Social Media Sea-Change & Sea-Sorrow: Changing the Rules?

“Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.” Shakespeare, The Tempest

The past week seems to have engendered a sea-change of sorts in social media. It started off small.


3 Strikes & You're .... Out!

“Twitter was always designed to be public,” said John Verdi, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “And I think folks understand that whatever they post on Twitter is meant to be searchable. So I don’t see a big issue here.”

CNN: Library of Congress to Archive your Tweets:

My reaction is that this is a good thing. I suspect there are some folk who are upset, and perhaps one of them can explain why. For me, I have been unhappy with the poverty of access to my personal archive through Twitter themselves, and have hopes that the Library of Congress may do better in this respect than Twitter has. For those who are concerned about their personal privacy, the preservation initiative applies only to public tweets, and if you didn’t want them to be out on the Internet, then don’t say it in public. What am I missing here?


Then it got a little trickier and more divisive of the communities.

3 Strikes & You're .... Out!: Metanomics on the New Second Life Terms of Service

New Terms of Services:
Effective date: April 30, 2010

SL: Metanomics 100th

Robert Bloomfield: I actually draw a big distinction between World of Warcraft and Second Life, and the story I tell is, World of Warcraft is sort of like Disneyland. Disney created all the attractions so, of course, you pay Disney for everything. Whereas, Second Life is like a competitor that says, “Hey, we’re not going to build the attractions, but here’s a pile of tools and some scripting tools as well, and you can create an attraction on our land, rent the land from us, and then when people come in they’ll pay you for the attraction, and you pay us for the rights to build here.”

Joshua Fairfield: Now if you think about the fact of who created it, who creates content, in that way Second Life’s a lot closer to Facebook. Facebook keeps trying to take the personal information of the people that use Facebook. They keep trying to assert an ownership, a license interest in that information. And they can do that because their license says, “Although you created it, we get to exercise legal rights over it.” And that’s more or less what Linden’s saying. They’re saying, “Although you created this content, we get to exercise certain legal rights over it.”

Metanomics: April 14 – New Second Life TOS and Metanomics 100th Episode:
Metanomics Transcript:

The Metanomics show was really balanced, although the audience reaction showed their concern. Then right after that, wow (no real surprise), lawsuit!

Three Strikes: Second Life

McCue, Dan. Players Want Real Money from Virtual World. Courthouse News, April 20, 2010.

“Desperate for a participant base to generate profits, Linden made a calculated business decision to depart from the industry standard of denying that participants had any virtual items, land and/or goods,” the plaintiffs say. Linden Labs announced the policy in a November 2003 press release titled “Second Life Residents to Own Digital Creations.”

Seems that the new Terms of Service have struck a nerve?


3 Strikes & You're .... Out!

“So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale.”
NING Creators: Ning Update: NEW URL:

I’ve seen more and more social media spaces driven toward monetization strategies that cut their base. I expect the next step to be a long drawn out death of these same companies. For me, I find social networks still a hard enough sell for most people to grasp that I see especially small niche networks as a hard sell. A social network takes a lot of work, devoted staff (volunteer or paid), passion. The smaller the network, the MORE it takes to make it survive and thrive. NING has for years offered a bridge space, a way for niche communities to get their feet wet and try out whether a social network works for them. Examples of these niche communities include health support groups, K-12 educators, individual college classes, local or small professional associations, local government groups, community advocacy groups, individual church communities, hobby enthusiasts, and much more. Many of these groups have little or no money to support a new fee-structure for established services.

3 Strikes & You're .... Out!
Modulist: “This confirms all my reservations about building communities on third party services like NING.”

The comments to which @Modulist was replying are these:
@GFry: “The new business model: We give it for free. Let you develop for years. Then close the “for free” version. Bravo NING!”
@GFry: “This NING announcement should be framed. I expect many such free services will be terminated in similar fashion.”

These are all serious concerns. To my mind, NING has closed. It is dead. It is no longer a viable service, and I will not recommend it to faculty or friends. What will I recommend to people? For now, I am recommending Wetpaint, which I actually have liked better than Ning for quite a while.

“Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.” Shakespeare, The Tempest

While I was working on this blogpost, Facebook joined the club.

3 Strikes & You're .... Out!: EFF on Facebook Privacy Policies

Opsahl, Kurt. Facebook Further Reduces Your Control Over Personal Information. Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 19, 2010.

“Keep in mind that Facebook Pages you connect to are public. You can control which friends are able to see connections listed on your profile, but you may still show up on Pages you’re connected to. If you don’t want to show up on those Pages, simply disconnect from them by clicking the “Unlike” link in the bottom left column of the Page. You always decide what connections to make.”
Facebook: Connecting to Everything You Care About:

Four strikes? Ah, well. The basic message is:
1) The environment of social media is changing dramatically right now.
2) The free and open atmosphere present to date does not seem likely to persist.
3) Monetization strategies (the main drivers of this shift) are being explored, and no typical successful model has yet emerged.
4) These changes will most likely present a period of time during which many special, underserved and underfunded populations who have embraced social media to empower their communities will now find access reduced, limited or will be excluded, with the concomitant need or opportunity for national and local governments as well as philanthropic and grant agencies to create truly open resources and online community spaces to fill this gap.
5) For any working in this area on either an enterprise or personal level, two primary concerns must be how to preserve your own access to your own content, and how to create systemic redundancy and flexibility in case of tools that either fail, restrict access or become inaccessible in other ways.

I’d like to close with a cogent comment also from Gilles Fry of ACOR.

3 Strikes & You're .... Out!
@GFry: “If you are using any free, cloud-based service, what is your exit & backup strategy? Fundamental question for all of us!”


10 responses to “Social Media Sea-Change & Sea-Sorrow: Changing the Rules?

  1. Monetization of small social network is a full-time job and takes real expertize to pull off. It’s not as easy as slapping some advertising onto a site or charging membership fees. For either an advertising or membership model, there’s a lot of back-end work and management — including fiscal management and accountability — that people are not aware of.

    Most small social network sites don’t have the bandwidth to make the leap into monetization. Their staff members are already working at breakneck speed just to keep up with the community and its needs.


    • Dana, I agree COMPLETELY. You expressed this beautifully, and much more coherently than I did. Sorry if I wasn’t clear – I was referring to monetization of the platforms not the specific community. I suspect that shifting fees to the end-user will result in a much larger digital divide and exclusion of the people who most need and most benefit from the platform and its services.


  2. UPDATE: Just saw this post from NING. I guess we’ll see what happens.


  3. Patricia, I just re-read your piece and got the context that I had missed before.


  4. I think what I said still relates in some ways because small communities often can’t monetize their own community, which is why they are on free platforms to begin with.


    • You got it! I work a lot with patient communities, which are often comprised of people who are struggling to pay their medical bills. The very idea of any kind of charge will often rule a platform out. I know there are HUGE numbers of patient communities on NING because I’ve reported on them previously. Any charge will be a problem, and adds insult to injury, literally.


  5. Another update. I LOVE this post referring to Facebook’s new policy as a privacy hairball. 🙂 At the end they give instructions on how to OPT-OUT. Important.


  6. “I remain Chairman, the current management team remains exactly the same, and the Ning service continues unchanged.”
    An Update from Ning Chairman & Co-Founder Marc Andreessen
    Posted by Marc Andreessen on March 15, 2010 – 8:30 am

    I don’t know – this sounds a little misleading to me.


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