Information Technology

General technology topics.

Social Networking Systems: History, Critique, and Knowledge Management Potentials

A multiplicity of social networking services (SNS) have been introduced within the last several years. SNS Web sites such as Friendster have rapidly gained subscribers who seek to augment their personal social network, to seek new relationships, or to access various, peer-created or collected information. These recent SNS Web sites differ from their less formal predecessors, such as UseNet newsgroups, in that they make direct relational links and allow representations beyond purely text. Social networking is innate to the human cultural experience, but the concept is not new to electronic networks – bulletin boards and other forums have served the same purpose. These applications are popular because they focus on personal relationships and orient on specific social or informational goals. SNS sites attract participants with interests ranging from making business contacts to dating and leisure activities. Likewise, SNS sites facilitate narrowly focused information exchange including recommendations, news, editorial and personal narrative, and so on. Each of the current SNS applications appeals to a basic human desire for connection and inclusiveness within a social group or activity.

By modeling real social networks in a virtual environment, SNS adds value to the existing networks by multiplying the potential for connection and by centralizing communications between its members. Unfortunately, the increasing choice of SNS sites, lack of data portability between applications, simplistic relationship models, and inability to control facets of personal data threatens to prevent the technology from maturing. Additionally, market failure for SNS technologies would detract from the potential these applications have for improving personal and organizational knowledge management applications.

Systems Security: Problems and Potential Solutions

With the increasing connection of computers to networks comes a corresponding increase in the threats to the integrity and security of data on those computers. Outbreaks of Internet “worms,” computer viruses, and other “malware” are becoming more frequent and virulent as witnessed by the reports of maladies named “Melissa”, “ILOVEYOU” (Weaver, 2001), and, most recently, “MyDoom” (Legon, 2003). Malicious code, or “malware,” generally describes all types of infectious programs, including viruses and worms (McAfee Security, 2003). Malware attacks in all their forms use a combination of human psychology and the vulnerabilities or design weaknesses found in software to spread rapidly from computer to computer across a network. Such attacks cause tangible damage such as depletion of computing resources, time spent to repair the damage, and loss of electronic data. Additionally, malware attacks have lasting, yet less tangible, effects on the behaviors of computer users and software developers. The problem of systems security and information assurance requires a sophisticated mix of behavioral changes by individual users, software vendors, and possibly governments to solve. Given the complexity of the problem, however, the vulnerabilities of computer systems may never be completely eliminated.