twitter’s success followed Facebook’s, I think, is because after a few months of writing and reading the brief status updates that are that site’s stock in trade, the switch to an absolute character limit is easy. I miss long posts, I miss rambling posts, I miss being amused and provoked by my friends. Sigh. Not that I really think blogging is dead, or close to it—many GRs and other friends have journals or blogs, and update them more often than I update this Tohu Bohu. But still.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Testing comments. Is this thing on?

Someone had an interesting comment somewhere: It is not that Google (or Facebook or whoever) is a product and you are the customer; it is that you are the product, and people who want information about you (e.g. advertisers who want to show you ads that you are more likely to find attractive) are the customer.

I don't draw a lot of stunning conclusions from this (like "this is bad" or "this is awesome" or "this changes everything" or whatever), but I think it's insightful and I personally hadn't thought of it before.

(Also: This thing now seems to be on! Yay.)

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