Saturday, March 08, 2008

The limits to social networking sites   posted by Razib @ 3/08/2008 10:28:00 AM

I, Cringely has a nice column today analogizing the social network fad with that over CB radios in the 1970s. I tend to agree. History is bound to repeat; observers of the rise & fall of MUDs in the early-mid 90s noted that the same trend in the buzz around Second Life (a buzz which no longer is). This doesn't mean that these new technologies don't add value, but they affect a quantitative change, not qualitative one. I was mentioning to someone that I think IM is far more useful for work than it is for personal interaction. The reason is that work related IMs should focus on transmitting discrete pieces of data which result in a greater awareness of the flow of a particular project (e.g., "I'm way behind right now, don't plan on building today"). But when it comes to interpersonal relationships quantity comes at the cost of quality; Dunbar's number serves as a break on the scalability of social networking sites in terms of utility. At the end of the day we're still apes; our least apelike activities (like working in the tech sector and spending all day in front of a computer) are more amenable to being rendered more efficient by technological extensions...our more apelike ones, less so.