Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Long Arm of the Wall

Social networking sites have been all the rage as of late. We've got an abundance of companies encouraging their employees to leverage these tools to further the business, and just as many businesses are banning them for fear of decreased productivity. It's not new for a company to prohibit the use of such sites, but what about a government?

Recently, the Chinese government has blocked access to many social networking sites, via what citizens call the "Great Firewall."
The Chinese government has been blocking and filtering internet content for quite some time, but the social media site ban was in response to the fear of a digital uprising on the 20th anniversary of the 1989 democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. In an interview with Danwei, Michael Anti reported in regards to twitter that "a Chinese tweet can have three times the volume of an English tweet, thanks to the high information intensity of the Chinese language. 140 Chinese characters can make up all the full elements of a news piece..."

Many people consider social networking sites a laughable waste of time for people who don't have "IRL" (in real life) friends. While that may be partially true (ooh, forgive me), it's proven to be useful in getting people organized as well as sharing news and ideas. In fact, twitter is becoming a successful, yet controversial, tool for the US forces in Afghanistan, providing a way to quickly transmit information including enemy body counts. We now have "experts" writing books on how to improve your business using social media. And hey, if the Chinese government is so concerned about it, there must be some relevance to its potential.

Every day I read of new networking sites popping up all over the place with the hopes of being the "next big thing." Where is the future of social networking going? The nay-sayers expect that it's just a fad, and it may be, but a myriad of innovations and the growing concern of businesses and government agencies alike offers a glimmer of "hope," if you will, especially to advertisers and business owners taking advantage of these growing audiences.

And for the Styx song that's probably stuck in your head, you're welcome.

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