LibraryThing vs. Visual Bookshelf

Posted on September 25, 2007. Filed under: comparing apps, Facebook, LibraryThing, My Musings, Visual Bookshelf |

Back in April I gushed about a new social networking site I had stumbled upon – LibraryThing (see Gen-Twitter Malaise: Salvation through LibraryThing?).

I am not going to give a bullet point breakdown of all the awesome features LibraryThing offers (I was going to but decided that was a little insane). Here are the major selling points for me that influenced my original membership:

– LibraryThing gives readers the rare opportunity to browse through their favorite (participating) authors catalogs.

– Schools can integrate LibraryThing’s social data into their catalog using LibraryThing for Libraries. LTFL lets you add tag-based browsing, book recommendations, ratings, reviews and more to your OPAC, by integrating with LibraryThing and its high-quality book data.

– LibraryThing is a full-powered cataloging application, searching the Library of Congress, all five national Amazon sites, and more than 80 world libraries (including Barnes & Nobles, Bookfinder, Booksense, Worldcat, Abebooks, etc.) Basically if there is a book you want to find, it’s there. No joke.

– Users can create a LibraryThing widget to display new books or featured books on their blogs, webpages, and other social networking sites.

– LibraryThing Early Reviewers (“LTER”) gives LibraryThing members the chance to read and review advanced copies of upcoming books from select publishers, in exchange for reviews.

– You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone.


Ok! That all sounds great, right? Everything a bibliophile could ask for. So how do I, someone who reads 1-3 books a week, feel about LibraryThing five months later?


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My Facebook User Experience, App Awareness, and Thoughts On the MySpacing Threat

Posted on September 14, 2007. Filed under: Facebook, Idea For Facebook, My Musings, MySpace, MySpacing of Facebook, Twitterian |

The Back Story

I deleted my MySpace account four months ago for two specific reasons – both an overload and lack of information. To be more specific, I was frustrated with spam and the inability to keep it away from me, as well as the inability to keep track of updates.

I tired of receiving phony email messages that were supposedly from my friends, but were really from bots. I was sick of deleting attempted comments that were full of spam, sick of avoiding friend requests from phony accounts created to produce spam, sick of invites to join groups created solely to attack me with spam, etc.

The last straw was when my account was hacked and I noticed that my profile had sent some Viagra message to everyone on my friends list. As, Ricky Bobby would say,

via the scrip


Facebook = Information Freedom

Running away to Facebook has definitely helped. I’ve experienced a blissful four months of virtually spam free social networking paradise. I’ve been enjoying the news feed, the ability to customize my experience down to which updates I receive on my cellphone, who can see what on my page, and integrating my other social tools like Twitter, Flickr, Last FM, etc.

I like being able to see all updates from all contacts within my home page – it’s a huge time saver. MySpace counts on your lack of information to bombard you with ads – unless someone posted a bulletin and I subscribed to their blog, I had no idea what was going on with them and rarely bothered to check because I hated all the ads I had to go through to get what I wanted. My loose ties with quasi friends/contacts were in danger of being severed, and the internal pressure I felt to keep checking my cross country close friends profiles was starting to wear on my nerves.

Facebook helps me to stay informed, and lets me control how I receive my information – without bombarding me with ads (for now). I’m privy to social and work related news at a constrant stream, and I don’t feel this insane compulsion to constantly check everyones profiles. I just look at my feed – one page, one source of information, two hours becomes ten minutes. Slotted in my feed as well from time to time, almost discreetly, are featured ads. It’s a “byte” of information, easily digestible, and quickly scrolled past if it’s useless to me. The ads are usually supported by a richer user experience – a promo for a film may allow you to join a related group, get free gifts, or offer some other pay off for clicking. The choice is yours – click or don’t click. I’m informed but not annoyed, and my time isn’t wasted.

Kings of Sticky

But all this time saving isn’t a threat to Facebook’s stickiness. According to Tech Crunch, the average Facebook user spends two hours a day logged in. I would say my Facebook enthusiasm (as it pertains to time spent) is limited to checking the feed, leaving comments, viewing photos I note in the feed that are of interest, and reading invites.

I do acknowledge however that updating some of my Facebook apps can be a huge time sucker (bad for me when I want to go to bed or do laundry), however smart parties are taking notice of how these apps are being used, shared with friends, sending traffic to sites, and developing their own time suckers – good and bad for everyone, depending on user behavior (See Mashable’s list of “30 Awesome Applications for Facebook”).

The Status Updates and third party apps are info streams that supplement the feed. Those brief Twitterian-like glimpses into my friend’s and coworkers head spaces on a constant basis are adding to my overall awareness of who they are. I don’t take an update as an encapsulated definition of their being, but it helps to know when someone is feeling sick or needs help moving.


***If Facebook were to ever offer Twitter-like tools within Facebook, Twitter would finally have some real competition. You can already make and receive Status Updates from your cellphone, and if Facebook were to offer Updates as an archive and in widget form, what need would I have for Twitter?***

How Apps Enrich Off-Line Relationships

Ilike and Movies have increased my knowledge of my friends/co-workers/business contacts’ personal tastes and recommendations (see “Facebook/Work Culture: Just Good Times Or A Requirement To Stay Connected?”) in ways that could never happen face to face. Who has time to get a movie review from each friend every time they see it? But it takes ten seconds to read one, and it’s a useful service, at least for me.

For some reason seeing my peers’ updates in my feed and the mini description almost always lures me in for a closer look. I end up caring more than I initially intended to, and that is one of the two holy grails of site use that Facebook is currently the king of:

#1 By giving users the freedom to control their experience, it entices them to go deeper into that experience

#2 Creating Successful Word of Mouth

You’ve Been Bitten!

– via tychay’s flickr

At WidgetCon back in July, we learned that RockYou’s Zombie App was (and is still) the top Facebook application. RockYou is a great example of a company succesfully transferring it’s popularity from within MySpace into Facebook, with the help of the news feed and word of mouth.

How? …As soon as you see that one of your friend’s has added an app, why not give it a try? Simple to ad, simple to remove. App “hit” status shouldn’t be measured solely by how much page life it gets – how quickly it spreads is just as important.

Creating An Army Of Unintentional Advertisers

It’s so simple that I’ve been scrambling to try to find examples of this happening before. It’s had to have happened before! I’ll keep looking but right now, I have squat. So I tentatively say that Facebook has set the precedent for this ad model:

1 – Generating a feed source that aggregates information from a user’s “friends” activities and displays it in a central location (homepage upon login), and offers it through mobile updates

2 – Displays app additions in the feed source as updates and offers the ability to add it to your own profile from within the feed. Provides option to purchase items relating to added interests/reviews.

3 – Inserts targeted ads (based on the users interests) into the feed

4 – Allows click through to other sites from apps and widgets (not afraid of losing traffic ala MySpace blocking javascript and many flash based widgets), freeing up the user experience to incorporate content from a wider range of sites.

The combination of these four observed tactics is a marketing/advertising formula that should have MySpace more than a little concerned. But then again if it’s not broken, why fix it? As long as MySpacers have to constantly go to each friend’s page, one at a time, for updates (beyond the bulletins) they are willingly submitting to a barrage of ads.

But are those ads truly resonating with their targeted audience?

I think as the web becomes more and more customizable, advertisers and the social networking sites they partner with are going to have to become more savvy about how they push their product. I ignore most billboards and posters in the real world, I have no interest wasting a second of my time online viewing the equivalent.

Thoughts On the Threat of “The MySpacing Of Facebook”

John Chow recently posted an interesting blog entry called “How Much Can You Make Off 1 Million Facebook Users?”

It’s a great example of how shady types are already attempting to exploit friend networks to sell unsanctioned-by-Facebook ad space (Facebook already addressed this specific situation).

I feel that marketing infiltrators will continue to prey on users interests in a myriad of ways, and Facebook will continue to be vigilant about identifying the real from the phony. As long as it stays that way, users won’t experience that much of an inconvenience. The benefit of Facebook not being owned by a huge entity like News Corp (I would assume) is that site issues like these can be addressed immediately, instead of having to travel through endless channels. The Facebook blog often addresses issues like this and calls for user input. There’s a sense that a real person is “on the line” so to speak.

So I don’t believe the MySpacing of Facebook is an external threat. If it ever is an issue it would be entirely based on company decisions from within Facebook.

So, what “MySpacey” issues would force me to leave Facebook?

1. Lack of Relevance

Another huge reason I left MySpace was that I didn’t feel I was being “found” by the right people, or coming across any new people who weren’t (sorry) complete idiots. There wasn’t any information I was getting by logging into MySpace that I didn’t feel I was already getting off-line. When I joined as a 21? (I think) year old, my social networking needs were different. I grew up, but MySpace didn’t.

Currently, I use my social networking profiles primarily to share information with work colleagues and potential business contacts. I still leave comments and send gifts to friends, but I am not overwhelmed with the urgency to create a new layout for my profile twice a week. I feel comfortable with the idea of an employer looking at my Facebook profile (I can limit access) – All MySpace offers is public or private.

As long as Facebook continues to be relevant to my life and adapts to my constantly changing user behavior, I see no reason to leave. A truly successful “lifestyle social networking site” (one that supplements all daily behavior versus targeting a specific interest, ala Flickr) has the flexibility to grow with its users and the foresight to anticipate needs and developing interests.

2. Too much Bacn

There’s Facebook bacn (ads, invitations, etc.) and friend bacn. The kind that is starting to take it’s toll on me already is friend bacn. I suppose everything in the News Feed could be considered bacn, but these are items I have singled out that, for me, define the term in the context of Facebook:

– Invites to charity functions (sent several times for the same event)

– Requests to fill out question are app (Who should I date?/What are you doing this weekened?/Where should I take my date)

– Requests to donate to charities

– Invites to “just for fun” groups

– Requests to join political groups/causes

Anything essentially that is asking something of me beyond passively looking at an image/video or reading profile updates (Status, adds/removes, etc.) is Bacn, to me.

I control bacn to a certain degree by adjusting my feed preferences. I can’t control Facebook from inserting ads into my feed, but so far they are so infrequent and subtle it’s not an issue at all.

3. Mass Friend Requests

As we all know, there are many MySpace users who are add whores. They add anyone, anywhere, anytime. You inbox becomes cluttered with friend requests from people you don’t even know. Often these people are phony accounts created to send you spam.

I don’t really see this being a problem on Facebook as they are pretty excellent about removing false accounts, and friend whoring is not an aspect of Facebook culture (from what I can tell). There are the few who insist on adding everyone they ever knew since they exited the womb, but that not the same as indiscriminately adding for the sake of adding. That is just fulfilling your bizarre need to remain in touch with everyone you ever met. Whatever, I just ignore those people.

With so much freedom to customize your Facebook user experience and the unobtrusive ad placement, I don’t see the MySpacing of Facebook happening any time soon.

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Today’s Musings: MySpace/Facebook class differences & Movie Breakdown

Posted on July 26, 2007. Filed under: class, Dana Boyd, Facebook, interesting people, Movie Reviews, My Musings, MySpace, people I follow, Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and M |

– image via flickr

Dana Boyd responded yesterday to the severe backlash re: her posting entitled “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”.

I discovered Dana last year when doing research on social networking and conferences of interest. This year alone she has been a featured speaker at Etech, Mashup, and more. I hope she will be speaking at the Tween Mashup in September, a conference I would love to attend!

There’s a rave review of her on BoingBoing. You can download a discussion with her on iblio.org.

This was the gist of her initial post:

What I lay out in this essay is rather disconcerting. Hegemonic American teens (i.e. middle/upper class, college bound teens from upwards mobile or well off families) are all on or switching to Facebook. Marginalized teens, teens from poorer or less educated backgrounds, subculturally-identified teens, and other non-hegemonic teens continue to be drawn to MySpace. A class division has emerged and it is playing out in the aesthetics, the kinds of advertising, and the policy decisions being made.

I left this comment to her response post that addressed the backlash:

I enjoyed reading your original blog post. You are right – many Latino/Hispanic teens interact with family members of all ages on MySpace, and often have profiles on both Facebook and MySpace, with the majority of their family members mostly on MySpace.

The only thing I took issue with was the framing of this paragraph:

******* MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

In order to demarcate these two groups, let’s call the first group of teens “hegemonic teens” and the second group “subaltern teens.” ********

I understand what you were intending to describe and why, however to be honest my first instinctual response was to be a little offended. You identified the following categories:

“Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids”

as if they were all separate and didn’t mention any overlap. Your choice to not use “most” or “many” when making this statement was also confusing. This also caught my notice:

“These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools.”

How did you come to this conclusion? What made you say this, instead of “who plan to end up doing clerical work, credit company customer service jobs, etc?” Curiosity and a tiny bit of outrage motivates my question.

Clearly the initial requirements to join Facebook created a huge class differentiation between the two sites, and I am interested in reading more of your work as you follow migration patterns, behaviors, and conflicts. I appreciate what you are doing.



Over the last two weeks I have seen a crazy amount of movies:

(out of 5 star rating)

– Hairspray (****) – I initially did not want to see this. I think I enjoyed the audience reaction more than the actual movie. So why the four star rating? I was tapping my toes the whole time to the music, I laughed a few times, enjoyed the dancing, and was glad to see a musical being so well received. It was great for what it was.

– Talk To Me (*****) – Don Cheadle is the man!

– Sunshine (***) – I love sci-fi. I loved 28 Days Later. Did not love this. My eyeballs loved the stimulation (gorgeous), my brain was bored. Danny Boyle, what happened?

– My Best Friend (****) – French guy doesn’t have any friends. At first I poo poo’d the premise and mocked the poster each time I passed the IFC, but I had the opportunity to see it gratis and actually enjoyed it very much.

Drama/Mex (****) – I am excited about what is coming out of Mexican cinema. Not necessarily because I think its all gravy, but because there’s a lot of risk taking reminiscent of 70’s American cinema, and I miss that (as a decade, I wasn’t born yet).

– Joshua (**) – Sigh. Snooze. Boo.

– Sicko (***) – I enjoy Moore’s films because I never consider them actual documentaries. If I did, I would feel sicko.

Movies I want to see over the next two weeks:

– The Simpsons Movie

– This Is England

– Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (yes, the last person on earth who hasn’t seen it.)

– SummerCamp!

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Facebook/Work Culture: Just Good Times or A Requirement To Stay Connected?

Posted on July 18, 2007. Filed under: Facebook, My Musings, work |

It’s not surprising to me that my company/work culture extends into Facebook. It’s a space that encourages that behavior in ways that continue to make it superior to MySpace in terms of true social networking capabilities.

Many of my coworkers have profiles on both sites, but it’s the activities on Facebook that are primarily a part of the proverbial water cooler convos. It’s just easier to keep track and up to date on all your coworkers habits and interests on Facebook than MySpace, thanks to the News Feeds and endless integrated third party apps that track and make public our activities such as Twitter, Last FM, ILike, etc.

You can visit your friends MySpace page, but can you tell what groups they’ve recently joined? What images they added to Flickr an hour ago? What movies they recently rated, what conferences they plan on attending — All from your own home page? Nope, and that’s why Facebook is rapidly becoming the place where the employable (and those aspiring to be) go to play, snoop, connect, and seek out professional opportunities.

According to the Facebook blog, their new hires use the network to friend and get to know their coworkers. Imagine that – Before making the rounds on your floor, you would browse profiles? That would be your first (and internally encouraged) impression of your colleagues? I wonder how I would perceive my own coworkers if I based my first impression on their social networking profiles, rather than day to day interactions. Would it affect my opinion, and how? The question is no longer “is this a good idea?”, but should be “since this is happening, how does this effect my job conditions?”

Like with Facebook employees, there are office inside jokes at my place of employment centered around activities within the network. Those who aren’t periodically checking in miss out. Is this important? On a small scale, no. Not attending every work related function is a comparable example; It’s not that important for you to know who’s zombie bit who, who’s graffiti said what. None of this activity is mandatory/need to know info, but it can be useful in some respects.

Now more than ever, there is an alternative window into discovering the alliances and social groupings of your workspace. If you are in an industry where who you know is almost as important as what you can do (in terms of job security, advancement, and professional development) staying connected is a must. And that is pretty much every industry, so how does this information change your work habits? A little? A lot? Have you considered how all this information can be used for or against you?

Not everyone abides by the same rules, or attends the same parties, and there is no cookie cutter social networking equation to success. But it would be a good idea to consider how much all this connectivity is both helping and inhibiting you.

For the next generation, it won’t be a novelty for their employer to discover their primary social networking profile. It will be a line on every application for every job. If you think that’s Big Brother talk, wake up – We are all our own Big Brother right now.

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