17 July 2011

Your friends, in boxes

Can We Ever Digitally Organize Our Friends?

He, and almost everybody who thinks about thinks about social networks, including Google, asks the wrong question.

The last thing we want to do is to organise our friends; create a digital information architecture of our extended social network.

What we really want to do, and need to do, is to easily keep control over what we say and to whom. It may sound like the same thing, but it isn’t.

If you think about the Circles interface as a way to categorise your speech (family stuff, work stuff, hobby1, hobby2) and think of it as labelling your friends according to what sort of things we’d like to say to them, then it becomes a much easier thing to manage with a lot fewer circles.

If you approach Circles as a way to type and categorise your friends, then you’re going to end up insane, as the information architecture is much too complex to express in the Circles model and your brain doesn’t keep track of that information, anyway.

On twitter:

Mike said this here thing:

Twitter enforces thought disciplne! Evn f u mst do ths.

To which I said:

There’s thought discipline and then there’s unusable restraint. The 140 character limit, which turns into a 120 char limit as soon as you enter into a discussion, is idiotic, counter-productive, sabotages civility, and destroys any hope of maintaining a productive debate. The qualifiers, politeness, and general verbosity that Twitter forces you to excise is essential in keeping conversation civil when you’re in a community of acquaintances, which is what Twitter really is (was?).

Uncivil communities flame out and die. Twitter’s fate is for it to be an aggregation of loners, broadcasting at their followers, occasionally shouting at each other for perceived slights, because they have no way of knowing the true intent behind the pared back sentences thrown at them.

Thought discipline and temperance are well and good, and they have their place in essays, blog posts and articles, but words aren’t the products of an evolutionary dead end—the mind’s equivalent of the appendix—they are a part of our language for a reason; they have a role to play in conversation and in writing. We exist to each other as actions and words. Being stingy with words is being anti-social.

Twitter is anti-social.

There… that wasn’t too long, now was it? :-D

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