Danah disagrees with me about MySpace

Danah Boyd wrote me last night and said she “vehemently disagrees” with my reporting that ugly design is behind MySpace’s success. Unlike me, she’s actually an expert in the field of social software and unlike me she’s done research. Translation: I’d listen to her. Her talk on Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace is one that everyone who cares about the topic should read. It is THE seminal work on MySpace so far. Heck, every parent should read it as well. 

47 thoughts on “Danah disagrees with me about MySpace

  1. I am a young user of myspace and the attraction of it is for various reasons. Personalizing it is part of it, but with my friends they’re are certain layouts that are “fashionable” and certain expressions used that are “buzz words” so rly nothing on myspace is that personalized. I think its the idea every1s part of a big group+if u check it out every1 copies every1. Its like an army of clones but for some reason, I cant stop logging on everyday. Rly, there is not one person i know who doesnt have a myspace. Scary.

  2. I am a young user of myspace and the attraction of it is for various reasons. Personalizing it is part of it, but with my friends they’re are certain layouts that are “fashionable” and certain expressions used that are “buzz words” so rly nothing on myspace is that personalized. I think its the idea every1s part of a big group+if u check it out every1 copies every1. Its like an army of clones but for some reason, I cant stop logging on everyday. Rly, there is not one person i know who doesnt have a myspace. Scary.

  3. The same reason myspace has a basic interface is doubtless down to the same reason why BMW include basic steel wheels on their new cars…let me carry on!

    The wheels look OK and certainly enable you to drive the car, but the high wheel arches just make the wheels look so small and crappy, you just have to upgrade them…and well, the bumbers (fenders??!!) are black and my car is blue, and I need to look like I have got a top of the range specification car so I will upgrade that too…and Mike in the office has the sport model with leather so I’ll have that as well….

    Teenager’s kudos all boils down to the same basic point – if they have a customisable myspace space, the cooler it is, the more kudos they get.

    Nokia hit on the idea with their x-press on covers for a very good reason – people LOVE to personalise.

  4. The same reason myspace has a basic interface is doubtless down to the same reason why BMW include basic steel wheels on their new cars…let me carry on!

    The wheels look OK and certainly enable you to drive the car, but the high wheel arches just make the wheels look so small and crappy, you just have to upgrade them…and well, the bumbers (fenders??!!) are black and my car is blue, and I need to look like I have got a top of the range specification car so I will upgrade that too…and Mike in the office has the sport model with leather so I’ll have that as well….

    Teenager’s kudos all boils down to the same basic point – if they have a customisable myspace space, the cooler it is, the more kudos they get.

    Nokia hit on the idea with their x-press on covers for a very good reason – people LOVE to personalise.

  5. > You don’t use your telephone because of how pretty the receiver is, you use it to talk to the person on the other side.

    I respectfully disagree with your example. At least in the realm of mobiles, I’m willing to bet that 7 out of 10 teens (if honest) would cite “fashionable looks” as a MAJOR factor in their cell phone purchases.

  6. > You don\’t use your telephone because of how pretty the receiver is, you use it to talk to the person on the other side.

    I respectfully disagree with your example. At least in the realm of mobiles, I’m willing to bet that 7 out of 10 teens (if honest) would cite “fashionable looks” as a MAJOR factor in their cell phone purchases.

  7. I’m young and rebellious and such, and I prefer Facebook to MySpace because it’s got a better GUI and it keeps out the riff raff.

  8. I’m young and rebellious and such, and I prefer Facebook to MySpace because it’s got a better GUI and it keeps out the riff raff.

  9. Slick corporate sites are often ugly, just in a different, flashy, overdesigned way. I don’t think the success of these new sites depends on being ugly, they just needed a different format and designers will find ways of making them look nice in time.

  10. Slick corporate sites are often ugly, just in a different, flashy, overdesigned way. I don’t think the success of these new sites depends on being ugly, they just needed a different format and designers will find ways of making them look nice in time.

  11. Chris: That\’s exactly what I was trying to say. I think maybe you missed the \”not\” in that sentence or my next sentence: \”It has always had a corporate structure behind it.\” I\’ve read the articles on MySpace\’s history before. I am well aware it wasn\’t a startup like 37 Signals.

  12. Chris: That’s exactly what I was trying to say. I think maybe you missed the “not” in that sentence or my next sentence: “It has always had a corporate structure behind it.” I’ve read the articles on MySpace’s history before. I am well aware it wasn’t a startup like 37 Signals.

  13. \”Translation: Don’t listen to Scoble.\”

    Success or failure of internet sites that have anything to do with human interaction very rarely has anything to do with \”look\” or technology. It\’s not like an online store.

    You could have the worst looking website in the whole world, and as long as you have the right people using it, it will be a success. People don\’t use communication technology for technology\’s sake, they use it to communicate. You don\’t use your telephone because of how pretty the receiver is, you use it to talk to the person on the other side.

    Since this functionality is SO EASY to do in any web language on any server platform and is very easy to scale, there is a lot of competition. Those who are winning are the biggest cheaters from a couple years ago. Spammers, adware, ect… People that had huge email lists from other sources.

    No matter how much you cheat or how you get the people on, as long as they\’re there, and others want to communicate with them, you\’re a success.

    Period. Some are better cheaters than others. I suck at it.

  14. “Translation: Don’t listen to Scoble.”

    Success or failure of internet sites that have anything to do with human interaction very rarely has anything to do with “look” or technology. It’s not like an online store.

    You could have the worst looking website in the whole world, and as long as you have the right people using it, it will be a success. People don’t use communication technology for technology’s sake, they use it to communicate. You don’t use your telephone because of how pretty the receiver is, you use it to talk to the person on the other side.

    Since this functionality is SO EASY to do in any web language on any server platform and is very easy to scale, there is a lot of competition. Those who are winning are the biggest cheaters from a couple years ago. Spammers, adware, ect… People that had huge email lists from other sources.

    No matter how much you cheat or how you get the people on, as long as they’re there, and others want to communicate with them, you’re a success.

    Period. Some are better cheaters than others. I suck at it.

  15. When I asked my students why they overwhelmingly preferred FaceBook over MySpace, the consensus was that FaceBook just has a cleaner look and is easier to navigate. Having looked at both, I tend to agree. Microsoft should take a long, hard look at how 37Signals designs a website. There is a lot to be said for a user-interface that gets out of the user\’s way when they are trying to accomplish a task.

    By the way: Read your book last night in my local coffeehouse and loved it. Passed it onto our PR teacher. Maybe this will corrupt him.

  16. When I asked my students why they overwhelmingly preferred FaceBook over MySpace, the consensus was that FaceBook just has a cleaner look and is easier to navigate. Having looked at both, I tend to agree. Microsoft should take a long, hard look at how 37Signals designs a website. There is a lot to be said for a user-interface that gets out of the user’s way when they are trying to accomplish a task.

    By the way: Read your book last night in my local coffeehouse and loved it. Passed it onto our PR teacher. Maybe this will corrupt him.

  17. also realize that these are people from xdrive and xdrive is no dot bomb. It\’s still very popular today, check alexa.
    These people reportedly sold email lists from responsebase and xdrive when they were \”low on cash\”, so imagine what people that are on myspace are in for when their ferrari needs repairs this time around at their current member count.

    Also consider that a large portion of their member base is reportedly people that use the site once and never come back.

    http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/topnews/wpn-60-20060307SeeingThroughTheMySpaceMirage.html

    That often happens with spam, where the person will check it out and when they realize what it is, they don\’t come back.

  18. also realize that these are people from xdrive and xdrive is no dot bomb. It’s still very popular today, check alexa.
    These people reportedly sold email lists from responsebase and xdrive when they were “low on cash”, so imagine what people that are on myspace are in for when their ferrari needs repairs this time around at their current member count.

    Also consider that a large portion of their member base is reportedly people that use the site once and never come back.

    http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/topnews/wpn-60-20060307SeeingThroughTheMySpaceMirage.html

    That often happens with spam, where the person will check it out and when they realize what it is, they don’t come back.

  19. \”MySpace grew not as independent but as a startup from some dot-bomb people.\”

    If you really believe a word of what you wrote, then you should read this. I found this on digg.com a while back

    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Bloggers_investigate_social_networking_websites

    You should also read the details behind the latest lawsuit against them by their ex-CEO, Brad Greenspan.

    http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/technology/13944791.htm

    VantagePoint was funding the company almost from the getgo, they are a multimillion dollar company.

    This was no small startup, it was reportedly a spyware/adware company that reportedly sent spam as responsebase, then turned into myspace later. They got sued by new york state\’s attorney general for infecting millions of machines with unremoveable adware. Reportedly before they got sued, some of the key investors that knew about the suit sold their stock and they are now being accused of insider trading.

    So this is no \”garage band\” type kids website that suddenly caught on. This was cold and calculted from the beggining with several reported ilicit acts leading to their member base now.

    Just thought I should bring some new info to the \”convo\”

    Wow word press sucks at linux. They forgot to turn magic quotes off. Somebody should send them an email.

  20. “MySpace grew not as independent but as a startup from some dot-bomb people.”

    If you really believe a word of what you wrote, then you should read this. I found this on digg.com a while back

    http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Bloggers_investigate_social_networking_websites

    You should also read the details behind the latest lawsuit against them by their ex-CEO, Brad Greenspan.

    http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/technology/13944791.htm

    VantagePoint was funding the company almost from the getgo, they are a multimillion dollar company.

    This was no small startup, it was reportedly a spyware/adware company that reportedly sent spam as responsebase, then turned into myspace later. They got sued by new york state’s attorney general for infecting millions of machines with unremoveable adware. Reportedly before they got sued, some of the key investors that knew about the suit sold their stock and they are now being accused of insider trading.

    So this is no “garage band” type kids website that suddenly caught on. This was cold and calculted from the beggining with several reported ilicit acts leading to their member base now.

    Just thought I should bring some new info to the “convo”

    Wow word press sucks at linux. They forgot to turn magic quotes off. Somebody should send them an email.

  21. If it came down to being ugly and non-corporate, there are literally thousands of other sites these kids could be signing up for. They sign up for MySpace because that is where other people are. Besides, if that is the reason they sign up, then they are mindbogglingly stupid. No really, hear me out :P

    MySpace grew not as independent but as a startup from some dot-bomb people. It has always had a corporate structure behind it. It was purchased by one of the largest, and arguably most evil, corporations in the world, one that was stressed it\’s need to take over the internet. So by signing up for MySpace, you are signing up to be part of a worldwide corporate conglomerate.

    Is that where it ends? No sir. MySpace is not the only purchase. News Corp also purchased IGN and its affiliate sites. Together with MySpace, News Corp purchased the online identities and hangouts for over 100,000,000 people. News Corp not only controls cable networks, newspapers, and radio stations, but also what hundreds of millions of people online see every day.

    Signing up for MySpace to be anti-corporate is like shooting yourself in the head to fix a headache.

  22. If it came down to being ugly and non-corporate, there are literally thousands of other sites these kids could be signing up for. They sign up for MySpace because that is where other people are. Besides, if that is the reason they sign up, then they are mindbogglingly stupid. No really, hear me out :P

    MySpace grew not as independent but as a startup from some dot-bomb people. It has always had a corporate structure behind it. It was purchased by one of the largest, and arguably most evil, corporations in the world, one that was stressed it’s need to take over the internet. So by signing up for MySpace, you are signing up to be part of a worldwide corporate conglomerate.

    Is that where it ends? No sir. MySpace is not the only purchase. News Corp also purchased IGN and its affiliate sites. Together with MySpace, News Corp purchased the online identities and hangouts for over 100,000,000 people. News Corp not only controls cable networks, newspapers, and radio stations, but also what hundreds of millions of people online see every day.

    Signing up for MySpace to be anti-corporate is like shooting yourself in the head to fix a headache.

  23. I read the article and am now sitting here thinking. She is correct. My parents thought I would destroy the world with what I was doing when I was young. I thought my kids were going to destroy the world. Except the one who became an attorney I now think that they are safe.

    The design of myspace hurts my eyes, but then again, I dont think that they really want me there.

    COOL

  24. I read the article and am now sitting here thinking. She is correct. My parents thought I would destroy the world with what I was doing when I was young. I thought my kids were going to destroy the world. Except the one who became an attorney I now think that they are safe.

    The design of myspace hurts my eyes, but then again, I dont think that they really want me there.

    COOL

  25. Part of the ugly design comments that people keep making, misses the point that it is personalization. Ringtones, polyphonic ringtones? What a joke. I made fun of ringtones back in 2000 referring to them as pet rocks. I didn\’t get it. It was all about personalization. Can\’t sell music online, but you can sell a massive amount of ringtones to kids as personalization. Myspace user freedom in design is about personalization. It is after all My Space.

  26. Part of the ugly design comments that people keep making, misses the point that it is personalization. Ringtones, polyphonic ringtones? What a joke. I made fun of ringtones back in 2000 referring to them as pet rocks. I didn’t get it. It was all about personalization. Can’t sell music online, but you can sell a massive amount of ringtones to kids as personalization. Myspace user freedom in design is about personalization. It is after all My Space.

  27. Kids want to be part of the underground/anti-establishment…and the less polished it is, the more desirable it is. They don\’t want to participate in corporate america bc it is \’selling out\’. The more popular companies with kids are those they think haven\’t \’sold out\’.

  28. Kids want to be part of the underground/anti-establishment…and the less polished it is, the more desirable it is. They don’t want to participate in corporate america bc it is ‘selling out’. The more popular companies with kids are those they think haven’t ‘sold out’.

  29. Agreed to a certain extent. I think there\’s too much \”analysis\” about how and why. It just \”is\” a sign of the times. I used to hang out in MUDs, BBSes, etc. You go to where you feel you belong.

    The key point which is hidden in her essay is: \”full-time always-on intimate communities\”. That\’s all you need to know. Adult geeks as many readers here, Scoble, and myself are part of that community, but just in a more matured state. Similarly, cell phones weren\’t even a possibility for average people twenty years ago, but now it\’s just a part of the current digital lifestyle.

    Don\’t need to overanalyze this. Just go ask a younger friend.

  30. Agreed to a certain extent. I think there’s too much “analysis” about how and why. It just “is” a sign of the times. I used to hang out in MUDs, BBSes, etc. You go to where you feel you belong.

    The key point which is hidden in her essay is: “full-time always-on intimate communities”. That’s all you need to know. Adult geeks as many readers here, Scoble, and myself are part of that community, but just in a more matured state. Similarly, cell phones weren’t even a possibility for average people twenty years ago, but now it’s just a part of the current digital lifestyle.

    Don’t need to overanalyze this. Just go ask a younger friend.

  31. I actually agree with your point that they ugly design and bad interface is the secret behind her the success. Kids want to beleive that they are part of something better then corporate america. I run a network of highly successful college sites (which has been around longer then myspace :) ), and the more we seem to improve the interface and GUI, themore people push back.

    I\’m not sure if they are wanting to get in on a trend before it becomes the \’next big thing\’ or if they really are just anti-big-company but either way the better you make it, the more pushback you\’ll see. IMHO

  32. I\’m more apt to agree with you. People underestimate the value of crappy looking packaging and fonts and websites. I\’ve worked inside 3 consumer companies (think about the type of company you buy hair shampoo from) and over and over again crappily designed packaging and containers sold more than well packaged ones. We never really figured out why this was. People seemed to use it as a heuristic for measuring price to value.

  33. I actually agree with your point that they ugly design and bad interface is the secret behind her the success. Kids want to beleive that they are part of something better then corporate america. I run a network of highly successful college sites (which has been around longer then myspace :) ), and the more we seem to improve the interface and GUI, themore people push back.

    I’m not sure if they are wanting to get in on a trend before it becomes the ‘next big thing’ or if they really are just anti-big-company but either way the better you make it, the more pushback you’ll see. IMHO

  34. I’m more apt to agree with you. People underestimate the value of crappy looking packaging and fonts and websites. I’ve worked inside 3 consumer companies (think about the type of company you buy hair shampoo from) and over and over again crappily designed packaging and containers sold more than well packaged ones. We never really figured out why this was. People seemed to use it as a heuristic for measuring price to value.

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