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2007-06-13

Facebook in my Face

After last night's initial foray into Facebook (months after creating an account), I have a little more sense of how little there is that is the there there.

It's a Little Clumsy to Use Constantly

I also see that I need to keep a shortcut on my desktop or in my Start menu so I can check in daily, at least to update my status.  One of those little system tray (yes I'm on Windows) thingies a bit like my Skype and Windows Live Messenger tools would be cool.  I suppose that would be a good project for someone.  I am also going to be annoyed that I must log in every time.  Facebook remembers my account identifier (an e-mail address), but it apparently doesn't want to risk someone else using my computer.  This application cries out for information cards and an identity selector of my choice (CardSpace on my computers).

There are also some speed bumps to learning.  I just "poked" Kaliya expecting that I could include a note, but whatever a poke is, it seems a little rude. 

Also, there are affordance issues.  I can post things and I can delete them after posting but I can't edit after posting.  I always notice something I'd like to repair when I see a post in its completed form.  Grr.

It's a Silo Folks

Facebook is a hosted service, with whatever business model they have (notice the proper use of "they" when referring to a corporate entity, rather than an individual).  You must have an account to enter and to be able to see information by any other participant.  I think there's another, peer-to-peer approach to this that will have far more traction although I'm not sure about the convenience.  I would like it better, at least for management of my own profile and information, including presence information and calendar/schedule activities.

The Thundering Isolation of Cyberspace

Finding myself there alone brings up all of my self-talk about being left out and excluded.  It is really funny, because the exclusion is one of my own making around how much I am careless of my relationships.  You might see me as arrogant and distant, but over on my side I get to experience being left out.  Facebook puts that in my face, even though, at this point in my life I am conscious of my reactions and able to step beyond them.

So how can one create an experience of being connected in Facebook?  Well, there are groups to join.  I found a few.  I'm automatically in the Seattle Network, but that is too large and anonymous.  I joined "I have a Second Life," "Second Life Residents" (apparently the most "official), and "Northern Voice Conference."  I think I'll see about an IIW or Identity Commons group, and also join a photography group. 

Those are not particularly satisfying steps.   If it weren't for being on Buzz's friends list, I'd go nuts here.  One of the nicest arrangements for me is that I can check any friends lists for mutual acquaintances.  That is working and I now have five friends.  I also have some photographs of Kaliya that I like that I will post/link and tie to her collection of photos about Kaliya.  That will be fun.  I think I may have a passable photograph of Ted Leung somewhere, and I can do that with him too.  This is more engaging than groups and networks and we'll see if I find it easy to provide Facebook relationship maintenance over time.

Real Life Coordination and Attention to Relationships

All of my Facebook friends are Facefriends, Facebook people that I have already met in person and have some context with.  I can personalize my invitation for their being my Facefriends.  There's more connection even though these are not relationships that I have invested much in prior to this time.  The real-world context of our acquaintance may be what little we have in common (along with whatever we discover about each other through the happenstance of blog postings and coincidences that arise that way).  I am willing to explore this much.

In a little work just now, I notice that I started a discussion and also managed a commitment I had made last month.  That's very interesting.  I wonder if Facebook will make it easier to maintain conversations around coordinated activity and mutual commitments.  Hmm, verrrry interessssting.

I'll let you know how it continues.


Facebook provides some interesting case-study material for identity management.  I realized this when Kaliya invited me using a different e-mail address of mine.  I corrected that by inviting her instead -- she is in Buzz's friends list -- and she accepted the invitation from my existing account. 

This is a wonderful demonstration of why indirection is important.  In the world of self-issued identity, those email addresses are something that I claim (and can be confirmed to a reasonable degree of veracity), but no one of them should be construed as an inflexible and unique basis for identification, where different email addresses have to be tied to different accounts.  The simple problem of being known by more than one email address should have had a simple solution.  This is also not a new problem.  OpenPGP has solutions for it already, and I have claim multiple email addresses in my public-key certificate.

There is similar brittleness elsewhere in the design of Facebook profiles.  I can't register additional email addresses for my account, but I can register email addresses for schools and businesses, and I am invited to do that.  In fact, it appears that the presumption of having attended a particular school is settled by having an alumnus or student email address.  There's something pretty wacky about this.

Finally, to find contacts of mine who might also have Facebook presence, I am invited to basically submit a dump of my Outlook contacts and they'll let me know if they find any matches.  It appears that they don't automatically generate invites, so I don't have to edit out all of the e-mail discussion lists first (as someone on Spoke InTouch forgot to do with a Jerry Michalski e-mail list), but I really don't want to do this no matter what they promise me.  I may experiment with a very small subset just to see what happens.  If they spam those addresses, it will come to my very-immediate attention.

[update: 2007-06-14T01:31Z Corrected a mysteriously mangled attempt to mention my Facebook account identifier, my favored e-mail address.]

 
Comments:
 
I understand that "feeling left out" experience so well! And I someone hate to search (feeling desperate to do so) to find friends on facebook. It should somehow be easier.

Also, although it's a social network, if feels like a lot of "fun and games" without much really happening. Very "college-y"...
 
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