More musings on the essence of social networks

Thanks to Nnamdi again my understanding of what is actually going on under the hood on social networks is on the increase.  This learning by writing is one of the things I like most about blogging.
In a comment yesterday Nnamdi pointed me to Fred Stutzman’s blog.  Fred is a really insightful thinker on the whole social network space with a whole heap of interesting posts.  The one Nnamdi pointed to builds on the thinking of Jyri Engestrom about social objects (which you can read about here) and makes a distinction I have not come across before between object-centred social nets (Flickr, Delicious, Digg etc.) and ego-centred social nets (Myspace, Facebook, etc.).

This is an important distinction, and gets over the difficulties in applying Jyri’s social object model to sites that are more about people.

To address the question that got me into this in the first place, it also makes it clearer what people are doing on sites like Myspace and Facebook and starts to answer questions about their sustainability.

Fred’s site looks at this question in some detail, and he also links to a great essay by Danah Boyd which also provides some great insight.
In a nutshell, as per Fred and Danah at least, most of the activity on ego-centred sites is about self expression, self investigation and building groups of friends.  These are ‘burst of energy’ rather than ‘keep doing it for years’ activities and hence questions about the sustainability of the traffic and page views on these sites are legitimate.

I will return to this topic later, but for the impatient amongst you, check out the links above.

Thanks again Nnamdi.