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I Don’t Get Social Networking Sites May 16, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, life.

I like not to think of myself as too old. You know. I still get it. I’m sure Julia, my daughter, will totally disagree with that in a few years.

But I just don’t get sites like MySpace and Facebook. I like the idea — I have friends all over the world now. Getting updates on what they are doing, where they go for vacation, etc. – all of that would be great. Heck – you know those little status messages people put into IM applications (like “Warm here in Marseille!” or similar) – I love those. Definitely makes me feel more connected.

But I can’t imagine using these things everyday – logging in, maintaining my profile. I already do enough of that with this blog. With Julia, and life here in France, and (especially) work, I never feel like I have enough extra time. The thought of having to maintain my personality on a bunch of web sites – basically duplicating information – is a pain. And having to log into each web site, each one having a different interface. Not for me, I’m afraid. Especially since Julia has arrived I’ve found my time is really at a premium.

This will become a worthwhile investment for me once everything can be aggregated on a local desktop application (yeah, I realize, old skol). I want something that I click on my desk top and then I can see what people since I last checked. Where I can write a few lines (i.e. micro-blog aka twitter), and it will be correctly distributed to all.

Heck – I’m already pissed off at comments in blogs. They are so local. It would be great to track comments. I make a blog posting. Someone riffs on that blog posting in a posting of their own, which generates further comments, which generates a further riff (Ok, that won’t happen with one of my posting) – but basically everything is part of a conversation. As far as I know there isn’t something like that out there.

Time that I might otherwise spend on a social website I tend to spend hacking or perhaps working on something “fun” – often the items are work-connected. Perhaps I am missing something because of that.

How about you out there? You use these social network sites? Is there one that pertains to physics?



1. Alejandro Rivero - May 16, 2008

Ok. Imagine a version of hepnames which for each name shows a column with the coauthors and other column with the last papers authored by the owner, plus allowing the owner to define some levels of interaction: comments from everyone, from coauthors, from teams. Could it be useful?

2. gordonwatts - May 17, 2008

Sort of like having a “project page” associated with each paper. Or like having a discussion forum associated with each uploaded paper? I suppose those comments occur today, but most of them remain private. The idea here would be to bring them public. I can see that being useful.

3. Akira - May 18, 2008

Hi Gordon,

You might not have to spend so much time to keep your-www-self updated nowadays. There are lots of RSS that gets updated for every move you make on the web. I thought you said you use FrendFeed somewhere, isn’t that a good representation of you? Other people can see the music you listened to (last fm), things you read on the web (google reader), pages you book marked (delicious), things you put in amazon wishlist, pictures you’ve uploaded on flickr. I think pretty soon, the maintenance part will take a negligible amount of effort if you are already sold for these services… Recently I found this service called Spokeo, you might like it.

4. Chip - May 18, 2008

I agree, but there has to be some sort of evolution to this sort of thing for …us. Facebook is neat for social-social stuff, and I too enjoy keeping up with family, people I know, and students who have moved on. But, for work, no.

But, then there is ning. (http://about.ning.com/product.php#network-overview) It is sort of interesting and I could imagine, for example, the Top Group organized inside of something like this. With some more widgets, maybe imbedded video, something for editing and commenting on papers (my particular bugaboo), this could be the beginnings of a tool. For the latter, I’ve been intrigued by the wordpress extension called commentpress (http://www.futureofthebook.org/commentpress/) for paragraph-by-paragraph commenting.

5. gordonwatts - May 18, 2008

Thanks, Akira. That looks like one solution — it will track my friends on other services. That might be away to keep up with them.

Chip — I’m not so sure — I’ve got a few other posts on this coming over the next few days (building atlas software is SLOW sometimes!). I looked at Ning. I don’t like it because it is just like a forum on steroids. It is one small part of my life. Now I have to maintain myself there for my top work, and in another for my higgs work, and in another for my general ATLAS work, and another place for my personal life (well, I can see having two persoanlities – one for work and one for personal – though I’d like the privacy controls to be good enough that I didn’t need that).

6. Chip - May 18, 2008

I see, you want to coagulate your life, rather than coagulate all of the aspects of some project (with others) which is a part of your life. Yes, I see now. You’re talking about a higher layer.

7. gordonwatts - May 18, 2008

Chip — my difficulty with these social networking sites (and how you might apply them to what we do for work) is two fold: first, I have trouble seeing how they would add a large benifit, and second, how do you manage the roles.

At one level these things service as central notifiers. You tell it you are working on ttbar today and then it tells all your friends that you are doing that. But you can get that with most modern IM clients at the moment. That bit I get.

But the central power should come from wrapping up all these things (status, notifications, forums, log book, etc.) in one place. Great — I don’t see how to take advantage of that.

Of course, there is also time — I just don’t feel like I have a lot. So if I’m going to use something like one of these sites it needs to be better than what I’m doing now. 🙂

8. Chip - May 19, 2008

I think I see what you’re saying. You want a dashboard that has everything *you* need in front of *you*, probably aggregated from a subset of such things you might have for various purposes. You need TrigMon. Don’t know of anything like that, but it seems a simple thing and that Spokeo that Akira pointed you to is sorta like that. However, I’m intrigued by Ning as a plug-in part of such a dashboard as I don’t think I’ve seen anything so flexible yet. I could see Ning as the whole thing for, say, a Single Top Group, rather than a web page with links to some of, or not all of, other hand-built stuff.

Are you at CERN? I’m here for 3 days.

9. gordonwatts - May 19, 2008

Hi Chip – sorry, not at CERN this week, beginning of next week, however. This week I’m babysitting.

Yes, dashboard is the right idea. I want to participate in my social networks from the comfort of my portable/desktop computer. With so many sites I just can’t see doing the work to be on each one.

It is more than that, however. I also want to figure out more about how they would help us, even if they are still “walled gardens”.

10. Science Social Networking « Life as a Physicist - May 19, 2008

[…] exactly what it would offer to get me there because I’m not 100% sure what I want (see this comment on previous past). […]

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