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So, what is Facebook? September 16, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Social Media.
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Facebook T-shirt, originally uploaded by BeFitt.

Is it a social networking website or a social utility?
Facebook says it’s the latter and not the former.

The recent controversy over the Facebook application PackRat had a company spokesperson say in an email to a deleted user that “FB accounts are meant to reflect mainly “real-world” contacts rather than mainly “internet-only” contacts”. (Let your Facebook friend list decide what side of this policy you are on). The mail went on to say that Facebook’s mission is to help reinforce pre-existing social connections, not build large groups of new ones.

In a response to Michael Arrington, Facebook later played down its earlier statement and clarified its stand by saying that it encouraged users to maintain single accounts only for authentic usage and expected users to add people that reflects their real-world connections and create trusted networks, and not indulge in unsolicited contact.

I’m totally against unsolicited contact on FB, and using it just to accumulate a mass of “friends”, just for the sake of collecting them. But what really makes me wonder is Facebook’s smart play of words between “social networking website” and “social utility”. How is a social networking website distinct from a social utility? Doesn’t the utility of Facebook lie in the networking capabilities it offers?

May be Facebook really doesn’t get it that for a lot of users it is a social networking website that is a utility by helping them connect with friends, acquaintances and strangers in both real and virtual worlds, with different engagement and involvement levels.

It’s kind of dumb to call the elephant a hippo just because it likes to wallow a lot in the mud pond, right?

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Social Networking: To be or not to be? October 5, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Social Media.
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To be or not to be

This morning, I checked my mail like always and there was this interesting story in my daily mailshot from ArabianBusiness.com which I had to click on and read – No ban for Facebook.

The story is about Emirates’ telecom regulator Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) saying that they had not banned popular social networking website Facebook in the UAE earlier this week, following widespread rumours that it had been blocked after thousands of residents found themselves unable to access the site. The outage was apparently due to ‘technical / connectivity issues’.

Facebook, which also happens to be the second most visited website in the UAE, is up and running again.These rumours gained significant wind in light of TRA’s move to ban social networking website Orkut in July 2007 following reports that the site contained sexually explicit material and was being used for “immoral activities”.

The UAE also has a ban on social networking websites Flickr and Hi5, and only recently lifted a ban on MySpace and YouTube. However, users based in free zone locations such as Dubai Internet City can access Flickr and Hi5.

Meanwhile Maktoob.com and faye3.com have recently teamed up to develop their own Arab social networking site to rival Facebook. The two sites are working on a joint initiative aimed at providing a service that will allow Arab communities to link up online and share contacts.

Later in the afternoon, I read “Social Networking: A Time Waster Or The Next Big Thing In Collaboration?” on Information Week. The article discusses how Facebook and other social networks in the workplace can suck up employees’ time and worse. But managed right, they may be the next breakthrough in business collaboration. Shell Oil, Procter & Gamble, Citigroup, McDonalds and General Electric are case-studies under consideration.

It was interesting to see both sides of the coin today. There are always going to be pluses and minuses for every new innovation, tool or phenomenon that brings together people and creates benefits by doing so. I think it’s all about considering the ‘better good’ or rather, the ‘larger good’.This is where I think initiatives such as ‘The Age of Conversation’ play a crucial role. AOC shows the world the power of social media to do a world of good by creating a community of people who value conversation and want to use their talents to make a difference to way brands speak to consumers. The more we promote this ‘goodness’ in markets that have its natural reservations about social media, people are going to start asking – now wait a second, let me have a slice of that pie because it seems good for me. That, my friends, is a small step for us and big leap for the world out there.

I want to thank all the AOC authors once again for teaming up for this initiative. And to all friends who have written in with comments and posts on our ‘Weekend Adventure’. You honor me so much with your kind words of appreciation. Nothing is possible without your support and encouragement.

Hail-Caesar

Oh yeah, before I leave, I want you to meet this new dude on the block – Julius Caesar. Caesar is a 3-month old Persian kitty with the character of the great ruler himself, the chutzpah of a dog and the antics of an ass. He can be very clownish at times and is always sliding on surfaces and getting knocked up in the process. He loves doing somersaults, crawls up like a monkey on our legs, wants to poke his face into our coffee mugs, tries to stand up on two feet and goes gaga over tuna. Needless to say, it’s a welcome relief to have him around at work. Too bad that Caesar doesn’t belong to me. Ciao for now 🙂

Caesar-with-Arun