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Academics To Predict Next Twitter and Its Pitfalls 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the peer-into-my-crystal-ball dept.
An anonymous reader writes "University researchers in the UK have put together a team tasked with predicting the next big thing in terms of communication technologies, in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem. This is in the wake of the rise of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, which has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of personal information available online."
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Academics To Predict Next Twitter and Its Pitfalls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @08:56PM (#27593531)

    One character messages only. Now you can say the same things even faster.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @08:59PM (#27593551)

    Somebody just got a big fat grant for sitting around and smoking dubies.

    • by McCat (1438893)
      True. Fine with me as long as they stay away from Phorm.
    • Somebody just got a big fat grant for sitting around and smoking big fat dubies.

    • by linzeal (197905)
      At least they are not calling themselves futurists.
      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Of course not - that's no longer a buzzword. Honestly - most of the academics in this field couldn't predict the next big thing until eight months *after* it hit. They run around latching onto any buzzword and then dressing it up in fancy language to research bodies and (if they're lucky) a national newspaper and trying to make themselves sound up to date. There are few things sadder to see than people whose job depends on trying to sound cutting edge.

        Some academics are quite good at seeing which way th
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          What gets me is this part:

          " in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem."

          Ok, I'm stumped, what are the ethical pitfalls of the current things like twitter, facebook, etc?

          Aside from a great deal of inane banter, and some bad webpages...what is ethically bad about these things?

          • What gets me is this part:

            " in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem."

            Ok, I'm stumped, what are the ethical pitfalls of the current things like twitter, facebook, etc?

            Aside from a great deal of inane banter, and some bad webpages...what is ethically bad about these things?

            It appears to be an obscure reference to a study done at USC that has some dubious claims [sciencedaily.com] about how information overload makes us amoral.

            I'm not sure how I feel about it, but if I cared about contributing to the discourse I'd say it's made me apathetic.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      Hee-U! It's OK, it's the UK. Suckaz!! :-)
    • Hm... second news about retarded grant from UK in just two days...

  • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:03PM (#27593575)
    Thanks to the stimulus input, Medbook Space, the social network for medical records will be the next online sensation. X-rays, videos of prostrate exams, drug history ... all available to employers, insurance agencies and interested voyeurs.
    • by jae471 (1102461) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:06PM (#27593593) Journal
      Well, first you will have to find someone who knows MUMPS [wikipedia.org] to create the back-end.
    • Begs the question (Score:4, Informative)

      by eggfoolr (999317) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:21PM (#27593661)

      Who in their right mind would ever put their own personal information on the web?

      If people are stupid enough to do it, then let them be the victim of their own stupidity.

      Anon.

      • by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:26PM (#27593691) Homepage

        The problem isn't people posting their own idiotic adventures online - the problem is people getting tagged in other people's photos and videos. It's easy for me to control what I post online about myself; it's very, very difficult for me to control what other people post about me online, and even more difficult to remove material that I find inappropriate.

        Or it would be if I had a social life, anyways.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The best thing you can do is not hang around with idiots who feel compelled to blog or twat* about every damn thing they do. That won't eliminate every single photo of you, but it'll eliminate most (currently) searchable references to you. Avoiding having non-friends take your picture can almost always be done without causing a fuss.

          The only major loose end that leaves is family, which can be difficult to deal with diplomatically. A lot of older people don't understand the basics of internet socialization -

          • You're new to the net aren't you?

            • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Yep, only been using it since '93 or so.

              What prompted your response? I'm guessing it was meant as a joke of sorts, but I must be too new to get it. Is it because I mentioned my mom and adults are supposed to be too cool to see their relatives?

          • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

            by RMH101 (636144)
            That and stay in your parent's basement, friendless and alone with only your super133t social skills for company.
            • by Locklin (1074657)

              It's not a problem with freedom, but one of etiquette or education. Here in Canada, taking photographs of some children in a park and posting them on-line will likely get a knock on the door by some men in blue, but people generally think it's fine to take photographs of friend's or family's children and post them on-line without permission of the parent.

              It's a matter of educating people that posting photo's to facebook, even with privacy settings turned on, is *publishing* them for the world to see.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515) *

          So your problem is with freedom.

        • by Tomfrh (719891)

          Yeah, those faceborg drones are damned annoying with their tag tag tagging...

      • You ARE talking about the people that go on MySpace... I'm sure you can convince them ANYTHING is cool. I could see them posting vblogs about weird rashes and vaginal warts within a year.
        • I don't know about MySpace, but I thought people were already "tweeting" about medical conditions. Or maybe it's just bathroom habits.

  • Academics meh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TempusMagus (723668) * on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:04PM (#27593581) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, forget the academics. Put 10 teens in a room of various social types with a smart developer who listens and a programmable mobile device. You'll come out with a product.
  • by iPaul (559200) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:04PM (#27593583) Homepage

    You'd probably not be swatting away for some douche at a University, trying to finish you thesis or get tenure. You'd probably scrape together every last penny you had and become a first round VC.

    • by Pinckney (1098477) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:54PM (#27593815)

      Ah, but nobody is claiming they can do so accurately. They can, however, make educated predictions, some of which will be right. It's the shotgun approach. The point isn't in the predictions, but in the ethical issues they address, so that others can take responsible actions if some of those technologies become big.

      The headline could better have read "Academics to predict pitfalls of potential next Twitters."

    • by jaypifer (64463)

      I thought the same thing. Perhaps their time would better be spent predicting the next big change in academics and its pitfalls.

    • by glwtta (532858)
      You'd probably scrape together every last penny you had and become a first round VC.

      Right. Because of all that cash that Twitter is pulling in.
  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:12PM (#27593631) Journal

    So now they're trying to figure out a way to regulate new technologies out of existence before they've even been conceived of? Such progress....

    • by creimer (824291)
      A conspiracy to bring back punch cards and the priesthood. Can you manage Twitter on a punch card?
      • by sfbanutt (116292)

        Tweets would be limited to 80 characters or less instead of 140...

        • What I don't understand is why these so-called "tweets" have a limit 20 characters shorter than an SMS. The impression it leaves to me is that they must be intentionally meaningless. In which case your own meaningless blather is awash in a sea of meaningless drivel. If I were in the prophecy business, I would predict a short existence for Twitter, since sooner or later people will get bored with that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TSPhoenix (1367187)

            The character limit makes you aware how much fluff we add to what we say. Most comments on this article could be half as long and lose little. I wouldn't claim it is bringing succinctness back to English, sum ppl jus rite lyk dis nstead.

            Other sites do it, one takes anecdotes with word limit of ~50 makes good use as readers can absorb many stories quickly increasing how much they enjoy their time at the site. In a time poor society I'd appreciate more people going straight to the point.

            (FYI, I wrote this po

            • And your weird grammar conventions made it take twice as long to read.

            • by Eevee (535658)

              Or as Blaise Pascal said, "I have written you a long letter because I did not have time to write a short one."

        • Tweets would be limited to 80 characters or less instead of 140...

          Claude Shannon would be so proud

  • OpenBank (Score:1, Troll)

    by Centurix (249778)

    Rather than keeping your bank account a secret, make it available to the online community. Part of the Free, Unlimited Community Knowledge and Education Department.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:32PM (#27593719) Journal

    I use pseudonyms as a barrier between me and Identity Theft, because facebook, myspace all look like vectors for Identity theft to me. Using a fake identity can't be a bad thing when people are inclined to steal it.

    Unfortunately, our institutions are yet to realise that protecting privacy by educating people about using encryption is a good first step to reducing fraud related behaviour. Until that happens, the bad guys have the advantage.

    Simply put, the authorities have related encryption to illicit activities instead of a set of basic tools that people can use to protect themselves on line. In terms of protecting ourselves people are often encouraged into the worst sets of behaviour, so we haven't even done the basics now, let alone 10-15 years time. I predict more scams in the future.

    • by nmoog (701216)
      I was going to say that pseudonyms are no help anymore, because other people will tag REAL stuff and point it at your pseudonyms. For example, I have NEVER put my real name on my blog. But search for my name on google and my blog is the first result. And it sure doesn't take much work to find my name from my pseudonyms either. (This may have been addressed in the article, but I couldn't read it because it started with the word "Boffins")
    • by a whoabot (706122) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @11:03PM (#27594175)

      Unfortunately Facebook, Myspace etc. do not allow pseudonymous identities. It is required that all information be accurate and truthful. Recently a woman in the US was convicted [wikipedia.org] for "unauthorized access" on Myspace because she signed up pretending to be some make-believe boy. There were aggravating factors that led to her investigation and arrest (she trolled some teenage girl who ended up killing herself), but, still, what she was convicted for was just that, computer fraud because of signing up on false pretences, not for harassment or anything like that.

      I would have gotten a Facebook account a while ago if they did not have that requirement.

      • by lennier (44736) on Thursday April 16, 2009 @12:47AM (#27594641) Homepage

        "Unfortunately Facebook, Myspace etc. do not allow pseudonymous identities."

        That's not a bug, it's a feature. Some of us actually *want* people to know who we are online, and want to know who the people are who we are dealing with.

        Yes, we'd no doubt get a whole lot more privacy if we always went by Zasduhauy Q. Viisufod online and posted a picture of our cat run through a Gaussian blur as our photograph.

        But why not extend that logical principle and go to the office and supermarket every day wearing a Guy Fawkes mask? The Man shall not chain me! I shall be a free, unharrassed, absolutely private individual! None shall know my secret identity!

        If you have stuff you don't want the world to know, don't put it up on public forums.

        Conversely, if you want to create a public forum where people can trust each other, don't let them lie about their identity.

        Works for me.

        • by aleph42 (1082389) * on Thursday April 16, 2009 @08:20AM (#27596457)

          Sorry, but you're completly missing the point.

          The supermarket is a semi-private place: you show your face knowing that only a fraction of people (those that live in the same town) are present there; and if do something embarassing, an employer 10 years from now won't be able to know.

          Facebook is a worldwide public place. You have to be cautious because everything you say there is on the record, for everyone to see.

          So the decision to be anonymous on facebook has an entirely different meaning than the supermarket. It is far from paranoia, even more so when you think of all the new ways this information could be used ,in the future.
          And of course, the thing that really matters here is politic: by setting up an anonymous account on facebook, you can lead a political life, convincing people to go to protests, or to vote or donate for a cause. It is a pretty new thing to be able to do so anonymously, and there is nothing cowardly about it when you see how scientology (for example) illegally harasses opponents.

          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            So the decision to be anonymous on facebook has an entirely different meaning than the supermarket. It is far from paranoia, even more so when you think of all the new ways this information could be used ,in the future. And of course, the thing that really matters here is politic: by setting up an anonymous account on facebook, you can lead a political life, convincing people to go to protests, or to vote or donate for a cause. It is a pretty new thing to be able to do so anonymously, and there is nothing cowardly about it when you see how scientology (for example) illegally harasses opponents.

            Even minor advances in data mining and/or loosening of privacy laws could enable the dots to be joined on "anonymous" sets of data. It's already kind of possible [schneier.com] and I've no doubt that were someone (e.g. government) to get access to that Facebook account data, they could use common sense, word scanning and data mining to tie it together with identities on the same or other websites.

            Matter of fact, I suspect that it may even be possible- if not now then in the very near future- to do something similar by g

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          Zasduhauy Q. Viisufod

          Damn!! you've revealed my true identity [shakes fist]!!!!

      • by brkello (642429)
        They were just trying to find a law, any law to prosecute this sick woman for. If she pretended to be a boy and didn't do anything harmful, then it would not have been an issue. But this woman screwed with a teenage girls head to the point that she took her life. It is a sad story and bizarre to me that you would trivialize it as trolling.
    • I figure we'll skip this step and go right to the logical end of this progression of non-communication.

      The next big thing will be "Grunter" -- one syllable "grunts" that you can use to express your emotions to anonymous strangers on the internet who will pretend to be interested in you as long as you subscribe to their "grunts".

      I've already patented this six ways from Sunday, so don't even think about getting your grubby dick-beaters anywhere near my idea.

      Ugh! You heard it here first.

      • by chromas (1085949)
        I will beat that with null-blogging; all you can send is a null-terminator. After I get rich from that, I'll get double-rich with nega-blogging!
      • I would like to license your patent for use in my patent-pending extension: 26 characters of gzip, bz2 or other compressed communication.

  • ...in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem...

    The question that has to be asked is: "...they (ethical issues), become a problem to who?"

    As far as I know, those who put info online do so with knowledge of what they face and especially the privacy issues that may arise. I get a feeling that folks involved in efforts as mentioned in the introduction are living in the 50s where privacy was such a big deal.

    Today's kids do not see that as much of an issue I might add. I hope they direct their efforts elsewhere.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      I get a feeling that folks involved in efforts as mentioned in the introduction are living in the 50s where privacy was such a big deal. Today's kids do not see that as much of an issue I might add. I hope they direct their efforts elsewhere.

      They'll see it as more of an issue when a hostile government and/or body gets hold of this mass of information and uses it as a way to help "deal" with those whose lifestyle or political views they deem undesirable.

      I don't believe that human nature has changed fundamentally since 1920s Berlin hedonism gave way to what happened in Germany during the 1930s and the 1940s. We've already seen how the United States was happy to water down- if not abandon- its supposed ideals of freedom, justice, blah blah when

  • Avoid Marketeers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @09:41PM (#27593759)

    The only way to make a social networking product be as big as My Space / Facebook / Twitter AND not suck monkey nuts is to keep the marketeers out of it, and that just isn't going to happen.

    • by cboslin (1532787)
      And of course someone has to pay for the server, storage and the bandwidth too.
    • Do you mean without advertisements, or without accounts for Coke, Pepsi, and Torgo's Executive Powder? It would be a neat idea to put it in the TOS that companies cannot have a profile for marketing/spamming purposes, but who the hell has the time to approve something once it became as big as MySpace/Facebook?

      Maybe I misunderstood your whole post.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LoudMusic (199347)

        No that's what I meant. I don't mind banner ads and stuff. It's the companies posing as 'people' who want to be your friend. I get enough spam in my email, thanks.

        I enjoy being able to white list my instant messaging and email accounts, but a "social networking" service needs to be open.

  • Considering that NONE of the major disruptive social
    technologies have come from academics, thus far, it would
    behoove this group to tell us what they plan to use
    to divine these gems of knowledge.

    -Pick a card, any card.
    -Runes
    -Dice
    -Flip a coin

    Perhaps they should just stick to what academics do best,
    measure things when/after they happen and then explain what
    we all just saw.

    Sounds like a funding ploy. Do they get paid
    anyway if it turns out they're wrong?
    Will taxes be used to pay for this?

    • Considering that NONE of the major disruptive social
      technologies have come from academics, thus far

      There were quite a few academics involved in this one [wordpress.com].

  • by hessian (467078) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @10:33PM (#27594007) Homepage Journal

    In the next Twitter, there's no typing. You signal emoticons. If you are too fat to use the mouse, they will develop a device that interprets your emotions from the configurations of your fat cells, and you don't ever have to get off the couch.

    • :| - at work
    • }< - taking a dump (not sure how this works with the couch)
    • %) - chatting up the opposite sex
    • || - writing code

    etc

  • I don't see an ethical dilemma with technologies that allow me to share information voluntarily. I want them to respect my preferences and disclose what they do with the data, but it's no different with doctors, banks, or retailers. Why is this an ethical problem for a web site?
    • by forkazoo (138186)

      I don't see an ethical dilemma with technologies that allow me to share information voluntarily. I want them to respect my preferences and disclose what they do with the data, but it's no different with doctors, banks, or retailers. Why is this an ethical problem for a web site?

      Because at least one of the academics involved fancies himself an ethicist which means he knows if he thinks about it long enough, he can come up with an ethical dilemma in anything.

  • It's a bit depressing how these recent Internet-based "communication technologies" are all centralized. In some sense, this seems to be a natural offshoot of applications springing up on the web -- individual websites are centralized entities by design. It's also about control and monetization, which is good for the service provider... perhaps less so for the user and for reliability/redundancy/etc.

    But I also wonder how much the unanswered technical challenges presented by anonymous internet-based attacke

  • After all the social networks are using the same business strategy.

  • If you think you have a better idea of emerging technologies, ethical issues they raise and ways of addressing them than the boffin academics, why don't you post a comment on the "discussion" blog of the project website at www.etica-project.eu?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually, if I had a better idea, I would go out and implement it so that I could make money off of it. Which tells you all you need to know about these guys, if they knew what the next big thing was going to be, they would go make money off of it. Since they don't know what it is, they will try to tell us why we shouldn't do it.
  • 140 frame videos of John Cleese insulting the viewer.

    Or TwitLiza . . . if you'd like to have an argument . . . a very, very, very circular argument.

    • Movie encoding or TV encoding?

      If TV that's going to be 4 and 2/3 seconds. Movies it would be 5 and 5/6 seconds. Imagine how much more you could convey if you recorded it on film.
  • ENIGMA, Bletcherous Park, Thursday — Academics at De Montfort University in Leicester have put together a team tasked with getting grants to claim to predict the next big thing in communication technologies, in a bid to tackle funding pitfalls [today.com] before they become a problem.

    "Widespread Internet adoption has afforded some technologies rapid growth," said Dr Bernd Stahl, "but have also generated downsides. For example, uppity Internet users think all this is for their social enjoyment and cultural enha

  • Academics are notoriously poor predictors, perhaps from living in the their ivory towers (yuppie bubbles). The most egregious example was the head of MIT's Media Lab, the prima donna of computer tech in its day, writing a book (Being Digital) in 1993 about the future of computing without mentioning the World Wide Web. To be fair, 1993 was year hoards of people started downloading the first decent browser (Mosaic) and hand-coding hmtl web pages for content. Negroponte's book was collection of columns he wr

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