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Six degrees of separation or unification?

By eszter in Internet
Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 03:45:57 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Every Internet user knows that the network helps us easily connect with numerous people across wide distances. Over the years, various services have sprung up to facilitate such connections. But is it always a good idea to join such social networks? Is bigger always better?

There has been an increasing amount of discussion recently about Friendster, a relatively new online service based on connecting people to others through their existing social networks. The service has been enthusiastically covered by the likes of The Village Voice, Wired and Slate describing how Friendster is the newest great social - and procrastinatory - tool given all the information one can glean about people in one's social circles through the service. Since newspapers specialize in covering the news not the olds perhaps it is not surprising that they will always want to find a new twist on something even if it is simply the repetition of something old. But Web sites like this existed in the past and had trouble surviving. SixDegrees and PlanetAll were two extremely similar services in the 1990s, but both were victims of the Internet bust and ceased operations years ago despite the fact that they had as many users are Friendster does today.

Many express much excitement about Friendster and even claim that it is the next Google in online popularity and importance. I do not share this enthusiasm and here is why.

People tend to focus on the seemingly fun and useful aspects of Friendster. However, it can have serious shortcomings. Beyond the more obvious concerns regarding the truthfulness of information conveyed on the sites (the most extreme but quite transparent version of which are the bogus accounts of Jesus and God that people have created), networks like this can dilute the importance of social ties and can lead to uncomfortable situations when acquaintances from different parts of one's social circles intermingle.

It may be a good idea to take care in signing up to such a service and indiscriminately adding "friends" because it is not always ideal for different networks of one's life to intertwine too much. We are all members of various social groups. We have family ties, workplace ties, friends from childhood, friends from high school, from college, possibly graduate school, not to mention our myriad of other social relations through other affiliations. There may be reasons people don't want to see these different worlds overlap too much.

A fairly obvious case is a person who is not very open about a particular aspect of her identity (e.g. sexuality, religious affiliation, political convictions) in one realm of her life, say at work, but has a group of friends who are very clear about that part of her identity. Does she necessarily want these different worlds intertwining endlessly? Even if someone does not have any major hidden identities, we all play different social roles depending on the situation and people around us so things can get complicated if these criss-cross too much without boundaries. Even if you think you are one of those people who has nothing to hide and who behaves exactly the same everywhere, just think about interactions between you and your parents, you and your boss, you and your closest friends, these are not fully interchangeable no matter who you are and how you live your life. (See Irving Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self and Society for some basics on this.)

Another problem with the service is that it is unclear what criteria people use to approve others as "friends". I suspect many people approve most of those who get in touch with them because it would be rude not to do so. Moreover, in so far as people are trying to build a bigger network - which is probably not the case for all users, but likely for many - it is to their advantage to create additional "friendship" ties. But if these links are not very strong then a second or third-level tie will be extremely weak and it is not clear how beneficial it would be to anyone. How much can we trust these ties? An important part of contacting people via acquaintances we share is a level of built-in trust that comes from mutually knowing a third party. But if users link to people they barely know and those people link to others they barely know then the ties are going to get extremely weak and little trust will flow through them wiping away one of the core ideas behind the entire enterprise.

A bigger network is not always a better network. If the criteria for creating ties between members is too unclear or becomes too diluted (what exactly constitutes a "friend" on Friendster?) then the ties become close to meaningless. And although you can still map someone's path to you, there is no longer much reason to trust them or feel much affiliation to them any more than the person sitting next to you in a cafe.

The apparent rush to sign up on Friendster reminds me of the enthusiasm with which people started participating in various online discussions in the 1990s. People would post all sorts of information and comments not realizing that these would be available to large audiences. Along came better search engine indexing and now these less-than-flattering comments made about college flings and annoying coworkers are available to colleagues and supervisors at the click of a button. Similarly, it seems, people are flocking to Friendster to share all sorts of information with networks larger than they can imagine only to realize in time - or so I suspect - that they shared more than they may have wanted and madetthemselves available to more people than necessarily ideal. I realize it is probably possible to delete an account, but that often only occurs to people once some damage has been done.

I do not mean to sound paranoid and I do not mean to suggest that everyone has all sorts of ghosts in their closet. It is simply that everyone has different social roles and mixing these too much indiscriminately may lead to some complications.

Often shared affiliation with a group or organization will be more helpful than being able to link to someone through even just two or three degrees of connections. Anyone who has relied on alum ties can attest to this. The movie Legally Blonde 2 presents a good example of this. The central character is able to win the attention and support of an important political actor thanks to their sorority ties identified via the rings they both wear.

Some schools have leveraged the importance of such ties quite well through creating communities based on their alums. People in those groups may not know each other but they share a group affiliation that may be important to many of them. And although some may claim that such ties are elitist or irrelevant because simply sharing an institutional affiliation won't make you best buddies with someone (true), it would be hard to argue that even two or three degrees of separation from a person via very tangential "friendship" ties has much larger chances of mutual understanding and support.

Maybe they call it "six degrees of separation" for a reason.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Google
o Friendster
o The Village Voice
o Wired
o Slate
o Irving Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
o George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self and Society
o Legally Blonde 2
o Also by eszter

Display: Sort:
Six degrees of separation or unification? | 51 comments (41 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
What's the point? (4.28 / 7) (#2)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 02:01:40 PM EST

Well, my friends might be a little irritated if I just started adding them to this site. They wouldn't use it anyway, so it'd be pointless to sign up. Hell, I probably wouldn't use it. I prefer to make friends the old-fashioned way, you know, stalking.

I don't see many social circles embracing this site. Maybe it's different for city-dwellers, but I don't think many groups will reach that critical mass where the site becomes useful.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

Moreover... (none / 0) (#6)
by damballah on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 02:39:28 PM EST

I have an impression that this is only popular in metropolitan areas like NYC, Boston, etc. This is probably false, but I just got the impression from one article I read about friendster.

" I apologize for this long comment. I didn't have the time to make it any shorter. " - Blaise Pascal

" zombie accounts promote an unhealthy interest in the occult among our younger readers. " - [ Parent ]

Speaking of which... (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by randyk on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 08:57:13 PM EST

Do you want this dead squirrel you stapled to my front door back now, or what?

[ Parent ]
Suggestions (4.50 / 4) (#4)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 02:26:47 PM EST

I think you spend too much time harping on the issue of intermingling social circles. I think this is a concern most people grow out of sometime in high-school or college. Yes, I behave differently in a meeting at work than I do with my friends or my family. This doesn't mean I want to try to hide my work behavior from my friends or my behavior with my friends from my coworkers.

An interesting complaint you seem to have missed is the large number of bogus entries. You mention that different friendships that are registered in friendster have different strengths, and that this makes it difficult to guage how well connected you really are to someone you find on the site. There are a fair number of bogus accounts on friendster that are linked to massive numbers of people. I seem to be connectect to a Whiskey who has some 500+ friends. I am connected to dozens of Jesuses, most of whom have at least a hundred friends. I am connected to Philadelphia, who seems to have some 400+ friends. This means that if I search through the people connected to me, looking for someone that shares an interest, I will find a bunch of people who have no real connection to me. I'll find a bunch of people who have a Christian friend who is connected to Jesus who is connected to my Christian friend. It's great that these guys love Jesus, but it doesn't do me any good in the context of Friendster

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!

Simply because you have no intent to hide... (none / 0) (#44)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 06:19:35 AM EST

... something from someone, it does not follow that you wish to share it with them.

Consider, one day I learn two new jokes. Later, I'm chatting with friend A and think that A will find the first joke funny. So I tell it. It goes over well. I consider telling the second, but know that A won't find it the least bit amusing. So I don't bother wasting our time and instead move on to some topic of mutual interest. Then, the next day, I see friend B on the street. It is going to be a short conversation, but when B asks what is up I remember the second joke and how it is right up B's alley. I tell it, and B loves it saying that they will call later to set up going out for some drinks later in the week.

Now, if asked I would tell both jokes to either A or B. It is not at all accurate to say that I hid either joke from A or B. Still I didn't share both with both A and B for ordinary, boring reasons including "people have different senses of humor", "time spent with friends is seldom unlimited", etc.

Or consider another angle, I, like many people, like for others to think that I have a good sense of humor, but if everyone heard every attempt of mine at humor, each person would see a large number of (by their lights) unfunny attempts. Thus my purpose would be defeated by extra sharing. Simple-dimple.

Mixing social groups doesn't have to be bad for people to avoid going out of their way to make it happen. Further, it doesn't have to be bad before I will actively avoid it.

[ Parent ]

Why I will never use Friendster. (4.45 / 24) (#7)
by Russell Dovey on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 03:38:51 PM EST

I really, really hate social interaction for its own sake. Man, that shits me. What the hell are you supposed to do? What are these people going to talk about? Why isn't it called "Debatester", and everyone posts what they want to argue about? What about "Getmeajobster", where you use your social network to get a reference?

And why the hell is it called "Friendster"? Efriends was taken, was it? iFriends was copyrighted by Apple? (I mean, uh, iApple.) Why not just call it "Adportalster" and be honest? (Do you really think that whatever geniusster thought this up did so because he thought that people on the Internet didn't have enough annoying "acquaintances" sending them joke emails and virus reports?)

I am voting +1, because anything that could shoot this inane, self-aggrandising, hyped-up waste of electrons down is worth promotion. I will vote +1 on everything you ever submit to k5 again if you include these words:

"This site, by the way, even if it doesn't have the problems I mentioned above, is fit only for self-obsessed wankers who have nothing better to do than leave messages on each other's answering machines about how Brad thinks Tina is totally hot, secretly despising themselves for knuckling under to unceasing advertising imagery and illithid-like soap operas."

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

i wish.. (none / 0) (#8)
by Suppafly on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 03:45:50 PM EST

I wish there was a getmeajobster.com I'd sign up for that right away.
Playstation Sucks.
[ Parent ]
what the hell is kuro5hin? (4.00 / 5) (#9)
by simul on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 03:54:32 PM EST

....if not social interaction for its own sake.

after basic necessities are met, social interaction is a human's internal motivation for nearly everything you do.

you can deny it all you want. it won't change the facts.

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]

Nope. (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by Russell Dovey on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 04:36:43 PM EST

k5 is quite useful indeed. It allows people to argue all day, with other people who like arguing. This is fun. I think that this extract from Cryptonomicon lays it out better than I can:

"Pile up dead Nips with a bulldozer," Shaftoe says, "and set fire to 'em. Then go down to the beach with a jar of hooch and watch our ships get torpedoed."

Reagan grimaces. "Cut!" he sa-

Shit, sorry, wrong extract. Here we go:

A Dwarf on sojourn in the Shire would probably go to a lot of dinner parties where pompous boring hobbits would hold forth like this. This Dwarf would view the whole thing as entertainment. He would know that he could always go back out into the real world, so much vaster and more complex than these Hobbits imagined, and slay a few Trolls and remind himself of what really mattered.

Hmmm. Shit. Well, that extract is actually singularly unhelpful to my point. Well, it doesn't matter. I still had fun writing it. And, in the end, isn't that what really matters?

Here's another Cryptonomicon extract, just because I've got the page open:

The leaves of Shanghai:
Pale doorways in a steel sky.
Winter has begun.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Ack! (4.75 / 4) (#16)
by Russell Dovey on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 04:53:04 PM EST

What I forgot to get around to in the parent post is that you didn't get my point. I like k5 because here, we are given things to talk about, as we are doing right now.

Friendster, on the other hand, is exactly like those damnably meaningless parties where people mill around aimlessly saying things like "so... what do you do for a living?" where they used to say as teenagers "so... like, what school do you go to?" and as kids "so... what do you want to do when you grow up?"

These are the universal ways that people express their desire to scream from the rooftops: "WHY AM I FORCED TO BE HERE? You people don't want to talk to me any more than I want to sit here listening to you, I can see that in your if-I-told-you-what-I-really-thought-you'd-deck-me smile!"

Arg! And when I try to be rational and hang around playing chess or Black Bitch (a card game) with the only other geek there, people come over and call me anti-social!

There's no point, I tell you. No point at all.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Maybe that's what YOU do at parties (none / 0) (#33)
by simul on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 01:53:38 PM EST

I used to think the *same thing*.

The problem is that in "Real Life" we're so afraid of the flames (brushoffs) and trolls (drunk idiots) that we stop attending (real life).

I've recently corrected this problem in me, that's all.

I have found that when I try to have the EXACT same sort of meaningful conversations as I have at Kur05hin....I get the same sort of response .... a few flames, some good ideas, and overall... it's a good time.

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]

Dude, you get a five (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by AtADeadRun on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 11:03:29 PM EST

just for using the word "illithid" in a sentence.

Pain heals. Glory is forever. Keep running.

We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
[ Parent ]
Will you be my friend? (n/t) (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by Rasman on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 06:52:38 AM EST

Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
social interaction (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by auraslip on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 03:30:45 PM EST

is the most important thing in your life.
With out if, you would not of devolped langauge. With out that you would not have complex logic skills or long term memory.
You would have no technology.
Furthermore you would be depressed and go insane with out it.
And thing you will ever get in your life (job, power, love, happyness) social interaction will get for you.
Ignoring this is ignoring who you are, and what makes you.

hiding behind your computer will get you know where.

[ Parent ]

Social interaction... (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 11:43:57 AM EST

is the most important thing in your life.
With out if, you would not of devolped langauge.

Damn. I really wish I had of devolped langauge.

I live in a share house with my best friend, his girlfriend, and a gangly martial artist/musician whose guitar-accompanied songs percolate throughout the house embiggening the atmosphere.

I hang around with my friends. We roleplay sometimes. We go out and get pissed sometimes. We hold dinner parties sometimes. The backyard is sometimes transformed into a bong-fest of Queenslandian proportions.

None of us are neat freaks. The place is organically untidy, shifting stacks of papers, CDs, character sheets, books, pizza boxes, plates, and bits of computer hardware that vanish only when the Mood strikes, and everyone grabs a bag.

I believe that my social life is fine. Thankyou sincerely for caring, though. It is good for people to just chill out with each other.

Be excellent to each other! Party on, dudes!

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

let me tell you why Friendster will be a success (5.00 / 3) (#11)
by zzzeek on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 04:11:54 PM EST

  1. enter website
  2. meet tons of women a bazillion times hotter than ive ever seen on any dating site (6 degrees had the same member base ?  hardly...)
  3. get laid
  4. profit !
that is why friendster will continue to be huge.  i.e., it has finessed the line between "fun/nonthreatening/dating site/not shameful to join it" far better than anything else ever been done before.  whatever "flaws", "the network is too huge", etc., do not matter.  of course its totally flawed in many ways.  but the flaws are simply not the point.  it can be enjoyed in so many ways even if youre not trying to get a date.

getting laid.... (none / 0) (#35)
by simul on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 02:08:32 PM EST

1. sign up for match/aol. 2. wind up getting a lot of dates from a lot of attractive women and sleeping with all of them.


1. sign up for friendster. 2. wind up getting a lot of dates from a lot of attractive women and sleeping with all of them. 3. since everyone knows each other, you get a reputation for being an asshole and you can no longer find a date, or even a friend.

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]

match / aol ? (none / 0) (#36)
by zzzeek on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 05:27:20 PM EST

those sites suck.  most of the ppl you talk to on friendster are total strangers and dont know any of the same people you know at all, as the greatest number of people is in your outermost network (4 degrees of separation).  throw in people that you dont even have a real connection to (via fake profiles, celebrities, the Death Star, etc.) and these people are as anonymous as they are on any other dating site.

why dont you try out these sites before you claim to know anything about them ?

[ Parent ]

i have tried it (none / 0) (#48)
by simul on Tue Aug 12, 2003 at 03:43:28 AM EST

1. it's buggy 2. it crashes 3. i wished that it really worked well 4. it's too dating focussed for me to use in my life of not dating

Read this book - first 24 pages are free to browse - it rocks
[ Parent ]
We already have something like it (5.00 / 4) (#13)
by kphrak on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 04:16:30 PM EST

Email forwards. Anyone you ever get an email address from, be it the stranger you met on the street or your Aunt Tillie, you keep in a huge address book. Sooner or later, someone's going to send you a cute message about friendship, a gross joke, a hoax about the latest virus, or a religious homily -- one that they sent to 500 other people. You, then, are supposed to forward that message to all the luckless individuals in your address book.

The ones I find the most ironic are the "best friends - a message just for you" messages -- usually a long article or poem about how you're the sender's best friend. How the hell are you their best friend if the message "just for you" was sent to everybody else?

Like email forwards, this "Friendster" is not really a good way for friends to meet....but it strikes me as an excellent way to say something, when you have nothing to say, to a lot of people to let them know you exist. In fact, I would say that these friend networks are simply another step the evolution of the chain letter, just as email forwards were.

Describe yourself in your sig!
American computer programmer, living in Portland, OR.

great piece (4.22 / 9) (#14)
by circletimessquare on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 04:30:36 PM EST

great product

one problem:

i hate the proliferation of all of the "-ster" sites/ apps nowadays... i guess they are all trying to be the next napster- that's the origin of this suffix, right?

it's like early dot com era where everything was "e-" this or that




now it's like





in exactly 2 seconds, everyone will be sick of this

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

isn't that "whatevster"? NT (5.00 / 4) (#17)
by Meatbomb on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 05:46:35 PM EST


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
Friendster (4.80 / 5) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jul 31, 2003 at 06:21:50 PM EST

The best thing since "push technology"!
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
Wonder what that makes me (none / 0) (#22)
by The Solitaire on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 01:56:47 AM EST

My view is that all religions are equally valid, and equally false.

Of course, everyone's entitled to their beliefs, however flawed I might think they are.

I need a new sig.

I'm not sure what to call you either. (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 04:20:39 AM EST

Christianity says that there is only one way to heaven and that's through Jesus Christ.

Buddhism says that there are many ways to enlightenment.

How can you say both are equally valid and yet both are equally false?

Yours humbly,
Ta bù shì dà yú

AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
[ Parent ]

Validity (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by The Solitaire on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 08:21:28 AM EST

Two things which are both completely invalid, are of equal validity. Or, if you want to use the logical notion of validity, an argument is valid just in the case that if its premises are true, then the conclusion is true. This says nothing about the actual truth of the conclusion, since one of the premises might be false.

However, since we're talking about religions and not arguments, I think the former of these two explanations is better.

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (none / 0) (#30)
by The Solitaire on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 08:24:49 AM EST

My post seems to be attached to the wrong story... it was supposed to be attached to some story about religious pluralism. Wonder how that happened?

I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]

Uh, that's the story I saw it on attached to! (none / 0) (#31)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 09:10:32 AM EST

It looks like someone has been fooling around with the K5 database...

Yours humbly,
Ta bù shì dà yú

AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
[ Parent ]

Warning: Friendster induces autophobia. (4.75 / 4) (#25)
by laotic on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 07:18:46 AM EST

Of course, when I started to read, I had to sign up just to see what it was about.

First, my photo would not go up. There seems to be no way of getting ANY of my photos on the site. I wonder how those "Testimonial" fakes got theirs up. The site says it's downloaded, but all I see is a question mark. That's supposed to be ME?

Second, my regular free email service would not accept friendster confirmation emails. They must smell spam at a 100 miles. I had to use the much less discriminate Yahoo for that.

Third, I sign up, and being unwilling to bug my real-life friends to "join" something like this, I think, WTF, I'll make some NEW friends there... Tough luck. I end up stranded like the worst-case sole survivor on an electronic island while my (gratuitously false) personal data is weaned from me and taken beyond my screen's horizon.

Fourth, I start acting autophobic, nobody to search for, no new friends to make, no pretty photos to check - just me, alone, on this whole huge friendster website, with no palms or sun or coconuts.

So I cancelled the service.

Sig? Sigh.
Accidental disclosure (4.28 / 7) (#26)
by simon farnz on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 07:31:25 AM EST

One point not covered in the article, or on Friendster is unintended disclosure of details.

I've come across this myself; my girlfriend got into things like MSN Messenger and LiveJournal, and placed enough information to deduce my real name, her real name, and her home town onto the sites. She then encountered someone nasty, who believed that she'd dump me for a random guy on the net. When it became clear that she wouldn't do that, he got nasty. He hacked one of my machines, and sent both of us threatening e-mails, and made abusive phone calls to my public number.

What's really frightening though, is that I attempted to work out her address from the information she'd made available on LiveJournal. It became clear that I couldn't get her address, but that I could get her parents' address; this was information she'd never disclosed, but that could be found out by looking at her public profile and using 192.com.

All this was despite her taking care not to disclose any details that might reveal her real-life identity (name, address, my name, etc). Instead, there were long chains of information that had to be followed; it took 4 or 5 different searches to find a real name for her, and another 3 or 4 to find her address. However, combine the fact it's possible with the fact that there are freaks on the internet, and you get a situation where seriously nasty things could happen because people weren't paranoid enough about their identity on this sort of site.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns

how the hell (none / 0) (#42)
by auraslip on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 03:32:03 PM EST

do people make enemys on the web?

never in 8 years have I seen the process happen. only read about it.
[ Parent ]

Some kook read the LiveJournal (none / 0) (#49)
by simon farnz on Tue Aug 12, 2003 at 09:21:18 AM EST

She posted a friendly entry on her LiveJournal, gently mocking me for all the silly things I've said. Some kook took this as meaning that she was about to dump me, and then generalised it to assume that she'd be interested in him as a result.

When it became clear to him that he'd misunderstood, he got all upset about her "leading him on", and made many threats, including sending abusive e-mails. Further, he revealed enough about himself for us to know that he lives in the same town as us. Not nice, but thankfully over.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

But, but (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by livus on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 07:56:55 AM EST

It seems to me that only certain types of social group would be added to this. I cannot imagine trying to induce one's boss, father-in-law,  therapist, dentist, one night stand, spouse, etc to "add me!"

It follows that the only people left for me are ones with whom I enjoy a superficial connection. Surely these can intermingle interminably without too much harm, particularly as those online wouldn't know my name if they fell over it.

Im assuming of course that no one really adds their live friends. Do they?

I'd also have liked a little more speculation from you on whether and which specific methods of exploiting this tendency to add, which you suspect of friendster, could be achieved.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

that said (none / 0) (#28)
by livus on Fri Aug 01, 2003 at 08:00:20 AM EST

I still haven't got round to joining it yet. It looks like tedium incorporated.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Once (none / 0) (#39)
by djotto on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 04:32:37 AM EST

I would have said the same things about IM... but now work-related use of IM is pretty common. Things like this can occasionally take surprising directions, which is one of the reasons I find them interesting.

(This one, as the article says is just another sixdegrees. That wasn't compelling either... but you never know. They might get lucky.)

If they're going after the online dating market... well, they're really dumb. The whole point of that is the initial anonymity.

[ Parent ]

I'm beginning to feel (none / 0) (#46)
by livus on Mon Aug 04, 2003 at 03:00:01 AM EST

like a crazy old paranoid freak, because I use separate IM names for work, family, and internet friends. I thought everyone did.

It scares me just how much of, say, NYC seems to be answering the nerve.com etc ads from people they secretly know in real life.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Degress of separation the true geek way... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Netsnipe on Sat Aug 02, 2003 at 12:34:37 PM EST

via GnuPG signatures! = )


For example, Marc Eberhard is a total random stranger to me from Birmingham, Britain. I'm from Sydney, Australia. Yet we're only 3 degrees away from each other.


Andrew 'Netsnipe' Lau
Debian GNU/Linux Maintainer & Computer Science, UNSW

A perspective. (none / 0) (#43)
by stormysky on Sun Aug 03, 2003 at 01:41:46 AM EST

I just joined Friendster yesterday.  I hadn't read this article or anything else on it: I simply joined because my sister invited me, because, well, I guess being related she could sort of count on me being her friend.  Sometimes. Anyway, it seemed like a pretty cool thing, as time wasters go, so I joined.  The initial impression was, "Hey, it's pretty clean."  I mean, interface wise.

Anyone see Classmates.com?  Has to be one of the most repugnant pages from a design and aesthetics view on the web.  Unfortunately, Friendster sits on the javascript bandwagon, which I hate, but, all in all, it's pretty tastefully done. That's good.  Unfortunately, it's "beta" is also pretty bug ridden.  I took some time to report some of the ones I found, and got a form letter back thanking me for my time, but no response from a human. That's not a good sign.  As some have pointed out, picture uploading isn't terribly...  useful.  My picture *is* up there, now, but it took about 24 hours for it to finally display.  Other inconsistencies: Recent invite list sometimes shows people you've invited, other times discards the recent ones; sometimes you get a 'confirm friend' email, sometime you don't.  Sending an invitation sends *two* identical emails to the recipient... friend confirmation sometimes sends two as well.   Other little things exist as well that don't make sense or work as you'd expect.

One really annoying feature is the testimonials.  The person to whom you're 'testifying' about has to approve them.  My sister approved my first, but when I edited it because I hate blatant grammar errors in hindsight, and added a couple lines, she didn't.  She said it wasn't terribly flattering.  I tend to write tongue in cheek... but it was apparently too over the top for her.  What's the point, then, of testimonials?  If you must approve them, why not write them yourself, if you're given the choice to only okay things that cast you in the best light possible?

I guess that gets to the core that this is supposed to be a dating site.  I'm single, I'm under 30, I look decent enough: I should be thrilled.  I'm not in it, for that, though.   It's been my personal experience that most intelligent women online already have a significant other, and if they don't, they aren't going to be hunting a personals site for one.  Maybe I'll be proved wrong one day, but it won't be through Friendster.  Isn't it sort of creepy to hit on your friend's friends, anyway?

The part about Friendster that could be cool, and what I am interested in is the connectedness of it.  I get a kick out of that sort of thing --- and yes, I'm into genealogy too.  I know it's pretty much meaningless, but, isn't most everything, really?  So, what's the harm seeing who your friend's friends are, and who their friends are, and maybe finding someone in common that you haven't talked to for years, just because that's how it worked out?  Or seeing how many friends it takes for a totally different person to emerge?  What I mean, is that of the three non-sister friends I have, all are computer geekish types.  How many friends of friends of friends until I see a common one that doesn't run BSD and use toilet paper imprinted with Bill Gates face to keep clean parts usually covered?  Or, heaven forbid, see someone I know friends with someone who actually knows a Christian?  I just find this stuff fascinating, in a "How are we all connected to each other" sort of way.  I'm pretty non-social irl, surprisingly ::mirthless laugh::.  So, this is a safe way of having a pseudo-social relationship with people, for me.  Is there really any harm?

And, yes, information liability is an issue --- but one shouldn't ever post anything they wouldn't want public about themselves to a public forum, anyway.  And, of course, for the weirdos who spend the time tracking them, well, I live in Colorado (oooooh, personal information!) and here we've got that nice "Make my day" law.   Pity the poor sicko that gets linked into a predominately NRA member web! :) (No, that's not mine).

Anyway, I think Friendster is a neat idea, just like Kuro5hin is a place were we can get exposed to many different viewpoints and high quality trolls.  There, we can maybe be exposed to interesting people we wouldn't otherwise see in our daily online meanderings.

Pay service, though, is destined to fail.  I bring up Classmates.com again: Horrid design, retarded popups, and *paying* for simple things like posting to a forum? That's just greed.  When Friendster gets to that point, I think it'll lose all but those posting phony aliases for themselves... and, hey, won't it be nice for God and Allah to finally be friends?
We can face anything, except for bunnies.

Parody of Friendster (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by atreyu42 on Tue Aug 05, 2003 at 03:19:05 PM EST


Fiendster (none / 0) (#50)
by mik on Sat Aug 16, 2003 at 10:36:44 AM EST

see fiendster to a not so far fatched parody on the friendster idea.

It will be good for us but not riding this horse. (none / 0) (#51)
by almuni on Sun Aug 17, 2003 at 03:37:09 PM EST

I believe that social networking will bring humanity to a new high. See how life, economy etc. become more efficient when Internet and email came - it made things work faster and the "markets" more efficient. With social networking making "strangers" closer the "society market" will become more efficient - you will meet people that are best fitted for you, make deals with business partners etc. I DON'T think that friendster is the solution since it's to niche with the dating scene (you are right about colliding worlds not appropriate in this situation + my photo might not be interesting to my 2nd degree contacts for a business contact) maybe LinkedIn or Ryze will get us there although my bet is on Huminity.

Six degrees of separation or unification? | 51 comments (41 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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