Category Archives: Social Networks


Where’s Your Buyer Platform?

A few weeks ago, I met with a local small business owner. We first met back when we were both solo and have met for coffee every 6 months or so since. He now maintains an office downtown full of employees. Towards the end of our time together, he asked which social media services I was actively using.

“None. My buyers aren’t there.”

He concurred that none of his business came through those channels either and that he’s considering deleting all his accounts. What’s been holding him back?

The sense that his future employees are active on these social media services and that not being present will make future hiring more difficult. I reminded him of the business he’s growing, the family he enjoys, and that his employees should do his recruiting since they’re who this hypothetical new employee will be working with anyway.

So, yes, delete the accounts. Your future isn’t there anyway.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve built, released, and retired a number of my own products (Cullect, Kernest, typerighter, and some even smaller ones). The revenue from these projects keeps both my server bills and my knowledge of the latest tech current. They don’t pay the kids’ yogurt bill, the tax bill, the mortgage bill, or my retirement. These expenses are covered by my consulting and coaching engagements. These are engagements with:

  • corporate executives challenged with transforming a multi-channel organization into a digital-centric organization,
  • leaders of digital-centric organizations charged with increasing growth and revenue,
  • founders fighting to pull their startup out of the din of banality.

Most important of all – they all have families they love, kids they don’t spend enough time with, and hobbies they haven’t pursued in much too long. In short, their calendars are booked solid with challenge and fulfillment. These are not people outraged by the latest Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook drama (product-related or otherwise). These are people fighting to make their vision a reality. Every. Single. Day. Fighting to transform their organization’s products and culture. They’re not tweeting it.

So, how do you get in front of your buyers? That’s your job to find out. It’s not a new job. Nor is it one that can be solved by the hottest new technology. It’s solved by building relationships – not followers – atop a platform that’s unique to your remarkable business.


“These aren’t ‘business media platforms.’ Those, you create on your own, not with followers or friends, but with prospects and clients.” – Alan Weiss

Taking Stock

“So if you are in the position to have somebody else handle your flow while you tend to your stock: awesome. But that’s true for almost no one, and will (I think?) be true for even fewer over time, so you need to have your own plan for this stuff.” – Robin Sloan

A continuous stream can so quickly turns into background static. Just turn on any radio station or cable news station for proof. So much inane, meaningless, chatter between overly dramatic transitions to maintain attention and distract people from taking stock.

Infrequency has the benefit of being a novelty. Additionally, from what I see in this new publishing world – there’s an inverse relationship between frequency of publishing and positive impact on reputation.

I predict that if these real-time marketing channels (tumblr, twitter, facebook, et al) stick around another 5 years we’ll see a thriving industry of part-time, entry-level people dealing with it. Hell, I predict that these hired hands will handle most internet interactions for their clients. The role somewhere between personal assistant and PR agency. Especially those clients who feel the potential disruption of their own psychological flow is too significant to risk.

Perhaps, this is even something true fans will do out of their love. This final scenario may be the only saving grace for social media as we know it.

P.S. Proving my point, I was just pointed to Robin’s post this morning and it’s more than 3 years old. Significance continues to trump timeliness.


“What does Facebook tell China when they ask if Facebook can be used to overthrow governments?” – Dave Winer

This question – on its face – is good. Load in all the U.S. media stories about Facebook being used to organize government revolts, the value of China to the U.S. economy, Wikileaks, and Dave’s work at – and it becomes a 21st century riddle of the sphynx if not double jeopardy.

Terms of Services Kinda Like Open Licenses – But Evil

The Combined Arms Research Library has a good post on the upside of the latest version of Twitter’s terms of service (“Twitter can do WHAT with your photos?“) .

The language is very similar to the MIT/X11 License in that the copyright holder is licensing their work to others and the licensees can do as they wish with the work – adapt, distribute, sell, etc. In the case of the MIT/X11 – those freedoms apply to everyone. In the case of Twitter’s Terms of Service – it’s just, um, Twitter Corp.

Yes, Facebook’s, Blogger’s, TypePad’s,’s, Tumblr’s, Posterous’s, and many others‘ terms of service all have similar language.

It’d be far more interesting, innovative, and plain simpler, if the lawyers at these services declared anything published through them was automatically licensed under a more well-known license like the MIT/X11, GPL, or Creative Commons. That license change would also be a boon for the driving creative innovation around that work and become a magnet for people interested in publishing under these open terms. Instead, it feels like these services are trying to get away with stealing.

While music and book publishers are being chastised for crazy low royalty rates – social networks have eliminated them completely and are praised for their innovativeness.

Rightfully so – they’ve attracted millions of creators and eliminated both the advance to create the work and the royalties on its commercial usage.


“We tend to like the primary uses of that data (Amazon book recommendations), it’s the secondary uses we’re not so crazy about (third-party datamines sold to anyone for anything).” – Bruce Schneier, DefCon 15, 2007

“Any smart CEO would kill to have a product like you that doesn’t cost anything and keeps renewing itself indefinitely so it can be sold and resold and resold to many different customers.” – Jacques Vallee

Killing Time

This morning, even before my first cup of coffee – I went through my stable of Twitter accounts and started deactivating them. Easier and more straightforward than I expected.

That was before Leo Laporte’s Buzz Kill post hit my radar:

“It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. All this time I’ve been pumping content into the void like some chatterbox Onan. How humiliating. How demoralizing.” – Leo Laporte

Facebook is the Future of Television

“But in the meantime the Net’s going to look way too much like the last days of TV. Which it will be.” – Doc Searls

This morning, I heard a broadcast radio discussion on the future of television .

First off – the host made the assumption that cable television is some sort of necessity. Wow, if that’s the case – we’re living in the age of abundance.

Second off – I’m listening to this on the radio.

Isn’t that kinda like BP discussing the future of rail?

Either way.

In my household, chances are there’s a Facebook window open more often than a TV is on or a radio is on.

Facebook is compelling for all the reasons TV wants to be. Unfortunately – TV has a lot more work to do to make me care about characters. My Facebook (and I’m sure yours as well) is already filled with people I actually care about. People that impact my daily life directly – outside of Facebook.

The gulf between the stories, concerns, and issues my people and those broadcast TV, radio, or newspaper are publishing is wide, and growing.

It’s as easy to spend your cognitive surplus watching Facebook auto-update as it is watching the latest ultraviolent television production (broadcast or cable).

I haven’t even mentioned Facebook’s video support yet. :)

Update: Then there’s the bit about considering maintaining Facebook activity a part-time job in the same way TV is. :)

Second Guessing Social Media Buttons

“What if I had put Myspace links on, or Digg links on my stories in 2005? When you go back through the archive those would seem crazy, almost defacing of the content. Don’t those things belong in toolbars or bookmarklets?” – Dave Winer

And that’s just one problem with the proliferation of ‘twitter this’, ‘Facebook like this’, etc buttons.

  • The problem from the visitors’ perspective;
    Either I know what the logos and links mean for those services mean or – I don’t. If I know what they mean – I’ve got a bookmarklet or other mechanism that I’m comfortable using (you know for all the other sites on the internet without the logos). If I don’t know what they mean…um…is this a conversation the website publisher wants to have?
  • The problem from the website publishers’ perspective;
    It’s either free advertising or a complete distraction from the website publisher’s core offering. Worse, it assumes the website publisher knows the services its best customers prefer. In my experience, customer preferences move faster than website refresh schedules – so by the time the ‘Facebook Like’ button is integrated in a useful manner – the visitors changed their preference.

Yes, this is a refresh of the “The Problem with Badges” essay I wrote in 2006.

Mental Exercise: Who Wins When Twitter Stumbles?

In continuing my short sell of social media, I’ve been imagining Twitter and Facebook as holdings in a hedge fund manager’s portfolio.

In my amateur understanding of hedge funds: the goal is to reduce risk and maximize returns by investing in assets that move in the opposite direction. The magic is in finding the complimentary assets.

A very simple example: if you see long term growth in the US stock market – a hedge would have 50% of your investment in the bond market, for stock and bonds prices often move in the opposite direction.

How does this metaphor extend to social media?

I’ve got a couple projects that would be interesting within a service like Twitter and I’d like to hedge my investment (development time). The question is – where are the complimentary assets?

Or, who wins when Twitter stumbles?

If people stop sending messages via Twitter – where does that communication flow?

Facebook? Movabletype? Tumblr? Posterous ?

Maybe. While they all offer a similar capability – they fell to similar (private, hosted, silos) to be complimentary. – feels closer (free, open source, well documented, mature API). But, I have a hard time imagining people mass-installing WordPress in their own web space after having everything taken care of for them.

My favorite answer so far: Email.

What would your Social Media Hedge Fund portfolio be made of?

Shorting Toxic, er, Social Media

Over on the Twitter the other day, I wrote:

“Yes, that giant sucking sound you hear is me buying up CDSs against UGC-backed securities. #shorting_social_media”

Right now, the similarities between the overheated real estate market of a few years ago and the current chatter around the marketing potential of Twitter and Facebook are uncanny.

Turns out, I’m not alone in seeing the parallels.

“[Facebook] has consistently behaved in ethically questionable ways regarding all three of its customer sets: consumers, developers, and advertisers. Today, that behaviour seems have infected entire components of the media value chain. Entire networks are, it seems, brokering stuff of dubious quality. Sound familiar? It’s just like Wall St 2001-2008.” – Umair Haque

“What if the social internet as we know it is being built on sand, on ads that almost no one looks at now and fewer will look at in two years? ” – Ethan Zuckerman

Please Exit the Silo in a Calm and Orderly Fashion


In my world – Twitter and Facebook streams seem to be slowing down, while I’m hearing rumors of more people “using” both services – it’s not translating to me seeing new faces. Hell, I’m even seeing fewer familiar faces.

And half expecting to hear Whit Stillman‘s next project is titled “Social Network”.

Not a bad thing. Scenes change. The exciting pieces turn bland.

We know that. One of the first social networks – Geocities, launche in 1994, recently closed down. Five years from now it could easily be – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare, or Tumblr.

“I can’t blame Myspace, YouTube, Facebook or any of these sites for creating such a genius trap. I mostly blame myself for relying on these things like everyone else has for so long.” – Brian, musician

“But we don’t have NEA1 with Twitter, and that’s why tweeting is starting to stagnate, and developers like Dave are working on getting past it.” – Doc Searls

1. Nobody owns them, Everybody can use them and Anybody can improve them

Dr. Sheepthrow Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media

A while ago, I heard Someone Influential1 arguing that the problem with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc, is that they are inherently interpersonal spaces designed and built by asocial people.

Who else happily spends that much time between-chair-and-keyboard rather than out, with, um, people?

As the argument goes, our actual social relationships are like good wine: built over time by an amalgamation of interchanges, contexts, signaling, emotions, subtly, nuance, and complexity.

All of these characteristics are lacking in online social network destinations. It’s almost if the current batch of social network sites has all the nuance and complexity of a junior high home room class:

“Are you my friend?’

“Do you like me?”

“Do you like me like me?”

The argument continues by declaring the risk with model: younger generations could see these social networks as models for actual social relationships – rather than the mediated relationship they are – and we have a generation of sociopaths who require every aspect of every relationship to be explicitly declared to simply feel loved and wanted.

I’m sympathetic to the argument and I’d be all up for grabbing the pitchforks and torches except….

Have you watched a program (drama, comedy, talk, ‘reality’, ‘news’, anything really) on television or watched a movie lately?

Pick anything.

Guilty of the exact same crime.

And so much worse.

At least online – the people have a chance at changing the system to more accurately describe their relationships. They have a chance to use online interactions as a compliment and extension of offline interactions.

In broadcast media – there’s no chance. All the dysfunctional, psychotic, asocial behavior is frozen in. Ready for replaying over and over again. Never changing, learning, or improving.

While it once made me cringe to imagine a generation growing up on throwing sheep at each other in Facebook, it now terrifies me to imagine a generation of people modeling their social relationships off Power Rangers, daytime dramas, ’24′, Oprah, American Idol, and just about anything sold on a DVD.

Bring on the friend requests and thown sheep.

1. I think it was Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, Clay Shirky, or someone similar. I can’t find a link right now, does this sound familiar to you?

Short URLs Re-defining SEO

It’s conventional search engine optimization wisdom that URLs should contain words, separated by either dashes or underscores. This approach improves the readability of the URL – making it more usable for people while simultaneously giving internet robots something to work on.

But with people sharing URLs within places – like Twitter and Facebook (and … and … and …) – places with a default social context, we’re seeing a URL’s context trump its readability as a significant usability factor.

Who is sharing and how they describe what they’re sharing is more important than the readability of the shared URL itself.

Leaving the search engine robots blocked out completely (disallow, nofollow, etc) or piecing together a pile of redirect URLs (which may or may not exist tomorrow, e.g. RE07.US).

Additionally, the share-er’s pays for each URL with their social capital. ‘Good’ URLs (as deemed by each individual follower) raise the share-er’s capital while ‘bad’ URLs lowers.

Throw in the proliferation of other difficult to index assets like images and video – and we’re talking about an internet that’s not Search Engine Optimized, but Social Engagement Optimized.

Pownce, Exit Here.

While, I wasn’t kind to Pownce a year ago, twice even. There are many unfortunate things about the shuttering of Pownce.

Halfway down the list is making the mistaken assumption that the same shuttering couldn’t happen to Twitter (or any other centralized, free, web service). Remember Evan sold Blogger to Google 6 years ago – before Blogger had a sustained, cash flow positive, revenue model.

Something about leopards and spots.

If Pownce was a publicly traded company that just closed up shop – the price of Twitter, Facebook, and Friendfeed would have just tanked (then again, I’ve been shorting ‘social networks’ for a year).

Perhaps Pownce’s greatest success was simply all the press and publicity it got. For a service around for maaaaayyybe 24 months – much enk was spilled.

So congrats to Leah – on a successful exit.

Oh, and Leah, perhaps you could join us for a MinneDemo or MinneBar?

Sharing is Caring

Like yourself, I travel in a number of personal and professional circles; dad’s open gym night, neighbors, this project team, that project team, peers via podcasting, peers through information architecture, peers through visual design, etc. Each circle has different values and finds different things relevant. The chances of something I find interesting being relevant to more than one of these circles in almost zero.

Preschools and potty-training schedules are off-topic in a project meeting.

Separate but equal.

Overarching tools with a ‘share’ gesture but lacking a notion of these distinct circles is simply rude. A privacy concern? Maybe – in the same way sharing anything on a publicly accessible URL is a privacy concern.

A complete disregard for how real people live multi-faceted lives? Absolutely.

You're Worth $294.12

“I WANT to be enthused about things like Myspace, and Facebook, and Second Life, and iLike…In every case, I feel like people are blindly giving away value, and not getting enough in return. What do you get from these websites that you can’t get on your own? What do they do for you that you can’t do for yourself? The real purpose of all of them seems… to me, to be convincing people to give up personal information so that information can be sold to businesses, or otherwise used to market products. They are SPAM factories.” – Rusty Dubose

Rumor has it that Microsoft is about to purchase 5% of Facebook for $500 million.

Let’s put those numbers against the stats on Wikipedia’s Facebook page:

($500,000 * 20) / 34,000,000 active members = $294.11764 / active member.

No, I don’t think most “active members” get $300 of “free” value out of Facebook, MySpace, or Pownce.

Maybe LinkedIn….more likely Twitter.

The free blog their cousin set up for them on the server in his basement – absolutely.

Assuming a Silo?

My only issue with A Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web is that it seems to assume a silo.

Cause, why else would it be needed?

If I always have full control (i.e. installing and maintaining a wordpress install on my own servers – not at why would I need beg for freedom?

Just asking.

I support the premise, but I’d rather see “social”-ness added to existing open software.

Twitter Ends Friendship

In a move that should rock the ‘social network space’, Twitter just removed the vague, confusing, juvenile label of ‘friend‘, replacing it with the more descriptive ‘following1.

Aside from the label being more accurate 2 it creates a nice symmetry with ‘followers‘. You and I could say ‘friend‘ is the overlap between the two, but as Biz states, it’s not for a server to define.

“After careful consideration and user testing, we are no longer going to define people as your ‘friends.’ – Biz

The /following and /followers listing is also nicely cleaned up. Insted of the confusing ‘add‘ and ‘follow‘ links, ‘follow‘ is only offered for the people that you’re not (but are you). Within /follows a radio button specifies if you’ll get ‘notifications3.

Now, if we could finally kill off ‘user‘.

1. As of this writing, the URLs have yet to update.
2. Only ‘stalking‘ would be more accurate.
3 Still not a great label, I say ‘stalking‘ is appropriate here.

Robert Scoble outlines how to be his “friend” (Hint: live in Facebook) that’s after this childish outburst:

“He didn’t add me as a friend to his Facebook network…..they wouldn’t get access to my walled garden.”

Oh no, do you mean to say your feelings toward someone else aren’t reciprocal? Welcome to being an adult.

Steve Rubel laments the changing definition of “friend”.

The current usage of ‘friend’ in these ‘social networks’ is simplistic, heavy-handed, and juvenile. Even in IRL, relationships are more nuanced and asymmetrical (e.g. “fuck buddy”, “stalker”, “BFF”) – if these networks want to be relevant in a decade, they need to reflect the actual relationships. But then, most adults don’t need training wheels on their bikes or chaperones when they go out.

Chatter – Friendly Tumble Blogging

“Garrick knocks Pownce … what will he think of Chatter?” – Bruno Bornsztein

  1. Finally, a web app that knows how to handle a new account – Bruno sends me an invite via email.
  2. I click the link. Chatter asks me my name – then emails me a password. That’s it. Beautiful.
    If you’re building or have built an account-based web app, take note. You don’t need anything more to let me in 1. In fact, every additional form field makes it more likely I leave promptly.
  3. Email give me the pass and a link, sending me to the profile page.
    2 suggestions here; I want a URL for my photo – not an upload, and I have no idea what to put in ‘About Me’. Other than that – 4 more fields. Excellent.
    Note: I still have no idea what Chatter is, and it already makes me happy.
  4. Now I’m in. Chatter is tumblr with friends 2 and, it’s using the same bucketed-approach as Pownce. The system should either know, or not care what things are. I shouldn’t need to tell it.
  5. While there still aren’t feeds or an publicaly-linked API 3, there is a Firefox plug-in and a bookmarklet – making adding things to almost as easy as could be.
  6. Bruno & Ben 4, provide a way to give you money and I say you beat Pownce on this round.

1. **cough** OpenID **cough**
2. I’m not a fan of tumble blogs and don’t have an account at tumblr for 2 reasons; Like the iPhone and television – they’re for receiving – not for creating – and I’m cool with writing extremely short posts on this blog (everything’s searchable and append-able then). That’s me, and how I blog.
3. Only email alerts, argh! I do not want my friends getting near my spam filter!
4. Ben’s tumble blog is fantastic – economics, politics, fun. Yeah, I know, the triumvirate. – In Need of a Special Purpose feels like the bastard child of Basecamp and MySpace. Four kinds of things (messages, links, files, events) all going into the same bucket. No tagging or grouping or other categorization – aside from the information type, all sent out to everyone as email notifications not including the message. Just a link back to the site. Awful.

Admittedly, I didn’t get Twitter when it was first released either. Even today, I’m pretty sure I don’t use Twitter the way it was intended. Nor do I think anyone does – who can afford the SMS charges ;).

To grok Twitter, I needed to see how it folded into what I’m already doing. Twitter clicked for me as a republishing tool. A way to know who is actually interested in reading what I write 1. This required Twitter to open up an API early. Pownce doesn’t want to work with me, it wants to completely replace what I’m doing currently. I’m too busy to play that game.

Without an API 2, finding its special purpose is going to be more of a challenge for Pownce. I’m less than optimistic, unlike Nik – I don’t assume the developers had a vision for the site. In fact, the only thing I think they have going for them is that they’re taking money – from both ‘Pro’ accounts and advertising. Huge applause. That might just buy them enough time to find their special purpose.

1. As soon as WordPress has something like this, buh bye Twitter.
2. While Pownce conceivably has enough of an API to run their highly undesirable AIR desktop app – they’re not sharing anymore than that. Right now, I’m not interested in installing AIR.

P.S. By contrast, I got Curbly and Nearbie immediately. They’ve both declared a purpose. They’re not just YASN.


“I’m still not sure if Pownce is supposed to be a Twittery microblogging site, a high-concept message board, or an IM client, but whatever it is, it’s meant for quick hits and rapid responses….Living in the application plane means that it doesn’t draw my attention when something important happens, and it just distracts me the rest of the time.” – Josh Lee

Aaron‘s got an interesting point on ubiquity. He’s right, having the only telephone among your friends isn’t that useful. I will change my mind – when Pownce is a service, not a site. Just like I change my mind about Twitter after Dave Winer released (for the record – a little after SXSW).


“Yet another shiny object on the social network technology heap.” – Bex Huff

Twittergrams: Guarding the Rhino

(photo CNN)

In Swahili the tick bird is named ‘askari wa kifaru,’ meaning ‘the rhino’s guard.’ The bird eats ticks it finds on the rhino and noisily warns of danger. Although the birds also eat blood from sores on the rhino’s skin and thus obstruct healing, they are still tolerated.

Take a look at what you need to pass to post a Twittergram; Twitter name, Twitter pass. Everything else, non-Twitter-specific and posting to your Twitter account is optional.

Imagine for a moment; Jaikugrams, Basecampgrams, Flickrgrams, Plazesgrams, Linkedingrams, and AnyServiceWithAnAPI-gram. The same exact Twittergram functionality riding atop each respective service 1.

Little birds flitting from rhino to rhino. has the same core functionality as another, much larger project I’m working on. Plus, I don’t need to write a login/pass registration system. In fact, that’s the rule w/ Ququoo development. It can’t have anything specific to Ququoo in it 2. Jen reminded me today of that. Her reminder has helped focus my Twittergram work – and dust off something this larger project needs desperately.

1. Number 3 if you’re following along.
2. Eric, maybe that’s the rule w/ Twitter as well ;)

5 July 07 Update: Yes, I think Twittergrams can be any kind of file and be larger than 200k. Maybe not with Dave’s service. But once you and programmatically decode a tinyurl you’ve got the idea.

8 July 07 Update: Feels like this accomplishes the same goal as OpenID…from a different angle. Where new sites ride atop older more established sites’ accounts – this solves 2 problems for new sites; needing to develop an account creation system and getting people to use the service. Scaling means supporting one more pre-existing account system.

I'm hesitant to build too much on top of…

I’m hesitant to build too much on top of Twitter. Not just because of their historic instability, but because they’re a single silo – and each day brings a yet another silo.

With, I’m relying on Twitter for registration. With the Twittergram work I’m doing, it’s that and a little bit more. Unlike Facebook, I don’t need permission to build these apps (a good thing), but with Twitter’s slower dev cycles, unreliable-ness, and not charging for anything (charging for something please! dev keys, anything!) I hesitate committing to much.

Today, to a great degree, the people that follow me, are following me on Twitter. 10 minutes from now, that may or not be the case. This post will be repub’d on Twitter, just as it is at Jaiku and Hictu, and in your own aggregator.

Just a reminder to work on projects that can easily go where the followers are rather than silo-specific projects. Has Audio & Video Twittergrams

Looks like already has the Flash-based recorder Dave talked about.

Like Jaiku, you can add other feeds to your profile basically aggregating and auto-posting. No, Hictu doesn’t have an API (at least obviously).

Ha. Punny.

Yes, the ‘micro-blogging’ space is getting as silly as the social network, ‘start page’, and to-do list manager spaces.

Too many silos – all aggregating the same stuff for a slightly different group of people. I predict in 9 months one of 3 things will happen:

  1. An open source, de-centralized, install-on-your-own server version will be developed (think WordPress) based on OpenID.
  2. Everyone will abandon their accounts and move on to the next cool trend.
  3. We’ll all be managing multiple profiles to multiple ‘micro-blogging’ services in the same way we manage multiple profiles across multiple instant messaging services (a la Adium/Trillian/Gizmo Project).

Yes, they’re ranked according to my preference.


“And in the social media space we’re fickle. We’ll change a product (as long as our clique comes along too), like we change our underwear.” – Eric Rice

“For all their goodness, these ‘networks’ are silly. They are also as temporary and annoying in their competitive isolation as Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL were, back in the day (or the decade). Those things were Net-unfriendly long before their surviving members became Net-native.” – Doc Searls