If I don't have an online social networking presence does that mean I don't exist?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shadows in CyberLand

Despite being larger than our digital footprints it is rare for us to contemplate our digital shadows before we post our social networking updates or fill in a webform or purchase goods online.

Our digital shadows are the information that we leave behind us.  Sometimes intentionally.  For instance filling in a webform to renew our car registration takes all of about 5 minutes.  However within that time the following takes place:

  1. Navigate to the website 
    1. we leave behind a trail in our browsers web history folders
    2. we leave behind a trail on the web servers log files
  2. Enter our customer number in the correct part of the webform
    1. more browser history and log file creation
    2. our customer number is searched from a database leaving more log files linked to us
  3. If correct the webform moves to the SSL payment page
    1. more history, log files and database accesses
    2. we type in our credit card details and a transactional file, log and process occurs again leaving more information behind (supposedly secure though)
    3. transaction file is sent to our banking institution (we don't even know if that is correct or took place at the time of hitting the "pay now" button)
  4. The webform is processed correctly
    1. more histories, log files, transactions
    2. more database accesses
    3. files sent to printers for the registration papers to be printed, packaged and sent to our address
All of the above is intentional, yet we only see the "frontend".

In March 2008 the New Your Times posted a blog by Steve Lohr.  The article was entitled "Measuring the size of your digital Shadow".  Lohr mentions an interesting finding by IDC (a research firm).

"But the intriguing finding was that all the ambient digital information aboutyou — a person’s “digital shadow,” IDC calls it — now exceeds the digital information that you generate yourself by sending an e-mail, taking digital pictures, viewing a YouTube video, and so on." (Lohr 2008)

This is scary stuff, more information is generated about ourselves than we create ourself.  I wonder what the ratio is?  Just look at my simple example above and that was intentional.

The web has a habit of being indelible, just when you think you are safe...BANG!...someone knows something about you, or they saw reference to you online via someone else!

We need to be careful that our digital shadow does not become our digital baggage. Or even worse that our digital shadow precedes our reputation and skews our real identity.

Brian Solis has highlighted a couple of high profile examples of digital baggage in his blog entitled "Casting a Digital Shadow, your reputation precedes you" and its affect on peoples identity and the perceptions of those around them.

This great video on our reputations preceding us is a good education piece.

Don't let the internet sun cast a shadow that arrives at the destination before you do!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It stands to reason that all communication via the internet is mediated.  After all the internet is a medium.  Being a computer mediated environment, everything that we do on the internet can be traced.

Our internet footprint is a term that groups together our entire actions on the internet.  These actions occur via all of the mediums that we use on the internet such as:

  • Blogs
  • Forum Posts
  • Website Contributions
  • Social Networking
  • Email
  • Twitter
There is an unwritten etiquette for communication on the internet.  This is called netiquette.  It is important to be aware of these social conventions because the majority of our communications via the internet is played out in the public domain.

Perhaps one of the greatest issues to overcome when communicating via the internet is the fact that the written word is easily misconstrued because it is extremely difficult to inject emotion and context into this linear form of communication.  Email is by far the largest medium through which the written word is communicated.  

We use Email professional interactions and for social interactions.  Sometimes we even use the professional forum for sending personal emails, this is thwart with danger as often we can become confused between the two. 

Other mediums such as Blogs and websites have scope to enable the users to inject emotion and context by way of linking and introducing photo's, video's and other multimedia content.

The proliferation of social networking is such that it needs to be respected when it comes to our digital footprints.  Presentation of the self in everyday life is even more so important today than when it was written in 1959.  Privacy on the internet especially social networks is an extremely important topic when it comes to our internet footprints.  What we disclose about ourselves should be carefully considered in line with the privacy settings that not only the site has control over but what privacy settings we allow ourselves to control.

"It is important to remember that this presentation of self on the web plays an important role in defining the nature of your web presence."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Content Sharing

Increases in the speed and bandwidth of broadband services has allowed internet users to upload content that is more complex and of a large size, such as multimedia files.

Web 2.0 has allowed dedicated file sharing websites to evolve and subsequently file sharing communities now exist.  Due to the ease of use of some of theses dedicated file sharing sites copyright has become a significant issue for Content Sharing.

Content Sharing is a straightforward activity.

You prepare your content on your computer and you upload it to the Web.

Big Deal right?.......WRONG

Content Sharing communities work collaboratively to catalogue and annotate the content that is uploaded.  For example tagging is one such practice.  By tagging uploaded content further context can be added to the uploaded material.  In some cases this can drastically alter how we perceive the uploaded content.  This social tagging is widely known as Folksonomy

When you upload content to a content sharing website you are generally given the option of tagging it.  This metadata is non-hierachical and it is the central ingredient that allows folksonomies to develop.

Folksonomies are basically the exact opposite of Taxonomies.

Folksonomies are:

  •  non-hierachical
  • flexible
  • created collaboratively
  • bottom-up
  • user driven
Taxonomies are:
  • hierachical
  • inflexible
  • created by an authority
  • top-down
This article (Mathes 2004) looks at user-created metadata on Delicious and Flickr,  The article examines the pros and cons of the user-created metadata in a community environment.

Folksonomy as Symbol (Weinberger 2006) examines the symbolism of Folksonomy and importantly shows that it is not the panacea to providing order to the content on the internet.

Geo-tagging is a way of providing location metadata to uploaded content.  This allows anyone to search for content by location, rather than a category or key word.  Flickr allows content uploaders to be very specific about their geo-tagging, they can record the exact moment in time and the place a photo was taken.  This allows for very specific searching to take place.

A blog on Content Sharing would not be complete without mentioning Youtube.  

Copyright issues have always been a topical discussion when talking about youtube.  

A recent example was when Viacom posted a billion dollar suit against youtube as discussed in this news article.

Mashup websites are also places where content is uploaded and tagged by communities.  Mashups are also providing copyright issues as sometimes they contain several sources of copyrighted material.  These derivative works can be extremely good in their artistic and creative endevours however, the law can sometimes stop them in their tracks.

Creative Commons is a way of creators of content to provide a less restrictive form of protection to their work.  The preface being that it increases sharing and improves collaboration (2 of the main facets of Web 2.0).

Due to its ease of use youtube is also a very good vehicle in the spreading of internet memes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Socialize Me?

If I am not on a social networking site does that mean I don't exist?

In a way it does, it means I cannot contribute to my off-line social network.  This affects me because I then don't feel "connected"....but strangely this is not as confronting as a "real" world disengagement from my social network...not yet anyway!

Everyday we seek to become more intertwined with the web, sometimes passively in terms of what is now expected "general" use of email and work related activities and sometimes actively in terms of seeking out information to aid us in whatever endeavour we have embarked on.  Our social networks are not excluded!

We are placing more importance on our on-line social networks than ever before, sometimes our social networks exist exclusively on-line....is this having a detrimental affect on our physical world and how we view it? Absolutely!  Is this necessarily bad though?

The web is itself the greatest example of the largest social network and just like our off-line social networks, we have the choice of how we participate in this global collective.

As Descartes put it...I Think Therefore I am!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wiki's - Harnessing the Herd

So, this week I have been reading about what a Wiki is.  Wiki's epitomize collaboration, coordination and contribution, which are all hallmarks of Web 2.0. Wiki's harness the true power of Web 2.0 and Hypertext linking!

Whilst Blogs are collaborative in one sense they are not as collaborative as Wiki's, that is, Wiki's enable joint collaboration and contribution, there is no heir-achy or leader in control of the contribution (unless one is appointed), the crowd or "Herd Mentality" drives the composition of the content.  Blogs on the other hand are driven and controlled by the author or owner of the Blog.  Such as this Blog, I control the Blog title and the main "post", people can feel free (if I allow it) to add comments, however the composition of the "post" (content) can never change unless I change it myself.

The best known example of a true "open" Wiki is of course Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is essentially an online encyclopaedia, the fascinating thing about it is that it is open to anyone who wishes to edit or create a page.  I did such a thing earlier tonight, I found a topic that I know a little about (the suburb in which I live, Elsternwick) and edited the page to include a sentence about cafĂ©'s and restaurants.  The hardest think I found about contributing to Wikipedia was actually finding a topic that I felt comfortable with....try it and see how you go!

Is Wikipedia as "open" as it is suggested? By his own admission Jimmy Wales in this video (Jimmy Wales: How a ragtag band created Wikipedia) suggests the Wikipedia community does have a heir-achy and that "wikipedians" do have a ranking structure.  So whilst Wikipedia is open in the sense that everyone can contribute, the contributions themselves can and are in some cases controlled, primarily to ensure the sites content integrity, to keep it free of vandalism, junk articles and to ensure articles are truthful and factual....not such a bad thing!

How factual and truthful is Wikipedia? There are many examples of Wikipedia having incorrect content, the majority of the time the incorrect content is corrected relatively quickly, sometimes in minutes or at least a couple of days, in essence one of the great benefits of a Wiki and for that matter Wikipedia is that it is a self- correcting system however there is one famous example where a false post (A False Wikipedia biography) remained active for 132 days on Wikipedia.

So Wiki's provide the perfect platform to "harness the herd", that is, that the intelligence of the group as a whole will present an answer that is more accurate than that of the individual.  This is in essence Decentralized decision Making and Wiki's provide the perfect platform for its manifestation.

Wiki's are yet another example of social interplay manifested through a physical technology.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gender Blogging

Fair call! that a blog entitled 'Womanist Musings' is going to contain information and bias towards discussing all things Woman!  However after reading this post Top 100 blogs for Women... the very inequalities and prejudice that the post talks about are quite unfounded.  The gender split for blogging is actually very even, as blogged on Mashable in the post Look who's Blogging, The blogosphere is 50.9% women and 49.1% men!  Hardly inequality!

Why does Forbes or anyone for that matter need to highlight a list of 100 best womens blogs.  It serves no purpose other than to drive the gender debate from the offline world into the online sphere!

The web is gender neutral, lets keep it that way!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week 5 - Blogging

Oh my! I have missed a couple of weeks of blogging!  Not a good idea, for a couple of reasons.  Firstly if you don't keep information current on the internet then it gets forgotten and people stop following :(  Oh well, I shall have to work harder at this now.  In particular this week (although it is already Thursday) is all about blogging.

I am writing this particular post as I peruse my way through the online learning material...and there it is...the phrase I have totally ignored for the last 2 weeks "a weblog differs from a simple static HTML homepage in that the content is (ideally) updated regularly".

So what makes up a blog...hmmm let me see, ah yes, some basic key components are:

1.  Must be in chronological order - yep, this site does that for me (no need to think for myself)
2.  Generally seen as an open narrative form - hmmm, I am working on that, no one has commented directly on anything I have written as yet :(
3.  Regularity - okay this is the hard part....must remember to blog!

RSS, Comments, Blog Rolls, Permalinks  geez!  I have some work to do!

Well, this is a personal blog...which to be honest is a little bit like talking to no one in particular about the random thoughts that are floating around in my head as I read my study material, I am getting used to this now.

I can't wait to read more about blogging!