My Facebook Friend Wheel (public or private?)
Taking a cue from Robin Hamman, I’ve added explanatory notes to the image on my Flickr. While the categories aren’t exactly right (for example, why is Matt Jones in with the games industry people?), they provide a nice schematic sketch of the different people I know in my life who have signed up for this social network. I’d love to see one for all of my social network accounts – integrating LinkedIn with MySpace, Flickr, del.icio.us, my email accounts, blogs rolls, Ning Friends, IM platform buddies, Skype contacts, Upcoming co-conspirators, Dopplr dudes, Twitter twerps… I use each of them in a different way. For example, I noticed when I started on Facebook I was using it to connect to a group of non-work legacy friends I’ never have imagined would sign up for a newfangled internet thingie and people I’d not seen in 15 years. LinkedIn is clearly positioned at the business market. MySpace, from my use of it, seems to be targeted at casual contributors. Mapping them for my personal use would help me streamline how I organise the different facets of my life, so I wouldn’t get so bogged down checking them all before I start work in the morning. I could identify which were worthy of attention when, because I would know what to expect from each of the inboxes, and what proverbial hat to wear whilst attending to them.
Yet there’s crossover between all of them, as the above FriendsWheel demonstrates, so conceptual compartmentalisation isn’t completely possible. Neat when someone “graduates” to a different one tho – legacy friend becomes techno-co-conspirator etc.
On a more serious note, I echo the concerns of one commentator on the FriendsWheel app page who says,
PRIVACY DOES NOT EXIST. Knowing anybody’s user ID, you can view their friend wheel … regardless of your relationship to them.For example, the Friend Wheel author’s wheel, which you shouldn’t have access to if you aren’t a friend of his, is at: http://thomas-fletcher.com/facebook/friendwheel/showwheelgif.php?userid=509450630
Even worse, if you have REMOVED this application, your wheel is still visible to anybody who simply enters the URL to their browser’s location bar. If you BLOCK it, your name is removed only from future wheels (due to the fact that they have already been rendered).
According to danah and Nicole, one of the key features of social network sites is the ability to see the connections your existing or potential friends. Surely that should be an opt-in? Perhaps even by friend? X Friend can be seen by everyone and/or Y Friend can/can’t see my other Friends? It seems that the FriendWheel app doesn’t take into account the Limited Profile option, and circumnavigates the choices of the Ego in displaying friend connections. Furthermore, if someone who isn’t limited profile runs the FriendWheel, people with limited access to other people’s profiles can still see who’s connected to whom. Agg – it becomes quite complex.
This is an extremely cool demonstration of the power of social network tools, but how might it affect the people who do not choose to disclose their connections. A modicum of privacy – consideration for each of the egos! – should be integrated into any releases in the future.
~ by aleks on July 11, 2007.