Monday, May 24, 2010

danah boyd strikes again: "Quitting Facebook is Pointless"

danah boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  Her blog is called apophenia, and I just discovered it a few weeks ago.  If you use a news aggregator, then you really ought to aggregate apophenia - it's great stuff.  She's in the middle of a series of article critiquing Facebook and in particular its new privacy settings.

danah's writing is smart and humorous, and her research is top-notched.  As I noted in a previous blog, her writings about the public v. private tension in Facebook is really what I would have liked to have written.

The current post - "Quitting Facebook is Pointless" -  is provocative (and if you take the time to read the comments, you'll get a clearer sense of why it is provocative).  She's suggesting that, even after one critiques the myriad of problems with Facebook, it is pointless to quit Facebook, that those who quit are just the techno-elites - the digerati as she calls them - who were never the primary users of Facebook anyway.  Many who have commented disagree and argue that quitting is effective.

Having just started my Facebook page, I don't anticipate quitting anytime soon.  Nor do I plan, after having read boyd and others, to use Facebook as a classroom tool (a site for classroom examination, yes; a tool where I ask everyone in class to use Facebook, no).  For now, at least, this is where the juice is, for better or worse (and the "for worse" category seems to be growing).

boyd's recent posting is fairly long - I learned a new abbreviation last week, "tl;dr," which stands for "too long; didn't read," a response I am afraid I elicit too frequently with my lengthy posts - but it is worth it for so many reasons.  I encourage you to take a peek at it.

Update (25 May 2010)
Jenna Wortham's article in the 24 May (Monday) edition of the New York Times is titled "Rivals Seize on Troubles of Facebook."  Wortham highlights a number of start-ups that could become alternatives to Facebook.  These in Appleseed, One Social Web, Crabgrass, Elgg, Collegiate Nation (a subscription-based service), and UmeNow (sorry - no link yet)

The article is a nice compliment to boyd's blog posting.  There are many alternatives to Facebook, but none of them can compete with Facebook's "more than 400 million members and a $15 billion valuation" (B1).  For instance, if you follow the link to, it is a very pleasant, welcoming screen, frankly more aesthetically pleasing to me than Facebook's login screen.  That said, Wortham notes that "has just 20,000 registered members" (B1).  It's tough to compete with the Facebook monster.       

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