Rodrigo Rosenfeld Rosas

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ - something is still missing

Fri, 30 Dec 2011 12:00:00 +0000 (last updated at Mon, 02 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000)

What is missing in all those social networking media? Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, Google+?


I'll start with specific issues for Twitter and then I'll discuss the major general issue none of them have managed to fix yet.

Being able to fit an idea in just a few chars means it can't be significant. Yet there are lots of people trying to express their political opinions on Twitter as if had any meaningful value.

Twitter could be an useful platform if was basic a set of article titles followed by a link. Something like Reddit, but instead of subscribing to topics (subreddit) one would subscribe to some people's suggested articles. I could certainly use Twitter if that was how it worked.

The big issue with all of them: lack of proper filtering by tag

It seems all social media didn't realize yet that people are interested in multiple subjects, but not in all of them.

David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) seems to be interested in Ruby, Rails, programming and car racing, for example. David Chelimsky seems to be interested in Ruby and Choro (a Brazilian music genre).

Maybe both Davids would be interested in listening to each other's opinion on Ruby and programming, but I'd suspect Chelimsky wouldn't be interested in what DHH has to say about car racing as much as DHH is probably not interested in videos from Chelimsky playing the cavaco (a Brazilian instrument typically used in Choro and Samba).

These days everyone has a strong opinion on many political topics, such as liberalism/communism, feminism, left/right, immigration, abortion, religion or whatever trending subject. We're all specialists in everything and we get angry when our friends expresses themselves with an opposite point of view. Sometimes that's enough for completely breaking the relationship.

This leads to a really toxic environment, since people are not interested in arguing at all. They already have an strong opinion and they think they will be able to change other's opinion with their arguments but that never happens in practice. All they get is an hostile environment.

Just like David Chelimsky, I do also love Choro and Samba and several of my friends are related to those genres and we often meet each other to play Choro or Samba. That's how we met in the first place. Then I connected to them in Facebook and that's when certain problems arise.

Several of them are big supporters of Lula, Brazilian's president between 2002 and 2010, while I never supported him. I always found him to be a liar and corrupt and have always expressed this way in Facebook. As a result I lost some of those friends that didn't tolerate my opinions on politics. On the other side we never had any kind of problems when playing together in a Choro or Samba session.

Social medias should be able to understand how toxic an environment could become if we don't filter what we're going to say to other people. Or they seem to get it in the opposite way of how I think things should work.

Facebook and Google+ allows one to group their connections. So you're able to group them by topic like Ruby, Programming, Choro, Politics and so on. That could possibly fix the issue, but there's a problem. How can you possibly know who would be actually interested in what you have to say regarding each topic. It could be a wild guess.

It should work the other way around. Whenever publishing something we would tag the subject(s) of the post from a list of tags we maintain. So, Chelimsky would be able to see that DHH provides 2 tags: #racing and #programming. He might choose to subscribe to #programming. By doing that he wouldn't see in his timeline any posts by DHH related to racing or any other general subject except for programming related ones. DHH on the other side would be able to subscribe to the Ruby tag from Chelimsky and wouldn't see videos of Choro sessions from Chelimsky in his timeline. Since I'm both interested in Ruby and Choro I might not filter Chelimsky's posts at all.

Sometimes the filter works the other way around. Rather than willing to filter in specific topics we'd want to be able to filter out some tags. Maybe I'm interested in all activities from my friends except for their opinion on politics. So it would be quite useful if we could "flag" what we'd consider SPAM basically. I know some people who love to post comic/fun posts. I don't usually get the fun out of it, so if they tagged such posts as #joke I could opt to filter out any post tagged that way.

The lack of such tag subscription/filtering mechanism leads to a very toxic environment with lots of unnecessary anger and a very polluted timeline. The result being a loss of interest in social media as it wastes a lot of our time, while providing very little value. There are so many jokes or political discussions that we often miss what our friends are actually doing.

And the existing social media networks get it very close as they allow people to tag their posts. But they don't allow us to actually see filtered content only. Once they fix this missing bit I think it will make all the difference.

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