The long trail of conversations best forgotten

I recently purged nearly a decade's worth of tweets on my Twitter account last month, going from over 51,000 posts to around 1,500. There's been a lot of talk about this sort of thing around the internet, in the wake of alt-right trolls tanking the careers of movie directors or attempting to do so to former colleagues. I'm certain that in the ten or so years I've been on Twitter, I've never really tweeted anything controversial, but if there's any one lesson out of some of these instances, it's that there's a lot that can be taken out of context and warped in ways that are unpleasant. 

This comes at a time when I've been really thinking about the uses of social media and been thinking about how I approach talking on the internet. Last year, I interviewed horror author Joe Hill, and the topic of Twitter and social media came up, which provided some real revelations for me, particularly in how he notes that sites like Twitter and Facebook can really isolate people and bring out their worst behaviors. As social creatures, we're really not well suited to working in really large communities. In smaller structures, we can easily self-regulate our behavior: someone who steps out of line will get attached with a considerable social stigma, whereas when they're able to network and pool their personalities together, that job gets harder — a job that companies like Twitter, Facebook, and others have completely ignored. Angry people is good business: it helps with engagement when you can rile yourself up in your own little echo chamber. 

The actions of various companies over the last year have really only reinforced this perception for me. Bad behavior that is really, truly detrimental just doesn't have consequences attached to it. It's weird, because when I was a teenager exploring the internet, the forums I belonged to were typically moderated. Bad behavior would earn you a time-out or a ban. The new wave of companies that followed prized growth over healthy communities, and now we're in today.

Facebook reminds me that I've been on the platform since 2006: I remember the hype around it when I first joined: an exclusive, college-only social network that wasn't as ugly as MySpace. Looking back on those early days, I cringe as the types of things that I was posting. There are conversations, complaints, and memories that would have otherwise faded with time, preserved in silicone and electrons. As a historian, that long tail of thoughts is really cool, because I can go back and mine that past for contemporary thoughts on ... whatever it was I was vaguebooking about. But it's not healthy to dwell over, or to have hanging over one's head, especially when there's the threat that it can be weaponized against you.  

This never really seemed to be a problem with blogs: Facebook and Twitter are great for dashing off thoughts that might have otherwise been deleted in a longer blog post, and the various services out there have tools to reward such impulsive thoughts, with Like buttons, favestars, and commenting sections. It's hard to ignore the rush that a bunch of notifications brings! 

But chasing the endorphin high that those reactions bring just isn't healthy in the long run, and they should be treated like the short-term missives that they are: available for a short while, then thrust out of mind. I've found myself being more thoughtful about what I post to Facebook and Twitter. I've gotten tired of the inane and continual outraged grind when it comes to politics and culture, the people shouting into the voice because it feels like it's better than doing nothing. I've muted vast chunks of my friends list on Facebook, and consider who I follow on Twitter. Social Media is a firehoses of information, and we provide a conduit straight into our brains. Cutting out the aggressive connections with no interest in anything other than mindless anger is a huge relief — not because it provides me with a nice, safe echo-chamber, but because pulling out the loudest voices gives more space to those who are measured and thoughtful. In theory. I'm still muting and hiding people, but it's at least manageable.

I've often said that if I didn't need Facebook or Twitter for work, I probably wouldn't have them. I don't know how true that actually is, because I like what these services provide: connections to people I know (even if I don't necessarily want to see what they have to say all the time). It removes some of the cost of staying in touch, which is a valuable thing. But I'd like to keep drawing back on my reliance of them, going instead to longer-form blogging and online journals that I came of age with. 

The Social Network

The creation of Facebook has changed the way that we look at our entire lives. Since 2004, when it was first launched, the site has forced us to reevaluate how we look at privacy, how we conduct ourselves in public and how we interact with our peers. Despite the numerous faults that can be found with the site, it is a remarkable innovation, one that is here to stay.

David Fincher's film chronicling the story behind the creation of Facebook is a fascinating, well paced film that has almost no right to be as good as it is. Penned by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is almost certainly a dramatic interpretation of what really happened. Events seem to line up as they have in real life, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg has noted that the film is fairly inaccurate, especially when it came to his motivations for starting in the first place. Regardless, it's extremely well written, acted and directed, a film that stands on its own merits, rather than something held up by its own novelty.

Alienating his date, Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) returns to his dorm room where he hacks into Harvard's internal social sites, downloads pictures and puts them together in a site where people are compared and ranked. It's a degrading exercise, but one that's revealing: the site receives over twenty-two thousand hits in a day, taking down Harvard's network, and getting Zuckerburg and his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), thinking about what to do next. Approached by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss to create a social network of their own, Zuckerburg turns around and creates his own site, launching it as an exclusive online site for Harvard and surrounding area students.

The film splits itself between Zuckerburg's college years and several intense questioning sessions by attorneys from the Winklevoss twins and Saverin himself as they try and prove wrongdoing on Zuckerburg's part - the twins claiming that he had stolen their idea, while Saverin was trying to leverage the money that he lost when he was pushed out of the company. The juxtaposition shows how much things could change within a few short years.

The Social Network isn't about Facebook, or really even about the creation of the website. The film's true themes come from the title, and are ultimately an intense character drama between Zuckerburg, Saverin and Justin Timberlake's Sean Parker and their own interactions. Facebook has become an intense issue in the public lime-light, and the film's creators did well to frame their film by the people involved. The Social Network is ultimately the relationship between Zuckerburg and his friends, and ultimately the rest of the world. It's complicated, as Zuckerburg and Saverin face off against one another, backed by their lawyers, and the tension is incredible.

This is a film that is far more compelling than it should be. It's a film about a couple of geeks, working to push against the established social order that they've been told to work in. Zuckerburg has gone on to upend how we interact with one another. Parker notes that while his first company, Napster, was sued and killed by the music industry, it completely changed how people looked at buying, distributing and listening to music. The film also plays up the conflict between the Winklevoss twins - rowers who would go on to the Olympics - as the jocks against a diminutive Zuckerburg who beats them at their own game. Coders are selected by a complicated coding marathon and drinking game that wouldn't seem out of place for a stereotypical sports team - minus the computers and technobabble about what they're coding. Facebook, like some of the other earth changing events and creations in human history, was created by the nerd. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Albert Einstein and numerous others can likely count Zuckerburg amongst their numbers for the changes that he's pushed upon people, for better or worse.

The Social Network, while likely a fictionalized account of true events, is a fascinating take on the people behind the creation of Facebook, and I'm sure that there's some truth behind parts of the story. As someone who's used the website since it began, when it was invite only with a college e-mail address, it's astonishing to think about how much things have changed - there was certainly a nostalgic pang seeing the original masthead and layout. Up for several Oscars, Fincher's film has received a lot of critical acclaim, all of it well deserved for this highly relevant and thoughtful movie.

Social Media and the 501st Legion

As social media and associated platforms grow in relevance in everyday user lives, so too has the importance of utilizing such platforms to the general public for any organization, to promote its successes of its events and members to further grow and prosper as an organization with such a charity focus as the 501st Legion. Over the past couple of years, I’ve helped promote the 501st Legion online through Facebook and Twitter in an effort to help spread the word about the organization to the general public. On the first day that groups were opened outside of school networks, I created the official 501st Group, which I still screen members for based on our group rosters, and when fan pages were first created, I set one up for the group, with the intention that it might hold the place of an official page, as well as one for the New England Garrison. At some point, an official 501st twitter feed was put together by Legion Public Relations Officer Dean Plantamura, which has been continually updated. The New England Garrison twitter feed was put together, which I have since taken over in my role of Garrison Archivist. I had recently provided a similar document to the 501st, and have adapted it with the intent that it could be used by other people who are looking for best practices to promote organizations online, but also for people to think about how they use the internet and social media.

Social Media is an incredibly helpful tool for organizations. As of writing this, the 501st Fan Page has garnered 12,393 fans, while the NEG total runs to 776 total fans. The NEG likewise has 243 followers on twitter (following 102 feeds, mainly local troopers, other garrisons and other geek-related people), while the 501st feed has 4,211 followers and follows 57 people total (Celebrities, official Star Wars related organizations and garrisons). The large number of people following the group, and the level of interactivity that has been noted is a positive one, and allows the 501st legion to address and speak with fans, potential members and organizations in a public setting.

As Social Media is a tool, users and moderators must be mindful of the end result that they are trying to achieve, the overall purpose of the utilization of the tools, and select the proper tools accordingly. People have been organizing themselves into social networks since the dawn of mankind, and this development in the wired world should come as no surprise to anyone, as the seeds of how the internet will be used to connect people have been planted for several years now. As such, it is a tool that should be utilized in the best way possible. (Source)

Facebook is the best example of social media at the moment. According to its website: there are over 500 million active users, and with at least 50% of those users logging in on any given day. In addition to that, there are over 900 million objects (defined as pages, groups, events and community pages), with the average user connected to around 80 of these objects. Facebook also cites 30 billion content items are shared each month. (Statistics from Facebook) This is a company that is designed to connect people with a number of objects, places, and people over the course of each day. (Source)

One of the issues that I’ve noticed with some garrisons and similar organizations is the way that they promote themselves within Facebook, but use the wrong tools available for the job, or that such efforts aren’t followed through on: questions go unanswered, and spam piles up.

Facebook currently allows for several options for the 501st Legion:

Personal Page: A page can be created for any given person in the legion, or for a garrison as a whole, which users can befriend and communicate with. This is the least desirable option for a public relations page for the group, as it is a fairly closed system that permits only a select number of people to befriend (with a waiting period for the owner to accept them) Specific users can be banned, but in this option, the drawbacks are greater than the benefits. The best use for such an element is for someone to befriend legion members on the behalf of a garrison, or for an internal garrison roster, where information can be distributed to members on the platform.

Group: Likewise, Groups are a somewhat closed system, but can allow for open access for the general public, while retaining the ability to hide some information for users, or to lock out specific users. The 501st has an official group, of which only official members with a TK ID and Honorary members are allowed to join. This group is not actively updated. The best use for something like this is for select people to join (garrison or 501st legion members) to discuss garrison events or communicate with one another within the context of the 501st legion.

Fan Pages: This element represents the best option for garrisons or other legion elements to present themselves to the general public. Information can be placed for the public to see, such as news articles, specific topics, or to solicit information from the fan base of the group. This also represents a good location for public information on the legion, such as relevant reference links. The best purpose for a group is public relations with non-members, and presents a place for non-members to ask questions of the legion and its members.

All three locations have specific uses for specific actions and intentions, and Garrison members should be mindful of these uses as they are designing them. While a closed system such as a personal account can be locked down for non-members, and certain things can be discussed, things like fan pages can be opened to the public, and certain things can be viewed by the general public. As such, all elements should require constant supervision by an appointed or volunteer moderator to ensure that the image of the legion is upheld, and that appropriate conduct is visible to members and non-members alike.

In one incident recently, a disgruntled member who had been banned from the internal forums had accessed the 501st Legion page and posted a gallery of screen shots of an incident that had ended up with his dismissal. This was not the appropriate location for such discussion in a public place, and the entry was promptly deleted. Similar incidents with spam postings, inappropriate language, insults and other conduct have been noted, and are removed when found.

Moderation is needed for the most public areas of such sites, to prevent this sort of thing from lasting too long on the site, and proving to be a negative experience for the legion. However, moderators should allow genuine critical comments and not be overly heavy-handed when it comes to deleting comments. Statements, pictures, and links that are overly hateful, inappropriate, solicit non-legion activities and other obvious things ('All members, friend me!', 'Click here to donate', and so forth are examples that have been removed). The idea is to foster a positive community that people who follow the organization can look at and contribute to.

Moderators also need to be aware that they are representing the Legion as a whole, and people unable to cope with this responsibility should not be in charge of a page. One of the most crucial lessons that need to be learned for anybody using the internet is that there is no privacy, and there should not be the expectation of privacy: where this is the case with an individual, it should be noted for an organization as well. While the 501st Legion is a diverse group, conflicts such as the ones noted above are elements that should be limited in the public’s eye; such actions disrupt the public image that any organization is trying to promote.

Fortunately, the 501st’s fan base is a good, robust one. A large number of fans on the 501st page have shown to be helpful, directing people who might otherwise not find costuming and reference links, showing people where to join in their area, and allowing the Legion as a whole to demonstrate causes and charities that it frequently works with. The ~12,000 fan base allows for the legion to direct support to local garrisons, similar organizations and causes as well. Recently, the Georgia Garrison put out a call for fans to invite others with the hope that they could reach 100 members in the two weeks prior to Dragon*Con. This call was replicated and tagged on the 501st page, and the Georgia Garrison was able to reach and exceed that goal within a day. Similar actions have been taken, with comparable results. On author, Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) on twitter, has produced what is called the Neil Gaiman Effect, where he has accidentally taken down websites by directing an incredible amount of attention to said sites, requiring the webmasters to work and get them back up again. This is part of the power of social media.

The use of twitter is common amongst garrisons, and the 501st has utilized this to highlight announcements, news articles, update fans from events, and to communicate with fans who might have questions. The Legion's feed entries are often copied to the Facebook page, and have been used to retweet links, statements and pictures from fans who post up relevant information.

The New England Garrison has a relatively small presence when it comes to social media. While it boasts nearly 800 fans, the fans are relatively quiet, interacting with the site minimally, whereas the legion site has a much higher active number of participants who 'like' and comment on posts. Similarly, with twitter, there are few direct messages or @ replies to the garrison as a whole.

The NEG likewise posts up public events to the Facebook page, with the relevant details: location, time and description, and allows members to invite people to events, which has brought people who otherwise might have missed such events (members who are not frequently up to date on garrison activities, friends and family who might not have otherwise been known about events, etc). These event listings are helpful, and allow members to keep track of garrison activities through where most people go each day. Care needs to be taken that private events not be posted up for safety and privacy concerns: birthday parties, or other non-public events.

The 501st Legion has the ability to post up events, but the framework and logistics are not in place for effective coverage of the Garrison's activities as a whole. This does remain a possibility, and there are other activities that the legion and garrison can do to reward the large number of fans that it's gained - contests have been staged at milestones, and certainly, the page can be used to solicit images, stories, and other items.

To conclude, Social Media is an important tool for legion members and non-fans to interact with the legion and their local Garrisons, and the appropriate, official venues for such things should be sought out.

Care and dedication needs to be put forward by said groups, in order to ensure that timely, accurate and appropriate information is directed to the general public in the best manner possible, while removing information and comments that would otherwise be inappropriate for the Legion to be associated with.

Legion members should foster a constant and relevant relationship with fans - answering questions in a timely manner and posting up information that reflects the efforts of the members that keeps the public engaged.

Utilization of social media helps to foster relationships with fans, potential members and members of the legion, as well as local businesses and organizations who might be willing to partner with the legion and its members.

The results thus far have demonstrated that the Legion has a positive experience thus far from the technology, and that it will need to continue such a presence, on an official, and local level. The lessons that have been demonstrated with the legion’s experience with social media are ones that should be learned and implemented by other organizations to help utilize social media to its fullest potential.

Tools of the Trade

Facebook has had an awful week, with rollouts and several blotched interviews with employees about the future of the website, with how the site is handling user information. While at points, I've been somewhat worried about what is going on with some of the changes, it's really no different than any other element of the internet, going back to when I first starting building websites online: there is nothing private on the internet. With that in mind, it's important to remember that Facebook is a tool, one that is highly popular, useful, and still very new, but when using it, it should be used as such.

The internet is a place that has absolutely revolutionized how we interact with people around the world. Personally, I work for a graduate school through Norwich University, which deals exclusively through the internet as a way to deliver its content to students enrolled in the various programs that we provide. Speaking as a student who's been through the Military History degree, the online aspect wasn't a huge barrier for me, and ultimately, for other students who go through the program, because the school has refined its methods and found the best way to deliver the content that makes up a graduate degree. And, having gone through the program, I can attest that because it's an online school, it's not an easy thing to do.

Things such as iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, the Angel Learning Platform, hardbound books, and so forth are all tools that are designed (or come to be designed to meet an end) for some purpose. Oftentimes, I've heard people talk about how useless it is to tweet, to be connected to an iPhone, and to spend one's time indoors reading all the time. While it's true that in a number of instances, online resources can be incredible time wasters, they can also be vital for networking, communicating and learning with any number of topics and subjects.

I've been largely leery of twitter, up until a couple of months ago, when I began speaking with several authors and websites through it. Not only did it open several possibilities, I've found that it's a fantastic, informal way to speak with people I might not have been able to speak with, and it allows me to spread what I write as well to those people, who might not ordinarily read my blog, or remember to. At the same point, where I've found that it's a fantastic way to keep in touch with some people, it's likewise a good way to spread news, stories, webpages and videos, like any good social media application should do.

Tools are tools, and the nature of online sites really makes it unclear as to what something is supposed to do. A hammer is supposed to pound nails into things, a car is supposed to transport a person from point A to B, in varying amounts of style, and a website is supposed to promote, create or make money. Facebook is doing just that, and it's doing it well. While I'm disturbed at the sheer amount of unleashed greed and disregard for any sort of ethics behind some of the business practices that Facebook seems to be moving in, it makes perfect business sense for what they're doing: as a business, they need to make money in order to keep the lights on, pay their employees and continue to innovate.

I don't know what the legal obligations are in place for the site to keep people's information secure. It seems like it would make good business sense for them to keep a lid on a lot of things, because with major news organizations and even Congress looking into what they are doing, that doesn't help business, and in the Darwinian world of commerce, something better, like Diaspora, which is touting itself as a startup that will be an open sourced, locked down alternative to Facebook, will take over and go from there. At the same point, users need to realize that Facebook is a sort of tool that allows for connections, and that inherently, they want to make as many connections between users, businesses and items as possible, and opening up information, with that context, makes a lot of sense.

It goes to show that whatever you put online, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's a safe haven. MySpace, Livejournal, Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, Meebo, Friendster, and the whole lot of it, can be overcome and in all probability, someone else will see it, and they might not be people you want seeing that sort of thing, whether it's a boss, girl/boyfriend, parent, relative, or random other person who has some interest in you. The bottom line, for me, is that it shouldn't go online. Period.

When I heard some of the news coming down the pipeline about Facebook, I was more than a little annoyed. I was almost ready to wash my hands of it, walk away and not look back, but looking at what I use the site for, I would have a difficult time doing that: I use it to talk to people, to share information and to promote my own writing and articles when published, and I have no issues with that. It's become a dominant form of how we talk to each other, and the recent news serves as a good reminder that large businesses don't always have the user's interests at their heart. So, with a little more care online, plus an adblocker, I realize that I really don't care that Facebook sees and shares that i'm a fan of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Sherlock Holmes and Carbon Leaf - the information is there for people to see, and the information that's not there, isn't.

The Geek Community

There's a television show that came out a couple of years ago, called Freaks and Geeks. I've watched through it a couple of times, and have really enjoyed what I've seen, but there's always been one thing that's bothered me: the kids in the school really hate being called a geek. They're repulsed by it, go to great lengths to avoid the term, altering their own behavior, and things like that. Part of this, I know, comes from a lot of the negative connotations with the word, which I've always found troubling, and another part is the times, and the possession of some hindsight.

Geeks are cool these days, for a lot of reasons, and there's a lot of writing on the walls that says so. Avatar, and a number of other science fiction, fantasy or horror films topped the box office for monetary totals, Neil Gaiman's book, American Gods was the first book to be chosen for an international, interactive book club on twitter, and so on. There is an entire sub-culture blooming that centers around every element that had once been only reserved for the geeks exiled to the back of the cafeteria.

It's not the material, however, that really determines if any one person is a geek or a nerd, it's largely in how they perceive the world, approach problems and how they value knowledge. I've come to understand that in a large part, reading Lord of the Rings, the Foundation Trilogy, watching Star Wars or Star Trek a hundred times or obsessing over movie rumors is something that appeals to those of a more geek-oriented mindset. It might be something about the way authors construct totally new and alien worlds, landscapes and events in all forms of media, or it might be some more basic desire to explore, and more importantly, to learn, about something.

I had a friend of mine tell me, when we lived in London, that she found me to be very passionate about any number of subjects: history, science fiction, travel, whereas she noted that she felt that she lacked that. I don't know if that was the case, but I do know that I'm not alone in that mindset, and I don't think that it's something that's grown or changed. I suspect that a very real reason for why geek culture is really something that's become somewhat more popular is the ability for people to really begin to talk with one another. Since high school, I've begun to realize just how vast the 'geek community' is, because it reaches into so many subjects and places. My earliest experiences with this sort of networking goes back over ten years, to Star Wars message forums (TFN Boards,, and various EU book sites), to major blogs and their commenting abilities (such as Boing Boing, io9, SF Signal,, to name just a couple) to things like facebook and twitter, which allow for their own cross-communications to spring up and flourish.

Geeks like information, I've come to understand, and the best thing to happen to Geek culture is to have the ability to share and create information across the board with the internet, where it's easy to find and to distribute, through any number of means. We talk about books, films, comics and concepts, across the world or with a simple meet up in a library or bookstore to create a rich environment that really allows for something special: community.

Community is important, I think, much in the same way why groups such as Gangs, the Boy Scouts and After School programs exist: they give people a sense of purpose, belonging and a place to exchange ideas amongst their peers - this has always been the case. In 1940s England, Science Fiction fan clubs sprang up across the country, often with small groups in individual towns, which would later coalesce into larger groups with time. The same thing happened in the United States, and throughout these groups, members wrote letters to each other and magazines, gathered in homes, small conventions, to discuss what they had been reading and often, their own works, giving rise to science fiction writers in their own right. The same thing has happened in the digital age.

Thus, these interactions and groupings really are important, especially to those lonely kids in Freaks and Geeks, who had no one to turn to - they turned to each other, and supported (sometimes) their friends when needed. The same is true, here, because when that happens, new ideas are exchanged, created and brought to fruition, in a fantastic fashion.

Changes to Facebook

A couple weeks ago, Facebook changed its overall website appearance and layout once again, prompting user outcry and complaints about how the site had changed once again, and that they were going to leave the site. However, the frequent changes to the site's appearance are the reasons why Facebook is going to be around for a while.

In the time since Facebook started, it has had an incredible amount of influence on how people begin to interact with one another. Growing up with much larger, completing websites such as Friendster and Myspace, the website has shown that it's able to take on their competition by adapting to major changes in how people utilize the internet. When it started, the website was essentially an online profile, listing someone's name, their favorites, a picture, a way to upload photographs, and a wall. Originally, when I first started with the website in 2005, the wall feature had a disclaimer on it: "We don't know what this is for, but type away", or something along those lines. Initially as a comments field, the Wall has become a central part of the Facebook website, changing how people interact with one another, share information and update their friends on the mundane aspects of their lives.

The wall feature is the most important aspect of the website, and something that other websites have attempted to copy - Myspace now allows for status updates, as does numerous chat clients, such as gchat and AIM, while becoming the literal center of attention for users. The home page, once one's profile, changed to a friends list, to a new feed that gathered everyone's status updates to keep everyone up to date with everything that was going on. The result is an addicting one - hundreds of millions have signed up for the service, and while each new update undoubtedly sees a drop off in people, either out of frustration or security concerns, the site has continued to grow.

Facebook's constant changes to the design are what will be keeping the website from going the way of their now smaller cousins. It's a good business practice, and demonstrates that the site is not only keeping up to date with what their competition is doing, but it shows that the company is innovative and looking to lead the way in just how people use the internet. This, I think, is the most important aspect of the site's longevity thus far.

Since the site began, the ways in which people have utilized the internet has changed a lot, partially at the site's prompting, but also with the introduction of other websites. Looking at the bigger picture, it's unlikely that the website Twitter would have appeared without the introduction of Facebook’s status updates, and in its stripped down form, Twitter has become incredibly popular. With this new competition, the latest versions of Facebook have focused on the updates that people post to their profiles via the news and live feeds that exist in the home page. With it, Facebook is able to offer the exact same thing (although with four times the characters as their competitor), with all of the extras that the site already offers. Its adaptation comes not only in how people use the internet, but how they access the internet. Dedicated Facebook sites for mobile devices have been developed, while some of its competitors, such as myspace, keep the same format, reducing functionality and the overall appearance to the site.

Similarly, the introduction of new features, such as the suggestions to users who they might know, as well as easy ways to import contacts allow the site to keep users invested, talking and continuing to use the site as often as possible. The site’s purpose, in this instance is to become as useful as possible for people to connect to one another, and it’s certainly succeeded in the time that I’ve used it, keeping me in touch with a number of people whom I would have fallen out of touch with years ago.

As the site moved from a social networking site into the greater business world, it's also been clear that the site has had longer term business plans as the site has begun to expand, hinging on the ability of the site to adapt effectively to new online environments. The introduction of small paid applications, targeted ads and other similar practices help with the website when it comes to its finances, helping to generate cash for the site. This, in my mind, is why Facebook will never charge for access, no matter how many of the groups out there claim that that's in the works. It doesn't make sense, because a lot of the site's growth is most likely contingent on signing up as many people as possible, and introducing a fee, no matter how small it is, would impede that greatly, although long-time users would likely cough it up. No, the key to Facebook is the growth of the platform, and clearly, they're doing something right in that regard.