Calacanis asks deep questions about social networks

So Jason “no comments” Calacanis answers me, and others, back about his increasing dislike of Facebook and other social networks.

First of all, for the record, Jason is right. Facebook sucks. Twitter sucks. Pownce sucks. Jaiku sucks. Kyte sucks. Etc and etc.

Why? Because they take time.

But then managing my Outlook contact list took time. Managing my business card collection took time. My mom took time to keep a filing cabinet and an address book and a rolodex.

Facebook is the modern day rolodex. It is the replacement for the business card.

First of all, let me attack a claim Jason made that simply is wrong: that it takes 30 minutes a day to add hundreds of new friends into Facebook or other social networks (on big days I’ve actually had hundreds of people wanting into my social network, so I timed it: I can add hundreds in less than five minutes).

Here’s how.

Let’s go to Facebook and look. Gary Chan just asked to be added to my network. I click confirm. Then “skip this step.” Done. Typing this sentence took four times longer. You don’t need to do anything more. You don’t need to explain why you know Gary Chan. Etc. Etc. I never do and I don’t feel guilty about it. If I know people I know why and how I know them and I don’t need to tell you all that. Later on I might add some value to my contact list that way.

So, why do I say it’s my new business card collection? Well, if I am looking for a contact, at, say, Yahoo, I troll through my Facebook collection. Most Yahoo employees leave their phone numbers and email addresses on their Facebook profile. Hint: they work on the iPhone. So, I visit their profile and click on their phone number and I’m instantly connected.

Plus, I know everything about them that they’ve wanted to share.

For instance, Bradley Horowitz, of Yahoo, is on my contact list. By looking at his profile page I know all sorts of stuff about him. His relationship status, his political views, who his friends are, what kind of music he likes, his favorite TV shows, his favorite movies, his favorite books.

He has the Snapvine app, so I can leave a voice mail for him. He tells his friends where he lives (has a Yahoo Map gadget that shows that, of course). Puts all his Flickr photos up. I know his mood. I know what party he’ll be at tonight. I know someone at Microsoft that he’s talking with and who visits his page, so I know some influence networking that I could do with him. I know his college experience and his past work experience.

All voluntarily turned over and when I interview him do you want to bet this stuff comes up? Damn straight it will.

If I go to the party he’s going to tonight (I might, it’s on my calendar too) I’ll have TONS of stuff to talk with him about. Music. Movies. TV shows. Politics. College experience. And other stuff.

Oh, heck, let’s go look at Jason’s Facebook. I see his religious views. Jason has put his mobile number there. His educational experience. And more. Plus I can see who wants to suck up to Jason on his wall (I’m there, so read into that what you want. By the way, so is the co-founder of Flickr, the founder of B5 Media network, and a bunch of other interesting people).

I also like that all his Twitters are there, so I can see what else Jason’s been ranting about without being forced to chase Jason all over the Net. On my profile you can see my Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Kyte, WordPress, Google Reader, and many other things. That saves you time of figuring out everything I’m doing.

Now, can I get this info any other way? LinkedIn? Maybe. Twitter? No. Pownce? No. Jaiku? No. Following his blog? No. Kyte? No. MySpace? Don’t be ridiculous.

Could I have called him? Yeah. I have his business card and his mobile phone in my contacts. But why would you waste Jason’s time asking stupid questions when the answer is already online? Will that lead to a good result? A ride in his Corvette, for instance? Or a business partnership?

Anyway, let’s specifically answer some questions Jason asked, cause they are interesting:

1. Facebook is a multilevel marketing platform. Jason’s right. But, then, so is my rolodex from the 1980s and 90s. Some people in that rolodex are a LOT more important to me than other people. Some people in that old-school rolodex introduced me to TONS of other people and influenced my life in major ways. That rolodex is now moving to Facebook where it’s getting MUCH stronger than it was on little business cards or in Outlook where I didn’t have pictures and didn’t have an ability to see inside the networks of friends each person has (Facebook lets me see all of your friends as well, if you leave that open, which most people do).
2. Facebook is a great way for me to promote what I’m doing. Absolutely. Jason’s right there! But it’s NOT one way! Hint: great parties, great people come to you, too. I’ll have a lot more to say about that soon.
3. Are we creating a social system to communicate with each other at a distance because the reality of creating and maintaining that social networking face-to-face is, well, scary? Well, I’m sure that some people would be scared by getting a ride in Jason’s Corvette, but I’ve been there and it was one of the greatest thrills of my life. Can I experience that over Facebook? No, but Jason’s phone number is on his Facebook so you can always call and invite him out for dinner.
4. Is Facebook a more efficient, rejection-free, surrogate for the real world? Um, Nick Denton didn’t accept my friend request. So, no, it’s just like the real world where some people think you’re an asshole and other people think you’re cool. I notice that Jason has enough people who think he’s cool that there’s an entire group of people who think he’s cool on Facebook. Seriously. Do a search on Jason’s name and you’ll find the group.
5. At a certain point social networks create negative returns on your investment. Absolutely. These things get noisy the more people you add to them. So, if you want to have no noise definitely don’t have any friends. Or keep your networks down to only your “real” friends instead of anyone who wants to come in. My strategy? I’m going with the noise cause I don’t know where the gold is going to come from. I realize not everyone is a weirdo like me in that regard.
6. Are we going to hire someone to manage our social networks? I haven’t yet and I doubt I will. My friend network is too important to me and there’s all sorts of gestures that are coming to me through it that I’d miss if some intern was tending to my network.

Anyways, interesting discussion. If I were really smart I wouldn’t be engaging in this right now and, instead, testing out the new CoComment that came out yesterday. Now THAT is interesting.

Of course now that Jason has closed down comments maybe that’s not so interesting after all.

91 thoughts on “Calacanis asks deep questions about social networks

  1. Hello!
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  2. Hello!
    We run a search engine specifically set up to help find and promote niche social networks, blogs and other social media.
    There’s been a huge growth in niche social networking sites and this is set to continue thanks sites such as Ning et al.

    The goal of Find A Social Network is to make it easier for users to find sites and communities related to their particular interests while helping niche sites grow their user base and monetize their web property.

    Please feel free to register and submit your website to our database!

    http://findasocialnetwork.com

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  4. @24 A pal of mine (DYKC) into’d me to the term ‘lunchbox’ to define just putting people into our own little box, like a million little trophy wives or something. Look at all my contacts!!1! It’s like we’re 17 year old girls.

    So much of blogging is flat out promotion. I’m grateful about Twitter being so chatty where people can shoot the shit. Too few blogs form thoughts, it’s just link to this link to that, I did this, I did that.

    I will defend only since I’ve discovered some people that I got to work with and actually deliver. Maybe we would have found each other means, but still. Kinda sad we have to act like myspacers to get there.

    Just much older.

  5. @24 A pal of mine (DYKC) into’d me to the term ‘lunchbox’ to define just putting people into our own little box, like a million little trophy wives or something. Look at all my contacts!!1! It’s like we’re 17 year old girls.

    So much of blogging is flat out promotion. I’m grateful about Twitter being so chatty where people can shoot the shit. Too few blogs form thoughts, it’s just link to this link to that, I did this, I did that.

    I will defend only since I’ve discovered some people that I got to work with and actually deliver. Maybe we would have found each other means, but still. Kinda sad we have to act like myspacers to get there.

    Just much older.

  6. I think Jason is just suffering from information overload. The cure? Turn off the cell phone, turn off the computer and get away for awhile.

    You have to go with the flow. If I had resisted such flowing items as Facebook, twitter, Pownce, etc… I would be nowhere near where I am today.

    For example – If I had just pigeon-holed myself as a blogger, I wouldn’t be today working for Lending Club, Criteo and the new startup Lookery. All this happened due to me going with the flow.

    Soon I will be unleashing a startup on the world that has ties to a big European VC. How? Because I decided that going with the flow was advantageous to growing my career.

    What career? Well it’s not where I thought I’d end up, but as I said in my recent post about taking some time away from blogging updates (http://rexduffdixon.com/?p=2972) or being on top of everything (VentureBeat, Mashable, CenterNetworks, TechCrunch – they do the job well).

    So is Facebook, twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, LinkedIn etc.. all just a big waste of time? Maybe, but without it there is now way that Rex Dixon would be positioned where I am today.

    Rex

  7. I think Jason is just suffering from information overload. The cure? Turn off the cell phone, turn off the computer and get away for awhile.

    You have to go with the flow. If I had resisted such flowing items as Facebook, twitter, Pownce, etc… I would be nowhere near where I am today.

    For example – If I had just pigeon-holed myself as a blogger, I wouldn’t be today working for Lending Club, Criteo and the new startup Lookery. All this happened due to me going with the flow.

    Soon I will be unleashing a startup on the world that has ties to a big European VC. How? Because I decided that going with the flow was advantageous to growing my career.

    What career? Well it’s not where I thought I’d end up, but as I said in my recent post about taking some time away from blogging updates (http://rexduffdixon.com/?p=2972) or being on top of everything (VentureBeat, Mashable, CenterNetworks, TechCrunch – they do the job well).

    So is Facebook, twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, LinkedIn etc.. all just a big waste of time? Maybe, but without it there is now way that Rex Dixon would be positioned where I am today.

    Rex

  8. I was reading an article in Mashable about social network aggregators built to consolidate all your various social networking profiles. The article mentioned that one of them -Profilactic – does what it does well, but that Mashable would like to see it interact with “the items in your streams’.

    Which by association in my mind, immediately got me thinking about ‘Islands in the Stream’ by Ernest Hemingway.

    (‘Islands in the Stream’ is a book about a divorced, hard-drinking, hard-loving painter living on the islands, visited by the sons of his ex-wives, who on hearing of the death of one of his sons, turns a mental corner, and becomes a a man with a mission. It is the life of a man who grabs the dissolution of his life and turns it into something that means something to him and in which he is involved.)

    Which got me thinking how the motif in ‘Islands in the Stream’ probably does parallel the triumph of hope over absurdity evident in social networks and social network aggregators. By which I mean that we are crowded together on this planet like sardines in a can, and yet we look for and find people with whom to connect, on the web. And who is to say that we do not connect. But why this way? If a person has half a dozen good friends they talk with and mix with regularly, why would they want to make ‘friends’ with people they do not really know (yet)?

    Perhaps there are many shy people who like this online approach. Perhaps people just follow what they believe is the next hot thing they can join in publicly and be seen publicly. Perhaps this is 15 minutes of fame gone global for everyone.

  9. I was reading an article in Mashable about social network aggregators built to consolidate all your various social networking profiles. The article mentioned that one of them -Profilactic – does what it does well, but that Mashable would like to see it interact with “the items in your streams’.

    Which by association in my mind, immediately got me thinking about ‘Islands in the Stream’ by Ernest Hemingway.

    (‘Islands in the Stream’ is a book about a divorced, hard-drinking, hard-loving painter living on the islands, visited by the sons of his ex-wives, who on hearing of the death of one of his sons, turns a mental corner, and becomes a a man with a mission. It is the life of a man who grabs the dissolution of his life and turns it into something that means something to him and in which he is involved.)

    Which got me thinking how the motif in ‘Islands in the Stream’ probably does parallel the triumph of hope over absurdity evident in social networks and social network aggregators. By which I mean that we are crowded together on this planet like sardines in a can, and yet we look for and find people with whom to connect, on the web. And who is to say that we do not connect. But why this way? If a person has half a dozen good friends they talk with and mix with regularly, why would they want to make ‘friends’ with people they do not really know (yet)?

    Perhaps there are many shy people who like this online approach. Perhaps people just follow what they believe is the next hot thing they can join in publicly and be seen publicly. Perhaps this is 15 minutes of fame gone global for everyone.

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