Saturday, January 19, 2008

Communication versus self-expression in social networking and blogs

Heather Green of BusinessWeek and the Blogspotting blog had solicited feedback from Netscape/Ning founder Marc Andreessen on doing an update of her 2005 BW cover story on blogs and has summarized his feedback. This was all well and good, but I had trouble with the way Marc seemed to be distinguishing social networking from blogs in terms of communication versus self-expression. I commented on her summary and reproduce my comments here:

I am a little baffled by the overloading of the term "communication" in the context of social networking as posited by Marc.

Before reading this post, I would not have ever imagined that anybody would have suggested that social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook were any less about self-expression than about "communication." Nor would I have ever imagined that a blog was not just as much about communication as an act of self-expression. Blogging and non-blogging social networking both seem to be about both communication and self-expression.

Anybody want to clarify the distinction for me?

Be forewarned, I am adamantly opposed to attempts to overload simple English words with meanings that are not already in the dictionary. The idea that "communication" should have some narrower, constrained meaning in the context of non-blogging social networking seems a bit bizarre to say the least.

That said, I am quite curious why Marc is trying to use "communication" as a distinction between social networking in general and blogging in particular.

Just guessing, maybe he simply means that a social networking site provides a broader range of communication features while blogging provides a narrower range. But, that is simply a guess on my part.

Another possibility, that has nothing to do with communication per se is that a standalone blog tends to focus on "me" with links mostly as references to "sources", while a social networking "site" adds a strong emphasis on "my group" and a sense of community.

So, I am now guessing that Marc is really using "communication" as a placeholder for a tighter sense of "community." Again, this is simply a guess on my part.

Blogging also has a sense of community, but in a somewhat looser sense. Sure, you can "network" to some extent using blogs, but not anywhere near as effectively as with a "networking" site.

Finally, if you are going to broaden the story to cover non-blogging forms of social networking I would suggest that it include a discussion of "professional networking" as exemplified by LinkedIn. Sure, you can do professional networking with Facebook, but it seems a bit odd referring to professional acquaintances as "friends."

-- Jack Krupansky

I got no response in that post. Maybe somebody here could respond.

Maybe this is simply one of the overall symptoms of the current state of blogging in particular and social networking in general: vague confusion.

-- Jack Krupansky


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