I believe that the only way you can know which way to go is to look as forward as you can.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Social Networks : the potential, the trends and the critics (YASNA)

Social networks. Definitely a boom in the last years!

The need to make your life public aka “not a nobody anymore” is old and strong: “I need to live, feel and share everything online. Feel like a celeb!” I saw people describing where they stay where they go and what they do on a daily basis in their public blog/ web-site, adding all their friend information also. Is it wise? Does it make any sense? I heard people being proud that their name is indexed on Google pointing straight to their personal page. There, all possible information: physical address, personal photos from their birthday, their professional achievements and interests, all mixed!

What if I am your boss or subordinate? Reading all that stuff I might start not to like you at all! What if I am a recruiter and I do not like to see that you are such an online extroverted? Companies wake up with some unexpected information on the internet. I think their solution (firing the bloggy person) is not repairing anything. I remember well the Google fired employee story. Actually, a friendster developer was fired for blogging about her work!

Having some private access can be an appealing compromise. And so comes the need of social networks.

I think the need of social networks comes from four big directions:

1. Globalization.
People all over the world need to cooperate, as friends, colleagues or business partners. Usually, they benefit from the grained security access that social networks provide. Examples: Multiply, Classmates, Famoodle

2. Structure and give wisely access to your personal information. Professional stuff: go on LinkedIn, personal stuff on MySpace or Me.com, etc. It is all about having different access levels of the information, like private view, friends view, friend of friends view and finally the public view.

3. Dating dating dating. You are single. You are buisy and in a tight social circle. You need somehow a link, a connection that would happen spontaneously, to find a friend. Social networks are a comfortable solution. How nice is to make personality tests on Tickle.com and by accident meet the perfect match! Sounds somewhat more romantic and naturally than agencies. H5 and Friendster to OkCupid, most of the social networks provide dating. I sometimes think that dating is the main thing happening. Thousands of teens trying to look handsom in their photo collection from Hi5 and collecting comments like "Oh you are such a good looking!". This kind of users become suddenly inactive. It is nothing further to do or say...

4. Make new acquaintances in your interest area: you have the need to connect and share with others … as special as you.
Travelers: tripconnect.com, wayn.com,
Cars: carspace.com from Edmunds
Jokes: jibjab.com
Url bookmarks: stumbleupon, wink, del.icio.us
RSS sharing: bloglines, rojo

After reading the article from Slashdot I understood that social network analysis software is the dimond of marketing. I start realizing what a huge value have all these social network sites.

1. Media repositories of tagged photos and videos (the ones made public). Try a search on Flickr...

2. Huge collection of all kind of life stories enough to inspire and give some recent realistic flavour for thousands of magazines, movies, books, TV shows... whatever. Take a look: livejournal, xanga, deadjournal

3. Huge potential to analize the behavior, wishes, occupations of groups of people. See the article:

« " The whole point is that you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, so you use data mining to search for patterns," Brobst says. "Going in the other direction is easy." »
Well, is seeams that soon all the companies will have some consistent data about their customers . The more niche-oriented is the social network the more relevant patterns. If no social network available the company starts one (see Edmunds). Many companies started to have a business blog... now they add to their forums an newsgroups some social network behaviour. So it comes the social network software going from open source to enterprise solutions.

Ok, now are there enough money coming from advertising? Some photo,dating or diary social networks have paid services. The rest… hope for advertising. So, where is thing going? To the end of out privacy?
«Our social networks, searching habits, visual identifiers and personal preferences will be mercilessly sold to anyone who wants to get their hands on our particular demographic. And when your photos, your files, your email and your friends are all online, you'll have to be online - and thanks to net everywhere, like the Google San Francisco project, you'll always be able to be online. And as long as you're online, they can market to you.» sais Wil Harris in "Why Web 2.0 will end your privacy".
I read an article saying that specialized social networks can provide good targeted advertising and therefore become much more attractive. Therefore, this is why it is a large number niche-oriented social networks yet to come targeting the no. 4 need. However, they have problems promoting themselves. For instance for social network- photo sharing. Each has its own non-exhaustive way of presenting the features so you end up making an account to try it. I find this quite annoying. Flickr, Slide, Zorpia, Zoto to name some of them…

So, are there too many social networks? (See the article). Well ... it seams that one person tends to subscribe to more then one social network (need no 2)…. It is necessary some kind of common protocol to help everyone use aggregators with all the benefits. It seems that some social network aggregators (not yet released) like Iceflake have their impatient customers. I am one of them.


juusan said...

Have you seen ourstory.com? Their site lets you create a timeline of your life, and then print it out in a nice bound book format. It's a pretty cool site.

susan said...

I loved reading this article. Very insightful. I am an avid user of Amiglia so I found it strange not to see it on your social networking list. It's a great site for making yoru family tree, making linked photo albums with all of your relatives, and do a lot more family stuff.

moataz said...

Hi Alize,

Great article. Just to let you know, Iceflake is now live so you can check it out.