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The Social Graph

Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers - that’s the social graph.

Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.

Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends (and staffing it, of course, with that Mormon bartender).

We’re used to talking about how disturbing this in the context of privacy, but it’s worth pointing out how weirdly unsocial it is, too. How are you supposed to feel at home when you know a place is full of one-way mirrors?

We have a name for the kind of person who collects a detailed, permanent dossier on everyone they interact with, with the intent of using it to manipulate others for personal advantage - we call that person a sociopath. And both Google and Facebook have gone deep into stalker territory with their attempts to track our every action. Even if you have faith in their good intentions, you feel misgivings about stepping into the elaborate shrine they’ve built to document your entire online life.

Open data advocates tell us the answer is to reclaim this obsessive dossier for ourselves, so we can decide where to store it. But this misses the point of how stifling it is to have such a permanent record in the first place. Who does that kind of thing and calls it social?

Maciej Cegłowski, The Social Graph is Neither

Social Networks I’m Not In

I’m not on Facebook, Google+, or Flickr. I see they’re a convenient way of sharing photos and snippets of news, but I know they would decrease the quality of my friendships. I already struggle to find time regularly to meet, phone, or write to friends; pfaffing on a social network would use up that precious time and make me feel I’d done enough when, in reality, it’s not enough.

Also I don’t see why these networks should have all the intellectual property rights to my stuff.

Social Networks I Am In

I am on GitHub, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The difference is these are all for work: to try to get more business. Even this blog exists only to try to get people to give me money; it’s not a diary to show the world I am a unique and beautiful snowflake. (Obviously I am but I don’t feel the need to tell anyone that.)

Andrew Stewart • 9 November 2011 • Social
You can reach me by email or on Twitter.