The Future of Social Networks and the Web

20 04 2010

FutureWeb2010 Conference, Raleigh, N.C., April 29, 10:30 a.m. – noon

Chair: Fred Stutzman, social networks researcher and consultant. Stutzman is the founder of, a social web identity management system. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science and is working on a dissertation that examines how people use social network sites for support during a life transition. Stutzman also held technical and management roles for, The Motley Fool and Nortel Networks. His work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired and Newsweek Magazines, and on NPR.

Panel description: According to a recent study, 47 percent of adults use social network sites. Few technologies have grown as fast and had such an immediate impact on culture, communication and commerce. In this panel, we’ll look at the future and consider the next 53 percent, or what happens when social networking becomes ubiquitous. What are the challenges faced by individuals and organizations as social networking expands? What business opportunities are opened up by this global-scale personal interconnection? And how can we leverage this technological shift to increase civic participation, improve health and better society? The panel will aim to specifically isolate the key challenges and opportunities in the looming future for social networks and it will work to identify some specific action steps that can be taken today to work for a better tomorrow.


  • Chris DiBona

    Chris DiBona, open source and public programs manager for Google. DiBona and his team oversee projects like the Summer of Code, which works to oversee license compliance and supports the open source developer community. He also works with Google Moderator, the polling locations API. DiBona has an international reputation for promoting open source software and related methodologies. His personal blog can be found at

  • Henry Copeland

    Henry Copeland, the founder/CEO of BlogAds, which connects 2,500 influential blog advertisers with blog readers and the social media elite. He is also the founder of Twiangulate, a social discovery service for Twitter. Copeland serves on the advisory board for SXSW and the advisory board for George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet.

  • Zeynep Tufekci

    Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor and social networks researcher who works at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. Her research focuses on the social impacts of technology, theorizing the web, gender, research methods, inequality and new media. Tufecki’s blog, which focuses on issues surrounding technology and society, can be found at

  • Wayne Sutton

    Wayne Sutton, social networks consultant and strategist at Fragment. He also works as a development and marketing strategist at TriOut, a social network designed to help users meet new people in the North Carolina area and discover new things to do in the Triangle community. Sutton is a partner at OurHashtag. His Web site can be found at

  • Dave Recordon

    Dave Recordon, Senior Open Programs Manager at Facebook. Recordon leads open source and open standards initiatives. He has previously worked with Six Apart, a blogging company, and has played a key role in the development and popularization of key social media technologies such as OpenID. Recordon is the youngest recipient of the Open Source Award (2007), recognized by Google and O’Reilly. Visit his blog at

For more information about FutureWeb 2010 panel discussions, featured panelists and more, click here to navigate to the FutureWeb site. To register for the conference, visit the FutureWeb registration page.


Facebook continues making moves in the corporate direction

6 04 2010

Integration between large corporations and social media is continuing to increase, and it’s hard to imagine how everyone is keeping up. In light of new Facebook protocols and some insightful predictions from Mashable and the Wall Street Journal, it appears as if Facebook will be upping the integration ante once more.

Last Friday, Facebook debuted another controversial Site Governance law concerning privacy, which sparked some interesting conversations about third-party websites having access to the personal information of consenting users. Under the new offer, Facebook proposes to provide personal data to “pre-approved third-party websites and applications” unless a user chooses to opt out of that feature in their privacy settings.

Furthermore, Facebook may soon encourage users to “Like” brands. According to Peter Kafka of MediaMemo, people click “Like” twice as often they click “Become a Fan.” This is a problem for corporations trying to reach out to audiences through the Facebook platform. Most public relations strategies involving Facebook hinge on that one button click to “Become a Fan.” If users don’t engage this way, then companies cannot reach out through updates and campaigns because these targeted messages only go out to fans.

Will these minor governance modifications be the catalyst that will finally bring brands into the coveted social lives of Facebook users? Apple seems to think so. Earlier this week Apple created an application for their App Store. The App Store is now a Facebook fan page and it’s off to a momentous start, attracting over 120,000 fans in its first week. The page mimics the iTunes store to a T; the features tab even has an “App of the Week” and a Top 10 Chart.

Not only can this simple fan page generate major income for Apple, but it is also a great way to track customer feedback.  On the App Store’s wall there are dozens of new apps posted every day and hundreds of comments from Apple customers under each one. On the other hand, because these posts are in the Facebook medium, it is even harder to sift through the junk. Many posts on the page contain profanity and some posts are not even related to the subject. Some users already complain about how difficult it is to sift through the user comments in the digital Apple store, will the introduction of this App fan page just add to the noise? Or will it make purchasing an app a simpler decision?

Many large companies are struggling with this dilemma. Businesses know that decisions about their products are being made on locations on the Internet other than their corporate site, but they don’t know how to effectively harness this knowledge to their advantage. In the future it’s likely that we all can anticipate a greater corporate presence on Facebook and more customer-centric and interactive elements on corporate sites.

By Lianna Catino

Pew Research Center releases new study on participatory news consumerism

4 03 2010

The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism released a joint report Monday exploring the “participatory news consumer.” This new breed of news consumers is the product of advancing technologies and interactive media that continue to enhance the news consumer’s experience.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project and a keynote speaker at FutureWeb, is a co-author of the Pew Research Center report on the participatory news consumer. (Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and leading participant in the FutureWeb 2010 conference, is co-author of the report. Rainie is scheduled as a keynote speaker to address issues surrounding the future of the Web, a topic that directly relates to his recently released participatory news consumer report.

The full 50-page report details research gathered on topics such as the general American news environment, the specific ways in which people use the news and the Internet’s impact on the news industry. The report also covers more recent trends in consumer news such as the attitudes and behaviors of on-the-go news consumers and news that takes on the characteristics of a social activity.

Pew’s research reflects many of the topics that will be discussed at FutureWeb 2010, namely the growing trend of participatory news. The explosion of the digital era, along with interactive Web sites, social media and new technologies, allows an overwhelming 92% of Americans to access their news through multiple platforms on a daily basis.

Almost half of those surveyed say they get news from four to six media platforms, including national TV, local TV, the Internet, national newspapers, local newspapers and the radio. The report also revealed that the Internet is now the third most popular source of news.

The increasing popularity of the Internet is directly related to the survey’s findings that Americans are now embracing a variety of participatory news media. Approximately 37% of Internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented on stories or propagated news through postings on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

The majority of those surveyed say that their news experience is becoming increasingly social. Friends, family and co-workers commonly share links, post news stories to their social networking sites and link to other news on personal blogs. Topics and current events are discussed through the Internet platform.

Pew reports:

“The advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in a fresh way for consumers. The ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.”

Pew also reports:

“Online, the social experience is widespread: 75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through e-mail or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means.”

The report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the Internet, with data collected through phone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between December 28, 2009 and January 19, 2010. The sampling reviewed the responses of 2,259 adults, age 18 and older. Pew Internet reports a 95% confidence rate that the range of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

The Internet & American Life Project continues to conduct surveys and analyze research on Internet-related issues that continue to impact the daily lives of Americas, as part of a nonpartisan, not-for-profit initiative. The team has been examining the social impact of the Internet since the late 1990s.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism aims to conduct research to better understand the information revolution. This project specifically evaluates press performance through content analysis in a manner that simultaneously helps journalists who produce the news and news consumers.

The Pew Internet & American Life Center is currently conducting research on what specific technologies are utilized the most, what people are doing online and how consumers are using Pew’s research. For more information, visit the Pew Internet homepage.

By Ashley Dischinger

Investigation of School Official Monitoring Students Raises Issue of Privacy Rights

28 02 2010

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Facebook pages, Twitter updates, YouTube videos, blogs and other popular social media tools certainly demonstrate our culture’s tendency to favor transparency over privacy. Still, the recent controversy involving an FBI investigation into allegations that a Pennsylvania school official remotely monitored a student in his home causes one to question the boundaries of personal privacy.

The family of the student filed a lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District, accusing an assistant principal of spying on their son through his laptop’s webcam.

CNN reports:

“District Superintendent Christopher McGinley rejected allegations. ‘At no time did any high school administrator have the ability or actually access the security-tracking software,’ he said. ‘We believe that the administrator at Harriton has been unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family.’”

Still, school officials admit they failed to make families aware of laptop features that allow the school to monitor the computer hardware.

The Lower Merion School District would be within their legal rights to remotely access student laptops if one were reported lost or stolen. The correct procedure, so as to not violate privacy laws, is to request access from the district’s technology and security department and receive authorization before utilizing the security feature.

The development of new technologies such as the laptops’ security-tracking software certainly presents several advantages, yet the potential invasion of privacy undermines the benefits. The capability of school officials to remotely monitor unsuspecting students in their own homes has frightening implications. A simple abuse of power can easily result in the potential violation of students’ privacy rights, as demonstrated in the ongoing Pennsylvania investigation.

The ongoing Lower Marion School District investigation isn’t the only case regarding student privacy issues. A New York middle school assistant principal, Dan Ackerman, is at the center of a similar controversy. After the introduction of a new technology program, aimed at enhancing the education of its students, Ackerman openly details how he can activate student webcams and monitor their activities remotely.

In an interview with Frontline, Ackerman said:

“6th and 7th grade have cameras. This kid looks like they’re editing their MySpace page…they don’t even realize that we’re watching. I always like to mess with them and take a picture…nine times out of 10 they duck out of the way, then they shut down and get to work.”

For the sake of maintaining a certain degree of discretion, both online and in day-to-day life, let’s hope this is not a lasting trend. New technologies promoting transparency ought to be embraced, but those that endanger basic human privacy rights warrant serious re-evaluation.

By Ashley Dischinger

Live Web broadcasts of Woods press conference challenge major television networks

23 02 2010

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Regardless of your opinion of Tiger Woods’ widely publicized marital indiscretions, it’s impossible to deny the Web’s significant role in generating conversation surrounding public controversy. The latest in Woods’ dramatic saga comes after Friday’s press conference in which the golfer made his first public statement since the eruption of scandal back in November 2009.

The press conference was broadcast live on all major television networks, but it was the online sector that enjoyed an extensive audience.

Mashable reported:

“We thought the event might be huge given the interest in the Woods scandal and the fact that the event took place during the U.S. work day.”

Ustream hosted a live broadcast of Woods’ statement that echoed the powerful results that Mashable predicted. Ustream, a CBS News partner, drew over 683,000 viewers during the press conference. Ustream’s popularity draws from its easy accessibility for those in the workplace at the time of the 11 a.m. ET broadcast, leaving only the option of Internet viewing.

The site’s interactive and social media features generate additional page hits.  The Social Stream feature allows users to chat with people across the world over Twitter, providing a constant newsfeed. Ustream viewers were able to watch Woods’ statement while reading viewer’s comments and opinions in real time.

Users can opt to follow live updates by connecting to Ustream’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Mashable reported user contributions totaling 3,300 updates to the Social Stream and 93,000 tweets about the conference within the first hour. Viewer feedback through Twitter and the Social Stream was unfiltered and represented a wide range of opinions, both accepting and critical of Woods’ statement.

Livestream, Hulu and YouTube are other popular sources that streamed the press conference live. Mashable reported a total of millions of live viewers on Web sites alone.

Web sites like Ustream will continue to increase popularity of live broadcasts through social media integration. As society continues to migrate toward online news sources, the combination of live video streaming and social media will generate buzz about major media events in unprecedented ways.

By Ashley Dischinger