Tag Archives: society

Facebook Sharing is Up, User Activity is down

Fast Company posted an article on some revealing statistics about facebook users. While the total number of links, videos, and content are going up, the number of users actually sharing that content is going down. This should come as no surprise, since many online communities go through these kinds of usage curves (see The 90-9-1 Rule).

So once again, a social network has been taken over by a core contingent of oversharers. And farmville. Don’t forget farmville. If this is a stage that all web 2.0 sites go through, why do we bother with them in the first place? With the price of hosting going down every year, what’s to stop people who want to share links with their numerous friends from taking market share from these social media giants with sites of their own?

No2010 and the Death of the Left

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan

-John Lennon

Last week the Olympic Flame was diverted from its intended path in front of the BC Legislature by protesters. The downtrodden and disenfranchised of this province rose together in glorious revolution to disrupt an integral cog in the all-consuming Olympic machine – the photo op.

Every time I see the No2010 protesters on the news, I am filled with armrest-ripping rage when I see their flakey, malnourished leaders make  a speech on the evils of capitalism. Is it because I’m just shy of my 30th birthday? Is it because my factory farm fed existence is being threatened? Have I sold out to the corporate machine, put on a blazer and started selling real estate?

Not exactly. Well, at least I’m not selling real estate. I’ve been following protests like these in the news since the so-called “Battle of Seattle” at the meeting of the G8 countries in 1999. In that time, wars have broken out, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of computer storage has plummeted, and every year these protests seem to be less about affecting actual  change and more about making noise and ruining things.

The Olympics are a particular sore spot for me because it is only tangentially related to the problems the protesters are trying to address.  Are any of the torch runners greedy land developers? Did any of the snowboarders widen the sea to sky? Should the Olympic flame be blown out as Terry Fox’s mother might carry it to the podium? Most of the people involved with the Olympics are simply trying to achieve their hopes and dreams. Disrupting that proves nothing. If the protesters are complaining that society sees them and the poor as human garbage, they do themselves no favors by acting the part.

You might say that making an out-dated and kyriarchal sporting event slight less enjoyable is a small price to pay in the never-ending class war between the rich and the poor. Over time these efforts will result in the anarchist paradise that supposedly we’re all hoping for. But let me ask you this.  Is there any mention on the No2010 website of actually talking to government officials? Will they be sending any bills to Parliament? The Legislature? City Council? Strata Council? Are they knocking on any doors? Raising campaign funds? I must admit I haven’t been looking all that hard. There’s only so much rhetoric I can take at one time. I did find a lovely Riot 2010? Riot Now! pamphlet, though.

Even if No2010 achieved its goal of stopping the Olympics, then what would happen? There never seems to be any plan with these movements, be it No2010, the Green Party, the Marijuana Party, or even the current NDP. I think that there is such deep-seated hatred of authority in these organizations that any kind of leadership or coordination is immediately shouted down. Meanwhile, the BC Liberals will probably be in power for the next 100 years. You can be sure they will pass any dumb idea that the Fraser Institute can cough up. It’s not because the Liberals are necessarily on the take. By the time the Fraser Insitute presents an idea for a bill, they’ve got all sorts of studies and petitions that make the legislature’s job much easier. The only people who even pay attention to protesters are running paranoid military juntas. Canada is nothing of the sort, so we’d do best to start acting like it.

Permission To…What?

I think it’s funny that we seek permission for a lot of decisions we should be making on our own. Where do we want to take that vacation? What shall we have for lunch? Why don’t we get started on writing that great novel/blog/video game that will make us independently wealthy? If making our own decisions is supposed to make us better people, then what use do we have in seeking validation from others?

Permission might not be a deciding factor in our lives, but it makes everything so much better. Taking an important step is so much easier when you know someone has your back. It’s not just the relief that comes with someone making hard decisions for you. Knowing that people trust your judgment is also a big deal. I’m not saying you need to be a leader, but knowing that you have someone’s simple approval can make you feel like one.

There are times when I don’t feel like writing (shocking, I know), and just when I give a big sigh and put down my keyboard my wife asks me, “Aren’t you writing tonight, dear?”

“I don’t think so sweetie, I can’t think of anything.”

Then she makes sparkly eyes in my direction. “But you have to! You’re a good writer!”

And I gladly become millionth monkey at the millionth typewriter in this mathematical experiment we call the Internet. Sometimes labor as its own reward is not enough. When you live in a place where you have so much latitude with what you want to do, a vote of confidence is the only vote of consequence.

The 90-9-1 Rule of Social Media

I want to direct your attention over to this rule often quoted by social media start-ups, the 90-9-1 rule for participation. It’s basically a ratio for internet users. 90% of them are lurkers. They just read posts and articles, they never comment, never share, and never click on one of those ajax-powered “thumbs-up” links. 9% are part-time contributers, you might hear from them only once in a while. 1% is the ratio of users on any given website or online community that produces 90% of the content. You almost begin to wonder if they ever see sunlight, but you see them over and over again on all your favorite websites.

With statistics like this, you begin to wonder, how democratic is the internet, really? If such a small ratio of users is producing all the content, are we really that much better served by the internet than traditional forms of media? There are several recommendations for addressing the inequality in participation by rewarding contributing users and making it easier to contribute in the first place. I think even deeper concerns about our society will have to be addressed before we make the internet the free speech utopia that we hope it to be. No one wants to write anything they’ll regret later. The media is full of moral panic stories about public figures posting information on the internet that they would later regret, as was the case with NDP candidate Ray Lam in the last BC election. On the other hand, people might avoid contributing because they fear they’ll be ignored. By the time they’ve come up with something witty to post in the comments section, the article they were reading is buried underneath dozens of subsequent posts. I’d like everyone reading this to consider what goes through their head when they post a comment, or decide not to. Either way, if I am lucky, perhaps you will post your results in the comments below.