Creating Technology for Social Change

My value to Facebook? Not a whole hell of a lot, probably

In Sasha’s class last week we tried to calculate our value to the online social networks we participate in. In the equation my partner and I created, we took into account three variables: Biodata, Influence, and System Value. Our equation is: (Biodata + System Value) to the power of Influence = Value of the User

We defined Biodata as anything that is contained within the social network’s conception of the user as an individual, so their written bios, the content of their posts and comments, the things they “like” or retweet, the ads they click through, and their personal interaction patterns. Basically, we consider the Biodata variable to be an estimation of the social network’s knowledge about who you are, based on the information you’ve given it.

The Influence variable is drawn from a number of factors, including the size of your personal social network, the intensity of your interaction with the members of your network, and how your content spreads within your networks and the networks outside your own. This is essentially the “Klout Score Variable.”

The third variable is the System Value variable. This score reflects how useful you are to the system’s efforts to better itself. This includes both conscious participation, such as telling Facebook whether you find an ad helpful or not or telling Pandora if you don’t like a song, and unconscious participation of the kind where you are used as an A/B tester without your knowledge. This also includes a parameter for how valuable your contribution is: if you just inject useless noise into the “Is This Ad Useful” data set by clicking Yes/No at random like I’ve done on Hulu, your score for this variable could be lower.

If we were to use this formula to evaluate my value to, say, Facebook, I think we’d find that my value to that social network is pretty low. I try to be fairly vigilant about the data I put into the system. For instance, I have “liked” two pages in the four or five years I’ve been on the site: one is for a series of cooking parties my friends throw occasionally, and the other is an unofficial fan page for noted author Flannery O’Connor. I’m not an official “fan” of any pages or a member of any groups. I run Ad Block Plus, so I never see any ads to interact with, and I have installed no apps. My “About Me” section is a link to my blog, and I have no listed interests except for “Privacy on the Internet” (I’m snarky like that). In fact, the only biographical data I keep updated are the “Work and Education” and “Living” sections. My privacy settings are very high, pretty much all of my content is “Friends Only” and until recently my name was unsearchable.

On the other hand, I spend a fair bit of time poking around the site, interacting with my network. I have more “Friends” then is average for my demographic (Pew Research found that the average number of friends for users aged 18-34 was 318.5 while I have 538), and while I don’t post every day, what I do post tends to attract comments, likes, and click throughs (that last bit I’m judging from the Facebook traffic my blog receives when I post a link). So without doing a lot of math, I would estimate my Biodata score to be low, my Influence score to be on the high side of average, and my System Value score to be very low, making my overall value to Facebook low-average to low.