Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We think that highlighting the stories of people and groups who are using social network sites as part of their day-to-day lives for staying in touch with old friends and meeting new ones, learning, personal growth, professional development, and political activism will help people better understand the transformative possibilities of this medium, and give a new lens for exploring the tough issues related to privacy and free speech.

Introducing … Tales from the Net , January 2008

When we started working on Tales from the Net, one of our major goals was to demystify social networks, both to make them less scary to people who don’t have experience with them .  Since then, Facebook’s grown so explosively that today the majority of people in the US have a Facebook account.  People feel safe there, and for many it’s become a big part of the fabric of their lives, a core channel for day-to-day communications with friends and families.  Demystification accomplished.  Thanks, Facebook!

But by itself, Facebook gives a very partial view of the possibilities.  Most of the stories we’re planning to tell in Tales from the Net are set on sites with a different feel and different styles of interacting: lengthy discussions as opposed to brief wall posts and status updates, personas and multiple identities as opposed to a “true name” policy, much more tolerant of political speech and sexuality.

So the book has evolved into something of a travelog, visiting different social network sites and telling the stories we find there. We’ll spend the most time at places we’ve hung out at over the years: tribe.net, Seducersworld, free-association, Twitter, and yes even Facebook. We’ll also make shorter side trips to exotic locales like Lostpedia, IfWeRanTheWorld, 4Chan, the Oil Drum, and Dreamwidth.

A lot of the same themes show up in different places: interactions between the online and offline worlds, identity and pseudonymity, conversations, meeting new people, privacy, trolls, and the same kinds of interpersonal dynamics that have been going on for thousands of years. Each site has its own flavor as well, and we’ll do our best to convey that. One of the things we love about discussion-oriented social networks is that the threads shapshot the discussions in the original words as they were happening, so we think we can capture both the immediacy of the discussions and the different voices involved.

We’ll wrap up Tales from the Net with a chapter looking at the paths forward. Some are gloomy: governments threatened by the internet’s potential for change clamping down, ongoing losses of privacy, the disappearance of pseudonymity, reinforcement of existing dimensions of oppression. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Social network sites and other social media offer a chance to realize the potential of cyberspace.  We hope the stories we tell here help paint a picture of what’s possible — and what’s at stake.

Over the next few months we’ll be blogging sporadically: serializing a chapter or two, discussing and requesting input about interesting tales , progress updates. We’re still working out just what the rhythm will be. We’ve also got a Twitter account at @TalesFromTheNet and will slowly  start tweeting as well.

We’re really excited about where we’re going with Tales from the Net. Thanks to everybody who’s given us advice and feedback so far, and we hope you’ll join us on our journey!

Deborah and Jon

posted by Jon at 10:09 am  


  1. Welcome back! Here’s an important topic for your Tales from the Net.

    Many have been banned from Huffington Post and their profiles arbitrarily deleted without reason.


    1. A group has drafted a petition protesting the Huffington Post ‘s censorship, including “ongoing abuses of both HP policy and the principles of open democratic civil discourse.” The group plans to publish “incidents of arbitrary and ongoing censorship at the Huffington Post.”
    For more information see: http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/james-ballard/blog/2010/08/petition You can also email: oldworldgallery@hotmail.com

    2. Have you been banned from commenting and/or had your profile deleted by the Huffington Post? Please send your examples to: RedDog071@gmail.com for the blog, “Banned From Huffpo”: http://bannedfromhuffpo.blogspot.com/

    3. In addition to the above, can someone who has a related website/blog create a table or list where people could list:

    • their screen name
    • title of the article involved
    • date they were banned/profile deleted from Huffington Post

    Posting such a list would let the facts speak for themselves!

    Comment by Expose the Truth — August 23, 2010 @ 6:50 am

  2. Thanks for the comment, Expose the Truth, and yes, this is very much the kind of story we’d like to tell — we’ve already got examples from Facebook, change.org, and digg, so it’d be great to add HuffPo. Great blog! Excellent detective work and documentation. Let’s follow up in email!

    For your point #3, the easiest thing to do to create a page on that blog where people submit their stories.
    How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech
    is an example of this. Or you can use GetSatisfaction like they did here. If you want a table, then you might try a Google Spreadsheet, Wetpaint, or pbworks. Those are all a little harder for people to get started with, though, so I’d probably start with the simplest thing possible now.

    Hope this helps!


    Comment by Jon — August 26, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  3. Thanks Jon! The best resource I’ve found is http://bannedfromhuffpo.blogspot.com/

    That website was created by: RedDog071@gmail.com He would be the best person to correspond with by email.

    Here’s the latest from Red Dog — A PETITION against censorship at Huffington Post:

    Huffington Post arbitrarily deletes comments, bans those who post comments, and deletes profiles. The pattern of arbitrary censorship extends far beyond HP’s published moderation policies.

    Please sign the Petition to Stop Out of Control Censorship at the Huffington Post Censorship here: http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org/petitions/view/stop_the_out_of_control_censorship_on_the_huffington_post

    The petition text is a letter that gets sent automatically to the Huffington Post (community-support@huffingtonpost.com) every time someone signs. Note: you can edit or completely change the letter that gets sent when you sign so you can make it about any specific free speech issues that you like.

    PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE! Share the link on all of your social networks—Facebook, Twitter, etc!

    Comment by Expose the Truth — September 5, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  4. Hi, this is Red Dog. I’m the author of the http://bannedfromhuffpo.blogspot.com blog. You can reach me at reddog071@gmail.com

    Comment by Red Dog — September 6, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  5. Red Dog and I followed up on the phone, and the story continues in “Banned from Huffpo”

    Comment by Jon — September 9, 2010 @ 7:03 am

  6. Suzanne Moore’s Why my friends on Facebook and Twitter matter as much as those in the real world strikes a similar chord:

    As a journalist, I am a fan of both Facebook and Twitter and am rather bored of people telling me that I shouldn’t be talking to people I don’t know in real life. I am not five, living in a world of ‘stranger danger’. Yes it’s true some people do tweet every time they have tea, but others can inform you of events or just make you laugh. Facebook is great for exchanging music. On Twitter, no news exclusive remains so for more than about two minutes. If I want to know what’s happening, I find it faster than all the major news sites….

    Over the past year I have seen relationships form and fail, celebrities unravel, chatted to politicians and musical heroes of mine. I have frequently asked for technical advice because I am remarkably thick about how any of it actually works. I have found out what life is like for someone in Kabul and followed a photographer who was tweeting for help when the Redshirts were being shot in Thailand. When I lost my passport in Cambodia I turned to Twitter. And I received help from people in Phnom Penh, friends at home and a man from Channel 4 News….

    Don’t tell me this is somehow not the real world. It is an enhancement of it and those who I have met through social media have been a delight.

    Comment by Jon — September 13, 2010 @ 6:14 am

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