Archive for October, 2005

Facebook, sweet Facebook!

Oh, Facebook. Why are you so compelling? Yes, even I, your friendly neighborhood “Irish pirate” curmudgeon, have fallen prey to the charms of the Facebook. I know, I know. But there is much to be said for this networking tool, most of which has already been said.

I have found old friends lost long ago due to cross-country moves and new friends that have added me to their list after only one meeting. It is truly fascinating to sift through the social networks of my friends and acquaintances, playing a personalized version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Facebook provides your degrees of separation automatically.

While this seems like tons of fun, I do think there are dangers to be found in this form of social networking. I think it is idiotic to post your cell phone number on any website, yet many do just that on Facebook, Friendster, etc. The danger most apparent in Facebook, though not unique to Facebook, is stalking.

Many people on Facebook list their class schedules. This is a powerful tool for getting to know other people in your classes and can prove very helpful with missed classes, homework and the like. But it also tells the weirdos out there exactly where you will be at a certain time. Not the most appealing thought.

Keeping this in mind, I think it is unavoidable that such networks will continue to grow. We have all “googled” our friends, both near and far. But unless that friend has a web presence or celebrity status of some sort, they are not likely to be found on google. Facebook fills this void in the social networks of college students and staff. Friendster, et al., do the same for the rest of the world. MySpace has even launched some music careers.

People my age (I am 26) are just beyond the grasp of Facebook. The vast majority of my friends from my undergraduate studies are nowhere to be found on the Facebook. The ones that are there are now staff at other universities. Yes, this makes me feel old. My point is that my 16-year-old sister is an online maven, unlike my friends. She and her friends have run through their xanga phase and now eagerly await the high school version of Facebook.

Whether Facebook is the end-all, be-all of communities remains to be seen. It has the potential, through the “alumnus” option, to maintain itself as one of the elite communities. But I don’t think it will take over the world, if for no other reason than the fact that it can only go forward, leaving most of us fogies in the dusty shelves of yearbooks past.

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Achieving Critical Mass

Anyone that follows my musings on this site is going to be aware of my penchant for dissent. So when I tell you that I think the mainstream media (MSM) is floundering as a group, it should come as no surprise. In fact, it is likely to arouse some (gasp) skepticism. There’s no need to fear, the blogosphere is here to back me up.

Mark Glaser, writing for the Online Journalism Review at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, agrees that the MSM as a whole is a slumbering giant poised for rude awakening by the likes of Yahoo and Google. Yahoo scored a major success with the introduction of Kevin Sites as the anchor to its original content aspirations. Google is changing the rules with each of its innovations, including Google Video and the entangled Google Print.

Entanglements aside, these innovations in content and reporting bely the larger issue of the decline of the MSM. Americans are growing increasingly angry about the failures of the MSM to provide us with the truth of the world outside our borders. But this is a problem long in the works. Back in 2001, there were already murmurs about the lack of reality in news coverage coming out of the world’s largest democracy.

Gallup polls conducted in the US in September 2004 found that 10 percent of adults felt “very confident” in the accuracy of the MSM’s news stories. I am no statistician, but I know enough to tell you that such figures are not doing anything to slow the decline of the MSM. Remember, this is NEWS that we are talking about. You know, the reporting of facts to inform the public. How can you or I or your friendly neighborhood Québécois be expected to support a system that cannot be relied upon to provide simple facts? The short answer: we can’t.

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