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Notes: Cyberflaneur, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

The Death of the Cyberflâneur By Evgeny Morozov [Link]

It’s easy to see, then, why cyberflânerie seemed such an appealing notion in the early days of the Web. The idea of exploring cyberspace as virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations, was romantic; that romanticism was even reflected in the names of early browsers (“Internet Explorer,” “Netscape Navigator”).

Online communities like GeoCities and Tripod were the true digital arcades of that period, trading in the most obscure and the most peculiar, without any sort of hierarchy ranking them by popularity or commercial value. Back then eBay was weirder than most flea markets; strolling through its virtual stands was far more pleasurable than buying any of the items. For a brief moment in the mid-1990s, it did seem that the Internet might trigger an unexpected renaissance of flânerie.

However, anyone entertaining such dreams of the Internet as a refuge for the bohemian, the hedonistic and the idiosyncratic probably didn’t know the reasons behind the disappearance of the original flâneur.


Who Gives a Tweet?

Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science ran a study called "Who Gives a Tweet?" Rather than providing any new, eye-opening results, the study does serve as a reminder of best practices when using Twitter. Worth a look. [Link]

Instagram: A Lesson in Testing and Analyzing; and not worrying about what "others" want [Link]

Based on outward appearances, you might think the Instagram crew a relatively quiet bunch—after all, they only have an iPhone app and a placeholder-like website that offers basically no functionality. But since last October, the team has added hashtags and autocomplete functions, completely reworked the comment interface, added email sharing, converted the entire image pipeline to Open GL, created a news view, added support for high res images, tacked on 10 languages, and rolled out a slew of new filters and other features. All this while completely rebuilding the back end to support its exponential growth. Phew.

And despite all that, the only thing people want to know is when it’s coming to Android, or when it’s coming to Windows Phone. We do too. Because when it does? 15 million will seem like a blip.


Facebook Does Not Have 483 Million Active Users [Link]

Now that Facebook has filed for IPO it will continue to come under scrutiny, especially by financial analysts who want to follow the mony - where does Facebook make its earnings, for instance. Well, it's struggling to create income streams from mobile, that we know. The bulk of Facebook's earnings comes from advertising of course, and its secondary value is in the gathering of data - provided by its users. The issue there is that in the future will those users be happy to be bombarded by advertising, and will they start to expect more privacy and transparency on how their data is shared? Know one knows.

Sifting through Facebook's S1 filing, DealBook's Andrew Ross Sorkin has discovered a semantic error, the social network does not have 483 million active users, but rather, more accurately, boasts 483 engaged users. "According to the company, a user is considered active if he or she 'took an action to share content or activity with his or her Facebook friends or connections via a third-party Web site that is integrated with Facebook,'" he writes, taking offense at Facebook  considering pressing a "like" button as "active." Sorkin believes he has exposed Facebook for misleading potential investors (and the American public) into believing that the site isn't as popular or valuable as the social network would like. But really the slight linguistic difference doesn't mean much for Facebook's worth and is just that: word choice.

Facebook includes those who click the "Like" button on third party sites as well as all those Spotify frictionless sharing types in its definition of active. These users aren't exactly active. "Facebook appears to be using the term 'active' as a euphemism for 'engaged," continues Sorkin. Active means on the site, engaged means sharing without heading to the site. And from a money perspective, these types of Facebook use don't have the some ad benefits, argues Sorkin, pointing to this nugget from Barry Ritholtz, the chief executive and director for equity research for Fusion IQ. 

If they click a ‘like’ button but do not go to Facebook that day, they cannot be marketed to, they do not see any advertising, they cannot be sold any goods or services. All they did was take advantage of FB’s extensive infrastructure to tell their FB friends (who may or may not see what they did) that they liked something online. Period.



North: Mobile and Social Web News February 1 2012

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