Posts about social

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Silly Disney. They attract a community to a virtual Disneyworld and then think it is Disney’s to kill. American Girl made the same mistake, breaking little girls’ hearts.

Get it through your thick corporate skulls, folks: Communities are owned by the community. You can’t wish to attract people to build homes around you and then just bulldoze them.

@Facebook @Shark: jump?

I have been the greatest fan and booster of Facebook but I have to wonder whether they are leapfrogging the shark by cutting off Google Friend Connect — not because it is evil but because it is closed, limiting, wrong, and not in their own self-interest, a key and possibly fatal strategic mistake.

The essential question for Facebook is this: Do you want to be a closed site or an open platform? Do you want to be a closed social network or enable the open social network the internet already is? Clearly, it is better to be the platform. But Facebook is being strangely blind to that.

At the same time, I’ve become less addicted to Facebook because there isn’t enough there. That could be because I hang with old farts, who’ve cooled on the fad. But it’s more likely because Twitter has become a more meaningful platform for keeping in touch with friends (though that, too, could change). Though Facebook still has more functionality enabling me to organize those friends, Twitter is better at distinguishing acquaintances (the followers) from friends (the followed). That is, whereas on Facebook, I have — I’m sorry to say — 1,030 ignored friend requests, on Twitter, I have 1,765 followers. Twitter has learned from Facebook’s mistakes. So has Google.

Facebook should have asked — pardon the plug for the book — WWGD? If they had thought like Google, they would have tried to figure out how to use what they had built — an organizing system for friendship — and turn that into a platform we can use — and control — anywhere on the internet.

Google has quite cleverly done that as they explain on their code blog. They used Facebook’s API by all appearances legitimately. They give us control of how we use our data (and our friends are our data). They also kluged it a bit so they don’t retain data (which also means that other sites can really manipulate it, losing some potential functionality but keeping Google on the safe site of the line).

People find the relationships they’ve built on social networks really valuable, and they want the option of bringing those friends with them elsewhere on the web. Google Friend Connect is designed to keep users fully in control of their information at all times. Users choose what social networks to link to their Friend Connect account. (They can just as easily unlink them.) We never handle passwords from other sites, we never store social graph data from other sites, and we never pass users’ social network IDs to Friend Connected sites or applications.

Google is only doing what Facebook should have done: open up to be more useful across the entire internet. Now Google is giving Facebook the opportunity to do that — the dare to do that — and Facebook is chickening out. Big mistake.

I wrote back in 2006 that the internet is the social network. The winner will be he who brings that — to use Mark Zuckerberg’s own words and credo — elegant organization.

But the truly valuable network, the network of networks, the unbreakable bubble of bubbles, will be the one that manages to bring people together wherever we are, not just on MySpace (read: RupertsSpace), not just in Flickr or Del.icio.us, and not even just in the blogosphere, but everywhere. The internet doesn’t need more social networks. The internet is the social network. We have our identities, interests, reputations, relationships, information, and lives here, and we’re adding more every day. The network enabler that manages to help us tie these together to find not just connections or email addresses or information or songs but people — friends, colleagues, teachers, students, partners, lovers — across this open world, that will be the owner of the biggest network of them all: The Google of people.

I’m no mathematician or scientist, so I have to express this in words, but here’s the way I calculate the value of networks:

The Law of Open Networks: The more open a network is, the more control there is at the edges, the more the edges value the network, the more the network is worth.

The business lessons from this: Any choke point of control, via ownership, decreases the value of the network. Enablers increase the value of the network. The network will abhor and find ways around choke points. The network will value enablers and that is the point at which value may be extracted from the network. The value in networks in the open future is not in ownership and control but in enabling others to control.

Facebook put a chokehold around our data about our friends. Huge mistake. As Steve Gillmor said in his excellent Techcrunch analysis:

Facebook finally has a real problem to deal with – an exceptionally rational and well-thought-out strategy by Google that puts the leading social media cloud in the path of a wave of angry users. The only thing Facebook has going for it is that said users don’t yet know they’re angry.

Umair Haque has been purposefully over-the-top calling Facebook’s act “evil” (a few Twitter folks said his language gets in the way). But when you dig down, Umair, as is his habit, finds a brilliant and new law at work here:

What’s really going on here? There’s a massive tectonic shift rocking the economic landscape. All these players are discovering that the boardroom’s first and most important task is simply to try always and everywhere do less evil. In the dismal language of economics: as interaction explodes, the costs of evil are starting to outweigh the benefits.

Let’s repeat that and dub it Haque’s Law: As interaction explodes, the costs of evil are starting to outweigh the benefits.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what Google is really talking about when it promises not to be evil. It is not a campaign pledge (“Yes, we cannot be evil!”) or a geeky Bible lesson about good and bad (open unto others as they would open unto you) but a cold, calculated business rule:

When the people can talk with, about, and around you, screwing them is no longer a valid business strategy.

Be warned, cable companies, airlines, insurance companies, real estate agents, ad agencies, and governments: choke points are evil and evil is bad business.

This is — sorry for the second plug — at the heart of my book. Interaction turns control over to the public and that fundamentally changes business and society. Oh, I know, that drives various curmudgeons, cynics, and polemicists nutty but I do believe it is true. Google has found (not created but exploited) a new economy and only a fool would not try to learn from that and follow its lead if at all possible.

And I can’t believe that Mark Zuckerberg is a fool. I’ve said in the past that he makes mistakes, but he makes mistakes well — listening, learning, and changing quickly. Well, he’d better change quickly on this one. And the lesson here is no different at all from the lessons he learned with the botched announcements of Facebook’s news feed and ad program: It’s about control. We want control of our data.

But there’s a bigger lesson here: It’s about being a platform instead of a service (or portal). Last year, I disagreed with friend Scott Heiferman when he said that Facebook was the new AOL — and, indeed, Scott quickly disagreed with himself. But Zuckerberg may be proving him right after all. If he tries to build his business by attracting us to his garden and then fencing us in, if he doesn’t give us control and let us use Facebook and our identity there as a platform for our lives, then he is turning it into the next AOL when it could be the next Google. And that would be tragic. Tragic.

This is the critical moment in Facebook’s history. This is the moment when they realize that they have to give control to us and to the internet and become a platform. If they do, I’m likely to use my Facebook identity as my key identity only because it is tied to my social network; that is precisely what makes it more valuable than others. I don’t think that Twitter will be that but it may be the best second choice and it is tied to more dynamic information from my friends. Whether friend or follower, I want to link with people online. Who will help me? Who will stop me? He who helps, wins.

: More from Fred Wilson, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble.

: LATER: The irony of Google, of course, is that it’s open when it’s fighting closed systems (advertising, media, Facebook) but its instinct is closed. They wouldn’t even let the NY Times give them harmless publicity for their Lego logo. Don’t need it, they say. Would rather hide in a dark room.

: LATEST: This is why I don’t bet against Zuckerberg. Already, he says he wants to meet with Google and work it out. Smart.

Media are social: The coming together of two blogging dynasties

My daughter, Julia, and Jay Rosen’s daughter, Sylvie, have a blog together. They blog about what they know about and care about: American Girl. Yes, it’s a wonderful bit of symmetry that Jay and I, who became friends and virtual colleagues through our blogs, have daughters the same age (fifth grade) and that they became friends and maintain that friendship over distance — one’s a city mouse, the other’s a country mouse — through their blog.

Jay writes about this today in a wonderful post inspired by Clay Shirky’s brilliant speech about creation as the true potential of media and society, versus mere consumption. Clay’s point:

Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

Jay brings that down to the level of the individual producer. He says of daughter Sylvie: “She has a foothold on the producer side of the transaction, and understands the Web as an author’s medium.” I agree.

And I see another point: friendship.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how the connections and collaboration the internet enables change — improve, I say — the nature of friendship in profound ways that will, in turn, change society in unseen ways. Yesterday, I wrote about ambient intimacy, that is, our ability to stay in touch with the little details of friends’ lives. I’ve argued that the permanence of connections enabled by Facebook links and Google search alters our relationships; this is on my mind because I’m about to write that chapter in my book and because I’m going to see an old friend thanks to Google later this week.

Now add one more dimension: creation as an act of friendship, collaboration as a means of staying in touch, media as a social act. That is what is happening in the American Girl blog: Julia and Sylvie can share by creating. Play is social. Media is play. Social media is fun. (Yes, I used the singular; that’s the subject of an upcoming post.)

This is what I just wrote in my book:

Industries and institutions, in their most messianic moments, tend to view the internet in their own image: Media companies see it is as a medium, believing that online is really about content and distribution. Retailers think it is a store meant for commerce: a catalogue and a checkout. Marketers see it as their means to message (no, message is not a verb, but advertisers love to be ungrammatical). Politicians, too, think it is a home for their messages – and a new means to deliver their junk mail. Cable and phone companies believe the internet is just the next pipe they can control. . . .

The internet is a connection machine. It’s not medium or a market, though it supports them. Instead, it adds a new dimension of links over society, connecting people with information, action, and each other. It is in those connections that value is created, efficiency is found, knowledge is grown, and relationships are formed. Every link and every click is a connection. . . .

Sylvie and Julia are just doing what comes naturally — they’re having fun together. And so I’m sure both of them with will roll their eyes at their crazy dads for blathering on about it here and there and not understanding the point, for making it sound boring, for taking the fun out of it. Sorry, girls, dads will be dads, bloggers will be bloggers, and profs will be profs.

The internet is the social network

Google has released a social-graph API, which in theory — though, unfortunately, not in practice — is what the internet is all about: relationships and connections.

I’ve said it before:

The internet doesn’t need more social networks. The internet is the social network. We have our identities, interests, reputations, relationships, information, and lives here, and we’re adding more every day. The network enabler that manages to help us tie these together to find not just connections or email addresses or information or songs but people — friends, colleagues, teachers, students, partners, lovers — across this open world, that will be the owner of the biggest network of them all: The Google of people.

So with its social-graph API, is Google trying to become the Google of people (or beat Facebook to it)? Yes, but the problem is that this relies on explicit, semantic links we just don’t use. It wants us to include rel= links when we link to someone defining the relationship. I just don’t see that happening. Sometime ago, the semantic folks wanted us to put vote links in (marking them as positive or negative); it never took off.

Here’s Brad Fitzpatrick of Google explaining the API:

I believe the killer social graph app will be the one that sniffs and understands our relationships without our having to take explicit action or by exploiting the actions we take for different reasons. Facebook exists to help us organize our friendships and in the process of doing that, it knows who are friends are (unless you’re one of those who befriends everyone). When I take pictures of people on Flickr or Facebook and they get tagged, it must mean I was there with them. When I tag them, it must mean I know them. When people follow me on Twitter — and vice versa — a relationship of mutual interest is defined. When I join a group at Facebook or Yahoo, another relationship of interest is there. When I go to a MeetUp with someone, both interest and physical meeting are established. When I link to someone’s blog, that, too, defines a relationship and the definition becomes only more explicit if we know who writes that blog and whether they have any other relationship with me. On my blog, I want to link you to the other things I do online, my other identities, and I can do that through ClaimID. Witness:

My claimID jeff jarvis

When you put all those relationships together with my identity and the actions among us, you start to draw the real social graph, the true social network that is the internet.

OK, so what? What benefit is that to me or anyone else? Well, it’s another way to visualize and manage my relationships. We can layer on this content and memes and see where they start and how they spread and that starts to define leadership and curiosity and credibility.

The internet is less about content than relationships and teh true social graph will show us those relationships.

DLD: Social & worldwide Facebook

At a Day 2 starts with the session on social: Matt Cohler of Facebook, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Lars Hinrichs, Joanna Shields of Bebo.

Cohler announces that Facebook’s multilingual translation is in private beta as of Friday in French, German, and Spanish and will be released soon. Had discussions last night at a Munich blogger meetup about whether Facebook will make inroads in Germany. StudieVZ is the killer social site here; it concentrates primarily on students but it has the long headstart and it is local. Social is, after all, essentially local. Cohler says that Facebook’s internationalization depends on both the translation and on developers making local applications on the platform. He also says that though they will translate some of Facebook with professional translators, they will depend instead on a translation application — that’s what went into beta Friday — that enables the users to translate the service: translation as a platform play. That is a fascinating strategy: giving your users the tools to rebuild your application.

Before Facebook opened up past colleges, it was almost all American. Now, Cohler says, it’s 37% U.S. and a third European.

The econ editor of FAZ, a leading German paper, asks Cohler to expand on their international ambitions and whetehr they’ll buy StudieVZ. Of course, he doesn’t take that bait. But asked about whether they’d see acquiring some social networks in Europe, Cohler says “it’s certainly possible.”

Michael Arrington asks about the impact of Yahoo’s announcements at CES about social email and such. Sean Parker says the switching costs are enormous. Yes, I wouldn’t bet on this as Yahoo’s salvation (given that they’re making tough decisions, as PaidContent reports).