Social Networking

Before I begin, I have to say that it’s a bit intimidating to look at my (rather pedestrian) posts alongside the work of Andy Schmeder (Wii remote hacking, pendaphonics) and Adrian Freed (stringless 12-string cello). My recommendation would be to stop reading this and scroll down on your browser to read about some truly interesting stuff.

But! If you insist on continuing I suppose I can’t stop you.

Another project I’ll be working on this summer is building a presence for CNMAT on various social networking sites - MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and so forth. There is some software available to do this sort of things; however, it operates mostly on PCs, and if my guess is correct, most CNMAT users are Mac people. With that in mind, I think the best way to set these things up is to work with a variety of plugins and RSS software to synchronize the various kinds of data (blogs, file uploads, microblogs (tweets, statuses, etc.), pictures, video, and events) that each of these platforms support. Ideally, as much information as possible can be put straight into the CNMAT website, something everyone already knows how to use.

This is a short schematic for how this information will ideally be passed.
CNMAT WEBSITE SUPPORTS: events calendar; blogs; videos; pictures; file uploads.
FACEBOOK should be able to pull events, blogs (into notes), videos (into posted items), pictures (into albums), and file uploads (into posted items).
MYSPACE should be able to pull events, blogs (into blogs), videos (into posted items), pictures (into albums), and file uploads (into posted items).
TWITTER: should be syndicated to myspace and facebook profiles.
YOUTUBE: should be able to pull video from CNMAT website; additionally, a list of CNMAT “favorites” (or a channel) would allow for greater exposure.
FLICKR: should be able to pull photos from CNMAT website
ONLINE CALENDAR: should be able to pull events from CNMAT website

One problem that needs to be solved is how to appropriately transfer “tags” from one platform to another; similarly, the personal websites of the users would ideally be linked to everything they contributed.

edit (06.15.09)
Rethinking how to organize this:
CNMAT website should be able to RSS out all the blogs for publication on myspace on facebook; similarly, either google calendar or 30boxes should be able to not only take in events from CNMAT site but also pump them out to myspace and facebook. youtube and flickr seem a little idealistic at this point…perhaps a better idea is to have a more or less static set of photos/videos up rather than dealing with having them constantly updating each other.


Re: CNMAT social networking overview.

I can see this being valuable especially for broadcasting events. And, pushing RSS isn’t too hard, we can make custom feeds in Drupal using the Views module (and I have to admit I’ve never really bothered to, but its right there). The calendar integration stuff gets complex quickly. If you look into this in detail, there are technical issues related with our site, for example, integrating with the UCB campus calendar, iCal synchronization (totally broken, currently) and so on. Some of that needs to get kicked back up to the Drupal devs, but some of it can be dealt with on our (my) end by upgrading stuff (we are still on Drupal 5 for the near future). Adrian and I even discussed at one point the idea of letting Google do all the work for us by integrating with Google Sites which has everything including proper calendar support and also does network authentication.

However I’m a bit wary of pushing other media out to the world. Not that this isn’t a good idea, but there are the copyright issues with respect to those sites, which are all owned by various corporations, even big-media (hello, Fox). The second issue is, as you point out, all the semantic tags and tight integration with the rest of the site might get disconnected. As well, all the comments and user accounts, for which we’d probably have to move over to one of those global authentication systems like OpenID if we actually wanted to know who said what.

Then of course there is the great equalizer known as Google. You may have noticed that the CNMAT site has enormous page-rank cred right now. In fact its a bit overrated in some areas (I think).

I think what I’m saying is that maybe we don’t need to push out more media to gain exposure—because Google already comes to us. In fact it could have the opposite effect, i.e., diluting its influence. You could actually hypothesis-test this idea and find out.. . might be an amusing study of SEO. :)

Re: CNMAT social networking overview.

Andy -

I’ll send you an email in a minute but for the sake of discussion I have some brief thoughts or maybe clarifications.

Overall I think you’re probably right that the CNMAT website is an excellent home-base; maybe then the focus should be switched, as you suggest, from pushing content out to pulling people into the CNMAT site. Ideally then we could find ways to distribute what goes on here into the various networks, sacrificing the huge amount of content possible (tags, horizontal integration, etc.) and instead leaving sort of a virtual trail of crumbs for users to follow back to the CNMAT site.

With regard to copyright issues - definitely a problem. My thought would be that we could provide short clips of recordings - fifteen, twenty seconds at the most - so as to have a presence without endangering the content itself.

Thanks for your help!