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Why I am not using social web networks

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I do not use facebook, MySpace, and such hip social Web2.0 platforms.

Intentionally.

This has several reasons. Some of them are:

Privacy Issues

I want to have control over my input.

I want to have control how long someone can access certain things, I want to make sure that nobody I don't want to can access certain things and I surely do not want to donate the social network company all rights on my data I (only) intend to provide for my friends.

Besides privacy social networks seem to have a very "weird" understanding on keeping my informations secure. So there are too much reports on security issues of social networks. And some of them happened on purpose and with full knowledge!

I do not want my account data or my contributed content leaking somewhere.

So I want control and this can only be done by providing all my content from a webspace I choose to trust and by letting me keep the access logs in my own hands.

No common standard

Imagine I'd like to join this beautiful Web2.0 of social platforms. Ridiculous but let's imagine I through away all concerns for this imaginary example.

Hello Social Web, I'm coming!

First of all I have to enter a social platforms URL to my web browser. But which one?

Some of my friends are using StudiVZ (popular in German speaking countries), some of them have accounts on Google Buzz, some of them are happily using Facebook, some of them maintain their accounts on MySpace and there are for sure some other social networks that are relevant to further friends of mine.

Do I have to use all of them? OK, let's assume this for a moment.

Whenever I upload photos, I have to do this on each platform relevant friends are using. Whenever I use status update messages I have to do it several times on all of my accounts. Whenever I want to contact a friend using social platforms I have to think where this particular friends can be found.

There is an absolute border between those networks: no highly dynamic data exchange of my account data, user content like photos or status updates, nothing. For social networks they are pretty unsocial here.

So maintaining multiple accounts is not an option for me.

Missing features

There a number of features I am missing pretty hard. Some of them are outlined below.

Whenever I upload user content to my account I do it for a reason. As an example when I want to upload photos of a nice party I attended last week, I do this mainly for people that also joined the party. They should take a look at those funny pictures and probably a wek after my photos are not that much relevant any more.

So I want to have expiry dates.

After the data expired, the system should delete the content. And I really mean it. No meta data stored somewhere else, no "oh, I delete it from your interface but just to make sure I'll keep it for myself in oder to "optimize" your user experience and my shareholder value". Whenever I delete my own content it should be really deleted.

I do not have one class of friendship.

In my Palm Pilot I do maintain twelve categories of contacts. (Unfortunately Palm decided to provide only one category per contact approach.) And within those categories contacts are not equal at all: some workmates are just workmates and other workmates I choose to invite to birthday parties.

I have to maintain these mix of categories in my head. I am using something called a mental model. We all do. But social networks need features to explicitly map those mental models to the platform.

Google has done some research and there is a very cool presentation I recommend to you:

http://counters.gigya.com/wildfire/IMP/CXNID=2000002.0NXC/bT*xJmx*PTEyNzkxODgwNjE4NDAmcHQ9MTI3OTE4ODI4MTQ*NiZwPTEwMTkxJmQ9V*ZfZW1iZWRfZG9jdW1lbnQmZz*yJm89MTQ3/YjJiNDZhNDA*NGM5ZWIzZmZmMWI4MWNhZWE2ZDQmb2Y9MA==.gif"

The Real Life Social Network v2

View more documents from Paul Adams.

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If you do not have time to take a closer look please check out the first slides and slides number 212, 213, and 214.

The presentation summarizes lots of problems of current social networks and provides solution for a social network that does several things way better. The one thing that worries me is that Google is the company that does this kind of things. A commercial company. And after scanning through the slides you can clearly see that commercial interests are a big topic to this solution too (product recommendations).

The Future?

First of all, there is a need for a change of social networks.

Users are annoyed by just another security/privacy flaw of Facebook and others. Users realize that some things they uploaded for person(s) X can harm their relationship with person(s) Y. They slowly realize that their (public) data is permanently stored forever and people can use this data without the context information of time, place, and event without your direct admission. They read about social platforms selling all of their user content to other companies. And finally people realize the consequences of the terms of service they ought to have read carefully in the first place.

I do not claim to know the future at all. But I do know what basic features a system should support that I fully support it as a platform for my personal social network.

This future platform has to be decentralized: my data on my webspace I trust. The more decentralized the network is, the less control can commercial companies or bad guys have.

**No (single) company should provide this network.

Face it: they've got financial issues to maximize their shareholder value. This is not the same as providing you with cool features and total control over your data. Sometimes this is more obvious and sometimes you'll recognise it when it is too late to revoke.

There must be a common open standard and approved cryptography should be applied correctly.

Only open standards and open cryptographic methods can provide a system that can be trusted. I will not further elaborate on it here.

The social network has to provide easy to use features to control distribution of and access to data.

An example: Whenever I want to make a status update message that is only relevant to certain subgroups of contacts, I want to be able to express is easily. This way no one of my loose contacts is annoyed.

I am very curious about the future. Once again ;-)

What du you think? Leave a comment below!

Note: this blog entry was originally authored using Serendipity and converted to Org-mode format for publicvoit via a dumb script. This may result in bad format or even lost content. Please write a comment if you want to get in touch with me so that I can try to fix things.

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