Scripting News for 9/23/07

The year of the social network 

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.

How CBS interviewed Iran’s president 

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.

Transcript of interview: Part 1, Part 2.

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.

Morning monkey roundup 

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.”

Fred Wilson posted a comment pointing to a post where he wondered what the graph thing was all about. His post was one that inspired me to write my piece.

Buzzwords and phrases are useful if they describe something new.

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. :-)

22 responses to this post.

  1. Turns out that even Facebook uses the term Social *Network* in their patents ;)

    Reply

  2. Good job on this Dave, was thrilled to see the positive responses to your post!

    Reply

  3. In mathematics a network is a graph, but not vice versa.

    Reply

  4. Posted by scott on September 23, 2007 at 9:23 am

    The problem with your logic is that participants of the debate which you have framed are overwhelmingly using the term ‘social network’ to refer to a service like Facebook or MySpace and not within the context of math. If my ‘social graph’ is a representation of my *existing* relationships then someone can exist in my social graph and not belong to any of my social networks. Therefore this is definitely a case where something new is being described.

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  5. “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.”

    The same mistake I make everyday. Now I know you changed “an i—-” to “an monkey”.

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  6. Integration is clearly the key to the kingdom, but it may be harder to reach than we think, because many people will actively resist it. Women, for example, change their user names subtly on different services to avoid stalkers. With the introduction of old farts, like your boss, into Facebook, many twenty-somethings are now adopting multiple personnas. The problems multiply from there. Allowing people to aggregate their own identity streams (either physically or virtually) and then publish that for processing by other tools seems more solvable.

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  7. “In math there is no difference, a network is a graph and vice versa.”

    Sigh. No. Can’t you even be bothered to check whether things are true before saying them?

    “A network is a digraph with weighted edges” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_(mathematics)

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  8. “Integration is so tempting, but elusive.” – indeed, but it’s only a matter of time. “How to integrate the systems is known technology, but it’s not a solved problem economically and politically.” – for sure, but as you suggest, people are beginning to realise some of the potential of linked data, initiatives like the the social-network-portability group are exploring the space in a way we haven’t seen before, and…well, now you can get your FOAF from Facebook

    Reply

  9. Posted by scott on September 23, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    > I got one thing wrong, apparently the term came from Facebook,
    > presumably as a way of separating what they do from their predecessors.

    To me it appears that Zuckerberg was using the term ‘social graph’ to describe new core functionality rather than an attempt to re-brand what Facebook or what a social network is. He was announcing that apps on the Facebook platform were provided access to the social graph generated from Facebook user data.

    I suspect that third-party apps running on Facebook will be encouraged or even required to contribute data back to Facebook’s social graph. However, I don’t see Facebook contributing to the establishment of ‘the social graph’, which as proposed would not be owned or controlled by any individual social service providers.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Chris on September 23, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I on the same 60min wavelength as you Dave. The MA interview was completely ridiculous. I too wondered what this interviewer was doing. Tough questions are one thing, but this was pure badgering. Very unprofessional and frankly embarrassing.

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  11. Remember Ahmandinejad was brought in by the mullahs because he was a proven hard-liner and they knew he’d crack down on the country’s fledgling democratic movement. When someone like that seems to be holding the moral high ground (and he does), there’s a serious problem with American leadership. Personally I think the most shameful question was “Shouldn’t you be thanking Bush for taking care of Iraq?”. Also, that Iran is “sending arms to Iraq” is NOT a “proven fact” as the reporter stated. Not anymore *proven* then the fact that a certain other middle-east country was stockpiling WMDs and getting ready to create mushroom clouds over US cities. These people telling me what is a “fact” gives me a certain sense of Deja Vu. Or Nausea.

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  12. Posted by Phil on September 24, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Dave,

    What are your thoughts on Ahmandinejad’s past virulent anti-semitic remarks? Don’t you think he would act on those threats if he could? Perhaps he is just posturing, but given his history, I think it might be wise to err on the side of caution.

    Also, as someone who has been involved with the killing and / or ordered the killing of Americans, don’t you think Ahmandinejad should be challenged?

    He’s just here for the photo-op anyway. Nobody in Iran will see him on TV being asked hard questions. Nobody in Iran will see the protests of his coming to NY. They will see him promoting his agenda ‘successfully’ to the ‘weak’ Amercians in their biggest city.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Jim Reese on September 24, 2007 at 7:59 am

    I think the reason the interviewer repeatedly asked about nuclear weapons and Iran supplying arms to Iraqis was that it is part of the preparation by the administration and the MSM for war with Iran. There are people in Washington who REALLY want this war to happen and it seems the media are often willing to help make their case (which is completely bogus IMHO).

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  14. Phil, my piece wasn’t about Ahmadinejad as much as it was about the United States. CBS was disrespectful of our country by asking him those shameful personal questions about President Bush. If CBS had done its job the focus would have been on Ahmadinejad, but because they did such a poor job, none of that came out.

    Reply

  15. Posted by MLopez on September 24, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Dave,

    I have to agree with you. Scott P came up weak and short on almost every point. But where I diverge with your take is simply this. In this country, NO politician would ever not be taken fully to task if they made the same sorts of anti-semitic statements were they “in public office”, even if it were the Head Librarian of small town. So to think that it’s embarrassing to call him to task to explain himself, is utter nonsense. It’s neither disingenuous nor disrespectful to have him more fully explain himself. Here he had a real forum, Sunday evening, show watched by millions, and he doesn’t have the Chutzpah to really speak his supposed convictions.

    C’mon, everything else aside (sure the comparison to Bush, or fishing for “possible parity” between him and Bush, was pretty stupid ), Ahmadinejad couldn’t be so naive as to think that CBS WOULDN’T ask questions he would find himself in a difficult position to answer. They’re certainly not questions that he’d ever think would come out of an Iranian reporters mouth. SO. If not out of an American reporter, then who ?

    Yet, there remained that silly little smile he’s always got on. Funny, Ted Bundy had a silly little smile just like that during his trail for being a serial killer. It also makes me think of the silly little smile Hitler used to have in those pictures of him with his buddies at the height of their power.

    And for sure, you’ve gotta wonder about this whole thing about Iran importing arms into Iraq thing. I can’t say as I buy it wholeheartedly, but it doesn’t sound blantantly impossible either. So while we’re considering “soverign nations”, remember that there’s also a soverign nation not a thousand miles from it that has most of the arsenals of the arab world pointed at it. You might’ve heard of it, it’s called Israel. And that tiny nation doesn’t seem to have a doubt in it’s mind that Iran has/does at least SOME of what they’re accussed of having/doing. No matter how many naysayers there might exist on this side of the ocean.

    Yet again, not everything is ABOUT the United States ( at least not 100% ).

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  16. Okay, what did Ahmadinejad say about Israel? What were his actual words, I don’t want to know the spin, I want to decide for myself how offensive they are. I haven’t heard them yet, so that makes me suspect that there were multiple possible interpretations.

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  17. Posted by Phil on September 24, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Various Ahmadinejad comments about Israel and the Holocaust – plenty to choose from:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=Ahmadinejad+israel

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Ahmadinejad+israel+holocaust

    My personal favorite:

    “They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets, (it) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet. If you have burned the Jews, why don’t you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel?”

    Of course we in the West just ‘misunderstood’ what he said…

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  18. it’s all about oil

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  19. Posted by Alberto Lopez on September 24, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Dave,

    This animal that you’ve painted so favorably in your twitter posts of 9/24/07 is the same odious bastard that condones women being STONED TO DEATH JUST LAST WEEK in his country.

    What does a person have to stand for or what hateful act does he/she have to constantly call for before you stop bashing the U.S.?

    Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called, Allah willing for the destruction of America. It has been widely documented.

    Look it up for yourself. He states it practically every single time he makes a speech. He wants to eradicate Israel AND the United States.

    This is a bad, bad guy and you should know better.

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  20. Posted by Rusty Dubose on September 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    I WANT to be enthused about things like Myspace, and Facebook, and Second Life, and iLike… but I don’t seem to be able to. 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. Who benefits from me uploading what’s in my iTunes library? Me? So I can contact my “friends” with similar tastes? I could contact my friends before these things existed. So I can let people know what I am doing? I could already do that, but had more sense than to email a friend that I was “off to the supermarket”, or “off to pick up little johnny from soccer practice”.

    Why are people not suspicious of anything that’s “free”? Ever hear of the expression… “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” It’s a simple concept. Nothing is free. Everything comes at a cost. If YOU ain’t paying for it, then WHO is? …and WHY?

    I have a Myspace site. It was free. What do I get out of it? Well, I have TEN friends who have made some contact with me through Myspace. Each of them has contacted me many MORE times via normal methods like e-mail, telephone, text message, etc. than they have via “Myspace”. But every week I receive dozens of “Melissa (or whatever other name they can create) wants to be your friend” messages which all turn out to be PORN SOLICITATIONS from non-existant females. Reporting them as “spam” only serves to dramatically increase their frequency. Ignoring them seems to be the only thing that keeps them down to the level of merely “annoying”.

    Second Life? It’s legalized fraud. Think about it. These folks figured out how to SELL your own fantasies back to you! You BUY imaginary stuff, with imaginary money, that COSTS VERY REAL DOLLARS. The MAFIA wishes it could come up with something so brilliant, that was also LEGAL (besides casinos, which come with way more overhead).

    Television and radio are at least honest in their approach. They provide us with mindless, intellect numbing, entertainment (sometimes even disguised as news and information), in return for our consumer dollars. I’ve paid for all the garbage I watch and listen to with that Toyota that’s sitting in the driveway… with those cookies that are in the cupboard… with that toilet paper on the spindle next to the toilet… with that cell phone contract that traps me with one company for two years.

    Think about it. You are paying, with your own money, for access to the Internet. With that access you have free email, free messaging, and free access to whatever is on the web. That IS social networking. Why do you need an additional social networking SPACE? What does it offer you that you don’t already have? How much information are you willing to supply to businesses that want to sell you something, to have what you’ve already own?

    We’re slightly ahead with “mainstream” media. An ad for Maxi Pads merely gives me 30 seconds to do something else if I’d like. An ad for erectile disfunction medicine simply makes me wonder how many men actually suffer from that. But the Internet KNOWS what you are interested in… KNOWS what music you like… KNOWS what organ of yours is, or isn’t, erect. And we volunteer that information every day in the name of “social networking”. So it can direct pitches right at us.

    A great self affirming allegation is that “a sucker is born every minute”. What makes that particularly great is that P.T. Barnum, the person we all attribute that quote to, never said it. It was attributed to him in the media, and has stuck to him ever since.

    Baaaaaaaaa

    Reply

  21. @rusty…

    yep. i think we should make a law that any information generated by a human being is copyrighted by that human being and they should be paid anytime someone, even the government, accesses the information.

    every application, want, and desire, all of it.

    and have the government store the info, and charge a tax each time a record is accessed, say a penny.

    the NSA is the “identy” figure we need, just and little ann-rand needs to come into play…and wa-la

    the age fo terror becomes the ag of information :)

    Reply

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