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Google Buzz…I Don't Think So.

When I logged on to my Gmail account today, instead of being taken directly to my inbox, I was shown an invitation to start using Google Buzz. I immediately ignored this and went to my inbox, but after checking my mail I decided to do some reading into what exactly this new Google application was.gmailfailwhale

Apparently Google is trying to enter into the social networking scene. Now, Google is good at just about everything it does. Gmail, Google Chrome, Google Maps, etc. The list goes on and on. Not to mention the fact that it is the number one search engine on the entire Internet. However, I just don’t see them being able to erode the monopoly that Facebook and Myspace’s have on social networking in today’s world.

Google Buzz is basically a way to link Gmail with different programs such as Twitter, Flickr and other social networking and media tools. This might seem like a good idea on paper, but when you add things such as status updates and media sharing, it just seems like yet another attempt to do what Facebook does best. On top of that, Google is trying to make social networking more open and public and wants to link this information into search engines so that it is more accessible to others on the web.

Almost everyone has a Facebook and loves using it, so why would anyone want to start their social life from scratch on some new program that barely has any users? And when you take away the privacy that Facebook offers, it makes Google Buzz even more unattractive. People like comfort, and Facebook is what people are comfortable with when it comes to social networking. Google can try and make this popular, but my guess is that most people are going to do what I did and completely ignore the invitation to try yet another Facebook or Myspace.

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My Face, SpaceBook, Face Space?

facebook“What’s it called again honey, My Face?” Try explaining to anyone over the age of 50 the difference between Facebook and MySpace and you’ll get a blank stare. There is a difference though…or so I have heard. In fact, the debate is almost as intense as the pop vs. soda word choice that my friends and I argue about on a regular basis. What’s the difference, and is there a right choice?

“The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook” and MySpace is “… home for … ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art f*gs,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm.” reports Berkeley Ph.D. student Danah Boyd.

Interesting.I do not have a MySpace account, so I decided to poll 50 of my friends (students at GCC) to see if there was a prevailing attitude towards MySpace or Facebook.

Survey Results

  • 33 of the respondents have a only Facebook account
  • 0 of the respondents have only a MySpace account
  • 3 of the respondents have both Facebook and MySpace
  • 1 respondent has neither type of account

RESPONSES

MySpace is for teenie boppers, that for some ungodly reason aren’t bothered by abominable web page designs. I don’t care what or who the account is for, I usually immediately close the window as soon as it’s opened. It always pains me when some artist that I listen to uses MySpace as their only webpage. – Joe

Facebook is much cleaner and fulfills networking purposes much better. The best feature is that the advertisements are never offensively large or “in your face”. In fact it’s easy to forget that the ads are even there, which is probably the biggest reason Facebook wins. That and they don’t let users design their profile page. – Joe

I used to have myspace too, but then I got hit on by a creepy girl I didn’t know. So I deleted it. – Becky

Myspace is so highschool. That’s where I used to go to procure hookups. Now I just show my face in public… – Eric

MySpace sucks. Facebook sucks…less? Myspace is only good for music artists’ pages; facebook is better at social networking – Dustin

Myspace is old and outdated, and creepier people are on there. – Tim

Myspace is for jr-highers (or high schoolers who never grew out of the jr. high phase.) Facebook, however, with all the applications, quizzes, games, top-friends, etc, is turning more and more like myspace. (I think this happened when it became open to everyone.) Myspace also always made me feel like I was getting a virus or something. It just seems shadier. I no longer have a myspace account. – Amanda

Facebook is cleaner and gives the appearance of being safer.  Myspace pages are typically loaded with busy backgrounds and those online quizzes like “What Disney princess are you?” (fun but when you have to scroll through them all to comment it’s a little annoying) – Laura

Facebook took over myspace, myspace is for people behind the times.
Myspace is weird, but not gonna lie, it’s a part of my past… – Corrie

I think that Facebook has better privacy settings and is easier to limit to friends only.  Since its origins as a college network, I see Facebook as reaching an older and more educated population. – Amy

I think people with myspace use it for music mostly. – Barbara

THE VERDICT

My very biased and unscientific poll at least supports the theory that there are perceived class distinctions between Facebook and MySpace.  Forbes Magazine has examined this distinction in terms of advertising. Should advertisers notice the differences and use adds differently on each site to target different audiences? The correct answer is soda, but as far as Facebook vs. MySpace…

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Anonymous: Cyber Vigilantes?

Blake’s Post about that bill against anonymous posting got me curious about things so I’ve been looking around, getting a feel for what folks reactions are online and checking out some of the legal issues. Anyway, in my curiosity I’ve stumbled across something that gives me pause and presents me with a bit of a problem. They’re a group self-dubbed “Anonymous” and I don’t quite know what to do with them.

From what I can gather, Anonymous is a rather decentralized group, there doesn’t seem to be any hierarchy or leaders or even qualifications for membership apart from deciding that you are one. My guess would be its a blanket term that covers a bunch of smaller individual group. Yet they still manage to act as a whole and have demonstrated on several occasions their ability to make an impact both on and off line.

On the one hand, they seem to be doing some good things. On December 7, 2007, Global News ran a story on the arrest of an alleged child predator by the name of Chris Forcand. The story said that the police investigation of Forcand began when detectives were contacted by a “self described internet teen vigilante group called anonymous,” who had already been tracking Forcand. Apparently Forcand had approached some members of the group and they began a campaign against him. Eventually Anonymous was able to dicover Forcand’s identity and location and contacted Toronto police, who set up a sting operation and arrested Forcand.

Global News Footage Story in Toronto Sun

At the other end of things, Amonymous hardly seems to be an entirely altruistic group. Anonymous has reportedly been behind less benevolent movements, including the Hacking of MySpace pages, “raids” on several forums, online gaming networks and other sites, and a massive campaign to spoil the ending to the Harry Potter books. (Okay… that one makes me laugh… but it’s still copyright infringement!)

Fox News Ran a story on Anonymous referring to them as an “Internet Hate Machine” and “Domestic Terrorists.” A writer for “Wired News” however calls the group nothing more than “Supremely bored 15 year olds.” And claims that the fox new story is the best prank the group has ever played.

In any case, these don’t always seem to be the nicest of guys. One of the groups slogans reads: “Anonymous: Because none of us are as cruel as all of us.”

The biggest notice Anonymous has gotten by far has been for it’s recent self proclaimed “war” against the church of Scientology dubbed “Project Chanology.” On January 12, 2008, a video produced by the Church of Scientology was leaked to the Internet and uploaded to YouTube. The Church of Scientology claimed copyright violation and requested that YouTube remove the video. Soon after, Anonymous released a YouTube video declaring their campaign against the church of Scientology. Anonymous attacked the church of Scientology with DOS attacks, prank calls and black faxes. In a subsequent YouTube video they called for protests outside of Scientology centers and on February 10, 2008 some 7,000 people world wide showed up to protest outside of Scientology centers in 93 cities worldwide. Cities in which 100 or more participated included Dublin, Ireland, Atlanta, Georgia, Dallas and Austin, Texas, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, Toronto, Canada, Clearwater, Florida, St. Louis, Missouri, New York City and London, England. Another rally is scheduled for March 15. Beware the ides?

This gives a pretty astounding picture of what this underground group is capable of. So the question is, how do we react to this? Yeah, the group is certainly responsible for some good things, no one likes a pedophile, but from what I’ve seen they can be pretty volatile as well, and is it really a good idea to encourage online vigilantism? At the same time, I can’t help but think of that bill against online anonymity. I don’t want my full name showing up places online, and if a bill like that managed to actually gain some support… well I’m pretty sure these Anonymous guys would fight it and fight it hard. That’s good for me, so I kinda want these guys around. But maybe it’s groups like this that inspired the bill in the first place.

Or am I way off base? Are these just supremely bored 15 year olds? Tell me what you think.

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"All the Charm of MySpace without all the Suck."

I can’t for the life of me remember where I read that little blurb, but it’s a pretty good evaluation of the still young social networking site Virb°.

The folks behind the site call themselves Virb Inc. and are the same gang that created PureVolume back in 2003. (By the way, if you’re into the indie music scene and you haven’t ever heard of PureVolume then you need to go there now. I mean right away, forget the rest of this article for now, it’ll be here when you come back I promise.)

At first glance, Virb looks like just another MySpace clone, but upon closer inspection there’s plenty that sets it apart.

Virb breaks down its profiles into three categories at the moment. They are: personal, music, and organization. This comes in handy because, for example, I can choose to allow friend requests from personal pages, but block requests from bands. This brings back memories of spam-filled MySpace inboxes full of requests from guys who make techno in their basement. I can also choose to display my personal friends, band friends, and organization friends independently on my profile.

Virb has a couple other useful little perks like the ability to upload video with no quality restrictions and the option to link you profile to the rss/atom feed of your blog and have the posts automatically copied onto you Virb profile.

What Virb really does an excellent job with is customization. Virb provides you with several options to tweak the looks of your profile page. For the everyday user, there are two basic editors. One allows you to change some basic formatting options, simple things like fonts and colors. The other allows you to arrange the position of “modules” on your page. More on Virb modules in a moment.

editsample.jpg<- Basic Syle Editor

For those who are a little more web savvy and want a higher level of customization Virb also allows you to directly edit the CSS and XHTML for your profile page. And the addition of Virb modules makes the editing even easier. Virb breaks down every aspect of your page into modules. They have several basic modules already set up for you, one for displaying comments, pictures, meta, etc. Now say I wanted to add a little RSS feed widget to my profile page. I could go to the advanced editor and code it in there, but I could also make a custom module and place the code there. That way, when I go to the editor I have the option of simply referencing that module rather than typing out the full code. This keeps the code incredibly organized and makes things easy to re-arrange.

Amidst all this customization, Virb threw in another little goodie that I just love. Remember all those MySpace profiles that burned your eyes with their bright colors, unreadable font, and general feeling that someone had up and vomited random HTML all over the place? (And by one I mean one in five…) Well guess what. Now you don’t have to look at it! At the top of every profile page Virb gives you a “remove customization” option that allows you to view the page with the default layout and settings and avoid any annoying colors you may encounter.

sample-profile.jpg <-Custom  Removed-> samplenoncustom.jpg

Overall, Virb seems to have taken something old, kept what worked, fixed a few things that didn’t and added their own unique feel. It might never be the leading social networking site, but it’s a great place to advertise a startup band, get a new organization noticed, or just have an extra place to show your blog and get a little more traffic. I wouldn’t be surprise to see some real growth there in the near future.

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