Open Social Networks

Jeff Jarvis talks about what companies can do to compete against Google in untapped areas. I couldn’t agree more on his comments on social networks.

* Social connections: I think there is a big opportunity to map social connections that already exist online. MySpace is really Rupert’s space. The internet is our space. It is, once again, already a social network. So look at it that way and make connections among the people here. Make it a way to find people. Make it a way to measure the quality of relationships: authority (as in Technorati), trust, leadership.

"It is, once again, already a social network." Exactly! This is another reason why I left Flickr. Yes, it does a great job at creating social networks but those networks are confined to Flickr itself. MySpace does the same thing. We need to start creating social networks that are open and accessible, that can easily grab, share, and utilize the existing content on our sites already, no matter which software or service they are created with.

2 thoughts on “Open Social Networks

  1. Great point. Where do you see these services plugging in? I can envision a future where a user’s blog is central to their experience, and the services that interface with that structure (either as blog plug-ins, crawlers that understand microformats published on your blog, etc.) will be the ones that add tremendous value.

  2. Joseph, I just have some speculative ideas on this but nothing solid / tested yet. All I know is that all of these "cool" new Web 2.0 social networks are useless to me because of their proprietary centralized nature that pretty much forces me to get all of my friends and family to join them before they are of any substantial use to me (and them). We need open ways to achieve this instead.

    RSS, for example, right now allows you to do some pretty amazing things with it, if you really push it beyond something just for collecting blog news to something that can actually help us to create these social networks. The major element that I believe is missing though is onsite aggregation. In effect, the ability to use an RSS feed to import content into a blog journal. Another important factor is the ability to create multiple blog journals OR the ability to have structured categories within your one journal (one or the other can achieve this).

    For example, I and a bunch of my friends could each have our own blogs where we write about daily stuff. In addition, each of us could have our own photo blog journals as well (i.e. a Flickr-like photo stream). Now instead of visiting each others sites, each of us could have a section of our site where these feeds are aggregated and displayed right there. So I could have a section on my site that displays all of the latest posts from my friend’s blogs. And I might have another section that shows all the latest photos from my friend’s photo blog streams.

    Now taking this a step farther, let’s imagine all of my friends and I are in a soccer team. Say we have setup a team site with a blog journal on it and a photo blog journal as well (highlights from our games). Now instead of having to post on this team site, I could easily create a post on my own site, tag it as my "soccer" feed and the next time our soccer site checks my site’s "soccer" category feed, it would see the new entry and add it to our soccer’s teams site. Same thing for the team’s soccer photos. I’d post a soccer photo in my photo journal, categorizing it such, and our soccer site’s aggregator would collect it and display it in our team’s soccer photo journal.

    This is really just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got some other possible ideas but the aggregator itself would need to be able to detect an update feed and allow for replacement (instead of duplicating it which is what most aggregators do). For example, imagine each of us decide we need a bio for our team’s soccer site. Well instead of going to the soccer site, we each create a journal or a category that defines this bio (so basically it just has the one entry in it, that’s it). Again the aggregator on the team’s soccer site grabs this data and collects it in one journal. In effect, each entry in the blog journal is one team member in our overall roster. If the aggregator can detect feed updates, then you could theoretically change your bio remotely from your own site by just updating the content in the one entry on your site (since that would in turn update your feed for it).

    The beauty of this approach is that any new person to the social group can easily be added (by just adding their RSS feeds to the group). Furthermore the scalability of this is pretty much wide open. Yet I obviously wouldn’t recommend aggregating 100 people in a company in one feed. For example, if you’re working on a project, I’d group people almost in multiple communities or pods that would be layered one within the other. Thus a small team working on one aspect would collaborate by their aggregated blogs. But communication by the team leader (to other team leaders) would be different. He’d communicate a summary of the teams progress instead. Therefore you could create a global network but with information very focused on a local level (which is very important because you don’t want to overload people with detailed local information that isn’t meaningful to their local situation when collaborative groups get that big).

    PS. BTW love your site name of "Engineering Patterns". Reminds me of my research on permaculture and it’s concept of natural "patterns".

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