Sunday, 23 May 2010

Finely Chopped on Facebook... My experiments with Web 2.0

Warning: Geeky post ahead

I recently opened a Facebook Page for my food blog, Finely Chopped. A blogger friend wrote in today saying that she'd just discovered this page. She said she was wondering why I had stopped putting food updates on Facebook. Till she found the Finely Chopped pages. And then said that this was a good idea as I could reach out to a larger number of like minded people.

So why did I start a Facebook page for the blog.

Well let's go back to more than a decade and a half and about twenty five kilos less to a balmy afternoon in Calcutta's Presidency College. PR or Dr Prasanta Ray, an urban legend and head of our Sociology Department was taking our class. One of those rare teachers who could connect life with education. Reason why I remember a lot of what he had taught then.

PR was discussing the book of a rather intriguingly named Sociologist called Tom Bottomore. If I remember right, Bottomore said that each individual has a number of social concentric circles around him. Friends. Family. Family of procreation or the out laws. Of orientation or birth. Work. And so on. People apparently behave differently in each of these groups and often reflect the image others have of them when living in each circle. So if your parents want you to be studious, you will hide your desires to be a rock star. If your friends thought you you to be a rock star in college then you would play Led Zepp in your car while driving down in pinstripes. If your office doesn't approve of rock stars then you would toe the party line and espouse the values of your company.

PR, without doubt, was a rcok star in his trademark white dhoti and white panjabi and gleaming scalp ... though we did disagree on whether the college should have rock concerts or not. A rare moment of discord.

Mr Bottomore passed away in '92 according to Wiki. No one told us that in 92 -95 when we were in college. But it is interesting to see how some of what he said plays out in the age of web 2.0 and social networking.

So what are the concentric circles that I belong to? Family. Fortunately or not, no one apart from my brother and wife are fellow web denizens. So I can crack all the family jokes that I want to. Friends. A lot of whom I have made in the last couple of years. Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with. In real life and in the virtual world. Work. The stuff which brings the bacon to the table. And, how could I forget, saving the best for the last, food lover, cooking enthusiast, food blogger and the very occasionally commissioned food writer.

How do these translate into social networks? In my scheme of things work should nestle itself in Linkedin. Work relations are professional, most of us have a job to do, often for corporations. Our relations are defined by this context. In my mind these relations are represented by the 'connections' of Linkedin. Want to network, self profile, discuss business, further business, recruit, apply for a job ... go to Linkedin. Work has its boundaries. Linkedin defines this. Things become messy and complicated when the professional steps onto the personal.

Next comes 'friends'. Ideally Facebook is where I would like to connect with them. Remember we are the mid thirties generation. We don't have the time to physically 'hang out'. Web 2.0 is tailor made for us. Problem is that Facebook profiles are public. What works for it goes against it too. I might define friends as "Folks who are in similar spaces as me in terms of life stage, aspirations, experiences and mind sets. With whom you develop a degree of pleasant warmth. People you look forward to connecting with". But the truth is that you have people from work - clients, colleagues, suppliers - those who want to 'network' creeping into your private space of Facebook. Or voices from the hoary past. Whom you might often not recognise as more than a name or a roll number in college or school. Or even less. And strangers - 'mutual friends' - who don't even bother to give a word of introduction but want to be friends. Well, I really doubt if 'friends' could number into hundreds, forget thousands.

And then comes 'food enthusiast'. Finely Chopped is my blog where I hold forth on food. But then blogs are meaningful, weighty, broadcast mediums, not as interactive as Facebook. So I would put a number of food updates on Facebook which might not be on the blog. Then I realised that not all my friends are foodies. Jibes of 'how much do you eat' were common. Which I could understand. After all I don't see the point of those who flood my Facebook pages with songs, ads or worse, internet management and marketing news retweets. To each his or her own. Who am I to judge if you surf the net for work and not porn.

Plus there were unfortunately some pure work contacts in FB. Folks whom I didn't want to actively broadcast my life to. Which is different from them stumbling onto my blog. My blog's not anonymous. That's a call I took and am comfortable with. Just don't want to be seen broadcasting stuff. That's needy

And so my Facebook page was born. With some help from fellow blogger and virtual friend, Pree. I am a tech dinosaur after all. This is a place for food 'lovers' to collect. I don't like the word 'obsessed'. If you like food and people who like food then this is the place to be. Here you will find lots of food. Meals. Recipes. News. Dreams. And a barrage of it. You can choose to be here if you are fine with it. Or, you could choose to not 'like' it. This is not the place to be if food bugs you. As they say, "you shouldn't be in the kitchen if you can't stand the heat".

And here's some geeky stuff on my Facebook experiences for those who came to this post because of an interest in social media rather than food.

  • Finely Chopped, the blog, got about 102 followers after around 2.5 years on Blogspot
  • 100 odd followers after about a year on Twitter
  • 183 'likes' after about 2.5 weeks on Facebook. And daily page views on Finely Chopped went up by about 30 per cent after I opened the Facebook page
I guess amongst the three, Facebook is the best way to connect and broadcast with people of our demographic. The blessed 'Networkers' know that. Pity.


Scarlett said...

I agree. It's really annoying when people from your professional life try to intrude into your personal space on FB. I don't send friend requests to people at work or clients unless I am also friendly with them outside of work. Wonder why others don't understand that.

The knife said...

At Scarlett...guess what, that's what happened to me after I wrote out this long rant