So much goodness in this article, but this kind of jumped out at me…
Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers – that’s the social graph.
Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.
Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it. It’s as if an ad agency built a nationwide chain of pubs and night clubs in the hopes that people would spend all their time there, rigging the place with microphones and cameras to keep abreast of the latest trends (and staffing it, of course, with that Mormon bartender).
We’re used to talking about how disturbing this in the context of privacy, but it’s worth pointing out how weirdly unsocial it is, too. How are you supposed to feel at home when you know a place is full of one-way mirrors?
We have a name for the kind of person who collects a detailed, permanent dossier on everyone they interact with, with the intent of using it to manipulate others for personal advantage – we call that person a sociopath. And both Google and Facebook have gone deep into stalker territory with their attempts to track our every action. Even if you have faith in their good intentions, you feel misgivings about stepping into the elaborate shrine they’ve built to document your entire online life.
Open data advocates tell us the answer is to reclaim this obsessive dossier for ourselves, so we can decide where to store it. But this misses the point of how stifling it is to have such a permanent record in the first place. Who does that kind of thing and calls it social?
The whole Reclaim project has been about withdrawing from the hosted social networks in an attempt to control how things are presented while also short-circuiting the tracking and analytics that are sold to marketeers.
Since I’ve been posting all of my stuff here, instead of Out There, it’s definitely felt less social. I can’t see a “social graph” of who reads what I write, or sees what I post, or +1s stuff, etc… And, since I don’t run any web analytics on my site (aside from truly rudimentary apache log crunching), I don’t even have a rough idea of how many people read/see/etc… what I do.
If it’s less “social” (if tapping into a corporately-monotized social graph makes it social), it’s also feeling more… valuable? meaningful? It’s become less about metrics (impact, readers, page views, etc…) and more about… Well, I don’t know, really… I’m seeing my site, and the stuff I do here, more as documentation. A living documentary project, rather than an obsessive collection of synthetic “friendships”. That’s an interesting angle I hadn’t considered when I started my version of the Reclaim project…