Effectively Instapaper has found a way to keep its users engaged with the site’s main pur­pose, read­ing, while offer­ing users ways of keep­ing tabs other read­ers. It’s like get­ting a peek at some­one else’s book­case, with­out them know­ing that you peeked.

Imagine what would hap­pen if Twitter oper­ated this way: you have no inkling of who is fol­low­ing you and oth­ers have no clue if you are fol­low­ing them. You just have an account that you post to, occa­sion­ally a per­son responds to you. The only way you know if a per­son is fol­low­ing you is when you go to Direct Message them.

Imagine that, because what would really change?

Ben Brooks — The Masked Social Network.

Missing the point with school social networks

I read an Edudemic arti­cle this morn­ing about the future of school social net­works:

Now, a move­ment is afoot to cre­ate student-friendly social net­work­ing sites, which would be lim­ited to edu­ca­tion and bound to par­tic­u­lar dis­tricts or schools. These sites would give stu­dents the chance to com­mu­ni­cate with peers in per­son and via the com­puter, in a set­ting not unlike an online school. Yet the most desir­able aspect of school-friendly social net­works may be that they would allow stu­dents to work together in a pro­duc­tive man­ner, while pro­vid­ing adults with the peace of mind sites like Facebook sim­ply can­not offer.

This is all well-intentioned but it likely won’t be suc­cess­ful in any mean­ing­ful way.

It reminds me of edu­ca­tional video games. Things that edu­ca­tion exec­u­tives draw up to try to marry tech­nol­ogy with their ver­sion of learn­ing. They don’t work. You can’t cre­ate a video game that kids will want to play by remov­ing its soul.

Similarly, cre­at­ing a school social net­work by allow­ing for social con­nec­tions which par­ents, teach­ers, and admin­is­tra­tors approve of misses the point. You’re leav­ing out the soul of a net­work. It’s this soul that makes Facebook and Twitter so appeal­ing in the first place.

Growing up out­side of a very small, rural town meant being extremely iso­lated in many ways. Had you told a junior high or high school ver­sion of myself that I could use some­thing like Twitter, Facebook, or, hell, even my blog to con­nect through shared inter­ests with peo­ple irre­spec­tive of place, age, or social sta­tus I would have been floored.

That’s the soul of these plat­forms. That’s what makes them rev­o­lu­tion­ary for school­ing. If you think cre­at­ing san­i­tized, school-friendly net­works watched over by par­ents and admin­is­tra­tors is going to cre­ate any mean­ing­ful learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties then you’re totally miss­ing the point.

Educate kids on proper usage. Teach them online safety. Show them the power of serendip­i­tous con­nec­tions to peo­ple a world away. But don’t, for their own sake, limit their poten­tial because of fear.

And a week or so later, when you try to remem­ber what you said at this party, that really ter­rific thing, you rack your brain, but can’t quite come up with it. That’s Twitter.

The blog, on the other hand, is slow, reli­ably reference-able, and find­able. It’s like a speech, pre­pared in advance, with the text dis­trib­uted. Some will hear the speech on the day it’s deliv­ered, but oth­ers will be able to ref­er­ence its text across the years.

Randy Murray — Business Blogging: Tweet For The Moment, Blog For The Ages.