Posts tagged social networking
Posts tagged social networking
A bit ago I posted a quote from Terence Blacker about Twitter. He was wary of the service, because he felt that as a writer, experience and events are his greatest asset, and with Twitter, “one is spending that capital as soon as one acquires it. The tap is dripping all the time.” But instead of being a weakness, I think this is the power of Twitter. The tap is always dripping anyway, but now there’s something there to catch the drops. My mind is always full of ideas and thoughts and analysis. Some of it I keep to myself, some of it I file away for later (Notational Velocity and Simplenote have revolutionized my idea organization), some of it I expand upon (to post on my blog), and some of it — likely, most of it — I forget about. There’s no way to stop this constant flow of activity, and that’s the beauty of the human mind. But with Twitter, there’s a way to capture it.
Eben Moglen on the dangers of centralized social networking, in his excellent keynote at The Free and Open source Software Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM) 2011 in Brussels, Belgium on February 5, 2011 (full transcript here):
Social networking—that is, the ability to use free form methods of communication from many to many, now, in an instantaneous fashion—changes the balance of power in society away from highly organized vehicles of state control towards people in their own lives.
What has happened in Iran, in Egypt, in Tunisia—and what will happen in other societies over the next few years—demonstrates the enormous political and social importance of social networking. But everything we know about technology tells us that the current forms of social network communication, despite their enormous current value for politics, are also intensely dangerous to use.
They are too centralized, they are too vulnerable to state retaliation and control. The design of their technology, like the design of almost all unfree software technology, is motivated more by business interests seeking profit than by technological interests seeking freedom.
As a result of which, we are watching political movements of enormous value, capable of transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of people, resting on a fragile basis, like for example, the courage of Mr. Zuckerberg, or the willingness of Google to resist the state, where the state is a powerful business partner and a party Google cannot afford frequently to insult.
We are living in a world in which real-time information crucial to people in the street seeking to build their freedom depends on a commercial micro-blogging service in northern California, which must turn a profit in order to justify its existence to the people who design its technology, and which we know is capable of deciding, overnight, all by itself, to donate the entire history of everything everybody said through it to the Library of Congress. Which means, I suppose, that in some other place, they could make a different style of donation.
This problem is directly related to the issue of dominant market share and the high cost of switching services. For an alternative to make any significant impact (like the federated networks that Moglen and others see as crucial), it must integrate with existing services and maintain compatibility, allowing the services to co-exist and the transition to be seamless (more on that in a later post).
Essentially, the historical advantage of dominant market share has been the ability to raise (discriminately) the switching cost of competing platforms. […]
The table stakes applications (Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, etc.) are available on most of the leading mobile platforms. If not available specifically as native applications, these services as often accessible as web applications. For apps beyond the main set, a reasonably informed consumer can find ready substitutes.
The data format worries of the PC era are now largely irrelevant, largely as a result of the web and outcomes of Microsoft’s Interoperability Commitments.
This got me thinking. The cost of switching may no longer apply to the hardware and operating system, but instead, the cost applies to switching services. It’s interesting that Lessien mentions Facebook, Twitter, and Kindle, because these are three services — or platforms — that contain a lot of valuable content and information that is hard, even impossible, to get out and use independently of the specific platforms. Closed platforms like these three services, with dominant market share, absolutely have a high cost of switching (friends and information on Facebook; tweets, followers and connections like @replies on Twitter; and your entire book collection with Kindle, which is an actual financial cost). Even if it’s easy to use these services across platforms, if you want to switch services, the cost — measured not financially, but in terms of the value of content and information — is still high.
We are no longer tethered by specific data formats, instead, we are tethered by specific accounts (which is why service interoperability and data portability are so important).