The Internet is an excellent medium for communication and collaboration. Possibly too excellent for Pennsylvania congressman Michael Fitzpatrick. This week he introduced his Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA, with the emphasis on dope) in the House, a bill aimed at blocking access to MySpace and Facebook in schools and libraries. The objective of this bill is to protect children from stalkers and predators on these sites, but this is a rather foolish and dangerous approach.
For starters, most of these sites are probably already blocked in schools and it doesn’t stop kids from accessing these sites at home. The only people who will be affected are poorer folks who cannot afford internet access at home. Of course, these sites are probably more dangerous for them too. Social networking is a powerful tool that has legitimate uses and should not be treated like porn.
Also problematic is the law’s wording, which describes a social networking site as a web site that “allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.” By that standard, sites like Blogger and AIM could be blocked as well. That would make the internet about as static as a book – something libraries do not need anymore of.
What really concerns me right now is what this means for colleges and universities (since I am a college student). Reports suggest that the law is directed at schools and libraries that get Internet access through a federal E-rate program. The E-rate program is supposedly limited to K-12 schools, so it seems that the Facebook may be safe – for now.
I got a chance to take a look at the new Technorati during lunch today and I was pretty surprised. It seems like these guys are constantly reinventing themselves, still struggling to define the currency of the blogosphere. Is it the blog, the keyword, the tag, or the post itself? The post seems to get the vote in this latest redesign, which has top blog posts broken down by category in a manner very similar to the latest Digg. These days, Digg must be feeling very flattered.
Truth be told though, Technorati may be the more ideal social bookmarking platform than Digg. Digg is a supposedly an open platform, but you have to be a member to submit or “digg” content and these days you may even have to sign in to view it. This and the fact that “digg”-ing a story takes extra effort is the reason why only a subset of Digg’s readers actually contribute. Technorati, on the other hand, uses links as its article sorting method. It profits off the links people are already putting in their blog posts. So it in theory is a more accurate reflection of what is hot on the Internet.
But does the wisdom of the masses produce a better set of articles? I would argue no. The front page of Digg still seems much more compelling content-wise than the front page of Technorati. It’s the same reason I like the most-emailed stories more than the most-read or most-linked on the New York Times. Making the “cost” higher means that people focus on more interesting stories, rather than ones that are already popular. So while the new Technorati is interesting, its Digg-likeness is only skin deep.
So today is my 2nd birthday on the Facebook and its amazing the difference a year makes. The Facebook, a social networking site for college kids and beyond, has a feature where they show you if any friends’ birthdays are coming up. It’s a clever feature and last year it landed me a random birthday greeting from one of my “friends”. This year, I have recieved 10 birthday greetings so far. So how did I suddenly get more popular? I didn’t. I believe the difference is that more and more people have made the Facebook part of their daily routine (even on Sunday morning). I knew that I log on about once a day and I figured others did as well, but this is pretty overwhelming proof. Social networking, creepiness aside, is a pretty big deal. I’m 21 today, by the way, though I haven’t had anything to drink – yet.