Quantum Statement

The New Internet, the New World

What do Blogs, Myspace, and Flickr have in common?

A few nights ago, I attended a presentation by Jeffrey Zeldman of A List Apart. I wasn’t sure why Zeldman had been invited to Pratt by the Special Library Association, but as it turns out his wife is a librarian.

Zeldman talked at great length and quick clip about web usability, but much of what he said I’ve heard before. He made a few novel statements comparing MySpace and Flickr. He describes Myspace as a hierarchy with heavily-linked users on the top competing to add more friends. Beneath them are users trying to add friends by giving patronage to the users above them. At the bottom are users with few or no links who hardly get noticed by the group at the top of the pyramid. In this way, Myspace has a lot of similarities with how blog influence is measured. An even more striking comparison are the similarities between blogs and scholarly communication networks, but we’ll save that discussion for another occasion. Flickr is also a social networking site. It is a social networking site where users create a personal account and upload their photos to store and share online. Similar to MySpace, Flickr users can link up to one another, but they differ, according to Zeldman, because Flickr is not a Feudal System where users on the top throw their table scraps to those below. On Flickr, users are motivated to link up with one another not because of the status, but because they connect with the user’s photography.

I’m not ready to dismiss Zeldman’s analysis, but I do find it hard to compare the two. It presumes that Flickr users are anything at all like MySpace users, which nobody really knows. It also suggests that there is only one type of MySpace user, a primitive driven soul with a greedy appetite for friends that cannot be satisfied.

True, there are a lot of MySpace users who compulsively add friends. Take this guy. Just who in the hell does he think he is? There are also plenty of users who sign-up for one reason or another and never engage with the community. These users sink to the bottom where they rest unless somehow motivated to participate.

There is atleast one other type of user, who is not fully understood. I believe a substantial part of the MySpace community is composed of users who are not focused on linking as much as Zeldman would have us believe. Instead, they maintain a manageable set of friends, 25-100 (many of which they know personally). This collection of friends grows over time, but it is also weeded periodically. The weeding reduces the number of pages a user has to click through to find one of his or her friends. A great deal of time is spent by this concientious user to keep his or her profile in good shape. The user’s profile is manicured regularly (sometimes like a Japanese Garden though oft times like a Megadeath Concert). As every good neighbor should, the user stops by his or her friends’ profiles when the weather is nice just to say hi.

The only three social networking sites that have not been complete failures are MySpace, Friendster, and Facelift (or whatever you call it). To throw Flickr into the mix just because users can upload a buddy icon or forward a flickr stream to a friend betrays the enthusiasm and activity of the Myspace community. Even the proliferation of YouTube has occured largely without the relationship-building necessary to sustain a site like MySpace.

Comment threads like this one from YouTube are not unlike many found on actively circulating videos…
YouTube Thread
Notice that less than a third of the users link to any friends at all while a greater proportion post their own content. This suggests that while being able to post comments to a Youtube video is a valuable feature, having copious links with other users is much less significant. For now, the relationship between Myspace and Flickr seems to be limited to me posting incriminating photos of my friends from my Flickr account to their MySpace profiles.

Technorati Tags: web2.0 Flickr MySpace YouTube Zeldman

April 20, 2006 Posted by | Authors, Blogging, flickr, Information Science, Internet, Jeffrey Zeldman, MySpace, Science, technology, Web 2.0, youtube | 5 Comments