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Tag Archives: Social Networks

Take the “M” off of “Masses” and you get “Asses”: Jaron Lanier’s beef with the little people.

Check out Jaron’s resume and you’ll see this guy is at the top of his game. Consultant and advisor to some of the biggest businesses south of san jose, regular speaker and visiting scholar at top universities, Jaron, a renaissance technologist of sorts, manages to apply his tech wisdom to fields ranging from medicine to artificial intelligence. But it doesn’t end there, Jaron has a musical career that has put him on stage with the likes of george clinton and vernon ried! Jealous yet? Get this, he is credited with developing the concept of Virtual Reality.

So by most accounts this is the guy you love to hate. Because he has done it all, one would think that he is a fairly confident character, however, when you read his article “Digital Moaism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism”  he comes across as horribly insecure about his future as an expert. Jaron believes that when you let everyone into the sandbox (crowd source, open source, flat organizational structure, etc.), the chances of creating something of value declines because those who actually know what they’re doing will have their voices drowned out, which, in turn, dooms us to a future of crap decision making.

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Trafficking in the Zeitgeist: kaChing, and the crowdsourcing of market research

Although I worked in the financial services for almost 3 years, the ways of the markets have always been a mystery to me. (For the record, I worked in the “Back Office” as a programmer/developer of inter-office admin communication. Although some of my closest friends during that period were traders, I never got any good tips from them!) For my next travelogue, I’m going to do something outside-the-normal for me: I’m going to become an investor (albeit a virtual one) using kaChing, the hottest web service that allows users to participate in what could be called the fantasy football of investing.


kaChing was started in 2008 by Dan Caroll and is financially backed by angel money from various Sillicon Valley hard-hitters, including the co-founder of Netscape. What’s so interesting about kaChing is its approach to the roll of the masses in investing: it hinges on the idea that the “wisdom of crowds,” coupled with the direction of “genius” investors, can lead us to better predict how the markets will behave. Also, kaChing exemplifies open-source computing in its technological make-up: in addition to the crowdsourcing of investment research, kaChing has partnered up with Xignite (a cloud-service startup that serves on-demand market and financial data), and has released an API to allow any interested party to mash-up data from other sources. (I am totally an interested party, you guys…)

In this travelogue, I will attempt to 1) understand how kaChing’s open-source structure crafts the user’s experience and makes the service better as a whole, 2) discover how we as users are not only reacting to the market, but shaping it or influencing it, 3) explore kaChing’s API and how its data can be used in congress with other websites concerned with “trafficking in the zeitgeist,” and 4) become a frickin’ virtual millionaire! Too bad the cash is not really real :(

Let me know what you think!

Refining the Social and Techincal Design of NfN

It comes down to design and culture. Fairly obvious conclusion to draw, but after my travels through the Neighbors for Neighbors network, the discussion in last weeks class on the relationship between the technical and social could not have been more relevant as I tried to determine how NfN could be more effective in reaching its goals.

Across the network, the key area needed for improvement is that of user participation. While NfN’s JP network does boast a user base of over 1500 and does feature constant blog and forum posts, the aspect of blog and forum responses is fairly low. Also, with the addition of sites for the other towns in Boston, NfN has an imperative to increase participation and boost membership for the new sites.

In my previous post I presented accounts and ideas around increasing participation in networks. One of the more theoretical ideas that was considered was that of social objects, where a social network is defined by an “object” of common interest. While I proposed that NfN’s social object was community organizing for Boston’s neighborhoods, Mushon prompted me to reify this further as he, and rightfully so, felt that community organizing was too abstract and would most likely not boost NfN’s gravitational pull.

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Access is only the beginning

“There is no such thing as a poor community. Even neighborhoods without much money have substantial human resources. Often, however, the human resources are not appreciated or utilized, partly because people do not have information about each other and about what their neighborhood has to offer. For example, a family whose heater is broken may go cold for lack of knowledge that someone just down the block knows how to fix it. [Technologies] of all kinds have great potential for building and maintaining communities.” (Resnick & King, 1997, pp. 229-230)

MIT Media Lab student Randal Pinkett used this quote in his dissertation on a community network site he built in Boston for the Camfield Estates, a public housing community in Boston. This quote is central to emphasizing the importance of what role community network sites can play in helping its members turn to each other in times of need rather than appealing to service institutions. In a time when many are struggling to make ends meet, the need for establishing micro bartering economies has become more pressing, and the ability for a social networking site to make community resource more visible is an important step in this direction.

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Networking the Gay Male

          Social networking sites have been a booming business in the recent years especially with the more prominent sites such as Myspace and Facebook, and although social networking isn’t altogether a new thing, these versions have brought social networking to a whole new level through the use of new media.  These sites have also opened up the door to other entrepreneurs to find their own audiences to entice through social networking that caters to a particular social subset.  For me, this brings about my interest in new media’s part in the creation of identity for a new generation, as well as questions about the positive or negative impacts of exclusionary social groups. Read More »