Thursday, September 14, 2006

india blog and remarks on 'the new facebook'

Priy dost,

The indolent and privileged may consult this journal in my facebook feed. All others are, really, restricted only by their mastery of rss as to how they consult this journal, and advised to consider not consulting it at all.

Perhaps a short note on this and other objects of recent facebook hysteria is apropos. Canards about privacy aside, what's wrong with 'the new facebook' is that the only information flow it increases is the flow of useless and uninteresting information.

I care enough about my facebook friends as a group to want to have their contact info handy and (now and again) check up on their profiles. I check a core group much more frequently - not to find out what is going on in their lives (the people I care about, I know about) - but rather to enjoy the flow of what is more snark than information.

The facebook feeds condense all these fine distinctions; what they feed is, as a result, quite useless to me as it reduces everything to the lowest common denominator, which is to say not signal but noise. The nice thing about the previous interface is that it gave me a way to easily sift through mountains of useless junk to find the only things that count to me as information - that is to say, whatever I was looking for and only what I was looking for. The feeds are a messy, disorganized impediment to using the website in ways that help me.

Very few of the people who are in a position to read this note were affected by opening the facebook beyond the elite few schools at which it started - if anything, a few friends who didn't go to the big name schools are now connected to us, so there was a marginal increase in the usefulness of the site. Probably it won't matter much if the site is opened to localities too - since I, for one, in order to keep it useful to me, will just remove myself from any locality networks. Just like I don't know anyone at A&M (and don't want their noise cluttering up my signal) I don't know, relatively speaking, anyone in Chicago (or anywhere else) and there is precious little chance I will find anyone I want to know in Chicago at random.

This site is useful because of the restrictions it places on information flow. It makes no sense to talk about the free flow of information tout court. Our friends in the direction of the enterprise have, naturally, been somewhat blinded to this reality. If your business is creating new channels for information it is probably easy to forget that information has to be canalized in order to be information at all and that too wide channels become unusable.

For instance, I'm sure many of the people who are notified about this little excrescence will have no interest in it at all. Case in point.

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