Tag Archives: social software

iPhone vs. iPhone 3G by Ricky Romero (used under creative commons)

Re-post: Social networking requirements

During the December/January slowdown, Geek Feminism is re-publishing some of our highlights from last year. This post originally appeared on July 8, 2011.

I knew that someone posted on this blog discussing what requirements a feminist-informed social network would have. Turns out it was me. A year on, and due to discussions around Google+, I think I have some positive requirements. (I recommend reading the old comments thread too.)

Control over identifying information. Name, gender, age, who you are friends with, what you talk about, what events you are in, and what you look like: this is all varyingly sensitive information and should be able to be hidden.

As few restrictions as possible on identity. Allowing use of pseudonyms, not assuming that everyone has two, or two ‘important’, names, free specification of gender if specified at all. As little structured compulsory information as possible. Unstructured, free-form, and non-compulsory are key things here.

Accessibility. State of the art accessibility design including testing with screen readers, colour palettes suited to as many variants of vision as possible, collaborative transcripting and captioning of images, no flashing ads or autoplaying video.

You own your space and control entry. This means you should be able to moderate things. Being able to ignore people is good but is not enough: you likely don’t want to subject your friends to the conversation of a person who you dislike enough to ignore.

Rigorous site-level attention to spam and harassment. No one (much) wants spam, enough said. But harassment—continued interactions or attempts to interact after being told to stop, including ban evasion—should be a terms of service level violation, as should any threats (whether or not the person has been told to stop). Use of threats or hate speech in user names and default icons or other things that appear in directory listings or search results may also need to be considered. This all requires staffing and a complaints system.

Consistent access control. If you set something private, or it was private by default at the time, it should stay that way, probably to the extent where if it can’t remain private for technical reasons, it should be deleted/hidden by the site rather than made public.

Access to your work and ability to export it. The correct thing to do here is a little tricky (are other people’s comments in your space yours to export and republish, or not? what about co-owned spaces?) The autonomo.us community has had some inconclusive discussions.

Fine-grained access control. I don’t think something along the lines of that which Livejournal and its forks have had for years and which Facebook and Google+ have implemented to varying degrees, is required (public blogs have a strong presence in activist discussions) but it’s useful for more universal participation. Some people need it.

Clear limits on sharing. This is something that Google+ early testers are coming up against again and again: ‘Limited’ posts are or were shareable, a commenter using someone’s name with the + sign (eg ‘+Mary’) does or did actually invite them into private comment threads without the original poster’s input. If you offer access control, the software must make it clear what controls apply to any space, and if you have influence over that or not, so that you can control your own revelations in that space. Substantial user testing to make sure that people understand what your interface is trying to say is required.

No advertising. I guess it might be possible to show people ads in a way that has neither the problem of offensive or upsetting ads (“lose weight for your wedding today!”) nor the problem of the advertisers doing dodgy malware ads to harvest your info or worse. Maybe.

What else? How do your favourite sites do on these?

g+-real-names

The status of pseudonymity and privacy on Google+

Here’s a separate thread for people most interested in keeping track of official, semi- and unofficial pronouncements about pseudonymity and/or privacy on Google+ in particular, in addition to the more general discussions taking place at Anti-pseudonym bingo and Social networking requirements. You can also discuss your feelings and reaction to various announcements here. warped-ellipsis, you can re-post your existing links in this thread if you like.

If you’re linking to a blog or Google+ discussion, please also include a summary or excerpt that explains why you’re linking to it. Is it a user test showing such-and-such a property of Google+? Is it a statement by Google or an employee? Is it a change or a clarification? That sort of thing. (No linking/quoting anything from G+ that isn’t marked “Public” please.)

Note: yes, Google+ is in beta/early launch/testing/something, and they’re actively seeking feedback. Please no nagging to people to send in their comments here as feedback, since they now know this for sure and presumably they have or will send it in if they want to, and if they haven’t they presumably have their reasons.

Social networking requirements

I knew that someone posted on this blog discussing what requirements a feminist-informed social network would have. Turns out it was me. A year on, and due to discussions around Google+, I think I have some positive requirements. (I recommend reading the old comments thread too.)

Control over identifying information. Name, gender, age, who you are friends with, what you talk about, what events you are in, and what you look like: this is all varyingly sensitive information and should be able to be hidden.

As few restrictions as possible on identity. Allowing use of pseudonyms, not assuming that everyone has two, or two ‘important’, names, free specification of gender if specified at all. As little structured compulsory information as possible. Unstructured, free-form, and non-compulsory are key things here.

Accessibility. State of the art accessibility design including testing with screen readers, colour palettes suited to as many variants of vision as possible, collaborative transcripting and captioning of images, no flashing ads or autoplaying video.

You own your space and control entry. This means you should be able to moderate things. Being able to ignore people is good but is not enough: you likely don’t want to subject your friends to the conversation of a person who you dislike enough to ignore.

Rigorous site-level attention to spam and harassment. No one (much) wants spam, enough said. But harassment—continued interactions or attempts to interact after being told to stop, including ban evasion—should be a terms of service level violation, as should any threats (whether or not the person has been told to stop). Use of threats or hate speech in user names and default icons or other things that appear in directory listings or search results may also need to be considered. This all requires staffing and a complaints system.

Consistent access control. If you set something private, or it was private by default at the time, it should stay that way, probably to the extent where if it can’t remain private for technical reasons, it should be deleted/hidden by the site rather than made public.

Access to your work and ability to export it. The correct thing to do here is a little tricky (are other people’s comments in your space yours to export and republish, or not? what about co-owned spaces?) The autonomo.us community has had some inconclusive discussions.

Fine-grained access control. I don’t think something along the lines of that which Livejournal and its forks have had for years and which Facebook and Google+ have implemented to varying degrees, is required (public blogs have a strong presence in activist discussions) but it’s useful for more universal participation. Some people need it.

Clear limits on sharing. This is something that Google+ early testers are coming up against again and again: ‘Limited’ posts are or were shareable, a commenter using someone’s name with the + sign (eg ‘+Mary’) does or did actually invite them into private comment threads without the original poster’s input. If you offer access control, the software must make it clear what controls apply to any space, and if you have influence over that or not, so that you can control your own revelations in that space. Substantial user testing to make sure that people understand what your interface is trying to say is required.

No advertising. I guess it might be possible to show people ads in a way that has neither the problem of offensive or upsetting ads (“lose weight for your wedding today!”) nor the problem of the advertisers doing dodgy malware ads to harvest your info or worse. Maybe.

What else? How do your favourite sites do on these?

From comments: the revolution will not be tweeted?

jon asked in comments:

I wonder, what would a feminist- and womanist-oriented social network look like?

(We might have readers unfamiliar with the term “womanist”, if so, see Renee Martin’s I’m not a feminist (and there is no but) and Ope Bukola’s meta-discussion following from that.)

I find this question a lot easier to answer in the negative (“what wouldn’t a feminist- and womanist-oriented social network look like?”), and my answers would include things like:

  • packaging women users as a demographic product for sale to advertisers
  • packaging women users as a demographic product for sale to people seeking relationships with women
  • packaging women’s lives and identities as a product for the entertainment of other users

Ditto for replacing women with other marginalised or oppressed users. But I find it harder to answer it in the positive. What do you think?

Social coding, OMG Ponies

I love pair programming and working on code with other people and talking things through. In short, editing code as a social activity. If you noticed Google’s Mobwrite, it was a large scale collaborative editor, fun to play with, basically a real time wiki. Bespin provides a structure within a browser window to check code out from an svn repository, and edit it at the same time as other people, who appear in a sidebar. You can start projects and give people you “friend” varying levels of access to the code.

I’ve experimented with collaborative coding using screen for pair programming, and during meetings to discuss code. It’s best done in person or with voice and chat at the same time. Bespin looks like an incredibly useful extension of that concept. I hope that there will be effort to make it as universally accessible as possible.

I see Bespin as something that might be especially useful to women coding together, and I’ll see how Dreamwidth project members feel about trying it out. I could also see it being quite useful for people I know at BlogHer to debug WordPress templates. I think that women might more often than men buy into the myth of the lone and lonely programmer, the hermit-like coder genius, where code springs out full grown like Athena from Zeus’s head. But in my experience guys hack together and thus they learn together, while women are not only more often isolated, but are under more pressure to display perfect solutions or not to expose work in progress — a systematic pattern of that kicks in very hard when we’re teenagers.

The soul of open source is collaborating and improving on previous work. I think that collaborating in real time as a friendly social activity, with conversation, will feel more comfortable to some women than checking in code and waiting for feedback. So, I predict that Bespin and tools like it will be a powerful factor bringing women into coding and into open source communities, as a social activity to be done with friends.

Bespin Collaboration from Joe Walker on Vimeo.

Links:
* Stop, Collaborate, and Code
* Collaborating with Bespin
* Bespin Tutorial
* Introducing Bespin
* Collaboration in Bespin