As long as I’ve been involved in the tech industry there’s been the concept of The Year of X, where X has been artificial intelligence, personal information managers, local area networks, CD-ROMs, P2P. Proclaimed by tech pubs, most likely to help their ad sales reps sell space, they focused the attention on areas the industry was investing money, in hopes of being there when lightning strikes, when wealth is created, as it often is in the tech industry. Sometimes the “year of” prognostications are right, more often they’re wrong.
In that sense, there’s no doubt that 2007 is the year of the social network in Silicon Valley. This may not be the year when huge wealth is created, but I don’t doubt that the area is fertile, and I don’t say that lightly, because I’m often a contrarian when it comes to self-induced Silicon Valley euphoria.
There are a couple of ideas I’ve been getting ready to write about, I’m not quite ready yet, but here they are anyway.
1. When people get together to discuss Twitter, and perhaps other social networks (and Twitter is that, a bare-bones social network), they often discuss as if there were a common user experience, but this is a misperception, there are many different experiences, they may group into large subsets of the users, and they may not. Some food for thought.
On Twitter I try to keep a ten percent ratio of people I follow over people who follow me. For other people, maybe most, the ratio is 1-to-1, they follow approximately the same number of people as follow them. Scoble follows thousands of people. For him Twitter is like a very fast chatroom. For me it’s like weblogs.com on a busy day in 2002. I’ve seen people who follow 0 people, for them Twitter is a publishing environment. Very different experiences. To each of them Twitter is a different product.
Note that when reporters cover Twitter, before they’ve become users, they probably write about the home page at Twitter, where complete strangers report on the kind of spaghetti sauce they like. That may be why so many articles dismiss Twitter as useless. (Dwight Silverman, a columnist at the Houston Chronicle, provides the evidence. “When my colleague Loren Steffy trashed [Twitter], for example, he did so without ever adding anyone to his Twitter page.” In fact, Steffy is following 0 people, is followed by 2, and has updated 0 times.)
2. Integration is so tempting, but elusive. The other day a friend on Twitter wrote about a movie he liked. I looked it up on the NY Times movie review site (a newly revealed location now that their archive is open and a very valuable one, another topic I plan to cover, the wealth of the NY Times archive). I would have then liked to have clicked over to Netflix to order it. And even better, I’d have liked to have looked at what other movies he likes.
Now we’re very close to having this, we just need a way to co-relate two identity systems, Twitter’s and Netflix’s. And think of the value in integrating Amazon with Twitter. The mind explodes at the possibilities. This is what I meant when I said earlier “they’re not trivial problems, they’ve been there since the Internet outgrew academia and started being used for commercial purposes.”
This issue is now coming to a head, as the users can see the next step clearly. How to integrate the systems is known technology, but it’s not a solved problem economically and politically. We need to get clear on the opportunities, and feel free to dream when the barriers between the networks come down.
I watched the 60 Minutes interview of Iranian president Ahmandinejad with amazement. At the end of the interview he reminded the interviewer, Scott Pelley, that he was the president of a sovereign country. He wondered if the interviewer was an agent of the American government. Amazingly his question made sense. I wondered too.
I tried to imagine CBS interviewing the President of the United States this way. I couldn’t imagine that our President would sit for the full interview as the interviewer reminded him repeatedly that he hadn’t directly answered the question as to whether Iran was producing a nuclear weapon or whether Iran was supplying arms to people fighting the US in Iraq. Ask once or twice, accept an incomplete even evasive answer, because that’s how they interview politicians on American television. To hold Iran’s president to a higher standard is hypocritical.
I wouldn’t have blamed Ahmadinejad if he had asked why Iranian weapons are any worse than US weapons. Wouldn’t he have the right to object that the US had troops in Iraq, a country that borders his, with people who share his culture, religion, even his sect, but he didn’t. There’s no question that American soldiers are killing Shi’ites in Iraq, and perhaps there’s no question that Iran is arming our enemies in Iraq, but so what? I don’t see how what we’re doing is any better, and when you consider that Iraq borders Iran, it’s as if a foreign country were occupying Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. His interest in peace in Iraq is clearly greater than ours.
He was much less adversarial than the interviewer, who was supposed to be disinterested. The president of a sovereign country, even one our country isn’t friendly with, has no obligation to be disinterested.
The moment of greatest shame was when he asked Ahmadinejad if he admired anything about President Bush personally. I don’t understand where the question came from, and why it wasn’t edited out of the interview when Ahmadinejad declined (gracefully, I thought) to answer it. Is this somehow relevant to the conversation between our countries? Is this how a strong and respectful country learns about an adversary?
Perhaps CBS should find out first first if Americans admire the man before we ask if others do.
TechMeme really likes Friday evening’s Monkey piece, it’s been #1 for almost 24 hours. Even if people still use the Social Graph term, it may have done some good by asking the question — what’s the difference between a network and a graph? In math there is no difference, a network is a graph and vice versa.
I got one thing wrong, apparently the term came from Facebook, presumably as a way of separating what they do from their predecessors.
Dan Farber reported in May. “Zuckerberg describes the Facebook core function that the new third-party applications can tap into as a ‘social graph,’ the network of connections and relationships between people on the service.”
Google Trends comparison of “social network” vs “social graph.”
Google News archive search for “social graph.”
For example, I remember when platform was new, but I didn’t object to it, because it explained a concept that we needed a word for. Today it’s still much in use, and there’s little or no confusion about what it means.
I was doing audio blog posts before we had the term podcast, and I totally got behind it because we needed a word for what we were doing.
But social graph is not needed, it makes something simple sound complicated, and we totally need it to sound simple if the problems are going to get solved. They’re not trivial problems, they’ve been there since the Internet outgrew academia and started being used for commercial purposes.
Another problem with new names for old things is that it tends to push aside the pioneers and makes it sound like newcomers are not also-rans. Fred had a reasonable gripe as a backer of Wasabe when Mint started getting credit for being a first mover. At least they didn’t have the chutzpah to try to make it a trend and give it a buzzword.
Someone is being pushed aside with the term “social graph” likely some competitors of Facebook like MySpace and LinkedIn, and some pioneers are going to lose credit for their innovation if it takes root. It may still take root, but I felt I had to say something.
BTW, the title of the post contains a grammatic error because I changed the title to monkey from something else and didn’t look carefully at the resulting title. :-)