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The Social Web (node 1)

Posted 09-24-2010 at 05:23 PM by 2ck
Updated 09-24-2010 at 05:31 PM by 2ck

This is the first of a series of posts about social networking over the Web. The majority of what I post will be my own observations and conjectures rather than an exhaustive scientific treatment, so DO NOT READ IT AS ONE. Thank you.

There is this phenomenon in the realm of social networking that I call 'meshing' with the network.
From the standpoint of a person entering the network, it is the initial process of connecting with the rest of the fabric of the network. Under facebook, for instance, it is when you "friend" your first few users. Twitter, identica, and other microblogging services center around the idea of subscriptions and groups. Most web forums rely on reputation, either from simple visibility of user posts or by a formal reputation system (with the exception of *chans which we'll get to in another node). Meshing can be divided into three basic stages (using facebook as an example).
  1. You don't have any friends: you are not integrated into the network. This is where most new users will fall off. They see no point to the thing, it becomes 'gay', and they stop caring after making one post.
  2. You make a few friends-- either real life friends already on the network or magnanimous veterans-- and you begin to appreciate the network's utility. Even so, there is little difference between this and stage 1 for many because you need more than two friends and your sister to make a network worthwhile-- which brings us to stage 3,
  3. This is the tipping point when you have enough friends that friend requests just come in on their own. It can be a pretty long time between stages 2 and 3, but surprisingly few people will quit in between. Not by coincidence, this is also where most of the social behaviours of the network are first learned and applied. The exact number of friends to reach 'critical mass' varies depending on the network itself, and I postulate that it is uneven depending on where you enter the network. If your first few friends tend to draw friend requests to you, stage 3 might occur very soon after stage 1.
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