I think most of us can agree that no social networking site is without flaws. Myspace has too many spammers, embedded graphical non-sense, and grammatically deficient users. Facebook has too many worthless applications and incessant notifications and bulletins. Twitter has too many users who vomit content and decimate relevant information through retweets and link postings. I’m sure we could all come up with a list of grievances in regards to our frustrations with each of these websites, but that is beside the point.
I got to thinking this morning (as I scrolled through the dozens of weekly bulletins I’ve accumulated from each of the Facebook groups to which I belong) that these kinds of frustrations should have been addressed by the advent of Web 2.0; the paradigm shift from static to user-generated dynamic content. I realize that many of the problems are generated by users themselves; whether that be through sending out mass-messages or writing applications. However, shouldn’t there be some kind of line drawn or some kind of governance to keep Web 2.0 sleek and useful?
Perhaps looking at the source of the problem would be more effective than trying to regulate it (conservatives would agree with me). I believe that at the heart of the matter there is a particular construct that exists in the subconscious of nearly every Web 2.0 user. I’d like to call this construct “The Web 1.0 Parasite.” It’s an inner tendency to “suck” the value and efficacy out of user-generated content by broadcasting annoying, repetitive, and static information.
Let’s think about this practically for a second. Say you are the administrator/creator of a Facebook group for your community’s theater troupe and there are weekly shows at several different locations that you want members to know about/attend. What’s your solution? Send a message to the members that tells them about the shows. Let’s also say that this is the first message you have ever sent to the members. Do you think they will read it? Assuming they haven’t been bombarded by messages from other groups recently, they probably will.
Now let’s say that you’ve been sending weekly newsletters to the group for 37 weeks straight letting them know about the troupe’s great performances. Do you think they will read Facebook newsletter No. 38? Probably not. Why? Because your message is static. Users can’t interact with a verbal broadcast and they probably don’t want to either. Yet this can be a very frustrating problem for administrators. All you want to do is share information and get people to support local theater, but unfortunately you have fallen victim to the Web 1.0 parasite. You have managed to suck the possibility of users interacting with information in a Web 2.0 fashion by embracing the rather archaic email blast!
But don’t be too alarmed. This behavior is more of a rule rather than an exception. You can combat the Web 1.0 parasite by scaling back. Chances are you already have posted the crucial information on some sort of community bulletin board. Rather than reiterating this information through messages, encourage discussion about it (most people like to give their opinion on something). Intentionally (and strategically) leave out some information to get them talking. In essence, generate a buzz instead of being a buzzkill. By allowing people to be users and not drones, you can leverage the potential in social networks and other Web 2.0 tools. This may be difficult at first, but I suspect that it will be valuable for you in the end.