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This post by Edward Vielmetti suggests that Google+ is to Twitter as Usenet is to IRC

It got me thinking about what “web social tool” I need and whether Google+ is what I am waiting for.

For the last week I’ve been a light Google+ user.  I’ve “circled” a couple dozen people; I’ve post one or two things; I scan the feeds.  I must confess I don’t get it yet.  I haven’t figured out what role it plays among RSS feeds (I’m an avid Reader user), emails, Twitter, Facebook (and increasingly, LinkedIn).

Google+ is people centric.  I don’t want more people centric services–I have enough of that.  I want topic centric.  If I read a good post about social TV on a “friends” feed–be that Twitter, FB or Google+–I want (immediately!) to get plugged into the ‘social TV topic stream” independently of who posted it.

Maybe, what I want is already fulfilled by Google.  All I have to do search for “social TV” and I will get all I wanted to know but was afraid to ask.  But that’s not how it works; we all know the problem with noise and spam.  Ultimately, the best quality filter is experts.

This is why I think Klout and/or PeerIndex could be revolutionary.  As far as I can tell, they are the only ones who are trying to tell me “look at this post from this person because they are the de facto experts in the topic that interests you.”

All in all, either I haven’t figured out how to use Google+ or it’s not what I’ve been waiting for.


(adapted from my answer on Quora)

With the mass adoption of social networks, I’ve been thinking about the use cases that benefit from analyses of multiple degrees of separation

For sake of clarification, I consider the “social graph” to be one where the nodes are people as opposed to documents (eg, pages).  The connection between the nodes do not have to be friends or explicit.  They can be links between people due to a common interest (eg, people who follow the same topic on Quora) or implicit connections like the ones Color Labs is trying to create.

The main business cases will be one where you can reasonably infer an answer from related data points.

I think the primary use of the social graph is recommendation. I can’t count how many start-ups promise to suggest to me what films, restaurants, hotels, books, clothes, music and other stuff my friends like.

I think these startups are currently, overly dependent on explicit connections (“friends”).  An emerging business case–an important one in my view–is reputation. Klout and PeerIndex are the two players I know in this space.

Brainstorming, other business cases might include: management of contagious diseases; polling; political repression.

(adapted from my answer in Quora)

I am fascinated by Klout‘s and PeerIndex‘s efforts to plot the Interest Graph.

I see them fulfilling uses cases such as:

– I search for “Rush” to find what Twitterers are the most authoritative about this awesome Canadian band;

– Rush management wants to promote their new tour and need to find who are the super fans to spread the word.

When people talk about PageRank; about figuring out that Page A is important because loads of other pages are linked to it (I know other signals are considered); they take for granted that Google knows what topic Page A covers. So when you search for “Rush” you get a result of the most authoritative page about the band.

In the page-centric web world, where the node is the page, we’ve all been trained to write super topic-focussed, use key words and provide meta-tags.  Even if the page refreshes a bit, which it should to preserve it’s SEO ranking, we will keep it on topic.

When it comes to the people-centric world, where the node can be a Twitter account (usually a person) we are a mess. It’s easy to determine that an account has more followers (and other signals of popularity) but it’s nigh impossible, so far, to figure out why. The regular account will not only tweet about a topic they are authoritative but also about sports results, good movies, funny YouTube clips and many other subject matters that interest them.  The same applies to Facebook updates, Google+ postings, etc.

PeerIndex is trying to figure what a Twitter account is authoritative about by analysing the content of their tweets (and other social media content). In my personal experience it doesn’t work (yet)–what they think of me is completely incoherent.

Klout appears to have opted for a crowd sourced solution with +K. They identify what an account might be about but then let loyal registered users (those that login at least once a day) to vote up their best guesses.

Prediction: I think these two players will be snapped up by one of the big boys: Twitter, Microsoft, Google or LinkedIn within two years.

(adapted from my answer on Quora that has over 100 votes)

There is something very interesting, and potentially game-changing, in what Color, the much maligned photo sharing app,  is trying to do.

I subscribe to the view that one is better served by different groupings of people (who might not even be your friends) for different use cases–this is the social circles problem. An example is where you don’t want to share the same information with your personal and professional friends.

The solution is being referred to as the implicit social network.  It’s not a new idea.  Fred Wilson points out that “this sort of implicit social graph came almost six years ago via my musical neighbors graph at”  But it’s an idea that appears to have become eclipsed by Facebook over the last three to four years.

Now, it’s worth remembering out that Zuckerberg himself has raised the social circles problem. However, he has also stated that “most people don’t want to create lists of things.” [UPDATE: this is an interesting point in like of Google+ Circles]

So, in the end, we are left, in the majority of cases with this single, large Facebook social graph of all your friends.

If the user won’t define the implicit social networks who will? Enter Color.

Color is developing the first service that tries to dynamically create a transitory grouping of people. What is the killer use case and how to monetise it is, in my opinion, secondary at this stage. They are a day old! It’s like asking a child what they want to be when they grow up. It doesn’t make sense. Give them time. Think Twitter. Color has got the talent and has raised sufficient funds to figure it out. It will take a few months for things to start making sense.

For additional reading I recommend:
– In TechCrunch, MG Siegler suggests that Color might be “the next phase of the web, a location-based phase that creates implicit social graphs and blurs the line of online and offline.”
– Jason Calacanis explains how “truly game-changing (and personal) an implicit social network could be if it reached scale”
– John Battelle thinks that “the service’s approach to location (…) has the opportunity to be the first breakout application fueled by the concept of “augmented reality.”

Brands shouldn’t ask customers what they want.

One of the worst things I can do is ask my wife what she wants – whether it’s an innocuous question about what we should have for dinner or a request for a hint as to what she might consider a good Christmas present. I have been, repeatedly, told that if I had paid better attention to her I’d know exactly what she wants.

Customers think like my wife. Few are willing to answer street questionnaires, take calls at home; fill online questionnaires or participate in focus groups – unless they are paid.

And yet, companies keep insisting. They rather ask than listen. If companies really cared about the customers they should know what they want!

Everyday, all day long, customers are expressing what they want and what they’d like to have improved. All it takes is listening and observation: see how happy the customer is by the time they get to the front of the queue to pay; how much time they spend with the product; how wide they smile then consuming it.

Social media (social networks, blogs, et al.) provides ample opportunities for companies to listen to what customers are saying about their products and services; uninhibited and unaffected by facilitators and stimulus material.

A friend of mine at a leading consumer goods company told me that a sweeping review of blogs, forums and notice boards led to the surprising knowledge that one of their soap bars was used for onanistic practices. My friend dismissed it as an indication of the folly of a few. To make a point I pushed back and suggested they should have launched a bar specially designed for these people’s interests. I argued that, of all the product extensions the consumer goods company had launched over the years, this was one which, at least, had a proven market.

On a similar note, Coke famously chose not to listen to customers, over the summer, as a wave of videos showing Diet Coke bottles spouting geysers when mixed with Mentos began to appear on YouTube (today there are over 6,040 videos with the top 25 having registered over 15.5 million views) and other video sharing sites. At the peak of the craze, Coke’s response was to say “we want people to drink our soda, not play with it.” Mentos on the other hand, embraced it. Belatedly, in October, Coke commissioned the EepyBird Guys, the producers of the most spectacular Coke/Mentos videos, and announced a competition. Alas, they have only attracted 5 entries so far. Read B.L. Ochman’s blog for an analyses of this fiasco.

Listen, participate.

eMarketeer released a report showing that global ad spending on social networks is expected to reach $445 million in 2006 and nearly triple to $1,125 billion in 2007. They predict that the US will account for about 80% of the ad spend.

Socnet adspend 06-11-01

In a related article, Google announced that Its 2006 UK revenues are expected to surpass Channel Four’s (*) predicted £800m ($1.5bn) returns.

Since much of the advertising on social networks are contextual text ads like Google’s AdSense (Google owns the ad space on MySpace which eMarketeer estimates to account for 60% of social network ad spend) this all seems to indicate that

1. Social networks are real businesses – some are here to stay;

2. Broadcasters really need to start developing their response to user/viewer migration online.

(*) Channel Four is the UK’s second largest network, with about 9% share of viewers, that airs advertising in the UK (the BBC is paid by though a TV tax).

tags: social networks TV

Two weeks ago The Sun, the biggest selling newspaper in the UK, launched MySun, an interactive service will fell far short of the capturing the potential of social media.

Before I criticize MySun let me congratulate The Sun for this initiative. I can’t understand why other publications are not experimenting with social media. It is becoming apparent that Internet users are expecting much greater participation that, I believe, is the gist behind Web 2.0. Publications need to move away from a pure editorial model.

I think social media is particularly relevant for niche publications, specialist magazines, which have a strong voice (and brand) on topics that are the passion of a select few. Surely, these select few would appreciate being brought together and would have a lot of stories, insights and information to contribute.

Back to MySun. I tried to login before going on holiday but couldn’t because it was down. Today it’s taken me over 15min to register largely due to a very slow email validation process. So far so bad.

Once logged on I didn’t find any of the features that define social networks. I my profile is buried a few clicks away. That means my home page is really not my home page; it’s The Sun’s. “My” page looks essentially like something Yahoo has been offering for a decade: a personalized news page – except that all the news comes from The Sun. The other thing I see on “my” home pages are discussion. Err, these are forums, again, old stuff.

The strangest thing is that I couldn’t see anybody else. I felt all alone. There is no networking here. I don’t know who else is registered. There is no search. A “Take me to” function first gave me a 404 (dead link) and on a second try took me to a Sun’s columnist blog which was very unpersonal.

I couldn’t see any place on “my” home page for my friends. I can’t upload any content though I could blog (to who? who is looking?). The Sun doesn’t even invite me to send scoops or stories the way CNN does with i-report.

So, overall, MySun is a disappointment. It is just a personalized news page, something I have been able to get from Yahoo, Netscape, AOL, Google… hell loads of places, with the enormous disadvantage that all the news I get comes only from The Sun. They have failed to attempt to create a sense of community and shunned any and all content I may have wished to contribute to (and in the process enrich) the newspaper.

Prediction: If MySun is to last, it will need to undergo major changes that embrace social media.

tags: media social networks Sun

The Wall Street Journal (behind their pay wall) reported today on Nielsen/NetRatings figures showing a decline in the number of U.S. visitors at MySpace (4% and Facebook (12%).

The article says it might be due to excessive spam, privacy fears or just a seasonal fluctutation (last September a similar drop was recorded).

I believe all that. It’s too early to call the beginning of the decline of MySpace. But, I think it will come sooner rather than later.

Prediction: Over the next year we will see significant growth in specialist/niche social networks at a cost to the giant social networks. We are going to see birds of a feather flocking together. <=link>

tag: MySpace Facebook

The last 4 months since returning from my first expedition into SecondLife in has seen a flurry of activity in that virtual world with big brands like American Apparel, Starwood Hotels, Reuters, Nissan, IBM, Universal, PA Consulting and artists like Duran Duran and Suzanne Vega creating a in-world presence. This week the first pure SecondLife company, Crayon, announced their launch.

For regular information about SecondLife, I recommend you read Giff’s blog.

tags: virtual worlds SecondLife social networks metaverse

The term Web 2.0 (and, worse, the “2.0” suffix) has gained widespread usage this year. I think it is safe to say that 2.0 is the new .com. But what does it mean?

The term has been used and overused to the point that it vaguely means “something new” as in “AOL is so Web 1.0, MySpace is Web 2.0.”

Tim O’Reilly claims he first coined the term in 2004 and has rather opaquely defined it.

I have been looking for more succinct in response to the queries of my clients and friends. I have now found two answers that satisfy me. [NB: As with anything Internet-related, it has three facets: a creative one, a technical one and a business (strategy) one. Being a fee paying cardholder of the strategist union; I will only speak for my lot.]

I favour two very similar definitions of what Web 2.0 are from a business perspective:

1. A site where user actions increases the value of the service. (I lost the source)

2. Dotcom (Web 1.0) was about ‘taking’. Web 2.0 is about ‘giving’. (thanks Hugh MacLeod)

So, yes, Web 2.0 is something radical. Traditionally companies offered consumers a carefully vetted and edited list of things. Web 1.0 preserved this approach. Web 2.0 let’s the user have more control. Everything you bought was selected by retailers; now you have eBay. All the news you read was vetted by editors; now you have digg. All the programmes you used to watch were picked by channel controllers; now you have YouTube.

Companies should ask themselves how they can open up to consumers. Let them participate. Surely, there is no better way to gain the customer insight than to listen to them. In other words, companies should experiment with being user-centric to the extreme.

tags: web20 user centric