One thing I have noticed over my years of using the social web (fb, twitter, livejournal) that human culture instinctively places a value on linking to things in a way that I find odd. There’s a type of “intellectual property” that people conventionally recognize as a sort of matter of natural course. I don’t know how else to describe it than that.
In real value terms this sort of intellectual property is very low value, but in social etiquette terms, the value is more substantial. The phenomena is one of credit, but it’s not credit for authorship, rather it is credit for finding and sharing. If you find something cool and blog about it, and you’re the first one in your little social group to do so, you get some kind of credit for being on top of things, being cool enough to know where to look, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, or whatever. It’s not much more than that, but somehow if you post the same link and are not the first in your social group to do so, and don’t acknowledge the coolness of the person who you saw posted it first, it can ruffle feathers, as though people think you’re trying to be the cool, original one and are stealing other people’s “cool points” by not acknowledging where you got your cool link from.
It’s funny though since posting a link is an act of evaluation (“I judge this content to be worthy of your time, so I’m sharing it.”) rather than an act of creativity (if you want to be really cool, go author some original content and see how many people you can get to link to that.)
What I take from this is two things:
- having good enough taste in something to make a recommendation which one of your friends will pass along to others is an important, valuable thing in itself. Having this sort of taste implies that you are cool.
- Getting there first is important, OR perhaps acknowledging who was cool enough to turn you on to something that you found cool is important.
One of the things about Facebook that I like a lot is that they get this, and implement it in such a way that it basically works automatically. You can click “Share” and it just handles crediting who you got it from in a behind the scenes sort of way that forces you to follow the etiquette convention automatically, thereby avoiding being a leech or douchebag. On the other hand, in Livejournal, this is a somewhat useful way to discern who among your friends is a douchebag, since if they don’t think to credit someone for showing them something that you’ve already seen before, you know they’re not with it, or at least aren’t following their friends-list all that closely.
Another interesting thing about this is that, depending, sometimes people will just post a link to something without any comment, while other times people will post and add their thoughts to it as an annotation. Sometimes no comment is needed, or is implied by the context of how you know your Friend and what they are about and why they would be posting that link. Other times, people will post their thoughts and sometimes write something reasonably lengthy and thoughtful on the subject that they are linking to. This tends to happen much more on Livejournal than on Facebook or Twitter, which are geared toward more structured, but forced brief content. I think that Livejournal tends to encourage more expressive posts because people tend to use pseudonyms and write with somewhat more anonymity than they have with Facebook, where most people use their real name. I do like the way that Facebooks conversations of comments seem to flow very nicely once a topic hits someone’s wall. It’s also interesting to see how different groups of friends will come to the same original linked content and have different or similar conversations about it.
I think it would be fascinating to be able to visualize through some sort of graphic how sub-circles of an individual’s friends might converge though common interest in some topic. In my own Facebook experience, it has been interesting to see people I know from elementary and high school mixing with people I knew from college and afterward, and from various workplaces, and so on. I think it would be really interesting to see this sort of interaction on a very large scale, sortof a Zuckerberg’s eye view of what’s going on in various social circles that occupy Facebook. I can mentally picture colored bubbles occupying various regions of space, and mixing at the edges, colors blending like wet paint.
I also think it’s interesting how the constraints and style of the different social sites shape behavior and the characteristics of the groups who use them. Facebook users in my experience have tended to be more sedate, dryer, and thoughtful, though not always. Substantial numbers of my friends seem to be comfortable goofing and making fools of themselves, or being outspoken to the point that they run the risk of offending people of a differing political polarity. Twitter seems to be a land of important headlines mixed with one-liner witticisms and the occasional bit of Zen. Livejournal seems to be more private, insular, and diary-ish. I almost said “diaretic” but that sounds a lot like another word which, actually, might be even more appropriate, if disgusting. Discussting? Heh.
OK, I’m clearly blogging like I’ve been up for too long, and I have. But I hope to revisit and put more thought into these matters and see if something materializes out of that that is worthy of linking to and discussing. This could end up being someone’s Social Media studies PhD thesis:P