Category Archives: myspace

Social networks and the military’s hidden classism

I just finished reading a great article on a supposed class difference between MySpace and Facebook users. There is nothing you shouldn’t be able to spot between the lines but a good read nonetheless.

One thing I found interesting is her conservative take on the U.S. military’s ban of MySpace.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because there’s a division, even in the military. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. I can’t help but wonder if the reason for this goes beyond the purported concerns that those in the military are leaking information or spending too much time online or soaking up too much bandwidth with their MySpace usage.

MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a statistically significant shift has occurred but it was one of those things that just made me think. And then the ban happened. I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?

She neglects to inform readers that in the same stroke a ban was placed on YouTube. The Department of Defense says that strained infrastructure meant that the most bandwidth-intensive sites needed to be blacklisted, which does not suggest the threat to negative perceptions. Many soldiers seem to agree that military bandwidth is stretched but wish that the change did not affect their preferred ability to communicate with family and friends.

If you are really interested.


Is Noise Facebook’s Next Growing Pain?

Bill Erickson has an interesting take on the effects of Facebook applications on the site’s userbase.

A change has happened at Facebook and not many have noticed it. As the VC’s and entrepreneurs have become more connected to facebook, the average user (a college student) has become more disconnected.

Facebook as a replacement for TV? It was that 2 years ago, it isn’t any more. As a college student and an entrepreneur (like everyone else in the world, I have a facebook app being released next week) I’ve seen the change happen. Last year, whenever we – and by we, I mean college students – were bored, we’d get on facebook and browse around for a while. Check out some photos, browse friends profiles…just bounce around on facebook for an hour or so.

But now, facebook has added so much stuff that it isn’t an exploring tool anymore – they’ve optimized it to a point where I don’t need to explore. Instead of spending hours jumping around on friends profiles, i can take a quick look at hte news feed. I get text msgs and emails whenever I get a message, tagged in a photo, or any other “actionable” item. I’ve found I only go to facebook now when I need to act on one of these “actionable” items; e.g., receive a message, wall post, tagged in a photo.

And it’s not just me. I’ve been talking to a lot of college students because I want my facebook app to succeed. It had almost been finished before they released the platform – it originally used the API – but rebuilt it using the platform, which delayed the launch.

Anyway, almost everyone I’ve talked to has said the facebook apps now are out of hand. One person even said “someone should build a facebook like it used to be, no one wants this new facebook anymore but there’s nothing else that’s better.” Facebook is becoming like digg – too much noise for exploring (ie, TV replacement), but it still works well as a communication platform. So, we are now using it as a replacement for email, IM and the like.

I’m not saying facebook is going anywhere – it is still the best communications platform out there. It has most of my social network already plugged in and I can’t take that to another service (unless it’s built into facebook). But those 250,000 users your application has, they are mostly the same 250,000 users all the other applications have. The vast majority of students aren’t adding any applications. With the huge stream of options, they just blocked the whole thing out.

It’s going to be much harder for my application to get critical mass at my university because the majority of people just won’t look at the application – even if it would be extremely useful to them. People have told me they would have loved my service back before the facebook platform, but now it’s just going to get lost in the noise.

There are other thoughtful comments on Brad’s post linked above. Other bloggers such as Fred Wilson see the signal to noise ratio as a problem, too.

Though Facebook’s userbase is currently less than a quarter the size of MySpace’s count, it is clear, even to News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, that Facebook is the in and MySpace is out. However, even with this momentum, could these applications mean a quick downturn in Facebook’s touted user activity levels and a loss of focus from their core product?

Sony’s Minisodes on MySpace a Good Idea

There is an op-ed piece on NPR entitled Old TV Is New Again, and Shorter discussing Sony’s release of so-called minisodes. These TV classics, such as Who’s the Boss?, Charlie’s Angles, and The Facts of Life, will be trimmed to run 3-5 minutes, hence the name. Sony plans to distribute through MySpace, hopefully latching onto their viral userbase and targeting a broad audience, the younger of whom have likely never seen these shows.

NPR’s commentator on the piece, Andrew Wallenstein, thinks the idea destroys the integrity of the original shows, killing character development, removing plot, etc… His idea: if you can’t see the episode in full, you are missing something, so you shouldn’t view it at all.

I disagree with the largely nostalgic viewpoint and see this as win-win. To me, this is Sony experimenting with a move to bring mainstream media online and using legacy content (read: cheap, paid for) to do it. What the above argument fails to notice is the context of the medium minisodes are viewed.

The web is a harsh place for content providers. Users have short attention spans and only give partial focus to the content. The clear message is that adaptation is a must and Sony is clearly heeding the call. If companies want their content to spread virally, they must deliver media catered to the users’ short attention span.

Easily consumable videos have propelled short clips toward ubiquity. Examples of a successful move from 30 minute episodes are shows like Prom Queen (originally planned to run 80 episodes, Prom Queen will be returning in August after a cliffhanger ending left loyal viewers wanting more) and the lonelygirl15 craze.