You've Been Facebooked!

There seems to be a fascination (American) with turning nouns into verbs, so now you can be "facebooked."
verb: The action of 1) looking someone up on the facebook website or 2) asking someone to be your friend on facebook.

That girl I met at the frat last night facebooked me this morning.

If you are a member of this particular online social computing community, you can also "poke" someone (a kind of gentle message without content), send an email-style message to them or leave a message on their "wall."

So what is thefacebook?

According to Mark Zuckerberg (founder):

"The idea for the website was motivated by a social need at Harvard to be able to identify people in other residential houses—Harvard is a fairly unfriendly place. While each residential house listed directories of their residents, I wanted one online directory where all students could be listed. And I’ve always enjoyed building things and puttering around with computer code, so I sat down and in about a week I had produced the basic workings of the site.

We had a launch plan to enter into other colleges based on where friends would be most likely to overlap, so the site spread organically based upon that model and now we operate on a broad spectrum of campuses. It doesn’t make sense to exclude anybody or any college from the resources that facebook offers. This is a product that should be fun and useful for all college students.

We don’t view the site as an online community—we bill it as a directory that is reinforcing a physical community. What exists on the site is a mirror image of what exists in real life.

To a certain extent, the website is unfortunate because it oversimplifies things. Everybody’s concept of having a friend is different. It can definitely blur the relationships that exist between people. But in the end, I think that thefacebook can only reinforce preexisting communities. We think we have been particularly successful in strengthening those relationships that exist between people who are only “fringe friends.”

It’s not unusual for us to receive an email from somebody saying, “I spend all of my time on your website and now I have less of a social life than I had before.” We would much rather have people meet people through the website and go out and party than stay at home on a Friday night reading other people’s profiles. And it’s surprising, but we have actually received far less complaints about stalking than we otherwise would have expected."

Quick Facts
- 12 million users (*MySpace has 54 million users)
- 300 million page views per 24-hour period - page views surpasses Google
Facebook comes in seventh in terms of overall traffic on the entire Web
- 70% of users use the site every day
- 85% use it once a week
- 93% visit monthly
- the site makes more than a million dollars a month in ad revenue
- since its start, a high school edition and a photo upload and tagging option was added

I joined facebook myself mostly to see what it was all about. I knew that my college-aged sons both used it. (It seemed like my younger son - a freshman in 2005 - met a hundred people at his school through facebook during orientation and the first weeks - plus all his high school friends at other schools that were added to his friends list - and then their friends who added him...)

I felt pretty sad at first because I had no one to add to my list. I started with my sons who "allowed" me to be their friends (you do have to approve someone's request to be added) though they made me promise never to put something on their wall.

Facebook is not really for mom and dad...
I sense that parents/adults play no real role in facebook, though alumni can create accounts for their alma mater (if you graduated before 1995 I would not expect to find any of your classmates there) and faculty can have a profile at their school. I really didn't like that my profile said "You have 0 friends at NJIT." Who would? So I had to facebook a few students that I thought would say OK to my request.

Then I started searching on students I had taught in my former K-12 days. Found a few and sent them a message. And that led to a few of their classmates finding me. Social networking...

Now I have 37 friends - which by facebook standards is pretty pathetic it seems. Of course, I only have 55 people on my AOL AIM buddy list (also considered pathetic) so 37 seems about right.

It has been interesting to hear from former students. More interesting to see them, as everyone posts pictures which you can view if you are a friend.

I have shown the site to a few real-life/ in-the-flesh friends and colleagues and the most common comments are:

- Yeah. So what's the point? [Remember, most of my friends are old.]

- Why does everyone seem to have an alcoholic drink in their hand in all the pictures? [sad but true]

- Many more females. [Overall on facebook - I'm not sure. They definitely are more likely to add me as a friend than former male students. Just as they have always been more likely to come back to visit, spot you at a Yankees game and say hello, mail you a letter, IM you etc. Nothing new about that.]

- Wouldn't it scare you if you had a daughter and she was posting pictures, her dorm room #, email address and other info online? [Yes}

- Doesn't it scare you that your sons are doing that? [To a degree - but maintaining a common double standard, not much.]

- Don't you think employers will check this kind of site when screening clients? [I've heard about that. I doubt it's widespread but employers can get access through students, faculty and alumni from an applicant's school. I saw a posting that said " is who you portray you are, but Facebook is who you really are.” Last fall, North Carolina State University disciplined several students for underage drinking after a resident assistant found party photos of them on Facebook. A few days after students rushed the football field following a Penn State win over Ohio State, campus police found pictures of the incident containing identifiable students on Facebook. Northern Kentucky and the University of Kentucky both have disciplined students they’d seen drinking in pictures posted on Facebook. Campus police at George Washington University use Facebook to find underage drinkers. Employers and the career center at the University of Kansas use Facebook to evaluate students being considered for KU jobs.

- What about identity theft? [As with any sitaution where you reveal personal information, facebook could open you up to id theft by giving someone enough information to attempt to create a fake account.]

- You can't seriously think that these people actually have 345 "friends"? [Well, not the way we may have once defined friend. I'm pretty confident that someone who has 345 friends on facebook and 150 buddies on AIM realizes that they are not friends in the same way as their 6 really close friends that they see face-to-face regularly.]

That last point has been borne out by research on the Millennial Generation.

I'm going to send a few messages to students in my facebook friends list and ask them to comment here on this blog about my facebook observations. We'll see if they are more likely to comment than my "adult" colleagues who were sent this blog's link prior to my March 10 presentation.

I also just facebooked Mark Zuckerberg. He has 323 friends already, but hey, you can always use a friend, right?

Personal Broadcasting: Podcasting and beyond

If keeping a blog is a form of participatory journalism, then creating your own podcasts and offering them for download is one form of personal broadcasting.

It's not the only form. started out as a way to offer space to bands and artists without recording contracts so that they could offer mp3 music downloads and get their music heard. They still offer that but they are better known these days for the many personal sites that teens have created there. Another popular indie band site is

Internet broadcasting AKA webcasting is competing with - and frightening - traditional, over-the-air radio stations. There are thousands of streams with music and talk being offered by webcasters.

You'll also find crossover. Traditional radio stations are also offering their programming on the web (like my local NPR station in New York City WNYC) and are offering podcasts of archived shows. But I'm not talking about the big guys when I say personal broadcasting.

I'd say that colleges starting out with podcasts (sometimes called coursecasting, though it involves more than just course materials) are somewhere in the middle.

You have big university podcasting programs like Purdue's Boilercast. Listen to a few lectures - if you can. I find them unendurable. 90 minutes of unedited audio (sometimes with frequent references to things on the whiteboard or in an unseen PowerPoint!) It's almost like turning back the clock to the distance learning courses that used 90 minute videotapes of lectures (grad courses at 3 hours - yipes!) We've been celebrating the death of those tapes the last few years at NJIT and I'd hate to see us go back.

Take a look at Stanford's coursecasting that is part of Apple's iTunes U. More interesting. They offer lectures too but also sports, books & authors, music and campus speakers. They range from a few minutes to two hours in length.

Our own first semester of podcast experiments at NJIT includes formal, scripted lectures on World Literature, vodcasts (video podcasts) on Calculus I that run from 6-15 minutes, Calculus II audio lectures done live in class featuring homework solutions so that students can run through the solutions again after class. We are using a "Computers & Society" course that will offer video & audio-only versions to see how students use each. We are very interested in podcasts that have a "shelf life" that goes beyond one semester. Professor Eric Hetherington is preparing podcasts for selected topics for his "Engineering Ethics" course that he believes will be reusable.

We are uploading files in late February/early March to and the files are currently open to the public. You can listen on your computer to any individual podcast or subscribe to a series using iTunes, iPodder or other podcast receivers. We have directions online. The experiment is in progress and we'd like to hear from you if you try out any of our files.

Another crossover in personal broadcasting can be found in blogs that are using audio files:, and are examples.

Audioblogger allows you to do blogs with audio and you can submit your text by email and your audio by phone!

The Academic Blogosphere

Blogs are being used in many secondary schools and colleges. They are used for a variety of purposes: authentic writing assignments, collaborative assignments, asynchronous class discussion...

Here are some links to blogging information and some academic blogs to get you started.

  • An article "Schools grapple with policing students' online journals" by Amanda Paulson, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Web of Influence "Blogging blogs and the bloggers who blog them" -used for the Bryn Mawr College CSEM course "Web of Influence" taught by Doug Blank and Laura Blankenship.
  • Donna Strickland, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia teaches a course called Topics in Writing: Blogging in Theory and Practice - take a look at her syllabus for some good ideas about topics for blogging in classes. She also has a course blog at
  • A Weblog for the Seton Hall University Executive Ed.D. program with work, links, comments and resources
  • My own poetry blog is used to supplement my poetry writing website - Poets Online and allows interaction with the poets who contribute to the site.
  • weblogg-ed (read it as weblogged or weblog edUCATION - it's about both) is from Will Richardson a NJ high school teacher who is leaving the classroom to focus full time on his discussions and reflections on the use of blogs, wikis, RSS, audiocasts and other Read/Write Web related technologies in K-12 (though there's no reason to limit this - please people, let's think more about K20). His book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is a good investment for anyone starting out in this.
  • provides free blogs for teachers, researchers, librarians and other education professionals.Create an ad-free, full-featured WordPress that includes a free Yacapaca assessment tool from the Chalkface Project.
  • Educational Weblogs - Disruptive Technology Resource for Educators using Weblogs, Blogware, Collaborative tools, RSS & Podcasting, web services and digital tools at home, school, university and community.
  • Try the Academic Blogs list at Blog Flux Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

What is this thing called Web 2.0?

Tim O'Reilly wrote a piece on web 2.0 in 2005 that is illustrated by this mindmap created by Markus Angermeier.  Read Tim's article

You will keep seeing this term "Web 2.0" but finding a clear definition of what it is or will be is tough. Easy answer: it is what the web is becoming and (unlike Web 1.2 or whatever might have been the next version) it will be significantly different from the web we know & use today.

In this second version of the web, the architecture and the applications of the web will change.

1) This web will be interactive beyond clicking links on a page. I believe many applications will be running online, data files will be stored online "in the cloud."

2) Collaboration will be recorded in this space too. This is the web as operating system or platform.

2) This new web will require new security functions that had not been really considered in 1.0 (though that's what we should have expected and I don't blame Sir Tim Berners-Lee).

3) Web 1.0 encouraged sharing and stealing of content. 2.0 will further all of that. I don't mean to say that is a good thing. It's a social aspect that will require changes in our definitions of terms like sharing, plagiarism, fair use, copyright, ownership in the private, commercial and legal worlds.

4) New economic models will emerge of how to use this web for commercial moneymaking purposes. Web 1.0 never saw that. Now it's obvious.

5) Internet2 is an attempt to create another web for education and research use, but the other players will also want that speed and be willing to pay for it. If they stay separated, the "commodity" internet may end up being faster, stronger and more cutting edge then the research web. As with most technology in education from K to 20, education will be playing with the old toys.


Academics Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Social Computing Gets Some Bad Press

You've probably seen some TV news coverage or articles about forms of social computing. MySpace and Facebook have gotten a lot of ink and sound bites lately.

Take this excerpt from the Business Week December 2005 cover story

"Preeminent among these virtual hangouts is, whose membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members. Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Millions also hang out at other up-and-coming networks such as, which connects college students, and, an agglomeration of shared blogs. A second tier of some 300 smaller sites, such as Buzz-Oven,, and, operate under -- and often inside or next to -- the larger ones. Although networks are still in their infancy, experts think they're already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real-world interactions..."

Wired News talks about the fact that news mogul Rupert Murdoch invested $500 million in Murdoch's company senses that social computing taps into very basic modern desires by young people to meet, connect and promote oneself and he can see the potential for advertising there.

The complaints with MySpace (and other sites including Facebook) and high school & college students and pre-teens are much the same as fears that were voiced years ago about chat rooms and instant messaging.

  • the type of content teens are posting (photos, contact information including email, IM name, phone numbers, dorm room numbers etc.)
  • fears about the type of people they are meeting (stalkers, sexual predators)

There is a criminal probe into MySpace by the Connecticut Attorney following reports that a number of underage girls in that state were found to have had consensual sexual relations with adult males they'd
met through the site.

From THE EXPONENT at Purdue University
"Recently, the Purdue Police Department has trained officers on how to use and navigate the increasingly-popular Facebook Web site. The police may eventually use the Web site as an investigative tool, because many of its users are so open about their lives - even the illegal activities they may be involved in. Though many Facebook users are angered by the thought that police officers may be viewing their profiles, we believe that if students openly post personal information on an online forum, the police have every right to look at it - and possibly use that information against the Facebook members."

Is Folksonomy Taxonomy or Fauxonomy?

Folksonomy: folk + taxonomy - refers to the collaborative but informal way in which information is being categorized on the web. Users are encouraged to assign freely chosen keywords/tags to images or data. Most commonly found on sites that share photographs, personal libraries, bookmarks, and blogs which often allow tags for each entry.

You may be familiar with scientific classifications.

Do you recall studying the taxonomy of organisms? [Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species]

There are taxonomies that are not considered "scientific" because they include sociological factors. In academia, many of us know Bloom's Taxonomy - the classification of educational objectives and the theory of mastery learning.

Non-scientific classification systems are referred to as folk taxonomies, but the academic community does not accept folksonomy into either area. In fact, some who support scientific taxonomies have dubbed folksonomies as fauxonomies.

Others see folksonomy as a part of the path to creating a semantic web. It's a web that contains computer-readable metadata that describes its content. This metadata (tags) allows for precision searching.

If you have ever tried to get a group of readers or graders to agree on how to evaluate writing using a rubric, you might understand how hard it would be to get the creators of web content tag content in a consistent and reliable way.

Some examples of standards for tagging include Dublin Core and the RSS file format used for podcasts (such as that used in iTunes). All of this really grew out of the use of XML. Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a general-purpose markup language (as is HTML) that was at least partially created to facilitate the sharing of data across different systems, particularly systems connected via the Internet.

Folksonomies do have advantages. They are user-generated and therefore easy (inexpensive) to implement. Metadata in a folksonomy (for example, the photo tags on comes from individuals interacting with content not administrators at a distance. This type of taxonomy conveys information about the people who create the tags and a kind of user community portrait may emerge. Some sites allow you to then link to other content from like-minded taggers. (We have similar taste in photos or music, so let's check out each others links.) Users become engaged.

There are problems: idiosyncratic tagging that actually makes searches LESS precise. And  polysemes & synonyms (words which have multiple related meanings) may be inferior to using some agreed-upon criteria.