Social Networking


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Social Networking – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Social Networking

  1. 1. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009Social NetworkingA SWOT Analysis Wali Memon Wali Memon »»» 1
  2. 2. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009IntroductionThe World Wide Web has evolved into something that is approximating thevision of Tim Berners Lee. The new web, Web 2.0, (a phrase coined by OReillywhen it chaired the first consortium) is a collection of services that enable usersto deploy content on the internet without having to acquire technical skills.Whereas the internet of yore was a collection of static HTML pages written by anelite with some degree of technical expertise, Web 2.0 has removed that barrieran the result is a dynamic collection of content linked through social networkingwebsites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo.Excitement about this phenomenon has been high and the rush to own or to usethese sites has been likened to a land rush.SWOT AnalysisThe purpose of this paper is to take an objective look at the nature of the socialnetworking environment we have today. I have chosen to subject it to a SWOTanalysis as the most succinct way of assessing the phenomenon. For the sake ofexpediency, I have been liberal in my paraphrasing and quoting of authoritativesources drawn from academic and significant commentators. Strengths Weaknesses 1. Collaborative 1. Oversold 2. Engaging 2. Tribal 3. Sense of Community 3. Disorderly Wali Memon »»» 4. Knowledge Management 4. Privacy Issues 5. Ubiquitous Communication 5. Knowledge Capture 6. Ease of Use 7. Integration 8. Low Cost 2
  3. 3. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009 Opportunities Threats 1. Integration 1. Competing Platforms 2. Distributed Platform 2. Shifting Sands 3. Standards 3. Ownership 4. Portable 4. Technical Support 5. Modularity 5. Abuse and Exploitation 6. Rapid Generation 6. Duty of Care Table 1: A summary of the SWOT Analysis on social networking softwareStrengthsCollaborativeThe defining feature of social networking software is its sociability. People cometogether with a common purpose and create a body of content through sharedeffort. Peer review ensures that a concordance emerges. The synergy generatedin this process ensures that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Asusers evaluate their own material against the materials of others in thecommunity, they engage in higher cognition such as analysis and synthesis.EngagingThe nature of social networking software facilitates an organic, dynamic creationof content. Since the users are themselves the authors of this content, they are Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comhighly motivated in amending and adding to it. Consequently, the content iscurrent and often uniquely valuable. Peer review is a fundamental feature inthese communities and the analysis and synthesis of the emerging content isengrossing....people are looking to fulfil six essential social needs online, and businesses thathelp facilitate those needs are more likely to create deeper emotional bonds thanusually exist between companies and customers, according to a new research 3
  4. 4. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009report released today by Communispace. These deeper relationships in turn resultin greater consumer insights, advocacy and loyalty... Move Over Maslow: Gaining Business Value from Social Networking Comes from Fulfilling... | ReutersSense of CommunityThe perception of a similarity with others, a meeting of minds and the sense ofsecurity arising from this interdependence is of considerable intrinsic value tothe members of a community. The following is an extract from Reuters MoveOver Maslow: Gaining Business Value from Social Networking Comes fromFulfilling..., referring to a recent report from Communispace.The Six Social Needs People Seek in Social NetworksThe Communispace researchers, building on the work of social scientists, haveidentified the specific social needs that are met through participating in socialnetworks.1. Expressing personal identity: online social networks provide people with the ultimate tool for defining and redefining themselves, as evidenced in profile pages on Facebook and MySpace.2. Status and self-esteem: the need for autonomy, recognition and achievement are essential to our sense of self-worth and are fulfilled in online communities, blogs, and social networks that provide a way to develop and manage a virtual reputation.3. Giving and getting help: people have a need to both seek and provide help to others. Mutual assistance between strangers is a phenomenon that has been Wali Memon »»» uniquely enabled by the Internet.4. Affiliation and belonging: online communities are becoming the way people find, create and connect with others "just like me" - people who share similar tastes, sensibilities, orientations or interests.5. Sense of community: a sense of belonging or affiliation alone is not equivalent to a true sense of community. Achieving a real sense of community requires long-lasting reciprocal relationships and a mutual commitment to the needs 4
  5. 5. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009 of the community as a whole. Communispace tapped its other research on social networking behaviour and found that when companies meet the full range of social needs, they gain trust and deep insights into their consumers and community members - marketing nirvana. And when companies go still further to actively embrace and act on peoples ideas they fulfil a sixth social need:6. Reassurance of value and self worth: People want to be reassured of their worth and value, and seek confirmation that what they say and do matters to others and has an impact on the world around them. Meeting all 5 + 1 of these social needs generally requires the level of intimacy and facilitation that are the hallmarks of smaller, invitation only online communities.Knowledge ManagementGiven the relational and recursive nature of the learning process, in Using SocialSoftware For Personal Knowledge Management In Formal Online Learning,Pettenatti el al focus on the recognised and growing importance of socialsoftware as an “educational middleware” in formal learning. By “educationalmiddleware” they mean a network based environment which allows the settingup and distribution of learning and knowledge management activities topromote flexible individual and collective knowledge-construction, throughreflection and meta-cognition. The spontaneous use of social software ininformal contexts, favours the creation of an open and socially sharedinformation space which nurtures the relational negotiation of co-constructedand re- defined meaning (Morin, 1996).Users (learners) become the main protagonists of their potential lifelong Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comknowledge acquisition experience.(Paraphrased from the abstract of Using Social Software For Personal Knowledge Management In Formal Learning)Ubiquitous CommunicationUbiquitous access to digital technologies changes what is pedagogically possiblein at least three ways. First, ubiquitous access to the Internet andtelecommunications technologies changes classrooms into places with access to 5
  6. 6. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009abundant resources and rich connections to the world. Second, ubiquitous accessto a variety of digital devices and multimedia tools makes it possible to create,analyze, synthesize and communicate knowledge using a rich variety of mediaforms. Third, ubiquitous access to digital tools that automate lower level skillsallows students to concentrate on higher level thinking, and lessens the skilllevels needed to explore a range of complex topics...To take full advantage of thepotential inherent in ubiquitous computing; teaching must be reconceived frominstructing to conducting learning. Teaching and learning must no longer bethought of as bound by the school building or the school day. (Kent State University’s Research Center for Educational Technology)Ease of Use"Unfortunately, although the web became an excellent repository of information,it became a place where only technically adept users and organisations wouldauthor content. The arrival of new services (often referred to as Web 2.0) hashelped to remove many of the barriers preventing users from participating.Thanks to this wave of new services we have seen a massive rise in the uptake ofweb authoring and collaboration. The term this new wave of social activity hasbeen given varies i.e. Social Software, Social Media and Social Computing. Thekey word is Social!" (JISC infoNet)IntegrationThe aim of integration is to transform multiple tools into one useful and flexibleenvironment for building communities and to provide multi- functional services to Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comthe users. We aim to build such a flexible mechanism by using an integration modelon top of Web 2.0 technologies.The model should have the following capabilities: (i) Tagging and linking of peoplethrough uploading and downloading of information; (ii) Sharing information; (iii)Supporting scientific research community; (iv) Integrating the new tools as theyare generated in a specific area; (v) Providing a dynamic environment in which theuser can benefit from the capabilities of different tools; (vi) Allowing rich content. 6
  7. 7. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009The integration model itself doesnt build new tools. It uses the existing tools. (Integration of Collaborative Information Systems in Web 2.0, Topcu A. E. et al, Indiana University, 2007)Low CostAgile software-development techniques are ideally suited to support rapid releasecycles, so they have a readiness for change. Integrate lightweight development anddeployment processes as complements to the perpetual beta. Combine this withlow-cost, commodity components to build a scalable, fault-tolerant operationalbase. (O’Reilly Radar, Web 2.0, Principles and Best Practices, 2006)Appeal"Visitors to and generally skew older, with people age25 and older comprising 68 and 71 percent of their user bases, respectively.Meanwhile, has a younger user profile, with 20 percent of its users inthe 12- 17 age range, about twice as high as that age segment’s representationwithin the total Internet audience. Not surprisingly,, which began asa social networking site for college students, also draws a younger audience. Morethan one- third (34 percent) of visitors to are 18-24 years old,approximately three times the representation of that age segment in the generalInternet population." (More than Half of MySpace Visitors are Now Age 35 or Older,, 5 October 2006) Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comWeaknessesOversold"Ten years ago (has it really been that long?), we were well into the technologyhype of the World Wide Web. New technologies were going to revolutionize how welive, how businesses work - just about everything. Enormous amounts of moneywere invested in all kinds of Web-based ideas, from optical fibre in the ground totelecommunications equipment to online banking to selling pet food on the Internet 7
  8. 8. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009using a sock puppet mascot. A few years later, the bubble burst. Both technologiesand business models had been oversold, and the market collapsed. From a business(and investing) point of view, novel Web technologies were something to beavoided. What is often missed about the post-bubble time is that Internet usagedidnt stop, or even pause very much. Even electronic commerce, the big hype-driver of the late 1990s, continued to grow in actual use even as companyvaluations crashed. Similarly, technology innovation and development continued.Today, hype is back, theres a lot of startup activity, and there are new claims abouthow Web technology will revolutionize this or that. Much of the excitement isdescribed as Web 2.0, suggesting the second major release of Web technology." (Blog entry: Query: Web 2.0 & Social Software, Larry Davies, St Thomas University, Florida, 2006)"Memo to Badoo, Bebo, Catster, Dogster, Facebook, Faceparty, Flickr, Flixster, Hi5,Hyves, Imbee, Imeem, MySpace, Mixi, Pizco, Pownce, Takkle, Twitter, Virb, Vox,Xanga, Xing, Zoomr ... and the 3,245,687 other social networks clamoring for ourlimited attention spans: We got it. Making connections between friends is cool.Sharing photos and videos, even cooler. But its all so... 2006. Havent you gotanything new to show us?Heres a safe bet: Two years from now, 90 percent of these networks will be goneand their founders will be back working at Starbucks" (The 15 Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2007, ABC News, 17 December, 2007)Tribal Wali Memon »»»"...there is a high degree of audience sharing going on, as Britons online satisfytheir increasing appetite for social networking or decide on which network is bestfor them. The high degree of overlap also indicates the fickle nature of the onlinesocial-networker and it will be interesting to see when the dust settles who willcome out on top – and whether they stay there for very long.” (Facebook & Bebo: The Assault on MySpace, Nielsen/NetRatings, 2007) 8
  9. 9. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009From this, it must be seen that social network sites have an adversarialrelationship and that they would restrict any attempt to directly access users ona rival site.DisorderlyIn Press Releases Are Not a PR Strategy, Linda VandeVrede compares the easydistribution of material afforded by social media to a chaotic land rush and lackof zoning in her home state of Arizona. “What was once a beautiful, open desertlandscape has given way to ill-planned communities and highways. Now thehighways are clogged and insufficient to hold the capacity,” she observes.While she supports the democracy of expression online, she is concerned aboutthe sheer volume and poor quality of Web content as well as the narcissism andfalse sense of accomplishment that often drive it.VandeVrede is not alone in her nuanced assessment of the brave new world ofsocial media. In making its award (when it presented YOU with the person of theyear award), Time cautioned that “Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds aswell as its wisdom.”Privacy IssuesSara Motahari et al, New Jersey Institute of Technology identified the followingseven categories of privacy issues: 1. Inappropriate use by Administrators: E.g. The system admin sells personal data without permission [9]. 2. Legal Obligations: The system admin is forced by an organization such as the police to reveal personal data [9]. Wali Memon »»» 3. Inadequate Security [9]. 4. Designed Invasion (Poor Features): E.g. a cell phone application that reveals location to friends, but does this without informing the user or providing control of this feature [3, 6]. 5. Social Inference through lack of Entropy: See CampusWiki example above. 9
  10. 10. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009 6. Social Inference through Persistent User Observation: E.g. Bob is so often in Alices office. Their relationship must be romance. 7. Social Leveraging of Privileged Data: E.g. David cant access my location, but Jane can. David asks Jane my location (Seven Privacy Worries in Ubiquitous Social Computing, Motahari S. et al, 2007)OpportunitiesIntegrationTopcus aspiration to build an integrating layer to sit above Web 2.0 services hasbeen superseded by later events. In June, 2007, Facebook announced that it wasopening its API to outside developers. Applications written in FBML can now bewritten that can be deployed in sites other than Facebook. The rest of the worldretaliated in October when Google announced the launch of its OpenSocialplatform. OpenSocial is collaboration between Google and several social networksites.Distributed PlatformThe OpenSocial platform is a distributed one. Code sitting on a developerswebsite makes calls to libraries stored on Googles server. That code in turn iscalled by containers within a social network site. Since the point of thoseplatforms is to give the developer to write once, use many, it will be easy todistribute the applet across several sites - or to move from one site to another.StandardsFBML (Facebook Meta Language) is a proprietary markup language and it is the Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.commain language used by the Facebook platform. Alternatively, the OpenSocialplatform uses generic JavaScript and HTML. Adopting standards such as theseassure the take-up since developers are already skilled and experienced in usingthese.The Motley Fool carries the same message:Google has users, tooUnfortunately for Facebook, Google has also picked up on the secret formula. The 10
  11. 11. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009OpenSocial programming platform can bring addictive little applications to themasses through a standards-based, open interface applicable across various sites.The first wave of partner sites includes MySpace, Googles own Orkut, Friendster,and (NYSE: CRM) -- definitely a strong enough contingent to posea serious threat to Facebooks newfound regency.I cannot overemphasize the importance of Googles open standards. Any site canuse OpenSocial community components, including the Fool or even your personalhomepage. Thats a surefire way to attract freelance programmers with an open-source mind-set, as well as companies where the programmers already know plainold JavaScript and HTML. Thats all you really need. Dont be surprised to seeOpenSocial applications strewn across the Internet any day now.Atlas shruggedFacebook is already fighting back, promising to open up its own APIs for use onother sites. Now, Facebook and Google are going head-to- head to win theaffections of developers and users alike. Theres some chance that the twotechnologies will eventually merge into one all-powerful social-networkingplatform, but that would force Facebook to compromise its walled garden, andGoogle its free-for-all ethos. Neither is likely to happen anytime soon.Its impossible at this early stage to name a surefire winner, but the non-proprietary nature of OpenSocial makes it my bet. Also, Google knows a lot moreabout making money from online traffic than Facebook does, and its happy toshare some of that expertise with its content-providing partners.Dont get me wrong -- I like Facebook, and I visit the site every day. But likable ornot, this is one fight that could sink the service into a commodity quagmire in the Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comblink of an eye -- never to be seen again.Watch this space. (Facebook, Google Square Off, Motley Fool, 18 December, 2007)PortableThe use of standard languages (JavaScript, HTML, and XML) for coding and theunrestricted access to core libraries assure the execution of applets written inthis fashion. 11
  12. 12. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009Those following the Facebook platform will have to create formal arrangementswith Facebook. One such site, Sampa websites, has parted ways with Facebookand announced the Facebook interface was too restrictive for its users.ModularityIt is the nature of those applets, whether written on the FBML or the OpenSocialplatforms to be atomic and modular. While they are discrete objects, they canshare data and be connected (mashed) together to create a unique andcustomised environment.Volume of ContentThe first wave of the web, retrospectively referred to as Web 1.0, was theprovince of those who were skilled in the technology. Web 2.0 has eliminated theneed to understand the underlying technology and has led to a user-generatedexplosion of content.ThreatsCompeting PlatformsIt is quite clear that the emergence of the OpenSocial platform is a response tothe perceived threat from Facebook. One of them is going to enjoy beingcompared to VHS, the other is going to be remembered as Betamax. Anydeveloper is going to be haunted by the prospect of backing the wrong standard.Shifting SandsAlliances, partnerships, buyouts and mergers have been frantic over the past few Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.commonths. Google forged alliances with Ning, MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, etc topromote its OpenSocial platform. It had already bought YouTube to remove thecompetition and to get its hands on the mass of user-generated videos. eBaybought Skype for a sum that vastly exceeded its value. Facebook wooed Bebo, theonly remaining significant social network site. Bebo announced that, henceforth,it would support both OpenSocial and FBML platforms. I imagine that itstechnical staff is still explaining to its marketing department that that is a rash 12
  13. 13. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009promise. Microsoft recently paid 240 million dollars for a 1.6 percent stake inFacebook (leading people to extrapolate a figure of $15 billion as the value ofFacebook). In the past week, Microsoft has bought Multimap just to eliminate it.This kind of land grab causes corporations to hobble each other and increasesthe prospect of them introducing technology that locks users to their sites orprohibits users from availing of other sites.Users are faced with the same problem. As they invest more in their profiles, itbecomes more difficult to pack up and move to another site. They would leave alltheir contacts and all the content they had contributed.OwnershipConsider a developer who has written a killer applet with the help of GooglesAPI libraries on and deployed it on, say, MySpace. If any of those make a changeto the part they are contributing, or choose to raise fees, introduce anincompatibility or change their end user agreement, everything collapses. Whathappens to the content that has been generated? Who has it? Who is entitled toit?Technical SupportOnce again, for the purposes of illustration, consider the developer who has thecode for an applet on one server but is calling code from Google and deploying iton a social network site. The applet ceases to function and the developer isforced to determine which party is at fault, get that party to accept fault. Evenworse, developers may find themselves caught in the middle of a spat betweenall parties as each denies that they are the cause of the problem. Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comAbuse and Exploitation"Beware of excess. Just because you can quickly deliver new features to usersdoes not mean you should. Avoid creating confusion or feature fatigue with yourcustomers." (O’Reilly Radar, Web 2.0, Principles and Best Practices, 2006)Feature fatigue is evident in some of the active online socialites: 13
  14. 14. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009"While last year the Arctic Monkeys made history by securing a number one hit inthe UK after posting their songs for free on MySpace -- without ever releasing analbum -- many industry insiders expect that the days of MySpace-assisted fame arenumbered. With millions of profiles, its difficult to "stumble" across somethinggood, but it is the faked profiles that have made it especially difficult for scouts whocould once gauge a bands popularity simply by counting their friends andcomments. Bands have bought into whats become a mini industry of software, viralmarketing services and image consulting built around faking popularity. ...For$149, promises between 3,000 and 6,000 new friends in aweek." (MySpace? FakedSpace?,, 11 December, 2007)"Recently, Facebook was forced to apologise after it angered its users by publicisingdetails of their shopping habits without their permission.Beacon, a new advertising system designed to tap into "the recommendationgeneration", had notified the online "friends" of Facebook members purchasesmade on retail sites outside of the social network." (Facebook sues over alleged porn site hack attack, The Times, 17 December, 2007)The remainder of the article is pertinent; Facebook is defending itself againstaccusations that it gave user details to a Canadian porn company.)Duty of Care"The ENISA report details several well-known privacy threats and describes some Wali Memon »»» http://walimemon.comchilling new possibilities. Among the more familiar risks are the compilation ofdigital dossiers by third parties who download profiles from social networks; thecompilation of usage data by the social networking sites; possible identity theftthrough the use of publicly disclosed information; cyberstalking and bullying; andcorporate espionage.But the report also raises the possibility of some startlingly new dangers. Forinstance, ENISA warned, the photographs that users post of themselves on social 14
  15. 15. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009networks can be used as a facial-recognition tool to identify an anonymous profileon another site (for instance, a dating site).Another emerging technology is Content- Based Image Retrieval (CBIR), in whichthe features of a photo can be used as the basis for other image searches or caneven be used to identify where the photo was taken." (EU Criticizes Social Networks for Privacy Flaws, Sci-Tech Today, 4 December 2007 reporting on the October ENISA report, Security Issues and Recommendations for Online Social Networks)ConclusionSocial networking software is still in its adolescence. Users are becomingsophisticated enough to realise that there is little point in bringing peopletogether just for the sake of bringing people together and they are demandingmore. Nevertheless, it is an appealing and engaging environment once users havefound their tribe.There are a number of agencies – commercial, criminal, governmental – that arevying for access to the massive amount of data accumulated by these users. Usersneed to be careful with what and how they reveal details of themselves. Thechallenge for users is to learn to judge precisely the amount of information theyshould divulge to attract a similar person and the amount they should reveal toprotect themselves from exploitation. Wali Memon »»» 15
  16. 16. Social Networking »A SWOT Analysis 2009ConclusionSocial networking software is still in its adolescence. Users are becomingsophisticated enough to realise that there is little point in bringing peopletogether just for the sake of bringing people together and they are demandingmore. Nevertheless, it is an appealing and engaging environment once users havefound their tribe.There are a number of agencies – commercial, criminal, governmental – that arevying for access to the massive amount of data accumulated by these users. Usersneed to be careful with what and how they reveal details of themselves. Thechallenge for users is to learn to judge precisely the amount of information theyshould divulge to attract a similar person and the amount they should reveal toprotect themselves from exploitation Wali Memon »»» 16