Three’s a Charm for the Social Graph

March 31st, 2008

Clearly it is “social networks on the brain” day. Here’s my third and final post of the day on the topic.

I just read Brad Feld’s post about Loic LeMeur’s post (whew!) about his distributed social graph.

Loic penciled out a kind of map of his online life and concluded that he would rather have it all run through his blog than live in 10-15 different silos devoted to specific types of communication (video, short-form blogging, long-form blogging, etc.). Brad tied this to his firm’s principle of investing in companies that form the “glue” among internet presences.

I realized that there is an idea in here that is a component of why so many of my friends are on Facebook but I find it unsatisfying. I posted my thought as a comment on Brad’s post, and I am re-blogging it below.

I just listened to an interview with Clay Shirky (http://tinyurl.com/3y72d5) where he identified a big gap between “famous” and not famous people- the difference being (online and off) the ability to respond symmetrically to every conversation directed to a person.

Loic wants everything on his blog because he produces a lot of content, gets a lot of attention and can’t respond equally to all of it- i.e. he’d rather respond in comments on his own blog than click through to other platforms, log in, comment, etc. He wants a magnet more than he wants glue.

People with more symmetrical graphs may be happier using something else (eg Facebook)- or lots of places- as the hub(s) of their social graphs depending on how they respond to others as well as what they produce. A layer of glue would work better here.

The glue metaphor is breaking down for me. I wonder if “synapses” is more accurate- not sticking things together permanently, but constantly forming and re-forming connections, getting stronger and smarter as it goes.

. . . mmm, glue still has a better ring.

I am not a “famous” person on the Internet. I can respond in kind to everyone who reaches out to me. I do produce a lot more long-form content than most of my friends, though. This puts me in the middle. I don’t need to run everything through a single point like Loic, but I do find a limit at around 5 social network outlets to check in with regularly.

The glue that works best for me links networks, but doesn’t replace them. I like Disqus because it sits on top of my blog and Tumblog, but doesn’t replace them. I can’t get excited about Friendfeed or Plaxo because they just create more places for me to visit.

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Why is Facebook the Place I Have the Most Friends, but Get the Least Value?

March 31st, 2008

I write this blog, I have a tumblog/lifestream at www.park3.org, a Twitter account and a Facebook page.  These are my principal forums for self-expression on the web.  I’ll come right out and say that I don’t like Facebook very much.  I’ve tried to find value in it, but I have mostly failed.

I like to write, which is my I like to blog.  Facebook isn’t about that at all.  Fair enough.  I like music a lot and FB lets me pull content from Last.fm, Pandora, Sonic Living and the Hype Machine, but I can do less in the applications on my FB page than I can on the original sites themselves, so there’s no draw there either.

I tried using Facebook to aggregate content from my other online outlets, but it does that poorly because each aggregation source is siloed in an application box on my profile and the whole thing gets cluttered pretty quickly.

Photos are one of Facebook’s strongest suits.  I continually tell myself to take more photos.  Maybe if I can do that I will start using FB photos more.

Groups and fan pages are useless- nothing ever happens on them that I can tell.

That leaves the other Facebook-native features: Wall, Poke, Zombies, etc. I know a lot of people who have fun poking one another and leaving wall messages.  That’s great, but I find it unfulfilling.  Messaging is good and I use Wall, but chest bumping, fish-slapping etc. don’t appeal to me at all.

All that said, I have connected with more real-life friends online through Facebook than anywhere else.  What this means, practically speaking, is that I get the most value on Facebook from status updates.

Why is this the case, though- why are more friends on FB than anywhere else?  I think it’s because it is so easy.  Twitter and Flickr do a much better job at status updates and photos, respectively, but Facebook brings them together and does them both just well enough to be a single point of focus, and throws in the quick-touch poke stuff to help people feel close even when they aren’t in real life.

I didn’t mean to end this post so cynically- saying that Facebook is really a lowest common denominator that does enough things just well enough to be appealing to the broadest segment of the population- that’s what it seems like to me, though.

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tartley.com » The Long Overdue LinkedIn Backlash

March 18th, 2008

This is a great read. The author penned a scathing Linkedin “recommendation” of another user, pointing out in the process that Linkedin is built only to allow positive reviews, which makes the system less than valuable.

tartley.com » The Long Overdue LinkedIn Backlash

What to do then, when one thinks that a person should not be trusted with a pencil, never mind a job? Be honest or let the matter drop? It would be nice if our “trust networks” let us trust the collected wisdom, but it is a hard nut to crack. Ebay has worked hard at it, but it still requires egregious conduct to merit a negative review.

The problem, in my opinion, is endemic to virtual communities. Written text (email or site-based) is tone-deaf. Nuance is lost completely and context is nearly so. Compare this with a private conversation in which negative points can be explained and put into accurate context, and couple it with the adage that negative feedback outweighs positive by a factor of 10:1 or so, and the problem becomes apparent- no one wants to be dissed, and few are willing to risk the fallout from posting a negative opinion of someone else. VentureBeat has extensively chronicled thefunded.com‘s efforts to create a fair and honest feedback system. It’s not easy.

This is not to say that the nut can’t be split, but capturing the real meaning
and reasons behind someone’s negative comments and framing them accurately may require extreme fact- and situation-analysis. Thefunded has it easier than most in this regard, since the VC-entrepreneur relationship is well-defined.

When all is said and done, though, Linkedin is among the worst at producing meaningful feedback. They should take comments like these as the must-fix issues they are. Get after it, Linkedin. You are too useful to be sidelined by a lack of trust in your recommendations.

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The Social Network Dance

December 19th, 2007

I’ve recently started to receive a surge of invitations to yet another professional social network (which shall remain nameless). I still haven’t figured out how Open Social or anything like it will actually affect life in the real world. Will I suddenly be on people’s networks in lots of places after making one uber-connection? That seems desirable and undesirable at the same time.

Still, I know this. I checked out the social network for which I am currently receiving invitations. I can’t figure out if it is useful or not. However, I do know that building my “social graph” on any network is time-consuming. As a result I am accepting these invitations on the off chance that the network turns out to be valuable someday. Is the alternative to Open Social just to be “easy”?

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