Social Networking’s Only True Walled Garden

Walled gardens are inevitably built out of corporate greed – a company wants to lock in your data so that you can’t move between services and leave them in the dust. They make money off of your eyeballs. MySpace’s business model is simple, but very effective – it brings a lot of eyeballs to a lot of advertising. Whoever controls the most eyeballs wins.

They make money off of your data. They entice you to become a member by providing you with “free” services. In return, you provide them with valuable data. However, you can’t get it out when you decide you want out.

If you are a parent you must realize that a 16-year-old user of MySpace is very impressionable and ads that target them could very easily change the very core of their being – forever. You have no control over that if you allow them to these sites. Believe me these social networking sites want their profile and they are salivating for the opportunity to pitch these children with their wares.

The Web is becoming an elitist sort of space of 16-34 year olds. All advertisers care about is digging up more personal information about the users in order to prune those masses into smaller, easier targets. Do you want your child to be a target?

But Doug Richard points out in New Media Age magazine that what users will really want is portability and the ability to have online identities and networks that can work on one platform, such as MySpace, as well as another, such as Facebook. An ideal solution would not tie you in; its email would be universal, you can still connect with anyone. The essential requirement is portability.

So, the problem here is that the big players – Myspace, Facebook – they have no incentive to open up. They want to keep their sites walled gardens, and they don’t want to offer you choice.

Personal ownership of one’s social network & relationship capital is no longer a fantasy or a privilege of the techno-elite. A solution would provide users a true walled garden and give you the tools to support easy import & export.

We’re Living With The Complications Of No Walls Online
To make matters worse, one of the latest challenges online is that there really aren’t walls anymore. What walls did exist came tumbling down with the introduction of spider, index & search (a.k.a Google). In one quick query your pseudo “walled gardens” can come tumbling down!

For a long time, social networking sites did a nice job of giving us walled gardens that kept out search bots as part of their selfish data retention plan. This meant that there were no traces left behind of people’s participation in a social network’s walled gardens when they decided to jump ship or opt out – no caches of previous profiles, no records of a once-embarassing profile. Today’s reality is that many of the largest social network sites (MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, etc.) have begun welcoming the bots to cache their content.

These once walled gardens are now see-through at best. If a search bot can grab your content for cache, what’s really stopping someone who isn’t welcomed from doing so like (enter your favorite serial killer’s name here)???!!! In other words, messages can come from anyone.

Online Safety Concerns For Children
Concerns about the safety of minors, in particular, have exposed the need for more effective ways to confirm a person’s identity than a user name and a password. Social-networking sites attempt to protect their members by imposing minimum age restrictions but can’t easily enforce them. News Corp.’s MySpace, which requires members to be at least 14 years old, told Congress that it is looking at age-verification technology but hasn’t yet found any effective options.

It’s gotten so threatening, that the House of Representatives passed a bill that bans social-networking sites and chat rooms from schools and libraries that receive certain federal funding. Until now, there wasn’t a viable solution for protecting children from online predators by allowing parents to monitor and log all chat conversations.

An investigation by Computing Which? magazine suggests that social networking sites are not doing enough to protect children online. The survey found that children could easily be exposed to online bullying, pornography or predators through such sites.

Most social networking sites simply allow anyone to join up with no checks being made. The few that do provide checks have limited protections in place for children. As always online, parental knowledge is essential in helping reduce the risks.

If you have children and don not understand the phenomenon of social networking and social bookmarking sites you need to wise up. Get to know these sites, sign up as a member yourself so you can see what goes on. That way you will discover what dangers your children may be exposed to.

However, it is worthwhile remembering that social networking sites have huge positive advantages as well. They provide children with a social experience in the high tech world that until recently was lacking. Social networking sites can replicate clubs, playgrounds and so on in ways that are interesting and approachable for children. Children should certainly be allowed to take part in such sites as MySpace and Bebo, but within limits.

The world inhabited by our children online is not our world – we grew up with a different method of connecting with other human beings. For children growing up now, their social connections are worldwide via the likes of MySpace or FaceBook.

Don’t Count On Identity Verification Services
While many of the identity verification services aim to alleviate privacy issues, they may run up against them, too. For example, in theory it may help a person to aggregate personal information if they wished to share with other people online. But most will stop short at divulging details like their address, verifying instead user names on other Web services like Yahoo’s photo-sharing site Flickr.

Most people don’t see any safe and secure reason to put their private address front and center. In fact, startup Opinity ran out of investment money before its idea caught on. (InformationWeek, June 4, 2007 issue)

Some consumers complain that their verified profiles aren’t yet particularly helpful. Most professionals won’t find it useful for professional networking because few users beyond dating sites appear to have adopted it.

For security reasons, users will want to think carefully about just how much information they jam into an online ID. Common sense will tell you that if someone gets hold of your password, then everything you have is compromised. The minute you aggregate identity information you aggregate risk. With hackers out looking for financial information, you may become a target. Users of a true walled garden solution really have no need for these types of services.

Online Space Safety Solution
Walls allow users to have total control over the distribution of their expressions, context, and content. Robots cannot run around grabbing the content of users’ private walled gardens. This social network aggregation tool can be used by parents to build a safe, child-friendly network and ultimately, avoid conflicts in their homes. On a positive note, kids will like the idea of a private network because they get to choose a private domain name for it, e.g.,

This new paradigm of exclusivity will value quality over quantity of connections. It will make your social networks more like offline social circles, that is, to be exclusive. There may be fewer people in your network; however members of your exclusive network offer a well-defined, unified and loyal group.

By adopting a social network aggregation solution, avid users of social networks would be able to join any number of social networks, and start adding their friends to their own private, safe & secure network connectedness solution. They’d get a user experience that is a lot more satisfying.

This is an online space safety solution whose time has come to specialize in helping individuals aggregate the relationship capital built from any social networking site such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn, Bebo plus all others including Mobile Social Networking sites. This software would enable you to manage, deliver and track social networking activities for fast & easy sharing of video, audio, photos, files, and more.

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