Category Archives: Social Network(s)

Please do not pay any attention to this

These are the ramblings of a social network enthusiast on vacation; please do not pay any attention to this. Speaking of attention (like the late great George Carlin I don’t do transitions well)…

Nina Khosla’s post on the paradoxical nature of wider/larger/broader (read: shallower) social networks was on point. Must admire her articulation (the voice in Rick Perry’s head and the CEO of Marcellus knows that I have been trying to say this for years); as the size of the network increases our ability to be social decreases.

Let that marinate for a little bit… Size of social network is inversely proportional to the value that a social network provides…

As Johnny two-time would say: I couldn’t agree agree more.

I have always said and believed that the evolution of social avatars will be very similar to the evolution of the social being… From the real will come the virtual,and from the virtual (ironically) will come the real. The articulate Tom Friedman says it best: we shape our buildings and then they shape us. Point being: Facebook is life with the ability to pause, rewind and play.

However, if not filtered that Facebook will lose its value… I see my 18 year old cousin just add “friends” to his network to boost his “klout”…. in all honesty , I find myself wanting those retweets on Twitter and likes on Facebook…. See what I mean…. These are not value driven associations…

That is where Nina’s call for an evolution of networks to communities made sense to me… although, she failed at articulating a objective basis for this evolution.

Here is where I think I can help…meaning will come from associations that are based on social objects (defined as interests, culminated as: streams/tags/people(profiles)/relationships in the real world (family over friends))

I apologize for the abstract nature of the post… I did say these were ramblings and I do not quite have the gift of articulation… But do I see social networks that use Facebook’s open graph to create more meaningful (engaging) associations..? Yes I do.

Please do not pay any attention to this.

Now that we’re all here…

The last decade was all about getting to an awesome party – the social network party. Everyone was invited (eventually) – if you knew someone that knew someone that knew someone, then there was a reason for you to open a Facebook account and update the world (your version of it) with “what’s on your mind?” And we got there pretty fast… and the whole time it felt organic. We (some of us) all wondered why it didn’t happen earlier – a sign of great innovation.

I first heard about Facebook in 2006… admittedly the idea of another Myspace did not appeal to me. I thought Myspace was a juvenile remix of AOL Homepages (digital real estate to express yourself) and AOL Instant Messenger (connect with people you know, may want to know and Tom). But after spending a week on Facebook – I was hooked… Facebook was enabling, valuable and transparent. It connected me with people I cared about, enabled that connectedness with easy interactions (wall, status updates, poke) and the platform was invisible throughout this experience. It was elegant, simple and powerful – the makings of a revolutionary product. A revolution that addressed a basic human need – feeling connected.

Sure – life is great without Facebook… I mean life is great in Sweden… but very few of us will actually pack our bags and move to Sweden, because there is value in staying. That is why we stay – there is value in being on Facebook.

But now what..? There are 500+ million users updating statuses, posting on walls, sharing content, spawning revolutions, running political campaigns… it is a marketplace of ideas, feelings, intentions and expressions… It is life as it happens with the ability to rewind, pause and play.

Now that the social animal has found his tools that allow him to be ubiquitously social.. and the network has been created – where do we go from here? The next decade will be about understanding, mastering and creating influence in social networks… the need to influence is derived from man’s inherent need to be political. Cities, towns and villages were formed because we are social animals. Social arrangements – governance, hierarchy, rules, norms – happen because we are inherently political…

There are lot of questions in the influence space that will be really interesting to answer:

– who owns the digital you?

– how do you measure influence?

– what does credibility mean in this space? Is it about badges and achievements? Or activity streams?

– attenti0n is the currency in the digital value chain – how will we engage users?

The next Facebook will be not the next Facebook, just like Facebook wasn’t the next Google, and Google wasn’t the next Microsoft, and Microsoft wasn’t the next IBM. Great companies don’t try to incrementally add value to the marketplace, they completely redefine value by creating a market that no one thought existed…

And that is why this period is so f*cking exciting..!

(I did not use the term gamification even once in this post…

…..Doh!)

Social – The New Personal

Here is the thing about social – it is inherently personal…

The connections we choose to make define us… adage as it maybe – a man is known by the connections he makes. We can assume in 2011 that it is true for women as well. So, our social circle or our web is created mostly by the personal choices that we make. It is a sort of a “friendrank” – where the friends we make on Facebook and the content we choose to like on the Facebook platform give the platform provider very good data about us. Visually it represents a globe with connected dots forming it’s own unique patterns that help us see the the world differently…

John Bettelle talks of Google as a database of intentions… I think of Facebook as a database of choices (we choose to share). The social data generated as a result is being made available to advertisers, service providers and content publishers, creating a more connected and personalized web.

Combining these two approaches (Google’s passive learning and Facebook’s active learning) will give the same advertisers, service providers and content publishers an even more complete picture for personalization… That is why the Bing/Facebook partnership is exciting… Ironically, it helps Google with it’s own BHAG – organizing the world’s information (value)… in a more personalized way (value-add). That is why Google feels  threatened by Facebook… and it should – Google’s attempt at socializing search with +1 is relatively weak to the Facebook/Bing alliance

The rivalry is exciting…makes for good news… But the consequences are more meaningful for the rest of us. We are going to be a more connected and open world. We are going to see better products, services and ads for those services and products. Some of these products and services will be launched by new startups that will build on the social platform (try and think of a Zynga without a Facebook). We will see new applications that use personalized datasets to helps us recognize patterns and analyze trends.

It is necessary for some of us to remain cynical because data security, identity management and personal security are going to be important. As we share more and more, there are going to be those that want to abuse this connectedness… So while we need to acknowledge and guard ourselves against those threats, it should not stop us from participating and contributing in these exciting times.

I envy the new generation… For me school was about cramming myself with knowledge in order to be connected to it; all the young ones need to feel connected is their iPhone (okay, or the much less secure Android phone). For research on school work I used to go to the library, look up volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica and then write the article devoid of any richness from understanding the perspective of others. For my little niece, it is going to be about googling it, reading all kinds of articles about it (Wikipedia, Quora, Blogs), while she also has the richness of the perspectives gained from Facebook comments of friends and connected strangers.

Yep… It is going to be a very different world.

Facebook Dilemma

Here is something I did not know: Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies with the company mission printed on the inside. I am not quite sure how that makes me feel about him… but it is one of those things they might ask when you are at the $64,000 question on “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”

So I learned this interesting (admittedly redundant) piece of information watching the Zuckerberg interview at All Things Digital Conference – a good place to be, if you are looking for broad, opinionated strokes from the CEOs companies that matter in the digital space.

But what is relevant and useful in that interview is Mark’s view on the fine line (and it is a fine line) between personal privacy and the need for sharing of information to make the internet more personal. Zuckerberg is the CEO of a company that is the market leader (some may argue that broadly speaking Google is in the same space and therefore the market leader) in monetizing social data (information + interaction). It is how they make money and it is in their best interests to qualitatively/quantitatively refine that social data. The more we share and the more we interact with people on Facebook the more data Facebook has to monetize.

So in essence, the” more open and connected” (Facebook mission) the world is, the better it is for Facebook. The mission is noble and makes money for the company.

Then there is the other side – privacy. This is what concerns a significant user base. Current Facebook snafus have done little to convince users that Facebook will protect their information with the same zeal that banks and hospitals protect (are required to) their information.

I say snafus because they were not errors in judgement, but in communication and overall execution. Consider the defaulting of privacy settings to “Facebook recommended”; once Zuckerberg explained why it was done and how it was done, it made whole lot of sense to me. This should have been communicated with the user base and the new user sign ups before implementation, with an opt out option made available to the users on that same communication. Simple – this is why we were doing this, this is how it makes sense for you and you can opt out if you don’t like it.

Then there is the whole generation thing. Young people are more comfortable sharing personal information, older folks tend to be more careful and deliberate about what they share. Also, there is a segment of the US population that is obsessed with “Big Brother voyeurism” in their lives. So when you have such a diverse user base, it is important to come out of your monolithic silicon valley view of the world and conduct some online focus groups to see how important changes to the platform are going to play out. I don’t expect them to let you change your mind about the implementation, but it will give you some useful data on how/what to communicate.

Then there is the interface issue. It is hard for non technical folk to understand groups/access lists/containers…. Facebook can take a cue from Apple here and revamp their settings interface a little and make it more interaction friendly…

Then there is this side of me that thinks… maybe Facebook wants to make it hard for me to control my data…. but then there is this other side of me, that wants to believe Zuckerberg is serious and sincere about creating a more open and connected web… and in spite of the recent The Social Network, it is my trust in the new nerd God and his mission that is winning. For now.