Dot Dot Dot: Are you naughty or nice on new social networks?


I’m a surly adopter, late to most online parties intentionally and grumpily. Take Path, the photo-sharing app that relaunched last month as a mobile, social network. (Or “Smart Journal,” in the preciously twee formulation of founder and CEO Dave Morin.) I knew something was up when I started getting notices of my rabidly cutting-edge friends signing on.

Now I’m addicted. I’m Pathological. In fact, I’m kind of a Pathhole. I love the feature that tells your friends when you go to bed and when you wake up, especially because I’m not a night owl and it’s about time people who claim to be my friends figured this out.

I also enjoy sharing my singularly execrable taste in music.  Yes, I’m listening to the Backstreet Boys, and what exactly are you going to do about it? Thought so.

And I can record short videos in which I chew out my friends and then tag them.

My favorite feature, though? Unlike Facebook, where your only option is to “Like” something, you can put all kinds of emoticons on your friends’ updates. Whenever Daily Dot marketer Doug Freeman posts on Path, I put a frowny face on it. Why? Just to be a jerk, honestly. And because Path lets me.

So call my behavior Pathive-aggressive. It’s funny because it’s true. And Dave Morin is my No. 1 enabler.

Someone needs to do a list of all the year-end lists. Someone probably already has. But I’m fascinated by Twitter’s and Facebook’s respective lists of memes for 2011. Both present themselves as objective compilations of what was most important to those networks’ users over the course of the year. But are they?

Something seemed off. For example, Twitter’s list of top hashtags, which seemed purged of both the long, jokey ones favored by Twitter’s black users, lacked anything politically controversial in the United States, like #occupywallstreet.

Topsy, a social-media search engine, showed that #superbowl, the seventh highest-ranked hashtag in Twitter’s list, had 66,000 mentions for all time. (A search for just 2011 wasn’t available.) Over the same time period, #occupywallstreet, a concept that didn’t even exist until this September, racked up 539,000 mentions, and the abbreviation #ows had 3.6 million mentions.

I quizzed Twitter PR rep Jodi Olson relentlessly and obnoxiously on this point—over Twitter of course.

“These are the keywords that rose the fastest in conversation over the course of the year, organized by category,” she told me.

So that may explain it. Another Twitter rep told NPR that the reason why #occupywallstreet didn’t rank higher in Twitter’s daily Trending Topics on its homepage was that it had a relatively slow burn: It was mentioned frequently, but at a relatively constant rate. It didn’t spike high, and Twitter’s algorithm favors new, fast-rising topics.

I’ve made lists myself, and let me tell you this: There’s nothing objective about objective criteria. Even if it’s an algorithm, human minds are behind it, and they always have strong ideas about what the right result is. And if it doesn’t come out right the first time? Change the algorithm.

There are lies, damn lies, and algorithms.

So Twitter has not one, not two, but three outs for those who’d accuse it of censoring uncomfortable topics: First, they can always blame the algorithm. Second, its public-relations team can carefully craft “categories” to include or omit just about anything they please. And in a pinch, they can play semantics; it’s only calling these topics “hot,” which is a pleasantly vague term.

So don’t take this list as the last word on what Twitter users really talked about in 2011. It is, however, a perfect representation of Twitter Inc.’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations for itself and the community to which it plays host.

Twitter! It’s about movies! Music! Sports! Actors! And news, but nothing too unpleasant or controversial, please!

Facebook, on the other hand, perfectly captured at least one hot trend: One of the most popular terms on Facebook is “lms,” short for “like my status.” This much we know: It doesn’t really matter what you say on Facebook. It only matters that your friends like it.

Path is looking better and better. Thanks, Dave.

What’s trending on my real-world social network? Nesting.

This is a season for crafting and baking, and two friends have launched ventures that celebrate the domestic arts. Brittany Morin, an ex-Googler, has launched, a food, style, and tech site. (If that last name seems familiar, why, yes, she happens to be married to Dave Morin, the aforementioned CEO of Path. Full disclosure: When they were dating, I declared them the “Valley’s cutest couple ever.” They still are.)

And Susan MacTavish Best, known to the outside world as Craigslist’s spokeswoman and to her friends as a fabulous entertainer, has launched Living MacTavish, a fashion-and-fun blog that lives partly on Tumblr and partly on photo-sharing service Instagram. (Full disclosure: MacTavish Best and I both belong to a secret dog society on Facebook.)

So if you’re not sure what cocktails to serve or what cocktail dress to wear at a holiday party, or you’re fretting about how to prep a guest room for visitors, you could do worse than checking either out. I’m not ready to name either one the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley quite yet. But they’re on their way.

No frowny face icons from this guy, at any rate.

Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas was the founding executive editor of the Daily Dot before becoming the editor in chief of Read Write. A former managing editor for Valleywag, Thomas also was an executive editor for VentureBeat and now serves as business editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.