Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: social media

The social graph is not the future

Before he created the awesome bookmark site Pinboard, Maciej Ceglowski was known primarily as a writer of incredibly good essays. For example, he recently wrote about the Arabic language, and in 2005, famously wrote the definitive essay criticizing the space shuttle program.

Yesterday, he wrote a post on the Pinboard Blog criticizing the concept of the social graph. This paragraph really nails the inadequacies of computerized models of our human relationships:

This obsession with modeling has led us into a social version of the Uncanny Valley, that weird phenomenon from computer graphics where the more faithfully you try to represent something human, the creepier it becomes. As the model becomes more expressive, we really start to notice the places where it fails.

I love this bit on the awkwardness of actually constructing our personal social graph as well:

There’s no way to take a time-out from our social life and describe it to a computer without social consequences. At the very least, the fact that I have an exquisitely maintained and categorized contact list telegraphs the fact that I’m the kind of schlub who would spend hours gardening a contact list, instead of going out and being an awesome guy. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there’s a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!

There’s a reason everybody is talking about this essay. It’s profound and important.

On a closely related note, check out the blog post from last week everyone was talking about — Zach Holman’s Don’t Give Your Users Shit Work.

Raw follower counts on Twitter

Anil Dash has been presenting some really interesting information about the results of being on Twitter’s infamous suggested user list. He’s found that while it does drive up your follower count very rapidly, those followers don’t seem to be active in any way, in terms of responding, retweeting, or otherwise interacting with you. And other accounts on the list are confirming his experience. Today he follows up with the logical conclusion, which is that large follower counts are meaningless.

Why is this important? There are around 16,000 people on Twitter claiming to be social media experts, and I doubt that many of them are telling their clients that being on the suggested user list is not an easy route to Twitter success, and that raw follower counts don’t really matter, unless you just want to flex your e-peen.

All that said, you should of course be following rc3dotorg on Twitter.

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