What are social web sites?

# ConversationI have said before that Twitter is a facilitator for communication rather than the conversation medium itself and to a degree the same thing can be said of all social networking services it's just that the scale and details vary on a per service basis.

Jason Goldberg posted that he saw FriendFeed as a school lunchroom where "conversations that may have started elsewhere are picked up and rehashed, commented on, and amplified". He also states that FriendFeed "isn't a place for deep thoughts and debate".

Social networking services, and especially aggregation sites like FriendFeed, are places to gather information for easier consideration where you can converse with your peers to spark the imagination and gain inspiration. But can deep conversation or discussion really happen in an online enviroment?

Friendfeed rooms initially seemed like they would be the place for the meaningful thought and debate as you would be able to isolate given topics and take them out of the public stream in order to concentrate on the matter in hand; it seems, however, that this usage has not really taken off as expected.

The domain of thought

Blogs are still the domain of thought as you have no limits to what you can say - you are in control. While Friendfeed has a higher character limit per post than, say, Twitter any limit in any service inhibits really deep thought as you are constantly mindful of your words getting truncated. This is not particularly conducive to an active discussion.

Also, we can blog and post comments but often the spark and spontanaiety of a face to face conversation is lost - as Jason says, he thought about his post for two days and it took twenty minutes to type. How often do we plan what we are going to say but things get lost in translation between the brain and the keyboard.

The inherent delay of communicating by the typed word and the impersonality of this type of interaction can create a conversational barrier so when should we be taking our discussions offline?


The obvious advantage to social media services are the exposure they offer; a conversation can be played out in front of the watching world and anyone is free to participate whereas an offline discussion (maybe even via VOIP) is closed to the rest of the community. Each may have it benefits and shortcomings so we need to establish when the best use can be made of any means of inteacrtion that we might employ.

So, what are social sites?

Are they hotbeds of active discussion or are they merely facilitators, enabling us to process our data in covenient locations so that we may address the important issues in another. more appropriate forum?

Image by Jason Schultz.

  1. Mark Dykeman says: #
    I'm thinking that the FriendFeeds and Twitters of the world are conversation starters and facilitators, but they tend to break down if the discussion becomes intense and complex.
  2. Corvida says: #
    I think they're both Colin or at least have the potential to be both. There have been plenty of active discussions on FriendFeed, not so much Twitter just because it's harder to follow on Twitter.
  3. Great post! Through Twitter and FriendFeed we're discovering information faster and the ability to "spread the fire" is much more efficient. But to answer your question, 'What are a social sites?' these are the ON Ramps- we feel safe going because we can see a trusted stream ahead, we have enough info to make a qualified decision to divert our direction to the source.
  4. davidsim says: #
    Twitter is a great place to get a message out; terrible if you're looking to follow a conversation, particularly if multiple parties are involved. I've found FriendFeed useful - I find the rooms great for quick conversations with peers, and sometimes that's all that is required, avoiding tedious navel contemplation.

    Inevitably I rely on blogs, wiki's and forums for more in-depth analysis and discussion.

    I see blogs as part of the social web - after all; we're all here having a discussion using Disqus which in turn will be aggregated on FriendFeed!

    Thanks for the post.

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