My first venture into “social networking” — not counting membership in various now-defunct early social networking sites targeting Ivy League alumni — was founding an email list through Princeton University’s TigerNet service, exclusively for Princeton graduates in the law. Princeton has no law school, but many of its alumni are lawyers, and I thought this would be a good way for us to connect. This was in 1995.
Nearly 14 years later, the list is still intact. There are, I think, still fewer than 2000 members now, but it’s a pretty juicy group in many respects. Quite a few “Tigers” (ugh) have found lateral or other employment through Princeton-Lawyers; far more have found local counsel; and quite a bit of decently learned discussion has taken place over the old-fashioned email medium. Last year I set up a companion group on LinkedIn as well.
There’s a lot I could talk about in terms of my experiences as nominal “admin” of Princeton-Lawyers, and if I have the time I would like, at a later date, to excerpt some discussion we had last week about the concept of an “impeachment” of George W. Bush. But that raises, for me, what is another particularly acute point, and one that was obvious within a week of the approval of this list by Princeton’s Alumni Council: The unique impatience, bordering on arrogance, of a certain percentage of this particular breed of cat for, well, discussion groups that have discussion.
Right off the bat, shortly after we started out and were feeling our way around what we wanted the “list” to be, a number of early members loudly announced that there was entirely too much chatter, too much noise, and that they were quitting. This happens periodically, and it did again last week when some of our more boisterous participants — including one who graduated from Old Nassau well before most of us were born — perhaps broke through the delicate membrane of professional detachment and got into some good, old-fashioned political roughhousing.
I’ve been on various Princeton lists for a long time, though because of the University’s insistence on protecting one particularly well-connected, left-wing alumnus spammer, I dropped most of them, because he generated so much noise, distraction and ill will. (This included a phone call from a University dean to yours truly, an otherwise unremarkable and relatively penurious alumnus of no interest to Nassau Hall, telling me to lay off the mysterious “Harold Helm” or I’d be the one tossed off TigerNet.) Now, I saw that people on all the lists would, from time to time, announce their departure from a topical group with a bit of melodrama — I’ve done it myself. (Heh. That includes the time I realized that an organized effort was being made on the left-wing Princeton-Writing group to shun me by ignoring all my posts or comments, because of my consistent challenges to that political orthodoxy that reigned there. This was later confirmed to me to have been exactly what happened.) That’s one of the things you see in that online social environment.
But something is different about the lawyers’ list. It’s the one where people quit, and usually announce the fact, solely on the basis of being offended by the volume of emails on the rare occasion when a topic actually gets some legs. And not just, “Gee, I don’t think I have time to read or archive or filter this many emails — sorry, see you, guys.” Rather, it’s an angry expression of offense, of outrage, as if some bounder had actually had the nerve not to powder his wig thoroughly before beginning oral argument.
What is that? Is it “lawyers”? Is it “Princeton”? Is it “Princeton Lawyers”?
I think I’ve done it! I think I’ve identified the qualities in B.J.’s work that distinguish his badness from other kinds of badness: It exhibits unearned contempt. Both a self-righteous contempt for others and the self-approbation and self-congratulation that is contempt’s backside, so to speak. Most frequently a contempt for the supposed phoniness or inauthenticity of other people as opposed to the rock-solid authenticity of our B.J.
“It is quite easy to miss a baby when you’re anticipating seven,” said Dr. Harold Henry, chief of maternal and fetal medicine and one of 46 doctors, nurses and assistants who delivered the children by Caesarean section at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center. “Ultrasound doesn’t show you everything.”
Just five minutes after the first birth, the unexpected eighth baby came out at 10:48 a.m.
Well, there goes that. I mean, seven babies at a time is one thing, but eight — now that’s going to leave a mark.
It kind of reminds me of the old joke about the dowager at the luncheon club who needed smelling salts after their guest speaker from the university explained to the ladies all about the age of the solar system. When she came to, they asked her what had gotten her so upset. “Why, the professor’s lecture!” she said. “About the end of the world!”
“Madame,” he said gently, as the color began to return to her face. “You were so moved by my prediction that life on our planet would end in two billion years?”
“Two billion?!” she exclaimed, suddenly reenergized. “Oh my! No wonder! I’d thought you’d said two million!”
Samir Faris, a retired governmental school principal whose living room contains a portrait of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, whom he admires for his peace efforts, agreed that “Israel was lying” about the tunnels.
“If there were tunnels, then they were created after they initiated the blockade… only because [the Palestinians] need food and bread,” he said.
But when asked about Egyptian statements that tunnels existed even before Israel withdrew its soldiers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Faris said that Palestinians collaborating with Israel had built the tunnels “to create chaos on the borders between Egypt and Israel so that the image of Egypt would be damaged in the eyes of the world.”
Sound familiar? It’s a perfect twin of the commonly claimed argument of creationists that “God put fossils into the Earth during Creation to test our faith.” (I say “commonly claimed” because searching Google, I couldn’t actually find a text in which a creationist actually says that. But everyone agrees that they (we) do.)
Same here: The tunnels were put there to make it look like there were tunnels there, and thus to test the faith of Arabs, as well as Europeans and other liberals, in the childlike, benevolent innocence of Palestinians, wherever they be.
I refuse to use Facebook to conduct business and don’t upload many videos or photos there because I don’t support companies that “erase” MY data without my permission. I know of no other social network that does this in this way.
Of course, Facebook believes it can get away with it because, at this point, it is pretty much the gold standard in social networking. But I had something a little bit like what Robert Scoble describes here — a kind of deactivation due to basically too much legitimate social networking — happen to me too when I was an active account holder. I was locked down without explanation; I got mainly boilerplate responses to my inquiries; a bit of panic set in — I had uploaded a lot of stuff.
In my case it came and went in an hour or two. But it was odd. Even more odd, though, is that I was not deactivated the way he describes. In fact, what happened to me sounds almost exactly like what he describes here as what he believes, and quite logically, would be a much better policy:
If I were in charge at Facebook I would have a “jail.” If you broke the rules I’d move your account into “jail.” Everyone would be able to get to it, although you might have an icon that indicates the account has been thrown into jail. I would also turn off certain features on the account. I would just turn off messaging, for instance, if that person was abusing messaging. Or, turn off his/her ability to write on wall posts if he’s abusing privileges there.
I’m pretty sure I was, in fact, in jail. But in all seriousness, I can’t fathom how this could have been the case if a plugged in guy like Scoble doesn’t think it can.
Then there was the odd message I got that one time about being an “alpha account” or something and was therefore being allowed to have a video response to video message I had sent show on my wall? I wish I’d screen-shotted that one. No one has ever been able to tell me what that was.
Facebook and other social media are, like Google, becoming de facto jurisdictions unto themselves, which libertarians should like — and on issues such as this, I am one. But it can be a weird new world out there.
I took a few minutes to check out the status of my blogroll at LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®, and lo and behold! There was cutting to do!
My LOC blogroll is based solely on the concept of “professional courtesy,” which in this sense means reciprocity, pure and simple.
I don’t know exactly what the policy is for the blogroll here, and it’s not clear anyone’s that interested anyway. This is somewhat odd considering that this blog has a Technorati rank that puts it in the top 10,000 blogs and Authority rating of 336 as of today, whereas LOC, what with its narrower focus mainly on trademark and copyright law, has a Technorati rank in the gazillions and an Authority rating of only 62. In fact, Technorati be damned, the “less popular” blog is immensely more important to me than this one and is actually more important to the community that is interested in the topics I write about there than this one is to whatever amorphous group of quality and wit fanatics it is that reads this one. So, so much for Technorati.
I ended up cutting the LOC blogroll down by about 20-25%. I deleted blogs that no longer existed, or that had not posted in over a month, or had redesigned and dropped blogrolls, or which had dropped me from their blogrolls.
I’d love to know why someone would go through the trouble to do that last one! I don’t mean I can’t believe someone would, but I would really like to know what post or whatever it was the straw that broke some camel’s back on that question.
But mainly it was dead blogs that are gone from my new, leaner, meaner blogroll. It’s not so easy to keep a blog going more than a couple of months, is it?