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June 14, 2007

The end of social networking?

The BBC loves it. Rupert Murdoch loves it. Even the government is falling in love with it.

But like Grandstand, Marathon bars, the Drachma and the Beatles, everything has a lifecycle.

Find a FriendWhat am I talking about?

Social networking.

MySpace, Facebook and Bebo have quickly grown to become some of the biggest websites in the world. Facebook’s growth has been particularly impressive: 400,000 just over six months ago is 2,000,000 today.

But how long can these websites (if we can call them that) continue to expand? And what will happen when they reach their peak?

One small event triggered me to wonder whether social networking sites are ultimately doomed: My mum joined one.

Now, I can cope with this. I’m a grown-up and I know she’s only joined so she can spy on the local trouble-making kids (ah, if only Facebook had net curtains).

I think most mums are probably as inquisitive as mine. And they’ve got better things to do than join their own special site for middle-aged people. They’d much rather jump on-board the kids’ version and use it to their advantage.

But what happens when everyone’s mum is on Facebook, MySpace or Bebo? How will the yoof react?

Facebook I find particularly troubling. The USP of Facebook was that it was an academic site, useful for arranging nights out or joining groups where you slag off your lecturers. But then they opened up to everyone. Not only does this make privacy an issue, but it also leads to PSD, or Parental Snooping Disease.

While I can still just about see a use to Facebook, I wonder whether the fact that everyone is on there – and the ebbing away of the site’s coolness that will follow – will be enough to tip people over the edge and back to their previously hermitic existence when they weren’t connected to their ‘mini-feed’.

Ultimately, we’ll find ourselves asking ‘Do I really need Facebook/Bebo/Myspace?’ and then asking ‘Is that need outweighed by the fact that having my mum on there is mortally embarrassing?’. The more time I spend on Facebook, the more I begin to think it’s like Big Brother (the TV show rather than the Orwellian concept, although the latter may also be true). It’s addictive to start with, and then you realise it’s just wasting your time.

This isn’t what big business wants to hear. They’re piling onto the social networking bandwagon faster than you can say ‘cash-cow’. The trouble is… might they arrive too late?

And if they are too late and social networking recedes, then what next? Will we find new and more involving ways to connect with people online, or will we rediscover the phone, texting, and even (whisper it) talking face-to-face?


May 11, 2007

GB4B.com – not very inspiring

GB’s launched his new website to win over… er, GB. GordonBrownforBritain.com isn’t the most inspiring website ever seen, for the following reasons:

1) There’s a blog written by Oona I love you Gordon, can I have a seat in the Lords, pretty please King, who if you need reminding, was beaten in the general election by George Galloway. The second staged contribution comment came from ‘skabucks’ who thanks Gordon for doing so much to help in the Welsh Assembly elections in Cardiff North. That’s the same Cardiff North that Labour lost to the Tories, despite it being quite a winnable seat.

2) As part of Gordon’s Big Conversation (oh no, we can’t call it that, Tony tried it and gave up) we can have our say on the important issues of the 21st Century in Gordon’s poll. So this week, the question is: What should this site be talking about this week? Is it a) The NHS, b) Education, c) International Development or d) The Economy. Obviously Gordon’s decided to tackle his least confident topics first. Strangely absent are e) Iraq, f) House prices, g) Tax and h) Immigration.

3) The front page features a poorly compressed photo of Gordon surrounded by adoring kids. Well, mostly adoring. One or two look scared witless, but they’ve probably just been told how much their university tuition will cost.

4) In a brilliantly original feature, you can Follow Gordon around the country. This is remarkable similar to Guido Fawkes’ Where’s Gordon? feature which asked the same question during the elections when he was remarkably quiet.

5) My favourite page is the Policy one. It benefits from Gordon’s signature, some ‘values’, and a warning about how bad the Tories are. But seemingly no policies…

6) I LOVE the Terms and Conditions. They’re a hotbed of irony. Especially this bit: “Also, we want the debate to be civil, so posts that use offensive, racist or homophobic language won’t go up.” I wonder why they singled out racist and homophobic but not sexist or xenophobic…

Apart from that, it’s lovely. Completely devoid of anything useful, but lovely nonetheless.


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