Social Networking – How Social is TOO Social?

Had an interesting discussion on Seesmic last night. Starting with my first response here (you can view the thread from there) I only posted a few responses, but I think I had covered the points I wanted to get across, and I needed to get to bed since I had work this morning.

So, what was the discussion about? Well, in short, I think there was two main points brought up across the various threads:

  1. People want to be confident that when they delete a video on Seemic, the video is lost forever and not available to anyone else.
  2. People felt uneasy with the “Share on Facebook” link added to the video page.

This got me thinking, from this I think there are these issues that should be addressed:

  • Ownership of content & licensing.
  • Public domain and public discussion vs. privacy and “I take that back”.
  • Understanding of what is actually being done with content on other social networks.

Ownership of Content & Licensing

This is an important issue, when posting content to a site (be it Seesmic, Facebook, whatever) – who *owns* the content? There have been some discussion on Seesmic recently about licensing of videos etc, and I know other sites still have no idea or TBC. People need to made very aware about who owns the content, and the rights that they can place on it. The hosting site then needs to make it easy for people to manage the licensing of their content and assist them in marking their content up. For example, there are several great licenses (such as the various Creative Commons) that have come about since normal people need to be able to understand, and protect their content at varying levels. So, why not when posting content have a little drop down “Select License”? When rendering the content, it is then displayed with relevant links/graphical elements to notify and explain what the license is to others viewing.

This really isn’t a “big deal” in terms of the development, but would make sure people are not only using licensing, but are generally more aware of it (since a lot of people on Social Networking may not be geek's and even aware of the existence of Creative Commons (and the like).

Public Domain and Public Discussion vs. Privacy and “I Take That Back”

Another HUGE issue. And I think this is probably the most prevalent of them all. I think this is really an education and understanding issue. Social Networking (IMO) is about socialising, being more public, open and sharing. It’s exactly the same as sitting at a table with a bunch of people at the pub and talking about stuff, but to a much wider network of people. I think a big issue in the discussions on Seesmic was almost “I don’t want people outside of Seesmic to be able to comment about videos elsewhere” (or along those lines). Now, there is a huge problem with this:

When posting to a *public* timeline, the information IS public. People will talk and interact based on what they see/hear. What RIGHT do we have to control what people talk about?

I find the best way to view this is to again go back to the pub. If you are a bit drunk and talking loudly about a subject, and it causes people overhear who then start commenting on what you say, do you *really* have the right to tell them to do otherwise? I believe not, this is freedom of speech and like it or not, is one of the key drivers of social networking. You may not like it, it may not be nice, but so long as its within the law (i.e. not racially/sexually/whatever motivated) its all fair game.

Back to the Internet and content, I do believe that content should remain on servers and not propagated (pushed) to other servers (i.e. videos recorded on Seesmic stay on Seesmic and only a link can ever passed around, taking them back to Seesmic). This means that if people want to withdraw content, they can do. But it is important to understand that people cannot control discussion once content is in the wild. That is socialising.

And I think this may scare people, what do I think? I think this is a good thing. I recently had another discussion with a Seesmic friend about how I realised that when posting to Seesmic, I think twice. Posting anonymous text comments on a blog you can pretty such say what you like. The worst that can happen is the moderator can place an IP ban on you, so you cannot post from that machine again, but you are not personally identifiable and that gives you a sense of security. When you post things with your name, face, location to the Internet. You are directly responsible for your actions, what you say & do is open to public debate. Why do I think this is a good thing? Because maybe, just maybe it will make everyone think twice before talking, being offensive, unhelpful or anything else negative. Thus, improving the community as a whole. I have noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of courtesy, help and control of my posts since becoming “deeper” in the social networking scene. This is great!

Understanding of What is Actually Being Done with Content on Other Social Networks

This is another point for education. During the noted conversations on Seesmic, I think there was a real misconception that content was being pushed (i.e. duplicated) to Facebook via the “Share on Facebook” link that was added to videos. I tried several times to explain to people that this was not the case (sometimes I think to no avail!). I understand that all Facebook does it take the link and broadcast it to your network. To reiterate the above, the link (and its associated content) is then open to [private] discussion within the Facebook users network, but the content remains on Seesmic’s servers. If the Seesmic poster then decides to delete the video, then all the Facebook link will become is dead. But their conversation can of course live on, they have seen it and have a right to talk about it. There is no control over this, and I don’t think there should be.

But, there should be a clear explanation of how and what can be done with content when sharing with other sites.

In Summation

I have found this an really interesting and thought-provoking discussion, there are so many faucets to it. This has led to interesting discussions with my colleagues and friends. In my opinion, we should have complete control over content, but not discussion, and use of content should be clearly explained at all levels (poster, viewer and “sharer”). We have the right to control what others DO with out content, but not what they discuss.

This is social networking, socially we are accountable for our actions offline, we just now need to understand we need to also be the same online.

Please, get involved, post your thoughts!

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  1. Great to see you're obviously getting a valuable experience out of Seesmic and have so quickly and easily assimilated as member of the community at large. This is an awesome testimonial for the service and what it aims to achieve.

  2. REALLY interesting post! I missed that whole conversation on Seesmic, but I agree that people need to be responsible for themselves online. However, the whole "big brother" concept still scares alot of people and I don't think it will ever go away.

    I think those of us who participate openly in platforms such as Seesmic are a bit more open minded. I don't want anyone "STEALING" my content either, but there I ways I can prevent that. For example, videos posted on YouTube have an option to disable embedding. Personally, I like that I can grab and share videos but I never do it maliciously and would never attempt to pass off someone else's work as my own. But I wonder who does "OWN" it all...?

  3. @Rachel

    Interested comments, I think thats the real crux of the matter. People need to know who is in charge of what, an understand of what could potentially be done with their content and have some element of control over the whole lot.

    I think a lot of it may boil down to education. In time people will begin to see the positives and negatives of the medium and make their own decisions.. I just think there is a lot of work, discussion and attitude adjustment that needs to take place between then!

    Thank you to both you and Carla for your comments.

  4. This podcast was recorded the same day you posted this and it covers the similar topics: "Push My Follow Episode 9" by @istarman

  5. Hey Rachel,

    Thanks for the link, I will check out that podcast sometime today.

    Nice to see so many people on the same wavelength, guess it means I'm not so way off base!

    Thanks Again.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hi Sean,

    Thanks for the comment and kind words.

    I think you are absolutely right, if you don't want to get on the digital "social scene" then don't.

    A classic example is people getting fired from work after putting the pics up from the night before they phone in to work sick. They are happily posiing for the camera getting wasted at the bar. And post their pics to Facebook (or whatever) forgetting their boss is in their network..

    I think we have a lot of education, attitude changing and work to do before we finally get to a point where we want it!

  8. some great points on this blog. i am consistently amazed at how naive some users are. i mean if you are standing in front of your camera doing things you dont want _everyone_ to see then maybe you shouldn't push record and upload to the internet!

    even private messages are not really _private_! look at paris hilton's sidekick photos. all it takes is one sysadmin to decide this is good stuff.

    i hit upon these same issues 10 years ago when CUSeeMe was first popular. back then people were naive for a reason. webcamming was new. i think anyone who is _still_ naive needs to seriously get schooled _now!

    i blogged about the safe assumption that anything posted on the internet is not private

    great stuff here btw..i'm going to be subscribing.



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