• The Reliability Factor: Charity Begins At Homepage
    Another week, another new social network, promising a new way of facilitating life, the universe, and everything. This week's entry is Jumo, a social network created by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who tells The New York Times the site is intended to help people stay in touch with charitable causes close to their hearts. The site included 3,000 organizations and issues at launch, and any non-profit organization can create a profile page, provided it can provide proof of official tax exemption to certify its authenticity.
  • Social Media NIMBY Movement Derails Big Real Estate Deals
    If anyone still doubts the power of social media to affect the real world in a very substantial way, the intersection of social networks and real estate development should put these lingering doubts to rest. As always, stories with big dollar signs attached are more impressive, and this seems pretty big to me: according to The Wall Street Journal, a group of homeowners in the Long Island town of Huntington successfully used social networks to organize local opposition to a 490-unit, $100 million housing development proposed by AvalonBay Communities Inc. for a site not far from a Long Island Rail …
  • Israeli Army Doesn't 'Like' Female Draft-Dodgers
    Here's another one for the "social media surveillance" file, and we can probably file it under "that was stupid" as well. It seems the Israeli Defense Force, always at the cutting edge of technology, is using Facebook to catch female draft-dodgers who avoid military duty by pleading religious exemption. Of course, the subjects of this surveillance make things easier by posting evidence of their draft-dodging for all to see in a public forum.
  • School District Bans Online Contact Between Students, Teachers
    What would you do if you were an educator and you were presented with a revolutionary new medium, with the potential to totally change the way you teach, manage classes, and communicate with students? I can tell you what I'd do: I'd ban it! Who needs that whole mess? I'm just kidding. But the same can't be said for school boards around the country.
  • Despite Social Media, Americans Are Less Social Than Ever
    Being critical of social media, nowadays, is like shouting "stop" at a speeding freight train: Don't expect to make much of an impression. The same is true for observations about modern society in general, where trends emerge and unfold on such a huge scale that all the individual can do is take note of them (and maybe cynically cash in, if blessed with an entrepreneurial bent). But I am all about being quixotic. Just show me the windmill and I'll tilt, baby, I'll tilt! And with Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I'd take a look at the bigger "social" implications of …
  • Was MySpace Worth It for News Corp.?
    Now that MySpace has thrown in the towel and acknowledged Facebook's total supremacy on turf it once owned, it may be a good time to revisit News Corp.'s decision to buy the once-great, now-humbled social network. Was it a good idea? Did they at least break even? To do so, of course, is to question the judgment of the almighty Murdoch -- to suggest, even, that Rupert may be fallible. Honestly, we'll probably never know for sure whether Murdoch regrets buying MySpace, or views it as an acceptable loss, or thinks of it as an interesting experiment which served its …
  • Crowd-Sourced Science
    The real power of social media is sometimes best illustrated by an unexpected convergence with another discipline -- in this case, scientific investigation. And it can't hurt when the subject under investigation is that universal comical Internet meme, the kitty cat. Enter social media: unsurprisingly, there are innumerable videos on YouTube showing cats of all sizes drinking, from lions filmed by tourists on safari to the tens of thousands -- nay, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions -- of videos that people have uploaded of their house pets.
  • Public Shaming on Facebook, California Edition
    A few months ago police in the town of Evesham, NJ made headlines with a social media strategy which includes what is basically a Facebook perp walk -- that is, posting mug shots from recent arrests online, complete with identifying information and their alleged transgressions. Predictably the policy stirred some controversy, with critics warning against the potential for inappropriate photo-tagging, but that hasn't deterred Evesham police from continuing the Facebook photo flagellation. Now police in other parts of the country are getting in on the act.
  • New Social Network Focuses on People You Actually, Like, Know
    First there was the ancestral environment, way back in the Great Rift Valley days, one million years ago: early human beings live in semi-nomadic groups of no more than a few dozen individuals. Cue "Thus Spake Zarathustra" from "2001: A Space Odyssey," and fast forward to the modern world: human beings live in towns and cities composed of millions of individuals, most of whom they will never meet and are determined to ignore. Fast forward a little more: human beings can now use online social networks to become "friends" with hundreds or even thousands of people they will never meet, …
  • Google Social Network Is Not a Social Network
    Lately social media seems to lend itself to strange, Zen-like denials of apparently obvious truths. In September we found out that Twitter isn't a social network, according to Kevin Thau, the site's vice-president for business and corporate development. Now Google has formulated its own paradox to instruct and bewilder. Responding to questions from reporters at the Monaco Media Forum about its rumored social media push to compete with Facebook, Hugo Barra, Google's head of mobile product development said: "We're not working on a social network platform that's just going to be another social network platform."
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