Social networks: aggregation and voting (Collaborative Bibliography III)

8 Nov

I’ve got my browser literally bursting with great articles on the topic of convergency in Social Media, but I’ve had to choose between lots of them. This time I’m bringing not only one but three articles about these topics that I’ll integrate into a whole one.

To this day and hour, the main social networks that dominate Internet can be named and counted with the aid of two hands. At least when it comes to number of users, quantity of content created in them (let alone quality), and also in the influence they have on people and traditional media we all know the main names of the game. I won’t add more visitors for their websites from here.

So, let’s launch the question: is there any space today for new social networks? That’s the interesting question that the article “Aggregating the old and rewarding the new at Disruptathon” by Patricia Smith tries to answer. It talks about a small contest called “Disruptathon” trying to find new, really creative and “disruptive” takes on social network and app developing.

As it seems, you might be happy to try and develop a new social network from scratch, but the space for them is very narrow now:  it’s not easy to compete with the giants. Anyway, this doesn’t seem to be the biggest problem.

The first interesting thing that I note down is that one of the most demanded things by social media users to this date is aggregation. Due to the fragmented nature of social networking sites, almost every user has several profiles in different websites, each one with its own login, password and content. When the user is a social media beast, using lots of services in order to advertise his/her business, make professional contact or just for fun, this becomes a nightmare. That’s what aggregation is called: having all of your accounts available in just one place. Then, why hasn’t anyone developed yet either an application or App which can keep you updated of all the latest news in all your accounts without losing any functionality of the original site?  Because of coding problems, first of all: each site wants to make its code as unavailable as possible to developers so that they keep their number of unique web visitors up and running. Don’t get me wrong: most of the social networking sites make their code available to programmers after a small (or big) payment and some hesitation. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have services like HootSuite, TweetDeck or Nimbuzz, just to cite a few examples. But the definitive social networking aggregator has not come to light yet.  When it does, it will be a definitive boom.

Also, another problem of that is that we have so many new social networks popping up each day that we can’t be sure about which one is going to succeed and which one is going to fail just to be lost and forgotten in the cyberspace trashbin. Take MySpace for example: it had its days of glory some time ago, but now it seems to be a bit outdated. So we can’t be sure of which social network will be there after some years and it seems too risky to put time, effort and money into throwing thousands of code lines for a new social site that won’t be popular and will last maybe a year or less.

But, the most interesting thing that this article points out is the one that was the winner at the Disruptathon contest: Votizen, a experimental social network developed in San Francisco that can be used to connect voters and their officers. Although it has been initially developed for the USA voters and administration, it seems interesting to me that the idea could be possibly transferred to any country with a significant development rate in a not very far future.

This small article by Larry Gerston for NBC Los Angeles goes a bit deeper into the analysis of the recent trends in social networks including Votizen and the way they are taking a big impact in the election scheme. As it states:

With Votizen’s technology a registered voter who commits to the candidate is enabled to help the campaign through connecting with like-minded people who are found on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Rather than going door and door, the individual can extol the virtues of the candidate to his or her list of people who share the same traits and interests.

Even further, this article by Micah L.Sifry for explains how Votizen works with more depth and also describes its recent competitor: DemDash, which works this way:

DemDash (short for Democracy Dashboard) […] differs from Votizen in two crucial ways. First, the site invites participation from groups, not just individuals, and thus if you want to follow what a group says about a candidate or issue, DemDash shows you. And second, and perhaps most valuable, DemDash will make you a kind of social palm-card for an upcoming election.

And, DemDash also gets around an aspect of election law that prevents nonprofits from endorsing candidates. If you can see how a group’s members think about candidates–say, look at how ten people who are fans of the Electronic Frontier Foundation line up on their candidate preferences–you can in effect see how a certain organization might vote if it were actually allowed to endorse candidates directly.

It seems that social networks are going to enter the muddy world of politics in full blow very soon, apart from the use of social networks by politicians to advertise and campaing for theirselves. Maybe we are getting closer to real democracy or is it just an illusion? Time will tell, but as usual, let’s be cautious and judicious about it. Don’t forget that social networks are comprised of real people, and as human beings we all have the same greatness and faults since humanity was born…


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