What If Social Net­works Just Aren’t Profitable?

What if we designed a social net­work to be small, self-supporting, and inde­pen­dent from the out­set? How would it look, work, and feel? I bet it would come out look­ing noth­ing like the ones we’ve got now, the ones still try­ing to turn water into gold.

The IRL Fetish:

But this idea that we are trad­ing the offline for the online, though it dom­i­nates how we think of the dig­i­tal and the phys­i­cal, is myopic. It fails to cap­ture the plain fact that our lived real­ity is the result of the con­stant inter­pen­e­tra­tion of the online and offline. That is, we live in an aug­mented real­ity that exists at the inter­sec­tion of mate­ri­al­ity and infor­ma­tion, phys­i­cal­ity and dig­i­tal­ity, bod­ies and tech­nol­ogy, atoms and bits, the off and the online. It is wrong to say “IRL” to mean offline: Face­book is real life.

Really great arti­cle about our con­nected lives. Via Daniel.

A cause worth giving something up for

Amen.

There’s lots of stuff going on right now that I’m not part of. That’s the way it goes. Me and Face­book are over. It’s going to stay that way. And if I’m on a ship that’s sink­ing, well I’ve had a good run, and I can afford to go down with the ship, along with peo­ple who share my val­ues. It’s a cause, I’ve dis­cov­ered, that’s worth giv­ing some­thing up for.

Dave Winer - Scoble: I’ll go down with the ship.

WordCamp Philly: Facebook & WordPress

Sean Blanda, founder of Tech­ni­cally Philly, packed the room for his after­noon pre­sen­ta­tion about Word­Press and Face­book. He cov­ered tips and tricks for super­charg­ing the social inter­ac­tions with your blog.

He started off lay­ing the ground rules: The talk wasn’t going to be about the Like but­ton. He wasn’t to going to dis­cuss whether Face­book is evil or not. Finally, he wasn’t going to set up a Face­book page for your business.

Tech­ni­cally Philly, a tech pub­li­ca­tion cov­er­ing the tech scene in Philadel­phia, started in 2009 and cared lit­tle about Face­book. They got a few hun­dred likes on their Face­book page but really didn’t care. By now they’re at 1000 page likes and get 7–10 a day; now they care about Face­book a whole bunch. They’re nearly dou­bling their daily reach by hav­ing 1000 peo­ple fol­low­ing the site on Facebook.

Sean’s talk focused on the 5 things you can do: engage with Face­book com­ments, mea­sure the work you do with Insights, con­nect your site to your Face­book page, stream­line shar­ing for read­ers, and make your Face­book page con­tent count. To get set up you need to do some very min­i­mal tem­plate edit­ing of your Word­Press theme. This adds in the nec­es­sary meta keys for Face­book to rec­og­nize your site as an app.

The open graph data that Sean cov­ered adds meta infor­ma­tion to the header. It lets you define an email address, phone num­ber, local­ity, con­tent type, and many more real world val­ues for your dig­i­tal con­tent. All this helps con­tex­tu­al­ize the infor­ma­tion peo­ple see in their news­feed. Once you have it set up Face­book offers built-in debug­ging tools for mak­ing sure you’ve set up the meta infor­ma­tion properly.

Tech­ni­cally Philly only runs Face­book com­ments on their site. Since they imple­mented this they’ve seen com­ment par­tic­i­pa­tion triple. By mov­ing to Face­book com­ments they get all sorts of demo­graphic infor­ma­tion as to who com­ments on the site. It’s great for adver­tis­ing and for learn­ing who’s inter­act­ing with your site.

The down­side to this is that the com­ments are not stored in your Word­Press data­base. How­ever, there is a plu­gin called Face­book Com­ments to Word­Press that moves your com­ments to your Word­Press data­base every day.

When shar­ing con­tent on Face­book a pref­er­ence is given to con­tent shared man­u­ally on the site. Con­tent shared through an auto­mated ser­vice ranks lower in their algo­rithm. With many aspects of shar­ing con­tent on Face­book there’s an echo effect. As peo­ple like your page or your arti­cle their friends see it and it spreads through the network.

All this data about your app and what works with shar­ing con­tent are piped through Face­book Insights. Insights give you lots of graph­i­cal break­downs of how you’re doing on Facebook.

Status

I was going to com­ment with Word­Press theme and code tips on a blog post today. Instead, the only option was Face­book com­ments with no fall­back. It makes no sense to me that you’d con­trol pub­li­ca­tion of your con­tent while simul­ta­ne­ously mak­ing inter­ac­tion with it con­tin­gent upon a sin­gle, cor­po­rate platform.

Missing the point with school social networks

I read an Edu­demic arti­cle this morn­ing about the future of school social net­works:

Now, a move­ment is afoot to cre­ate student-friendly social net­work­ing sites, which would be lim­ited to edu­ca­tion and bound to par­tic­u­lar dis­tricts or schools. These sites would give stu­dents the chance to com­mu­ni­cate with peers in per­son and via the com­puter, in a set­ting not unlike an online school. Yet the most desir­able aspect of school-friendly social net­works may be that they would allow stu­dents to work together in a pro­duc­tive man­ner, while pro­vid­ing adults with the peace of mind sites like Face­book sim­ply can­not offer.

This is all well-intentioned but it likely won’t be suc­cess­ful in any mean­ing­ful way.

It reminds me of edu­ca­tional video games. Things that edu­ca­tion exec­u­tives draw up to try to marry tech­nol­ogy with their ver­sion of learn­ing. They don’t work. You can’t cre­ate a video game that kids will want to play by remov­ing its soul.

Sim­i­larly, cre­at­ing a school social net­work by allow­ing for social con­nec­tions which par­ents, teach­ers, and admin­is­tra­tors approve of misses the point. You’re leav­ing out the soul of a net­work. It’s this soul that makes Face­book and Twit­ter so appeal­ing in the first place.

Grow­ing up out­side of a very small, rural town meant being extremely iso­lated in many ways. Had you told a junior high or high school ver­sion of myself that I could use some­thing like Twit­ter, Face­book, or, hell, even my blog to con­nect through shared inter­ests with peo­ple irre­spec­tive of place, age, or social sta­tus I would have been floored.

That’s the soul of these plat­forms. That’s what makes them rev­o­lu­tion­ary for school­ing. If you think cre­at­ing san­i­tized, school-friendly net­works watched over by par­ents and admin­is­tra­tors is going to cre­ate any mean­ing­ful learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties then you’re totally miss­ing the point.

Edu­cate kids on proper usage. Teach them online safety. Show them the power of serendip­i­tous con­nec­tions to peo­ple a world away. But don’t, for their own sake, limit their poten­tial because of fear.