Friday, September 24, 2010

Implications of social media - Examining past footprints

From time to time, there is a wave of activity in conventional media circles (if you think about it, don't they frequently campaign on certain issues in periodic fashion before moving onto "the next big issue"), where they start talking about how people should be "more careful about what they post online", especially on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Indeed, there is cause for concern here. What you and I upload is very likely to become entrenched in the web, copied to and from various servers, and butchered and re-posted at some later date. A key example are all those (IMO dodgy and annoying) sites that aggregate/copy/butcher articles from various wiki's and online encyclopedias that always seem to show up when using search engines. Frankly, it gets quite annoying when you end up finding the same (limited) article that appeared on Wikipedia being mirrored by 10 such aggregators, but which often appear as potentially new articles. Surely something more must have been said about a topic than a single Wikipedia article and several thousand unrelated pieces of advertisements.

However, what I really wanted to say here is that you don't quite realise some of the implications until you start seeing your own (long-forgotten) content/posts cropping up during a random search for something years after the fact. I'll admit that on a few occasions, I've done some random searches where I stumble across some posts I made on BA years ago, and think "Did I really write something like that?". Fortunately, I haven't really stumbled across an embarrassing post, but there is a really weird sensation reading stuff you wrote ages ago. Somehow it sounds familiar, and yet looks so darned foreign at the same time.

Now, as the "first generation" of users with access to this technology, creating content in these ways, it's kindof weird to think what will happen one day when our children start browsing the internet, coming across the digital footprints of their parents. Or what about grandchildren, if the internet has not collapsed or drastically changed form by then? Sure, past generations have been able to read diaries/journals and/or old newspaper clippings, but what they're now able to access dwarfs those in comparison.

Footprints are weird.

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