Admittedly, when I first hear about Twitter, I thought it was stupid. Who cares if you are getting your car washed or walking your dog. And that might be a reason why a lot of people never bothered to even give it a try. Understandable.
That was then; this is now. The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released a study showing that Twitter use is up to 8% of all Internet users. That's still not a lot... nothing compared to Facebook for example. Yet it s growing. A big reason, I think, is that it is a prime pusher of links... like a real-time RSS feed. At least that's how I look at it.
A top-line of the demoraphics shows a few interesting things. Most noteable, Twitter is used by 18% of Hispanic Internet users. It also shows an interesting Income split, with >$30K and $50-75K indexing higher, and $30-50K and $75+K indexing lower. Lot's more analysis here.
You can follow me on Twitter, and read all the crap I post from Badger hockey games along with snarky comments and too many links here: @DaveWilcoxUW
I've let ten days slip by without a post here... not even a throw-away lift from some other blog. I'd like to say I've been busy or there hasn't been anything worth a comment, but that's not true. What is true is that there are always little things to write about, yet I don't necessarily want to stretch them into full-blown posts. Thus, the fall back "list" approach comes in handy at times like these.
Much of my academic reason to be revolves around social media and other kinds of user-generated content platforms. I play around with a lot of it, spend too much time with some of it, and still haven't explored most of it. But that, of course, doesn't stop me from having opinions on it. I am me, after all.
From the "Now that everyone knows, we're going to step up and state the obvious" desk, your U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants you to know that using social networks like Facebook and Twitter is a high-risk activity. (Ironically, the page announcing this horrific threat includes a link to post it on... wait for it... Facebook and Twitter!)
I use Facebook... to the point of distraction sometimes. I've reconnected with a lot of people through the site, and I have a lot of fun with it. That said, it is a little disturbing when Facebook management takes a rather cavalier attitude about privacy issues. In short, I think it can be said about their views on protecting user privacy: "We care, but not very much."
Recently uncovered IM commentary
from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg seems to suggest he never really
did care about privacy issues, given that he mocked people for giving
over information to his little project at Harvard. While he may have been just being a wiseguy, that attitude seems pervasive at Facebook.
From the casual observer's view, it seems quite apparent that Facebook likes to play hide the ball with updated "privacy" policies and associated tools and applications. Even people who follow stuff like this for a living are not always able to keep up. I recently wrote a paper about social media use among journalists, and found myself in the awkward position of having to inform a reporter who covers media issues for one of the national networks that his Facebook page was currently as accessible to the public as a bus station.
Facebook can be a pretty powerful organizing tool. Ask Betty White. That's how the venerable 88-year-old actress ended up hosting Saturday Night Live last week. But not all is wonderful for Facebook in terms of grass roots campaigns, including this one...
A group of dissatisfied Facebook users have teamed up in an effort to organize a mass, coordinated exodus from Facebook--and they're using social networks to do it.
Naturally, the folks at QuitFacebookDay.com have included in their campaign their very own Facebook page. (You can't make this shit up.)
I'm not close to bailing from Facebook. After all, I study it as part of my research at the University of Wisconsin as I slog toward a PhD. But I have decided to at least try to tighten things up with my security settings. It took me about 20 minutes to work through the dozens of menus and pages that one needs to visit to address the myriad of privacy options.
This all brings new meaning to the old phrase: My life's an open book. More than you know, to be sure.
[Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies. He's the editorial cartoonist for The Record, in the northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City. He is the past winner of both the National Headliner Award and The Fischetti Editorial Cartoon Competition.]
In the past several months I've been collecting different politically oriented comment threads from Facebook as well as online editions of various daily newspapers. I've also spent too much time looking at comments left under YouTube videos about California's Proposition 8 vote and its aftermath. Why would I subject myself to this? Simple: research.
The volume of political discourse on the Internet is, practically speaking, immeasurable. From the New York Times to the smallest blog, comment functions and active threads are everywhere. Often absent, however, is a solid showing of civility. That said, I couldn't help but notice that one area that appeared noticeably more civil in tone and decorum was the threads collected from Facebook. The reason appears to be a simple one: You can't be anonymous on Facebook. Even if one person in the comment thread doesn't know many of the others, they all know the host... the person whose Facebook page holds the thread.
I look at it like a cocktail party. Not every guest at the party knows every other guest. Some may not even know the host, if they are guests of guests. But out of respect for the host, it will take some real provoking or pre-existing animosity for one guest to get into a shouting match with another that leads to shouting, f-bombs and maybe a punch or two. It happens, but not often. Facebook is a cocktail party. People, even if they don't all know one another, play nice.
Too be sure, there are people who are just tools, and they too are on Facebook, behaving badly in the cyber salons of others.. (Talkin' to you, guy whose name spells a lot like Savid Dims.) But, like at a cocktail party, what would a nice party be without at least one guy who presents himself as an conversational jerk without really even trying.
Unmoderated comment threads on news sites are a lot more like being at an NHL game. A person knows few or no others in the arena, yet can usually tell who is one his side. (The jerseys help. Hockey fans love jerseys. I have five myself... three Blackhawks and two Badgers. I digress.) People will scream obscenities at the top of their lungs, hurl insults at the opposing team's fans, and occasionally instigate or otherwise participate in a brawl. The relative anonymity of a raucous crowd gives cover for being an ass
The majority of comments on any controversial subject of your choosing in, for example, the Chicago Tribune are anonymous. It's so easy to call people crude names, ridicule others' points when you have none to make yourself, and generally act like an uneducated belligerent jerk. As long as people are not required to provide their identity, that's not going to change. And if that doesn't change, one can never really take seriously much about those comments or enter into any productive and informative discourse.
That said, it is nice to know that people who used to have to just yell at their television sets when not muttering to themselves now have a more interactive outlet for their insightful commentary. And they do give people like me something to work with when researching computer-mediated discourse... and the rest of you someone to laugh at.
From The Business Insider's Silicon Alley Insider's Chart of the Day comes this chart of the day:
Sadly, even the new media part of old media is losing out to digital-only and other alternative news outlets. No stickiness means limited engagement, which in turn means it's hard to charge advertisers much for web ads.
My 82-year-old father asked me the other day what Twitter is. He'd heard of it, but since he still uses a typewriter and has never had an interest in either getting a computer or using the Internet, he knew nothing more than the name. I tried to explain it to him and finally told him that I'd show him some time when we were together and I could demonstrate it rather than try to deal with telephone-delivered abstractions.
One thing I did tell him was that it seems to actually be a dual-use platform. (Which meant I had to explain what I meant by "platform," which was another few minutes of confusion.) Essentially, I told him, it was either for status (still another thing that needed explaining) or for the transmission of news and/or information through brief introductions or comments along with a link. (A link! He knew that one!)
I was reminded of this conversation last night when I saw a few tweets from Jesse Russell (@calistan), proprietor of Dane101. JR had picked up on the various tweets coming out of the Pacific Rim and advanced via BNONews, a Twitter-driven news service, regarding North Korea's apparent withdrawal from the armistice than ended the Korean War back in 1953. As he posted on Dane101...
The news first came across the wire thanks to BNONews which reported around 10:45 p.m. CST "NORTH KOREA CALLS SOUTH KOREAN DECISION TO JOIN ANTI-PROLIFERATION PROGRAM A DECLARATION OF WAR."
In addition to passing along the news that North Korea was, again, proving how messed up they are, JR was also making the astute observation that most of the early news on this subject was to be found on Twitter. He pointed out, accurately, that the major US news sites were being scooped by Twitter feeds...
Reports are flooding in via various news sources, specifically the Twittersphere, that North Korea may have ended the '53 armistice that brought the Korean War to a hot standstill. Dane101 is bringing you this news at this late hour because we've searched various news sites, including the New York Times, MSNBC (now has a report - 12:06 a.m. CST), CNN, and FOX (now has report - 11:50 p.m. CST), and don't currently see any reports. We figured the least we could to is try to piece some of the information together so we aren't all in the dark. Please note the question mark in the post title as we await specific details that will verify an end to the armistice.
Dane101 updated the story over the period of maybe an hour, linking who had the story and, of perhaps more significance, noting who did not have the story. This sent me scurrying to check sites like the Australian News Service, the media in places like Malaysia and Singapore, as well as domestic mainstays like the AP, CBS News and others. Meanwhile, diarist Larry Madill was doing the same thing over at Daily Kos.
This is the kind of example I like to show people when I try to explain the value of Twitter. This platform has the ability to push news out faster than anything else. The concept of retweeting other posts makes Twitter a viral news ticker on steroids. But it only works, in my view, it the tweet carries a link to something more. Often that means a link to a news story or a blog post... which of course will have even more links. The tweet as information catalyst, if I may characterize it that way, is what makes the thing valuable.
That gets me to one of the downsides of the 140 character bulletin board: the empty comment. I saw one yesterday from a fellow UWW student:
Care to elaborate? Can't do it in 140 words? That's what shortened URLs are for. It would have been so much better to have included a link that expanded upon that one-word opinion, added a little context or otherwise advanced the thought. This could have come from any number of news, blog or other sources. To be sure, the empty comment could stand alone, but that leaves it in Twitter limbo as neither a status update nor a transfer of meaningful information.
So much better to have done something like this (from someone who does this a lot):
This tweet pushes information while it also makes an initial comment. It's a catalyst for further exploration and, perhaps, a little intellectual interactivity. Therein lies the utility of Twitter. And in utility, there is value. Well, to the end user, there is. I'm still not sure how the thing can make money. But that's not my problem.
I fondly remember the days where I thought it was kind of cool to be able to shoot comments across a large meeting room or across the country using an alpha-numeric SkyPager. Remember SkyPagers? It wasn't that long ago. Mine had the full qwerty keyboard before they called them qwerty keyboards. Cool little gadget that I had no real need for, yet I was still able to get the agency to pay it's monthly charge.
As recently as maybe three years ago, I all but ignored social networking for myself, even though as an ad agency media director I maintained a working knowledge of it so the agency could pretend to know what we were talking about if clients asked. (We didn't know what we were talking about.) I only came to really learn the ins and outs of these new technologies and platforms because I hadn't a lot to do at work. I decided to use that idle time to learn all I could about blogs, search marketing and social networks. And learn I did, for probably three hours every day. (Business was slow.)
The real move for me came when I bought a MacBook. My agency laptop was a hand-me-down that would no longer run on battery power, so it was hardly mobile. With the new laptop, one that was separate from work and therefore not hindered by all the security blocks and stuff, I went wild. I became an active "trusted user" on Daily Kos. I started my own blog, ditched it, and began another one (Kerfuffle). By the time I decided to migrate away from the agency business and into grad school, I knew I would be focusing on social networks and, likely, politics. Once I went to the Yearly Kos convention, there was no turning back. I was totally taken by social networking and the new Internet media.
About a year and a half ago I set up a Facebook page. After first making fun of Twitter, I eventually saw the real utility in micro-blogging and set myself up and began tweeting away. I already was on LinkedIn, but at this point started to actually use it. Eventually, I tied all these platforms together. I could access any of them from my iPhone, and became proficient at uploading pictures and entire blog entries from that incredible device. A post to one was a post to all.
Because this was now a single feed, as it were, my political views -- the subject of maybe half of my Kerfuffle content and all of my Daily Kos postings -- were dropping in with much lighter Facebook musings. The distant and rather superficial nature of Facebook meant that some of my "friendships" weren't mixing well with my relentless mocking of Republicans, links to controversial articles, and teabagging mirth.
Today I decided to break up the network. I've enjoyed reconnecting with people on Facebook, but have come to realize that Facebook is a lot more fun when it is not politically charged. And in nearly every case, I was the one politically charging things. A split is in order.
I'll still pimp the occasional Kerfuffle post on Facebook, but leave the political shit to Twitter. That's kind of how those two competing status forums have shaken out for me anyway. My Twitter feeds come mostly from journalists, bloggers, activists and academics; and my followers are mostly the same or are like-minded friends. Facebook is much more a "y'all come" kind of thing. Twitter is my MSNBC; Facebook is my regular old NBC.
It will be interesting (for me, but not anyone else) to see what happens to traffic here at Kerfuffle. Since using Facebook to promote new posts, I've seen daily page views spike often. Given different audiences (that's the media strategist in me), I think Twitter is better suited for promoting the political stuff. More importantly, Twitter is very much an opt-in/in-the-moment form of digital thought exchange. Facebook is more or less a pleasant diversion (and quite the addicting time-waster as well).
Do you care? Of course you don't. Nor should you. Nevertheless, I am building an academic career around this general area of interpersonal and mass communication. It's been the focus of my work toward a masters degree, and will remain my focus as I begin work toward a PhD in the fall. I appreciate your being part of my ongoing lab work.
If you've manged to press on this far in this totally meta post, you are probably a regular. Thanks for reading!
It wasn't too long ago that "old people," those over 25, were persona non grata on Facebook. Marketers looked at it as this incredible youth targeting tool, and any company who wanted to sell anything to anyone under the legal drinking age damn well better get on that Facebook thing. I used to laugh as my old boss used to toss out Facebook like it was the second coming of the Branding Christ, although she had seemingly little understanding of how it worked, let alone how users related to it. (Calling it "The Face Book" in presentations didn't help.)
I got on Facebook early last year when I realized that to actually speak intelligently about it, I had better use it. A funny thing happened: I liked using it. Perhaps too much. Since joining, I have amassed (as of today) 365 "friends." One of the most amazing things is that I have reconnected with at least 50 people i had totally lost touch with. That in itself is probably the best benefit.
Apparently, as one who turns 50 this year, I am not alone. iStrategyLabs' 2009 demographic study of Facebook shows the 35-54 age segment grew 276%.
The key findings...
(40.8%) which is down from (53.8%) six months ago.
WTF, Atlanta? Too cool for Facebook?
As much as anything else, i have to think ease of use and instant gratification, coupled with the proliferation of portable versions and attendant applications drive the aging up of the Facebook user profile. It's not that it's suddenly getting old. It's just building out as it's owners likely have hoped. I know that for me, I really began to use it as more than a curiosity once I linked other things together... Facebook, Twitter, Ping.fm, and my iPhone all work together. I use it to promte my own blog posts, call attention to other people's worthy blog content, keep in (minimal) touch with friends, and provide a venue for snarky remarks. It's also my principal mode of communication with my nieces and nephews.
But, I swear, if my 82 year old Dad gets on Facebook, I'm quitting. No one wants their parents seeing that crap.
Go here to see some more Facebook demographic fun facts in table form.
There are literally thousands of politically-related posts going up on YouTube every week. Here's one that in just a day went from being buried on Digg to being on its front page...
If you aren't Digging, you should be.