We know there are jurors who blog, and jurors who read blogs, and jurors who comment on blogs. By now you're surely convinced that you need to ask potential jurors if they're writing on line. But do you know how? There are nearly countless ways a juror could show up on the Internet. You need some sense of the landscape to ask about them, or you'll get partial answers or answers you don't understand.
If words like "Tweet" and "wiki" pop up often in your vocabulary, you don't need this post. But in case this stuff is new to you, here is Deliberations' short guide to the world of social networking. These are roughly grouped according to the main feature of the site, but most have overlapping features and functions.
By its nature, this page will never be "done," and it will be outdated in some way almost as soon as it's posted. If you see chances to correct, update, or add to it, please write to me; you'll get both gratitude and credit.
Basic social networking sites
Social networking 101 starts with the basic players. Members each have a personal page where they post thoughts, pictures, music (often a song starts playing as soon as you click on the page), and videos. Then friends chime in with their own thoughts, and links to their pages, and out it spreads from there. Within the community there are usually blogs (thousands), forums, groups, and dating searches, but the basic unit is the individual page. Examples:
- My Space, "a place for friends"
- Orkut, "We hope to put you on the path to social bliss soon."
- Zude!, "Feel free."
- Gather, "a place where you can share the things that are important to you with the people who are important to you, too."
Ethnic and special-interest communities
A company called Community Connect has social networking sites aimed at specific groups. They work like My Space and the rest, but members look more alike -- or worship more alike, or love people more like them. The five sites in October 2007:
- BlackPlanet.com, "the world is yours"
- MiGente.com, "the power of Latinos"
- Glee.com, "Gay. Lesbian. And everyone else."
These sites are big enough that Barack Obama has a page on each of them except Faithbase, all matching this sample from BlackPlanet. ("Sex: male. Age: 46. Primary job: government and policy.")
A blog looks, well, like this. It's a page where you write separate posts that are organized by date. The format works well for a personal journal as well as a sort of on-line newsletter like this one. Individual blogs are typically supported by blogging platforms such as TypePad (the one I use), Blogger, WordPress, and (for law blogs) LexBlog, but you don't have to hop from site to site to search them. Several search engines search all blogs at once, or at least lots of them. Examples:
As instant messages are to essays, microblogs are to blogs. Twitter, the leader here, calls itself "a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?" Typical "Tweets" tell the world that the author is heading out for pizza, or bored at work, or listening to music, or going to the bathroom.
People read this stuff, you ask? Yes, thousands, to the point where marketing gurus like Guy Kawasaki have joined up and are sending out their wisdom in Tweets. Microblog search engines are starting to appear, too. Examples of microblog sites:
- Twitter, "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?"
- Rabble, designed to be used from mobile phones
- Pownce, "Send stuff to your friends"
- Yappd, "Let your friends see what you're up to!"
Blog/social network hybrids
These are on-line communities where the user's "home base" is a blog with date-stamped entries, rather than a page with posted information. These sites have the same functions the social networking sites do -- friends, groups, posted images and videos, etc -- but they're organized around blogs. Examples:
With all the ads on MySpace and the hamster pictures on FaceBook, it's amazing it took so long for someone to develop a networking site for business. It's not clear that they're taking off, especially as FaceBook attracts older users. LinkedIn has a lot of people in it, but it doesn't encourage the kind of communication the broader sites do, so at least in my experience it's very quiet. (Word is they're developing more kinds of interaction.) LawLink is new, but people like Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs and Doug Cornelius at KM Space wonder if it will attract anyone when it's so small and other sites are so big. Anyway, examples are:
- Linked In, "Relationships matter"
- Ryze, "helps you expand your business network"
- LawLink, "The First Online Network Exclusively For Attorneys"
If you're nuts for a hobby, there's a social networking site for nuts like you. A tiny, random tip of that huge iceberg:
- Fatsecret, "the diet solution of the people, by the people, for the people"
- WetCanvas!, "Cyber Living for Artists"
- Fuzzter.com, "A Social Network for Cats, Dogs and All Your Fuzzy Pets"
- BakeSpace.com, "a place for cookers and cakers"
- Common Circle: "Powered by a mix of solar/wind energy and pure love, Common Circle exists to help support the progressive movement."
- Infield Parking, co-founded by NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., "leverages the power of social networking to bring together the millions of race fans eager to share their passion for the sport with fellow racing fans and also makes it easy for fans to connect directly with their favorite drivers," but hasn't yet mastered the art of the catchy tag line.
- Vinorati, "your wines and you"
On a sharing site, the main point isn't your page, or your blog -- it's your stream. Users are there to share their images, video clips, jokes, music (or, nowadays, music recommendations), or expertise. Most of us breeze into YouTube or Flickr to look for a specific clip or image, but for frequent users, it's more than a resource; it's a community where you can learn a lot about a person by what she shares. Many artists, for example, use a Flickr "photostream" as their main face to the world.
Examples of sharing sites include:
Video (and a little audio)
- YouTube (hands down the best-known sharing site on the Internet), "Broadcast Yourself."
- Funny or Die, a site said to be developed by Will Farrell and others "where celebrities, established and up-and-coming comedians and regular users can all put up stuff they think is funny." Will Ferrell's profile and what are billed as his picks are here.
- blip.tv, "We focus on shows"
- ComicWonder, where funny users call in jokes by phone
- Revver, "the viral video network that pays"
and of course niche sharing sites had to be next, like
- GodTube, "Broadcast Him," with the terrific tag line, "What would Jesus download?"
The file-sharing music sites you've heard about are struggling as the Recording Industry Association of America pursues those who trade songs on line. (The RIAA's recent $220,000 verdict against a Minnesota woman got a lot of press.) If you go to Grokster, once an active music-sharing site, your screen will show nothing but a notice in huge letters: "The United States Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that using this service to trade copyrighted material is illegal. . . . YOUR IP ADDRESS IS [insert long number here] AND HAS BEEN LOGGED. Don't think you can't get caught. You are not anonymous." Okay, okay.
The Minnesota woman's music site, KaZaA, is still on line, and the trend in this area seems to be toward music recommendation sites where users post lists and short clips of what they like, but not the whole song. Examples of both types:
You don't think of Amazon.com as a sharing site? Think again. It was one of the first places where users could demonstrate their expertise in self-published book reviews and "Listmania" lists of their recommended books on a topic. Now Amazon lets you expand your list into a "guide," with your explanatory text. One person's reviews, lists, and guides are all gathered in his profile, with links to "friends" just like any other social network.
Then there's Squidoo, brainchild of marketing guru Seth Godin, where users build a free web page called a "lens," with links and text displaying their expertise on any topic.
These are sharing sites too, but there are so many of them and they're so powerful that they're worth talking about separately. Bookmarking users share things they've found on line -- news stories, blog posts, web sites. Other users get their news from the resulting flood of stories, and they in turn flag stories they like. As in other sharing sites, each user has an individual page where you can look at stories that user has shared.
These sites are big. On Digg, one of the leading bookmarking sites, the top story of the last 24 hours has been "dugg" almost 3,000 times as I write this. When somebody put one of my posts on Reddit, my page hits tripled, and stayed up there for three days.
Examples of the dozens of sites like this are:
Wikipedia has a separate entry for "massively multiplayer online role-playing game," or MMORPG. It's a game in which "a large number of players interact with one another in a virtual world," each living the life of a fictional character. The Wikipedia entry claims there were more than 15 million memberships in these games in 2006. Your character usually has a defined and changing personality, joins groups and makes alliances with others, and keeps interacting even when you're not playing the game. Some of the biggest MMORPGs are:
- World of Warcraft -- you're fighting your way through the fantasy world of Azeroth
- Omerta -- you're a gangster
- EVE Online -- you're in space
- World of Pirates -- you're a pirate, naturally
It's not all swash and buckle. You can post a profile with a picture in your online bridge club, spend the evening (or all night) getting to know the rest of your foursome, and head off to the chat room when you're the dummy. There are online multi-player games of all kinds, from chess to poker, where people are getting to know each other or some virtual projection of each other. You can also bond with those who would rather watch than play; 19.4 million people were playing fantasy sports games in August 2007, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association reported.
Second Life is -- how to explain Second Life? It's an online world, "a 3-D virtual world entirely created by its Residents," the Second Life people say. As I write this on a Sunday evening in October 2007, there are more than 37,000 people directing their "avatars" through the events of their days and nights in Second Life. In the last 60 days, almost 1.3 million people have logged in, and there are over 10 million "Residents" of Second Life's world.
Isn't that just a MMORPG, you'll ask, now that you know what a MMORPG is? No, say the Second Life folks, for two reasons. First is ownership. You own what you create in Second Life, and as the Illinois Business Law Journal reported in September, this means there is not only an active economy in virtual currency but also a "grey market" in actual currency for virtual property. (Read that again slowly. People are paying each other actual money for the right to own stuff that exists only on an Internet web site.) Second is flexibility. Second Life isn't a gangster world or a pirate world, it's a world:
If you want to hang out with your friends in a garden or nightclub, you can. If you want to go shopping or fight dragons, you can. If you want to start a business, create a game or build a skyscraper you can.
It's hard to convey how huge this thing is, and how closely it is interweaving itself with the thing we (so far still) call "real" life. Real professors teach seminars in Second Life classrooms, and students' avatars show up to listen. In October 2007, Timothy Zick guest-blogged at Concurring Opinions about a "Free Burma" event at Second Life, "which featured a 'human chain' event in which 500 people from 20 countries joined, as well as vigils and meditations in support of this cause." The event left Zick (and at least one thoughtful participant he quotes) wondering what it was about Second Life that made this event powerful, and whether it will inspire activism offline as well.
The Internet has always teemed with contest sites, but often now the contest planners, contestants, audience, and judges are all site users. Examples:
- Bix, "Create. Enter. Judge." Typical contests are for cutest dog, best president of all time, and karaoke, karaoke, karaoke.
- Gather, listed above as a basic social network, has regular writing competitions. October 2007 brought the announcement of the five finalists in the First Chapters Romance Writing Competition.
You can have a significant Internet presence without ever having a blog, social network page, or photostream of your own. On thousands of sites, from large mainstream newspapers to major political blogs to individual photos on Flickr, readers can post comments, and many do. When jurors write on line to defend their verdicts, they often do it in the comments to a news story about the trial; on this blog we've discussed examples here, here, and here. To get a sense of how commenters get into conversations and develop recognizable personalities in comment threads, go to any major blog. The WSJ Law Blog and Firedoglake are two examples of blogs with heavy comment traffic and repeat commenters who get to know each other.
A forum is a discussion board, a little like comments without the underlying news story. A user starts a discussion, usually by asking a question, and others respond. Some forums are user-generated issue forums, offering a place for people to talk about particular challenges. It would be hard to think of an issue there's no forum for: pregnancy, parenting, cancer, weight loss, pick a problem and search it with the word "forum" and you'll find one.
Other forums are associated with a particular business or author, most likely one who promotes a long-term approach that followers might need help with. Thus Weight Watchers members support each other in on-line forums, and followers of David Allen's Getting Things Done books ask each other questions in forums on his site.
As with comments, forums draw repeat participants whose personalities become defined. At any given time, a given forum might have a few wise sages revered by all, some enthusiastic idea-offerers who pipe up often, a handful of new arrivals full of questions, and a rabblerouser who likes to challenge everything.
Most social networking sites allow users to gather into groups, but there are also "group" sites where the group is the main event. Group sites offer a page where group members can see a shared calendar, posted files, and links, and they also offer a single group E-mail address that sends mail to all group members. Groups can be as small as an extended family sharing baby pictures, or as large as FlyLady's group, whose 440,000 members (as of October 2007) get lots of daily reminder E-mails to help them stay organized and not overwhelmed. (FlyLady's associated web site is here. You'll either love her or want to flee.) Examples of group hosting sites:
A variation on a group site is a wiki, where users collaborate to build web pages. Big public wikis like Wikipedia are well known, but any work group, family reunion committee, or school club can have a wiki hosted at sites like
The further you go down the social networking road, the more you find yourself in places where users might not want to be recognized. Dating sites are the biggest example. Consumers spent $500 million on Internet dating in 2005, about a quarter of the $2 billion spent on all Internet content (as opposed to, for example, on-line catalog sales) that year. (Figures are from the Online Publishers Association.) The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported in 2006 that one in ten Internet users had visited an on-line dating site, 43% of those visitors had dated someone they met there, and 31% of American adults know someone who has visited a dating site. With numbers like that, it's likely that someone in the jury box knows a little or a lot about sites like:
- Match.com, "It's okay to look."
- eHarmony.com, "matches you based on compatibility in the most important areas of life"
- Chemistry, whose ads target those who were "rejected by eHarmony"
On the other hand, the technology behind dating sites is also used for things you could tell your grandmother about -- like Essembly, "a fiercely non-partisan social network that allows politically interested individuals to connect with one another."
Likewise, there are many ways that jurors might use the Internet that they'd want to keep private, even though they're fully legitimate. People store their tax information on Turbotax, and look for jobs at Monster.com. They can track their progress toward personal goals at Joe's Goals, and check their mental health on the various tests at Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness site. They post lists of things they'd love to own, not only at scores of store sites like Amazon, but also at free-standing "wish list" sites" like TheThingsIWant.com and DreamofThis.com. They do all this on the promise that their personal information won't be revealed. Rule of thumb: if you couldn't see a juror's Internet profile without that juror's own password, don't ask about it in voir dire.
That way monsters lie
And then there's beyond. The American Gaming Association says almost 23 million people gambled on the Internet in 2005. Oddly, I'm not finding statistics that look trustworthy to describe how much pornography is out there, but anybody with a spam filter knows it's a lot. There are hate sites for every group you could possibly hate. Lawyers who work in these areas have to learn this territory. I have not had to, and hope not to.
Combine all ingredients and stir well
Got all that? Great. Now, to finish the list, think of as many ways to combine all these applications as you possibly can. There's an application that lets you see your Facebook friends' Second Life avatars on their Facebook profiles, and "teleport" from there to wherever they are in Second Life. Facebook applications like HobNob! let you request introductions to other people in the same way LinkedIn does. "Profile aggregators" like MyLifeBrand are emerging to let users manage all their different social networks. Mashable is the news source for all this; subscribe to their blog and watch the world turn a lot faster than you thought it did.
Just plain web sites
Finally, don't forget web sites. Your juror might have a plain ordinary old-fashioned web site. You'd hate to forget to ask about that.
(Image by Leigh Blackall at http://www.flickr.com/photos/leighblackall/64955397/; license details there.)