I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.


Posts tagged social

Instagram is adding photo tagging, beginning it’s alignment with Facebook and diverting from the app’s straightforward, subtle nature.

Aerial views of Facebook’s, Twitter’s, and Tumblr’s headquarters, respectively. All images are the same scale.

One of the quirks of the digital age is that very small populations construct the social environments of astoundingly large populations. I’ve commented on the impressiveness of this before, “[Facebook has] built a design and interaction system used across the world by a massive amount of cultures. Mandarin, with its 1.1 billion speakers, is the only language or medium with more native participants than Facebook.”

But as digital participants become more numerous and sophisticated, I often wonder when a cultural bottleneck will emerge. At what level of sophistication will users chafe at the systems designed by a handful of people half a world away and turn to more local offerings?

This problem is surely exacerbated by campuses, though it’s unclear to what degree. Building bubbles to keep employees at work as often as possible – shuttling them to work, feeding them, entertaining them, providing them with exercise – reduces the amount of serendipitous encounters they can have. Their connection to the world they build for risks becoming more and more tenuous. And as each company grows around its campus, the Founder’s Effect kicks in and any problems becomes exacerbated.

Location isn’t everything, but it certainly is a variable. Looking at the new Facebook HQ, bordered by residential areas, corporate parks, and salt ponds, it’s hard not to appreciate the asset Tumblr has that barely anyone talks about.

It will be interesting to see how campuses affect future products. And how we might measure or observe how this manifests in the first place.

Update: To be fair, isolate campuses can have good quirks. Sure, you risk the Founder’s Effect but you also get Genetic Drift: crazy ideas that arise because you don’t have an overarching culture to keep them from occurring. Google is a great example of someone who suffers from the Founder’s Effect (Wave, Buzz, …) but benefits from Genetic Drift (Glass, driverless cars, …)

Humble Pie Quick Tips

America’s Test Kitchen’s Twitter account just alerted me to their simultaneous Tumblr and Pinterest contests.

Big business and media: the bow-tied, Vermont homesteader your mom watches on PBS has a better, more experimental social media presence than any of you.

Facebook has threatened to sue Mark Zuckerberg, an Israeli entrepreneur who recently took the social network founder’s name. The new Zuckerberg, born Rotem Guez, legally changed his name Dec. 7.


Every party in this case is ridiculous.

However, it’s really interesting to see Facebook butt up against government regulations as they outgrow a state-based context. In the future, legally changing your name or other bureaucratic filings might be immaterial within a global, cross-government social network. And that might be the one that matters.

Is this post nationalism?

Quick reminder. (Sources: Comscore, Facebook, FourSquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Cruchbase)

The Coming Social Gaming Reckoning 

Zynga just lost 10% of its gamers… Facebook’s changes in notifications and requests, which eliminated a significant amount of free advertising enjoyed by social gaming applications, had a major negative impact on Zynga and most of the other major social gaming companies

Social gaming success stories so far have focused on fast-growing, derivative game makers like Zynga, Playfish, et al. While these companies have enjoyed huge, engaged audiences, I cannot believe that their growth will continue. Their games are devoid of substance and ‘hack’ social interactions online. As users become accustomed to their digital lives, the pressure to tend to a virtual farm will be lessened.

Despite critical reception, Facebook’s interface changes are always very smart. They’re designed to generate more substation engagement and reduce friction. Facebook puts the user at the center.

Zynga and others take advantage of the current inefficiencies of the network. They rely on feed-bombing, compulsive network-checking, and accidental notification-blasts. These days are coming to an end, both because of the networks and user acclimation. There will be a huge opportunity for social gaming of substance, once the noise from these start-ups subsides. (Data via Business Insider)

What is this?

This site randomly displays the private phone numbers of unsuspecting Facebook users.

How does it work?

There are uncountable numbers of groups on Facebook called “lost my phone!!!!! need ur numbers!!!!!" or something like that. Most of them are marked as ‘public’, or ‘visible to everyone’. A lot of folks don’t understand what that means in Facebook’s context — to Facebook, ‘everyone’ means everyone in the world, whether they’re a Facebook member or not. That includes automated programs like Evil, as well as search engines.

(Via Tom Scott, Via Huffington Post)

Last Tuesday, the NY Times published an article on the increasing use of Food Stamps. The pundits weighed in about the cost and acceptance: the mainstreaming of poverty.

Over here in tech-land, I found myself talking about virtual goods, the success of games like Farmville, and companies like Zynga. How ironic, I thought, that people spend hours tending to virtual farms while we spend billions helping feed the hungry.

This morning I gathered some data and crunched the numbers. I’m assuming that the daily users of Zynga games play 30 minutes a day for this thought experiment. My previous experience with online gaming suggests this is a very conservative assumption.

Simply put, if we could turn those small bits of the day (but on a stupid large scale) into minimum wage worth tasks, we could pay for the entire Food Stamp program and then some. (And this is just Zynga. I haven’t even factored in Yahoo, Playfish, SGN, … )

While I’m sure my numbers err in some way, this thought experiment confirms a thought for me: the greatest challenge of our time, and what could pull us out of this economic muck, is the sustainably* monetization of down, boring hours, and the reluctant leisure time of the under-employed. Crack this nut and you’ll make untold fortunes and save the economy…

* I say “sustainably” because the answer lies beyond virtual goods and Netflix subscription trial offers.

Keeping MySpace From the Grave 

Over at The Atlantic Wire they collected top tech pundits opinions and net out with this 3 part fix:

  1. Make it music hub
  2. Get freedom from News Corp
  3. Find a visionary leader

My two cents: I like the music angle, but think that the boat sailed a year ago. Now Apple stands to crush it with Lala and Facebook is fast becoming the place for bands (most I know have switched or are switching from MySpace to Facebook).

Michael Arrington is behind option #2, but I think he’s suffering from his Silicon Valley shortsightedness. The upsides of being part of News Corp are insane, if you choose to leverage them. MySpace is a digital manifestation of Murdoch’s strategy for giving the lower classes a voice (see the Post, Fox, etc).

Here’s how I’d turn MySpace around: I’d drink the News Corp Kool-Aid.

I’d accept I’m not going to beat Facebook head-on. I’d accept that MySpace squandered their music opportunity and better equipped companies are going to own the market. But I’d cherish the access to News Corp content and audiences I have, and realize that by aligning myself with them I stand cut costs drastically while increasing my reach and marketing. I’d turn MySpace into something between it and Ning: a social network that’s built on media networks. There’d be a flavor for the WSJ, a video hub for Fox, and even a Tea-Party hub for Fox News.

Gather the audiences News Corp already owns, then build from there…

Owen Van Natta Out As MySpace CEO 

What a mess. (Via Nick Denton, Via Paid Content)

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