Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Academic networking ...

I was reading Christy Tucker's latest blog post about Sakai 3 in which he makes the following comment:

Social networks now are either about content (flickr, delicious) or people (Facebook, LinkedIn).

Academic networking: friends isn’t enough
Content and activity-based–reading the same articles, taking the same classes

which is probably a pretty good categorisation. The problem remains however it's not just friends, it's builidng in tools in academic networking that allow students to protect their identity should they wish to do, and that doesn't seem to be quite there. Listening to the session itself is a little more illuminating but the concept is that people want to know what other people on the course are doing, reading, sharing etc. And this bring us to obfuscation.

Sharing content is fine if people want to share it out. So someone who finds a video of Zimbardo talking about the Stanford prison experiment YouTube and posts it to a course forum is fine. No needs to know who they are as the system knows that.

The real problem is when people explicitly want to know what other people are doing, and that's where consent comes in. And this makes for a slightly more sophisticated version of sharing.

Push sharing, as I do with the 'interesting links' thing is fine, just as posting to a website is fine as the user makes a concsious decision to do so.

Imposed sharing where someone's activity is revealed by default is not. And that's the nub.

It's the difference between seeing 'Sherry's doing this' to 'Sherry has posted a link'. In other words revealing participation requires consent.


Facebook, which had the merit of obfuscating people's profile pages to keep things unguessable if you wanted to keep it that way is offering human memorable profile names. While they claim that this will not have implications for people's privacy settings it does mean that their profile names are guessable, which in part is the problem we've been grappling with obfuscating students LMS profiles ...