Wednesday, August 20 2003
One of my old college friends invited me to join his Friendster network yesterday. At first I was understandably dubious about it. After all, I'm always dubious about any new fad sweeping the country, be it minivans, the Blair Witch Project, the Backstreet Boys, Wilco, Nora Jones, or Napster. But this particular friend's interest qualified as a positive review from a respected reviewer, so I thought I'd go check it out.
Part of my initial reticience was related to the need implicitly being fulfilled by a system going by the name of Friendster. Though it's true Napster wasn't a network for downloading naps, the implication of the name Friendster is nonetheless one of downloading friends, particularly the kind with whom one hopes to make glick-glick noises. On first blush it didn't seem all that different from one of the many online date matching services.
But I wouldn't be writing about it if there wasn't more to it than that. It turns out that it's a fairly intriguing implementation of the possibly-suspect "six degrees of separation" concept. I know people, they know people, and those people know some people who know you. (Naturally, as web-browsing Homo sapiens conversant in English and interested in things that I write about, we're really all part of the same scene. To get to some dude in the Congo with a bone through his nose, we have to go through a couple more "knows.") In Friendster, you're only allowed to see the profiles of people you can get to through friends (and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, etc.) who have set up profiles on Napster. But you are forbidden from looking at the profiles of people outside this network of friends. According to the rules of Friendster, they exist in a different social universe beyond your event horizon.
Having a link into this world is an invitation to explore. People aren't just ends in themselves, they're also conduits to whole new social territories. I found myself asking: who are these people who know my old college friend? Oh wait, there's Kristin McDougal, who I haven't seen since our Art Since 1945 class! What music does she like these days? What other people like that music? All the interests and particulars within the Friendster profiles are cross-referenced in the database, and these relationships invite other forms of exploration.
Once I'd benefitted from other people's relationships, I started feeling like I owed some to Friendster from my own social universe. Damn if I was going to spam people outside the network, but I did send out a single "friend invitation" to Mary Purdy, who I knew to have a Friendster account.
There's an austere creepiness to the interactions in Friendster - by nature they are all prefabricated and impersonal, conducive so solitary exploration and elaboration of the Friendster network as if it was some sort of inanimate object. All you have to do is provide the full name or email address of the person you want to form a Friendster link with, and if your solicitation gets reciprocated, the Friendster brain develops a brand new synapse.
Meanwhile, how about that SoBig internet worm? Unlike MSBlaster, there's no defense against the shitstorm caused by SoBig. For the first time ever, malicious software is actually causing me misery. Checking my email is now a huge ordeal, as about 99% of it was now useless SoBig spam coming from the computers of morons who wanted to check out a supposedly Wicked Screensaver. Or a response to an Application. Or a response to something someone else had said about somebody's Details. Argh! Since each of these SoBig spams is roughly 100K in size and I only have a dialup connection, I'm forced to use POP3Scan to look at my email on the server and then only download what little I want to see. If I were to try to download it and eliminate it client-side, it's doubtful I'd be able to use my internet connection for anything else. Unfortunately, POP3Scan is a very poorly-written application, and if I don't decide what email I want within a very narrow window available for action, I lose my connection and have to start all over again. The fact that I must hurry makes it likely that I will eventually lose email that I should care about.
Interestingly, though, there appears to be much less of my normal (non-wormy) spam. Virtually all of my email is this idiotic SoBig stuff (whose attachments I'm supposed to be tempted to open), with a good springkling of email from moronic POP server robots trying to explain to me that email claiming to come from me has been infected by this virus. Every now and then in this haystack I find the needle of a personal email.
But the sheer virulence of this instance of SoBig has me wondering if I should abandon my email account and start over with something new and secret. It's just a matter of time before web-listed email accounts are completely buried beneath the shit being hurled at them.
This morning Eleanor disappeared again, but this time I had a good idea where she'd gone. I went up the road and looked over at the yard in front of the green house where she'd visited that Jack Russell the other day. While I was standing there, a very large, very orange, very ugly, very bow-legged dog came waddling out of the driveway on the other side of Dug Hill Road (behind me). He must have belonged to some variety of dog bred for its unpleasant qualities. I expected him to start barking at me, but he just stood there, staring at me over the crests of his facial skin wrinkles. So, as usual when meeting a new dog, I said, "Hiiiii!" His response was an agressive "Woo-wooof!" from down near the left end of the piano keyboard. "Okay..." I said, backing away. At this point, little Eleanor came trotting out from the part of the scene he was obscuring. Apparently she'd gone and made herself another friend without even resorting to Friendster.
After I got back to the house, I was worried about Eleanor wandering off again, so I took her for a long walk down the Stick Trail. For some reason Sally didn't come along. Perhaps she's beginning to get annoyed by Eleanor's relentless playfulness in the woods.
Eleanor has learned to identify the warning shrieks of chipmunks and now, like Sally, gets very excited by them.
Owing to the wet summer, the woods are supporting an amazing diversity of mushrooms. There are many edible yellow-spored Boletes, deadly poisonous white Amanitas, marginally hallucinogenic Amanita muscarias, plentiful Old Men of the Woods, red Russulas, small puffballs, coral fungi, and (my discovery today), a white Lactarius piperatus. I sampled a tiny piece in my mouth and it burned like a habañero pepper.
I went back and forth to Woodstock a couple of times on a mission to install an AirPort hub. On one of my drives past the beautiful Ashokan Reservoir on Dike Road I almost ran into a Canada Goose.
The first version of "about me" that I put in my Friendster profile:
i live the life of an idle rich person not because i work
hard and play by the rules, but because i download all my
music for free and shoplift every chance i get. oh, and my
wife made out like a bandit in the new york real estate bubble.
(I replaced this today with a slightly-edited Nigerian spam that actually claimed to hail from South Africa.)
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next