Tag Archives: socialnetworking

Stanford Facebook Class: 10 Million in 10 Weeks

Stanford Facebook Course Final – Stanford World Domination
Originally uploaded by sindy

I’ve been working somewhat with, among others, the instructors (especially BJ Fogg and Dan Ackerman Greenberg) for the Stanford Facebook class CS377W: Creating Engaging Facebook Apps, figuring out how to use Facebook and its application development platform to encourage development of apps to promote student life, aid in teaching and learning, reach out to alumni, and more. (My department, Student Computing, is currently running an app contest to encourage development of just those kinds of apps.) Wednesday night, I attended the class final– a full-blown presentation on the class (including the journey from the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab exploring how to computerize persuasion in 1993 to the development of the class itself), aims of the course, lessons learned, and, most importantly, the apps produced by the class’ 25 student teams.

The class has gotten a lot of hype, especially in the blogosphere, and much of it has been about how students were looking to find the secret to building the next big app and, in turn, making big money from it (check out this WREX-TV, NBC11.com video and try not to be distracted by the dumbed-down and sometimes nonsensical tech imagery for the narration). Much of the class focused on metrics and taking advantage of the viral nature of social networking sites like Facebook– aiming, for each app, a high number of users (especially daily active users) and high engagement (number of page views and time spent with the app). The apps developed, as you can tell from the phrase “10 million in 10 weeks,” were largely successful in achieving these goals with over 10 million installs, over one miliion daily active users, and a handful ranking in Facebook’s top 100 apps (out of over 10,000): Perfect Match, Send Hotness, Hugs, and KissMe (originally based on the Full Moon on the Quad tradition at Stanford). (Sorry if I missed any that reached the top 100.)

However, focusing on getting the largest number of users doesn’t always result in developing the “deepest” or most “socially meaningful” applications– as one commenter put it, even the “Stanford intellectual elite [can be] devoted to producing such monumental drivel.” (Before the Stanford-developed KissMe app, just think of the success of the unbelievably simple Zombies app.) So, instead of focusing on the apps that had the highest number of users, I want to point out two apps that are particularly socially conscious and show how to take advantage of the power of the Facebook network:

  • The Giving Tree – the developers of this app partnered with Kiva to piggy-back on the growing awareness of the power of microlending. Facebook users don’t even need to pony up their own money– instead, once 50 people have added one of the selected businesses to their profile, $25 is pushed to the business using money donated from companies.
  • Save the Rainforest – here, the developers partnered with The Nature Conservancy to take advantage of some of the time Facebook users are spending on the site everyday. Users play a vocabulary game and for every six correct answers, one square foot of the rainforest will be adopted through The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program. As of the class’s final presentation night (December 12, 2007), 5,000 square feet had already been saved!

You, like me, are probably trying to reduce the app clutter on your Facebook profile, but if you’re going to use apps, I think these two are certainly worth it.

And with that, I leave you with a short video of Dave McClure leading the audience in The Wave to get them psyched up for the presentations:

When did MySpace become so dirty?

Take a trip back and remember the clubland that was on the rise in NYC during the eighties and early nineties. Remember? They made a book, a documentary and then a movie about it with Seth Green and MacAulay Culkin and everything (Party Monster). All three pieces of media focused on the life of Michael Alig and his club kids and specifically, the murder of Angel Melendez that seemed to end it all. Now, while Angel’s death is certainly tragic and the effort to cover up the grotesque act is disturbing, I find the whole Clubland culture much more fascinating in general when it comes time to look back in history. Those crazy days of Clubland started off with some “innocent” fun– a bunch of kids dressing up in outrageous costumes and going to the clubs to become famous for being famous. There were substances, of course: alcohol, pot, ecstasy and even Special K, but soon Clubland was filled to the brim with every hard drug out there, young people were addicted and out of control and in the end, Clubland had become this weird, sleazy place with kids– some actually kids, some older trying to act like kids– reveling in some sick sex clown esthetic.

This is what it feels like sometimes on MySpace.

I signed up for a MySpace account a while ago because a friend of mine from high school said I should sign up. Now, I was already on Friendster, Orkut, and inCircle (the Stanford Alumni networking site that was the predecessor to Orkut). And since joining MySpace, I’ve also joined LinkedIn. It never stops and it’s sad really because I never do anything with those accounts after setting them up. Maybe I’ll put a new picture up once in a while when I get a good one, but that’s about it. Most of the time I usually end up using the system to reconnect with old friends. By putting myself out there on as many social networking sites I can, I hope that those I might have lost in touch with for whatever reason might be able to find me (and those I purposely lost touch with can see that I’m doing pretty well for myself). And this has been the case on most of these sites.

But who knew that MySpace would be the place I would reconnect with the most friends from high school and the like? And who knew MySpace with its janky site design (do you hear the circus music?) would beat out its more professional predecessors? Maybe it’s because MySpace, with its Tapioca Express color scheme and breadth of services (even though quantity not quality seems to be the rule here) hit it big when attracting young people to a place where they can easily put together an online profile, develop their own Web presence and use it to do a whole variety of things, from making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, tell each other about what’s going on in their lives, etc. Of course, the biggest thing that has happened is the downright naughtiness that has sprung up and taken over. Browse through the profiles and you’ll see a lot of photos of underage girls willing to show just about anything and equally clad guys just as eager to say anything.

Case in point: when I’m on these networking sites, I usually limit my interactions to those I know in real life and use the service as a way to come together in one virtual space to send notes to each other, let us know what’s going on in each others lives, maybe even introduce mutual friends, etc. It serves as a compliment to my social life in the real world. But now, on MySpace, aside from getting in touch with some old friends I haven’t talked to in almost 10 years, I also get the random messages asking for friendship/answer to a question or just plain out fucking. See, you take away most of the barriers to visibility, access and opportunity and we all just break down to the lowest common demonominator: sex.

Some examples of messages I have received:

Hello there. I ran across your profile on myspace and I think that you are very attractive. Check out my profile to see what you think of me and if you like what you see, you can email me at […] or message me on Yahoo ([…] is my screen name). I hope to hear from you soon.

Which is not that bad. It’s actually very nice. But here’s another one:

i’m checking my heart beats. think i’m missing one—omg…since i’m writing you personally i dont mind saying… you look fucking hot!! i would love to do you some “bad” things;)
anyway i’m not much of a writer but can talk (with an accent though;))
so if you feel comfortable gimme a call sometime. you are invited for milk and cookies;)

Does this work? Do these lines make women drop their panties and just want to fuck? I don’t know. It just seems like to me that no matter how attractive he might think I am, how could he really tell with the picture I have up there? It’s just a head shot and probably one of the more tame pictures out there compared to the naughty naughty stuff 15 and 16 year olds will put up there. Maybe I just have a look about me that invites trouble.

Now, facilitation of more risque (or at least “taboo”) and random sexual experiences has been a tried and true use of the Internet. However, for the most part, when people go on the net looking for “anonymous” sex, they usually try to stay just that: anonymous. They use pseudonyms and screennames, lie about their personal lives (spouses and the like), put up fake photos of themselves. And while people have certainly become more open about using the Internet for these kinds of interactions (just check out the casual encounters section on craigslist), I don’t know if they’re necessarily willing to divulge their identities so openly. But on MySpace, with the exception of the occasional fake celebrity profile, people seem surprisingly willing to a) divulge real and true information about themselves and b) be frank and open about their search for sex. Maybe it’s the simplicity of MySpace that invites a group of people that may be considered less “net savvy” (just take a look at some of the crap people put on their profile pages), but who they are, branch out to reconnect with old friends, and yet still reinvent themselves into something bigger and better and look for a way to meet new people and have new experiences…

Social networks

I am on way too many social networking sites for my own good:

And to be honest, I always feel like an asshole whenever I fill out the profiles on these sites– I usually just cut and paste from another site. I’m basically just making up whatever is on my mind at the moment, including descriptions of my work experience. If you had my job, you’d know that the focus of my job changes about every three months whether I like it or not and more often than not, I’m a jack of all trades.

The only real benefit I think I’ve gotten from these social networking sites is reconnecting with old friends, which is valuable in and of itself, but I don’t know if it’s worth the subconscious inferiority I feel when I don’t have a lot of friends/connections.