Tag Archives: Social Network

Craving intimacy in our social networks

It’s Ironic that Facebook is moving into a more public space occupied by Twitter and FriendFeed.

I think their jealousy of the hype that Twitter is getting might be leading them astray.

Why?

I’ve been asking “normal people” what they use. You know, people like my wife and her friends who aren’t tech bloggers and don’t pride themselves on using the latest thing. She is addicted to Facebook and is not interested in the public part of it. She doesn’t get Twitter and FriendFeed although she understands how I use those to talk with a large public audience.

She’s craving intimacy with her friends. She uses Facebook to talk with her childhood friends about the little moments in life that they will find interesting but that she doesn’t want open to a larger public discussion.

She’s not the only one craving that kind of intimacy. I’ve noticed it about myself too. Recently I started a private group for people I liked that I wanted to have a way to discuss things with just them. It never went anywhere, but I noticed that when we have small, intimate discussions that all of us have more fun and learn more.

Living our lives in public often leads to very weird behavior and worrying about what the crowd will think. That doesn’t lead us to a good place often.

I’ve often wished that FriendFeed and Twitter have more private spaces, or ones that have a better combination of public and private areas. The fact that they haven’t worked much on the private spaces (FriendFeed’s private groups are pretty good, but private messages get lost in the noise and there isn’t a good way to notify people that messages are waiting for them and Twitter’s direct messaging features are a total joke, unusable for anything group related and pretty unusable for anything else either). Now that Facebook is spending more effort becoming more public I find myself looking for some other system that provides that intimacy.

This week I’ll explore several, but one I found that is already gaining a devoted group of passionate fans is ThisMoment. They opened up for business last week.

Unlike with other experiments I’ve done on other social networks this one I’m going to keep just for my family and closest friends, but they have put up some interesting examples that are shared with the public. The founder, Vince Broady, put up a page of his Mad Max movie night. You can see here that the “moment” is intimate and the story told with both text and pictures.

Vince formerly ran Gamespot and entertainment at CNET and Yahoo and he — and a team of 11 loyal engineers — are building out this effort. I always look for good teams behind services (that’s why I got so excited by FriendFeed) and that’s one reason I’m excited about thismoment.

Anyway, some other examples. Even brands can use the more intimate approach. Here Road & Track is using thismoment to share moments of beautiful cars with its fans.

Here Stephen Blake recorded his experiences on Obama’s Inauguration Day.

Am I the only one noticing this trend? Is Facebook nuts for being jealous of Twitter and copying FriendFeed? Where do you go online to talk with your close friends? Are you looking for a better way?

Chasing the magical experience

Pierre's chalet (view from the hot tub)

In all the hype about celebrities over on Twitter and Facebook we’ve forgotten something: experiences you have with crowds of other people are rarely magical unless it’s a concert and, even then, I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME. Which is one reason I like Peter Himmelman’s Furious World so much.

I’ve been around the world. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world. Just this week I shared a Guinness with the deputy prime minister of Ireland.

But as I get around the world I find I’m not chasing the crowds. I’m chasing the magical experience.

What are some of the magical experiences in your life? Bringing a kid into the world is one of mine. Two people. And a doctor and nurse. The power of four again.

Getting married? When done best there are only a few participants: two people, a minister, and a witness. Four people.

A great dinner out? I’ve found that if there’s four people at the table that you love it always is magical. Five or more? Introduces noise and reduces the magic.

Laurent Haug, founder of LIFT conference

This is something I’ve discovered thanks to Laurent Haug, founder of the LIFT Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He invited me to spend time after the conference at his friend’s Swiss Chalet.

It is still the most magical experience I’ve had with someone I’ve met online.

Just a small group hanging out over a weekend, skiing, eating food that’s not good for us, taking photos, hanging out in the hot tub drinking Laurent’s friend’s expensive brandy. You can see the photo of the hot tub on this post.

Laurent shows us CoComment

It even turned into one of those product launches that really sticks with me, when Laurent (pictured here) showed us something he was working on called CoComment. I no longer use that service, but laid the groundwork for a variety of others, including Disqus who I’m headed to see today.

The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.

So, why don’t our social networks try to get us to split up into smaller groups? Facebook and friendfeed do, in their various ways. Yesterday I signed into Facebook for the first time in a while. I tried importing my Tweets and instantly got complaints. Why? Because the usage model there is all about talking with small groups of friends.

While Twitter gets the hype and chases the big crowd experience I’m left noticing that Facebook might run away with the real monetization prize: because Facebook is better setup for having magical experiences online with small groups of friends.

How magical? For the past few weeks Maryam has been showing me some of the conversations she’s been having with old school friends from around the world. She’s giddy that she’s finding cousins and old friends she hasn’t seen for decades.

Magic.

I look at my friendfeed experiences, too. I’m starting to put people into separate lists. Four at a time. I imagine having dinner with them and having a conversation about something.

This is a technique I learned from Linda Stone. When she invited me over for dinner she sat me next to a famous author and a famous Microsoft researcher to see if magic would happen.

This is something that many PR people and big company employees never get. Read Tara Hunt’s experience of trying to find book reviewers. She’s chasing the magical experience. Her PR company is chasing “bloggers with reach.”

Hint: Tara is right. The magic is with people who care. The magic is in small numbers. The magic is in creating an experience that has nothing to do with a committee. That post is something every PR and big company employee should read and understand at a deep level. She wants to create magic (she calls it Whuffie) and she knows that if she has a small number of people who are fanatical about what she’s doing that that’s how it’ll get done.

Anyway, just one of my thoughts as I am working today on Building43 — we’re looking to find people who are fanatical about the Internet and create a magical experience. I wonder who I should invite to dinner?

Here’s another example. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. I’m getting a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium from the guy who does their friendfeed/Twitter communities. I can get three other people into the tour. The first ones who email me at scobleizer@gmail.com get in.

What kind of magical experiences are you trying to create?

The worst thing for Twitter

Yes, Twitter is in talks to be bought by Google, but is that the worst thing that would happen to Twitter?

No, even though it’s funny to note that designer Douglas Bowman just left Google a week ago to go to work for Twitter (and did so with a public “I’m pissed and I’m leaving” letter — I guess he’ll be asked to clean toilets for a few weeks if he gets bought back into Google).

Remember, Google is the company that bought Jaiku and then did nothing with it. It’s the company that bought Dodgeball (a company that had a service very similar to Twitter that was out before Twitter). And did nothing with it (the founders of that company also wrote a “we’re leaving” letter to Google.)

Are you noticing a trend here yet? Google sucks at microblogging/social networking and I don’t believe that Google has actually changed at all. The best predictor of future results is past behavior.

So, if Twitter goes to Google there’s a great chance that it’ll be screwed up.

But, there’s something even worse awaiting it: if Twitter gets purchased by Microsoft. Or worse, Adobe or Oracle or IBM.

Why? These companies understand even less of what’s going on in the social networking space than Google does. At least Google is trying and failing. But Google makes great mobile apps and Google understands how to scale things that need scale. I can also see how Google would integrate Twitter search into its search pages.

Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t deserve to get Twitter. Microsoft has totally screwed up its online branding and search. It’s pretty incompetent in those areas and has been for years. Yeah, I know that Microsoft has thousands of employees who’ll call me names on their blogs and yeah I know that Microsoft has thousands of fans, er, MVPs, who’ll tell you at length why I’m wrong.

But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares. Microsoft has lost the Internet generation because they simply have not done anything interesting. Spending another $100 million on advertising is not going to change that.

Heck, they should stop the advertising, use the $100 million to get Twitter’s attention and buy it. But that’s what Microsoft would do if it had real Internet leadership that understood just how important Twitter’s search feature will be to getting Microsoft noticed in the search game.

Here: what will work better to get more people to feel good about Microsoft? Spending $100 million on TV ads? Or using that money to buy Twitter?

No brainer for me.

But here’s the problem: I don’t believe Microsoft wants to get the Internet. So, if Microsoft DID wake up and buy Twitter it would be a horrid place for Twitter to be. It would stagnate even worse there than it would at Google.

Which is why, even though I don’t like Twitter’s management team that much, I’m hoping that they sell to Google instead of Microsoft. At least then it has a chance of success, Google’s poor track record in this area notwithstanding.

Big shifts in microblog/social networking world

What a week in the microblog world.

First Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had a ton of really nasty articles written about him after his CFO left and was replaced. My take? Zuck got the service to 200 million and he’s one of the smartest businesspeople I’ve met. He’s also young and has definite ideas of where he’d like to take Facebook. He also has investors that he has to listen to at least a little bit. Add all that up and it’s a spot I’m glad I’m not in. That said Zuckerberg and crew are so close to the gold that their metal detectors must be going nuts. Now they have to execute and get show us how they are going to add businesses to the social graph and also how they are going to build public entities so that they can take the hype away from Twitter. If they get those two done, they’ll cash in big time. But those are two big ifs, especially if there are major management troubles like what some of the bloggers are sensing.

The second big shift this week was Mike Arrington’s reporting that Twitter is in talks with Google to be sold for a quarter billion dollars. First, disclosure: I really don’t like Twitter’s management team. I think they have more problems than Zuckerberg. They treat their community even worse than Facebook does. Their technology has been horrid (and still has major problems, when I refresh Twitter 100 times I see a Fail Whale at least five times, if not more). But, no one can argue the fact that Twitter has gotten more PR in the past 30 days than any other company I can remember getting in the past year. Everytime I turn on TV or Radio lately I hear “we just Tweeted.” That alone is worth a ton and they deserve to be compensated for yet again building a great brand. Why does Google want Twitter? Easy, search features. How did I learn about the Chinese earthquake? Well, that was by accident (I was the first American to tell someone else about the earthquake) because I follow so many people. But what did I do after that? I went to http://search.twitter.com and started watching what everyone was saying about the earthquake. Today tons of people do that or use tools like Twhirl and Tweetdeck to do those searches.

Lots of my friends think that this search behavior will let Microsoft get back into the search game if Microsoft bought Twitter. Heck, Todd Bishop just wrote that too. Unfortunately Steve Ballmer doesn’t understand Twitter (he isn’t on it and probably thinks that’s yet another stupid thing that Scoble uses) so he probably won’t see the value here. Ballmer has done a horrid job at getting Microsoft into the search game, so I’ll be shocked if he wakes up and buys Twitter. Of course just by saying that I probably made Ev and Biz a few hundred million dollars more — if Microsoft and Google get into a bidding war valuations on Twitter could go up to a billion or more. Pretty rich territory for a service that has only 10 million users in the United States.

The third shift? It actually is coming on Monday as friendfeed brings out a completely new UI. I saw it last night and I’m still stunned (mostly in a good way, but change is always exhausting). I’m not sure I’ll like it all, but you’ll definitely want to watch the video I shot of the press conference and I will have a LOT more to say on this on Monday morning. I’m under embargo until Monday, but the video is long and they go into tons of details about the new UI and their business.

What a week in social networking/microblogging. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Facebook screws iFart author

Facebook mat on 151 University

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

OK, I’m on the phone with Joel Comm right now. He’s been doing business online since 1995. He’s the co-creator of Yahoo Games. He wrote the Adsense Code, which got onto New York Times best selling list. He hosted and produced the first Internet reality show called the Next Internet Millionaire. He was the guy who came up with iFart, which got to be the #1 iPhone app on the iTunes store for three weeks. He also has “Twitter Power,” a book about Twitter coming out next month. You can find Joel on Twitter here.

Translation: he’s not a “nobody” on the Internet who is a spammer.

But, Facebook had a problem with him and kicked him off. Just like Facebook did to me just about a year ago. Why did this happen?

Well, he like me, has 4,999 friends which is the maximum allowed by Facebook. That’s not what got him in trouble. “So, Scoble, why you writing about him?”

Here’s why: he has 900 people who want to be his friend on Facebook. So, since he can’t add them to his social graph he sends them an a nice individual note, customized each time. He would look at each person’s profile and send them a nice note. What did the notes say? Something like “nice seeing you at XYZ conference, I can’t add you as a friend because Facebook doesn’t let me add more than 4,999 friends so could you please join me over on my fan page?” Sometimes also he’d send them over to his book page, or his Twitter page. Again, he customized each message to the person who was asking. Nothing automatic.

But yesterday Facebook disabled his account and removed his account from the public social graph. “I am the invisible man.” Facebook did exactly the same thing to me a year ago.

You still can get to his fan page, but he can’t administer it any longer (he has 734 fans). He also has a group on Facebook, which has more than 2,000 members. Fifty people have already joined a group to petition to have Joel added back to Facebook.

“So, why did they kick him off?” Because he triggered some sort of automatic alert that he was participating in spamming behavior.

“Did you get a warning,” I asked Comm.

“Yes. When we were sending the messages we got a warning and we stopped,” Comm says.

“Why did they kick you off then?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I stopped after they warned me. They kicked me off two days later. I have 900 people waiting to hear from me wondering why I’m ignoring them,” he told me.

“I try to log in now and it says my account is disabled. He sent them an inquiry and he got an email on January 22 at 1:42 p.m. Mountain Time. It says “Hi. The Facebook team has received your inquiries. We should get back to you soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our terms of use ( http://www.facebook.com/terms.php ). For more information. Thanks for contacting Facebook. — the Facebook team.”

Comm has no access to his photos. No access to his videos. No access to his wall posts. “I have no access, period,” he says. He wrote about the whole experience on his blog. I Googled his Facebook account and, right now, get a “Page Not Found” error. He has been “erased.”

I had almost the same experience a year ago and got more than 600 comments on that post. Every few days a new person leaves a sob story of getting kicked off of Facebook. I’ve complained about this quite a few times, including in public at SXSW when Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Facebook’s developer event there in 2008. I also have talked with Chris Putnam, head of Facebook’s video and security teams, as well as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Each time they say they will look into it. Each time nothing happens and the account disabling continues.

My account was closed like Joel’s although Facebook reinstated my account within 24 hours. I answered my email just like Joel did. Nicely and calmly. But I always assumed that getting to the top of TechMeme and getting hundreds of blogs to talk about the event helped get me reinstated too.

Irony: He wrote a 30 page report on Facebook on how social networking can improve your business which was very positive about Facebook.

Comm, like me, says he’ll be back on Facebook if they reenable his account but warns that people will get tired of this kind of treatment. “You know what, I don’t need big brother watching me and I’ll go use another site.”

Get Satisfaction, a site where you can leave customer complains for companies, has an extensive thread on this issue.

I agree. I refuse to use Facebook to conduct business and don’t upload many videos or photos there because I don’t support companies that “erase” MY data without my permission. I know of no other social network that does this in this way.

“So, Scoble, how should Facebook keep from having spammers take over its site? What should it do if it finds a legitimate spammer?”

If I were in charge at Facebook I would have a “jail.” If you broke the rules I’d move your account into “jail.” Everyone would be able to get to it, although you might have an icon that indicates the account has been thrown into jail. I would also turn off certain features on the account. I would just turn off messaging, for instance, if that person was abusing messaging. Or, turn off his/her ability to write on wall posts if he’s abusing privileges there.

I would NEVER delete or erase data. That’s highly unethical and really stupid when you need the trust of your users. Right now Facebook can do no wrong. It is getting 450,000 new users a day. So, they don’t care. But what about in four years when growth slows down and people discover a better system? I bet that they will wish they paid more attention to those issues then (sort of like Microsoft wishes it paid more attention to being a nice citizen back in the 1990s because it would help them get a better search service going today).

This week at the World Economic Forum I expect I’ll be seeing several executives from Facebook (they told me they were going). I’ll bring this issue up again with them and see if they have a better answer than they’ve had to date.

What do you think?

Why blogging comments suck

The other day, Gary Shapiro, the guy who runs the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, dropped by and left a comment here. There were a few problems:

1. My commenting system caught his comment in moderation, so people didn’t see it posted until I took it out of moderation right now.
2. No one probably knows who Gary is and thinks he’s just another random commenter. Some comments ARE more important than others, but there’s really no way for me to point out Gary’s comment without doing a new blog post. Even then, if you happen only to see the post that Gary commented on you’d never know that Gary’s comment deserves more attention than the other 54 comments left there.

How do you fix this? Not easily. I wish there were a system where I could tell my readers when a comment came in that deserves a lot more attention than the others. Also, I wish we could see the social network of the people commenting (I’d love to have their Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed networks show up linked into their comment somehow and also have warnings when people leave me comments that have a huge amount of social capital, like Gary does).

How did I know who Gary Shapiro was? I met Gary once and have heard him speak. His comment gives a hint at what he does, but his comment that he “runs the show” could be easily missed by an untrained eye.

Anyway, I’m interviewing Tim O’Reilly this afternoon (leave questions I should ask him here on this FriendFeed cluster) and I’ll definitely ask him about how we can improve our interaction systems on the web to better expose those who have real impact on all of our lives.

Thanks Gary for dropping by and defending trade shows and I’ll see you at CES.

Twitter (and all social networks) will never be the same thanks to PeopleBrowsr

For the past few weeks I’ve been using PeopleBrowsr. Very cool. It’s the most significant thing to happen to social networking since FriendFeed came on the scene a year ago.

It was launched on FriendFeed and look at the reaction. That tells me that this is going to see significant growth because it delivers features that people need from Twitter, like grouping and ability to augment contacts, that Twitter and other social networks have been unable to deliver.

Here’s CEO Jodee Rich demoing it to me, I highly recommend you try this if you are a social networking freak like me.

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