When Good Social Networks Go Bad

facebook“When we use a social network religiously, we feel a sense of ownership. Which is what the social network’s parent company wants us to feel: a sense of loyalty. But with that sense of ownership, we feel entitlement as well. Entitled to being part of the process of change, to be able to give our input before change happens, to be able in some way to control the change.

While some smaller companies do gather input from their users to determine modifications of their services, most larger ones, like Facebook, will make changes often, and seemingly at random. We’re left scratching our heads or panicking because of the potential negative impacts of the new changes on our social media presences.”

via Surviving Sudden Social Network Changes: Business Collaboration News «.

Posted, ironically, using WordPress.com’s “Press This” utility.

Sound familiar?

WordPress.com is not the only social network where I’ve experienced this kind of change. All the icons above represent services that I started using way back when they still felt like close-knit communities, flickr and last.fm being the most painful transitions thus far.

The kind of heated discussions that we’ve seen in the WordPress.com Support forums and elsewhere during the last few months over implementation of reblogging, the 30-minute “Under Review by Staff” delay and such like are all symptoms of the collision between a rapidly growing service and those of us not directly associated with it who may feel, correctly or not, a certain amount of “entitlement”. As a for-profit business, I have no doubt that WordPress.com will continue to go through major changes and have made a conscious decision to “keep calm and carry on“.

But it won’t keep me from thinking that it’s a failure for everyone concerned when a service no longer listens to its most devoted users.

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6 thoughts on “When Good Social Networks Go Bad

  1. As a blogger newby, I cannot help but say i am so buried trying to navigate all this stuff, but even that said, the changes i see are disheartening. I think the intent of the web is being corrupted, but I’m not all that sure that should be a surprise. I think I’ve inherited Ziggy’s cynical gene.

  2. Being a cynic is an old Jewish tradition, I believe. That’s how old Jews got to be old. :)

    I’d be interested to hear your take on what you consider “the intent of the web”.

  3. I’m just wondering if there’s a different business management style that’s evolving right now because things are happening so fast on the product changes and transparency of communication among social media communities:

    If we can use the example of the big oil companies and what they try to do (even if we don’t always agree with their public relations spin) when there is a disaster, safety problem: they eventually take ownership of the problem, and try to explain themselves. Try to explain how they are solving the problem, despite ongoing lawsuits. Because many years later, they have ad campaigns to demonstrate how green they are/how their products/processes might be a wee “greener”.

    But with the reblogging issue where experienced bloggers, writers and may I add, educators who teach children and others how to research, cite and write original pieces of work, there seemed to be very little effort by WordPress to explain to customers that reblogging was just a process /feature which they could not control the end result, or whatever blah, blah reason.

    I sense that social networks are just another extension of reality, at arm’s length to a parent company. In the end, the company still controls the core reality/product.

    So maybe the most positive thing from social networks, is forming closer real life and positive friendships in person with people whom we choose to meet from social media networks. So I’m still a believer in the intent of the web, if one exercises prudent judgement and selective friendships, preferably based/evolving into face-to-face meetings over time.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jean. Personally, I think companies like WordPress.com, flickr, twitter and such like have a much harder time of it than, say, oil companies simply because these companies are based on social aspects, i.e. the business would not exist but for the community. The line between can be very blurred.

      As far as the reblogging issue, If you look at the “official” discussions, specifically the announcement and comments by staff in the forums and elsewhere, they were very clear that there was no consideration of user input on the issue.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly about the the positive value in turning online relationships into real life friendships. I’ve been very blessed so far to meet and get to know quite a number of my online friends.

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