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.

Real-world friends”

I grew up in a time when I didn’t even know what the inter­net was; I believe I was 14 or 15 when I first logged on. Kids who have grown up with the inter­net and Myspace and Face­book and all of these things their whole lives will look back and won­der what the heck we meant by “real world” friends, or “social media strate­gies.” They will see these things as no dif­fer­ent than the notes we passed back and forth in class or those first phone calls from your girl­friend that you had to take in your par­ents’ kitchen because you didn’t have a phone in your bedroom.

Pat Dry­burgh — Intrv.ws

The Masked Social Network

Effec­tively Instapa­per has found a way to keep its users engaged with the site’s main pur­pose, read­ing, while offer­ing users ways of keep­ing tabs other read­ers. It’s like get­ting a peek at some­one else’s book­case, with­out them know­ing that you peeked.

Imag­ine what would hap­pen if Twit­ter oper­ated this way: you have no inkling of who is fol­low­ing you and oth­ers have no clue if you are fol­low­ing them. You just have an account that you post to, occa­sion­ally a per­son responds to you. The only way you know if a per­son is fol­low­ing you is when you go to Direct Mes­sage them.

Imag­ine that, because what would really change?

Ben Brooks — The Masked Social Net­work.

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.

Google+ and importing identity

Thanks to an early invite from Raanan I played with Google+ over the week­end. I want to jot down one thought about how Google+ treats identity.

A sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to entry for many social tools is find­ing the peo­ple you already know who are using the ser­vice. This is what gets you hooked on a social service.

After log­ging in and explor­ing the UI for a bit I went to start cre­at­ing cir­cles. Here are the options, besides search of course, Google gives for find­ing people.

Yahoo! and Hot­mail are the only two exter­nal con­tact sources I can use. 1 Those of us who have taken the time and care­fully cre­ated lists of peo­ple we fol­low else­where should be able to import those net­works directly into Google+. I don’t par­tic­u­larly care about the peo­ple Google rec­om­mends for me to follow.

With all the data Google has they could be pop­u­lat­ing lists of peo­ple. Instead pre­sent­ing new users with their email address book, Google rec­om­men­da­tions, and Yahoo! and Hot­mail imports Google+ could instead be pulling data from Twit­ter, Face­book, Google Reader, and much more. Break each ser­vice into a fil­tered list and voilà, easy and rel­e­vant user dis­cov­ery for first-time users.

Our iden­ti­ties online are formed by much more than our address books. If Google+ is what comes next it would be nice if they acknowl­edged and worked with this.

What’s impor­tant as a first run expe­ri­ence on Google+ is whether the peo­ple I fol­low else­where are already there. The eas­ier it is for peo­ple to bring in their exist­ing net­works of friends and fol­low­ers the bet­ter Google+ will fare.


  1. Seri­ously?! How minis­cule is the Venn dia­gram of Google+ and Hot­mail users?