Facebook Fakesters


As some of you know, long before — decades before — I was a Madrugada obsessive, I was an R.E.M. obsessive. We’re talking pile in the van and spend countless hours tooling around the midwest to see them. Now I did manage to stay in college and get good grades, so I guess I wasn’t as obsessive as some, but I was pretty darn hard core.

I was also very lucky because I met them very early on and got along with Peter and Michael very well. If I were to run into either of them walking down the street, I’m sure they’d say “hi Nancy!” and stop to chat. They’d recognize me in an airport and smile to see me.

So I was kind of tickled, and a little entertained, to see that they were on Facebook. Though I was a wee bit suspicious, I’ll admit, from the get-go. I could kind of see Peter doing it, but Michael? Last time I saw him, his assistant was checking his email for him, I couldn’t see him hanging on FB for kicks.

But what the heck, how could I not send a friends request? So I did. And for weeks nothing happened. Which was about what I expected.

Then both friends requests were accepted within 45 minutes of each other.


Over the next couple of hours I watched as they both joined lots of groups and became friends with the same people at the same time.



And I’m thinking, ok, I didn’t really expect it to really be you, but do you have to make it SO OBVIOUS that it’s not?

I assume it’s someone at WB. I have considerable respect for Ethan Kaplan, who started the REM fansite Murmurs.com and went on to become Warner Bros Records tech guy, who’s probably figuring they ought to have a web presence on the site-du-jour. He knows his online community management as well as anyone. But this was shockingly lame.

Of course these famous people will need help managing their online identities given the numbers of people who want a piece of their attention. I’ve seen it face-to-face, I know it’s exponentially worse online. But much of the magic of sites like MySpace, or increasingly Facebook, in fandom, is creating the illusion — if not the reality (which is better) — that the celebrity knows you, cares about you, recognizes you as an individual.

picture-6.pngWhen it’s totally obvious that the celebrity is really an intern clicking ‘accept’ on every friend request and group invitation that showed up, there’s no magic left. Just a cheap feeling of buying a faulty product. Better not to have them on there at all.

But I don’t think I’ll unfriend them, because it’s still a hoot to see their names in my friends wheel.

Update: I have been told that this is a WBR experiment that’s not working so well. I have a lot of ideas about how it could have worked I’ll expand on later. In the meantime I did adjust my minifeed preferences so I don’t have to see every stupid group they joined and every fan they friended every time it happens.

A Social Network just for Redskins Fans, and iPod Touch Kvetching

So it took a while, but it looks like the big leagues might be catching up to where David Bowie has been for years — giving fans a way to brand themselves as fans with their email addresses.

Perhaps trying to make themselves more relevant, AOL and the Washington Redskins have announced Redskins Connect, located at http://www.redskins.com and powered by AOL. Through this site, Redskins fans can get email @ ultimateredskinsfan.com; hail2theskins.com; skins4life.com; redskinsfancentral.com; or redskinsultimatefan.com, social network profiles, video upload (how is this going to mesh with the NFL’s new restriction on video uploads one wonders?), a photo gallery, video search, chat and a toolbar. All free (one edge over Bowie).

This is a super thing for die-hards, though as with all of these ultra specialized fan social networks, it’s not clear how sustainable all the energy going into creating profiles really is. Still, for the person who strongly identifies with the Redskins, this has got to have serious appeal.

On a totally different topic, I am so disappointed by the iPod Touch. I bought a used 60G iPod a few months ago figuring it would tide me over until the famed full screen model came out and then I would indulge. I woke up yesterday morning ready to whip out that credit card as soon as the announcement was over. Until Jobs got to the part about 16G.


It’s like a bad joke — especially paired with Jobs’s claim that the beauty of the new 160G iPod “classic” (makes me think of failed Coca Cola launches) is that we shouldn’t have to choose which things to put on there and which to omit. Sure the wifi is major cool, but come on, make it fatter and stick a hard drive in there! Guess I’m sticking with what I got. Meanwhile, they’re getting some major bitter backlash from all those Apple fans who bought the iPhone for $599 now that it costs $399 two months later…

Update: According to the BBC, Steve Jobs has issued an apology to early adopters of the iPhone and said they’ll get a $100 rebate. My husband says this is brilliant because so few will take him up on it. I say it’s good organizational crisis management, but isn’t it better not to have a crisis in the first place? Update Update: CNN says it’s a credit toward another Apple purchase. Shame on them.
And in another Update, sports blogger Scott Van Pelt thinks the Redskins social network is “a horrible idea” :

Many of the fans are not that die hard to invest in most of the benefits that this network offers. Buying a jersey, coming to the games, decorating a house or car, sure. Chatting with an email address ending in skins4life.com and downloading photos? I don’t think its that serious.

Sports fans? Your opinion, please?

Usync: A music fan relationship management site

I’ve written before about sites like ReverbNation, Urbanited, and FanCorps that are providing tools for bands to organize street teams directly. Australian site Usync, one of 8 finalists at the Popkomm Innovation in Music & Entertainment Award (IMEA), seems to be taking this even further. Their rhetoric couldn’t be more like my own, very heavy emphasis on recognizing the value of direct relationships with fans and fan bases and figuring out how (or in this case, providing the means) to work it.

Usync looks very slick, and wonderfully customizable (more Virb than MySpace) so every band can have their own look, feel, system on there. One of ReverbNation’s very clever insights has been that you can’t tie the bands or the fans to their URL, so they’re big on providing exportable content, widgets and the like, so that bands can use it as a base to reach fans all over the place.  While Usync looks like they’ve got a great set up on their own site –everything from posting (and selling) merchandise to organizing street teams to blogging — I am not clear on whether the expectation is that fans sign up on Usync and spend their time on there to hang out “backstage” (to use their central metaphor) with the band or if it’s more of a base for wider distribution like ReverbNation. If it’s the former, I don’t think it’s gonna fly on a large scale in the long run. Fans have favorite haunts, but they just aren’t hanging out in one place anymore.

I am all for this notion that bands (and everyone else who has fans) need to understand the power of direct relationship with fans, but I also feel some concern about the top-down version of events sites like this impose. We mustn’t lose sight of the importance of fans building their own spaces around the things they love, or of the value of reaching out to fans through fan-built spaces. The internet disrupts the hierarchy where the artists have total control. Part of learning to work the fan-artist relationship is learning how to give fans power and like it. There are by definition limits on the extent to which that can happen in a space that the artist controls. Artists should use their own spaces to relate to fans, but they should encourage fan-built spaces too.

Have any readers spent any time with Usync? I would love to hear feedback from users or explorers.

What are Last.fm Friends, Part 1

As regular readers know, I have been working on a survey about the nature of “friending” on Last.fm. The study is motivated by a few concerns:

Developers have given us the term “friend” to use, yet it often seems a poor fit. How do people within these relationships define them?

What is the quality of these relationships?

What motivates these friendships and, in the context of a fan-based site like Last.fm, what role does shared taste (in this case musical) play in forming and maintaining these relationships?

    I’ve now completed the survey, and my former Ph.D. student and now faculty member at Ohio University, Andrew Ledbetter, and I have started crunching in order to figure these things out. Here’s some early descriptive findings for the curious:

    After data cleaning (eliminating partial surveys, eliminating minors’ surveys, eliminating those with no friends — I’ll use the no-friends data in qualitative analyses), there were responses from 559 people in 47 countries who had at least one friend on Last.fm. People were asked to describe their relationship with the first friend that appeared when they opened their profile page (which is random).


    Most (51.6%) of the friendships are between people of the same-sex, though there were many (46.6%) cross-sex friendships. Though it’s hard to get real numbers on this, it’s certainly higher than the ‘offline’ norm.


    The mean age difference between friends was 0.89 years.


    40.4% of friends live in different countries. 25.4% in the same country. 10% in the same part of the country. 16% in the same town, and 5% in the same neighborhood. In a few cases, the internationalism was part of the friendship’s appeal. For instance, a handful said that the chance to practice a foreign language was important in their decision to friend the person.


    41% of Last.fm friends have met face-to-face. 9% of those met only once, 14% more than once but not often, 17% used to see one another but don’t anymore, 40.5% see one another regularly, and 7.5% see one another all the time. That said, only 47% of Last.fm friends first met through the site. The rest had pre-existing connections either offline or in other online sites (fan boards, for example). It would be really interesting to know how this compares with other sites. It suggests that though there are new relationships being formed through the site, to a very large extent it is providing an additional means for people in pre-existing relationships to keep in touch. I am reminded of danah boyd’s argument that these should be called “Social Network Sites” rather than “Social NetworkING Sites” because there is so little new relationship formation happening through them. That said, 47% is no small percentage, so there are clearly new connections being formed through the site.


    Of the 59% who have not met face-to-face, 59% would meet their friend were it convenient, 7% would go out of their way to meet their friend, 7% have plans to meet their friend, and 15.6% are not interested in meeting their friend.


    66% use other social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, 34.2 don’t.

    Of those who use other social networking sites, 51% of the Last.fm friends are also friends on another site: 18.2% of all respondents with friends were friends on one other SNS, 10.2% on two, 2.5% on 3, and a few participants reported being friends with their Last.fm friend on four or more social networking sites. This strongly resonates with the claim I made in my recent paper on Swedish indie fandom online about how people are spreading their relationships across multiple sites.

    I have several thoughts about this — I expected more people to have met through Last.fm, I expected fewer to have met face-to-face. I was surprised and pleased to see the number of international friendships. I was disappointed to see the age-similarity of the friendships (perhaps because my friends are on average considerably younger than I). Even given the age-range of users, less than a year’s average distance suggests people are not generally reaching out across generations via the site.

    I am very interested to hear any thoughts readers might have on what here is surprising, obvious, connects with things you’ve seen going on elsewhere, etc.

    Many more findings to come as the more complicated analyses get going. Stay tuned.

    Using Last.fm to Measure Fan Devotion

    David at  Digital Audio Insider wrote a neat post earlier this week:

    I thought it’d be fun to use Last.fm statistics to try to devise a measure of “audience devotion.” Using the most popular act in the Last.fm database (The Beatles) as a comparison point, I looked up the total number of listeners and the total number of plays for 49 other acts. They include some of the biggest names in “indie” rock, some fairly unknown local acts, and a few various names from my iTunes library. I divided the number of plays for each artist by the total number of listeners to create a “plays-per-listener” ratio and then ranked the spreadsheet by that number.

    I’ve found Last.fm fun for tracking the rise of some bands (why I remember the days when the now-ubiquitous Peter, Bjorn and John just barely topped 1,000 total listeners, for instance), but this is a particularly clever approach. It’d be fascinating to track these bands over time and see if he’s right in his predictions about who will last and who will crash.