Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The End of Social Media Spontaneity?: Initial thoughts on the Google+ Project

So today Google announced its latest foray into the social web, the Google+ Project. I first heard from Gizmodo, and then got the fascinating back story from Wired.
One of the main features of Google+ is a tool called Circles. It's being presented as an answer to the problem of "oversharing": on Facebook, it's a hassle (though possible) to share something with selected friends without your boss, mom, girlfriend/boyfriend #2, or anybody else who may be your Facebook friend seeing it. So Cirlces is built around creating your own custom groups with whom you can share content. That content only goes to the selected circle, not everybody in your network. Again, this is possible on Facebook with friend lists, but Facebook does not emphasize this functionality, while Circles, on the other hand, is built around it. However, my thought as I read about hyper-targeted sharing of Circles is that sometimes I like the "oversharing" aspect of social media. I like the spontaneity associated with not knowing exactly who will like or comment on what I share on Facebook, or who will retweet or reply to what I post on Twitter. The unpredictability is one of my favorite parts of using social media. Circles seems to kill that unpredictability.
My other initial thought is the obvious question: will anybody use this? I will almost certainly get onboard to at least try it out (if I ever get an invite!). But just like any other social media tool, it will only be useful if enough people are willing to learn and actively use it. I'm not sure that will happen. When I told my roommate about Google+, his initial reaction was "Another one? I feel like there's some social media fatigue going on right now. Facebook...Twitter...do we need another one?" I think this illustrates the type of uphill battle Google is facing with trying to get people to adopt yet another social tool.
So I don't like ending w/ cheesy open-ended questions, but I'm seriously curious: What are your reactions to Google+? Do you think you'll actually use it?

Note: Thanks to Shakira for clarifying Facebook's targeted sharing functionality. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Creating the "Social networking sites and our lives" hashtag (#pewsns)

Last week the Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of a study called "Social networking sites and our lives." It is full of interesting findings about how Americans use social media, but more on that in a minute. The part I'm excited to talk about is that while reading the report I tweeted at Lee Rainie (@lrainie), the director of the Pew Internet Project, asking if there was a hashtag to discuss the study. Lee replied that there was not and that I should make one. So I tweeted the hashtag #pewsns, mentioning @pewinternet and the researchers in hopes that one of them would retweet. @pewinternet, who has over 20,000 followers, retweeted, and the hashtag #pewsns became official. 

My tweet in @pewinternet's stream
Now, I have to admit that although several people have used the hashtag #pewsns, it hasn't quite taken off as I hoped, and @pewinternet hasn't actually used the hashtag since retweeting me. But still, this was a great learning experience that illustrates how social media makes connecting and getting a message out to big audiences so easy, even if the results aren't always predictable.

So, back to the study. Here are a few of what I thought were the most interesting findings (taken from my facebook post about the study):
  • "There is no evidence that SNS users, including those who use Facebook, are any more likely than others to cocoon themselves in social networks of like-minded and similar people, as some have feared." Does this burst some of the talk about filter bubbles?
  • "We found that while there had been a decline in the size and diversity of people’s closest relationships, it was not related to the use of the internet or mobile phone. In most cases use of the internet and cell phones was associated with larger and more diverse social networks." More related to this in today's interesting tweetup between social scientist Zeynep Tufekci (@techsoc) and outgoing NYT exec. ed. Bill Keller (@nytkeller), whose recent anti-social media piece caused quite a stir).
  • "nearly 60% of Twitter users, 39% of Facebook users, and 36% of LinkedIn users joined within the past year"
  • "Facebook is the nearly universal social networking site."  wow.
  • "Nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn. All other SNS platforms have significantly more female users than male users."
  • "The largest single group of Facebook friends consists of people from high school." Why does everybody want to stalk their high school classmates?
What do you think were the most interesting findings? Comment here or tweet about them using the #pewsns hashtag.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New blog post for the National Museum of American History

The last post I wrote as an intern with the Department of  New Media at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History went up today on their blog, O Say Can You See. It's about the architecture of the museum and the National Mall. Check it out!

The museum's architecture: Classical with modern details

Have you visited the National Mall? What's your favorite building?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Build a better mousetrap

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History's blog, O Say Can You See, recently posted another one of my pieces, entitled "Build a better mousetrap." It inspired a post on The Atlantic's technology blog, called "Mousetraps: A Symbol of American Entrepreneurial Spirit." Check it out!