Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Internet - What Is It Really For?

Patch Cable
Wired...but in to what?
Posting has been lightnon-existant for the last couple of weeks as a succession of stories have been ruthlessly ripped apart by better commentators than myself. I've also been conducting a little experiment.

Last week I highlighted a couple of humorous items on common perceptions of the Internet and the behaviour you find therein. I'd been too lazy to go and find them myself so the credit is due to those mentioned in the original postings. Today however, I can report the results of a personal experiment, one that appears to fully justify the slightly cynical views in the two video clips I posted, rather than the more lofty ideas of some Internet evangelists.

The platform under test was StalkerFacebook, as it seems to be the social networking site of the hour. Leaving aside the more sad terminology used on the site, such as the endless variants of 'X wants to be your friend, do you want to be friends with X', and the distinctly dubious practice of poking complete strangers I can actually see why people like it. There are enough privacy features to stop it turning in to a pseudo-dating site, it seems stable and pretty easy to use, and the way third party content may be added means it will hopefully stay this way.

Being a good scientist as well as a test subject I created a control sample. Being a bad developer outside of my familiar Microsoft toolset it took longer than expected to create both hence the light blogging of late. However in the end I'd got enough put together to launch both on an unsuspecting public. The control subject was a worthy little Facebook application designed to help Facebook users share good blogs of the moment amongst their friends, with various recommendation features. It's pretty similar to the various 'My Bookshelf', 'My DVDs', and 'My Music' type applications, but unlike these themes seemed unique in its class. It took probably about twelve hours, end-to-end, to develop. The test subject took three hours to knock together. I won't give too many details on it, as this might hasten it's banning from Facebook; I can say though that while it is certainly not pornographic, it is decidedly smutty.

Both were launched amongst the same initial four users, but a couple of weeks have had very different fates. The graph below summarises the results to date.

One is now showing distinct signs of early viral spread, users worldwide amongst its over 4000 (at the time of writing) devotees, growing at a rate of over 500 a day at present and accelerating constantly. The other has reached the dizzying heights of seven users...yes...that slight blue tint to the X-axis.

There are no prizes of guessing which was which. Sex, does after all, does still seem to sell.

The graph above updates automatically if you should want to see the ongoing progress of the experiment.

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