Searching the horizon for a new better social network

sailboatDo I see a new network right now? Well no. So let’s start by heading back in time to 2008.

A different social media age

I logged in yesterday to Friendfeed. It had been a while. Friendfeed is still up and some still log in. Friendfeed of course had its hay day back in 2008. I was an active user, an active blogger and unofficial proponent of the Facebook killer life streaming social network that was rolling out enhancements so fast that Facebook could not help but to buy the site for the development team. So here we are in 2014 and all of the good features that made it so innovative have long ago been gobbled up by the behemoth that is Facebook.

Early Adoption is dead

The web culture is has invaded every part of daily lives as every start-up wishes to combine the non-digital with the digital life. It’s not a bad thing as we refill prescriptions on the web, we make appointments, pay bills, shop for media, shop for groceries, shop for cars, and simply do life digitally (mobile or otherwise).

As a self declared early adopter I was early to gmail, early to FriendFeed, early to many, many other web apps that have since gone away. But because of this digital culture everyone is into social media. Grandparents and great grandparents are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They share, they re-tweet, and consume the same over abundance of content that the rest of us do.

More and more this web culture means that people aren’t afraid to register for a new service and give the new site a try. It seems to be a badge of honor for the young.   Instead of saying, ‘hey did you check out this movie last weekend?”  They say, “hey have you tried that new app?” or “there’s a great new web site you should check out.”  The digital life is an integral part of pop culture and more simply put a part of a real modern life.

A tidal wave of data

Back during the age of FriendFeed one subject that was often discussed was cutting through the noise. FriendFeed, in my opinion, attempted to remedy the problems of the deluge of data by integrating search, implementing a smart news feed, assisting in content discovery and displaying real-time results and updates from outside sources.

Here we are in 2014 and this is still a problem. Facebook, as I mentioned, long ago has implemented these FriendFeed strategies and expounded upon them. But the problem remains. How do we cut through not just a fire hose of data but a 100 foot tidal wave? It’s a tidal wave that contains lots of garbage and we want the treasure, the good that is masked and hidden in the sea of unimportant.

So despite the overwhelming money and might of Facebook and the popularity of twitter a noise problem remains that still only seems to be getting worse.  I have a real life friend who has over 1500 Facebook friends.   Every week I follow a new Twitter account.  How do we cull?  How do we see in this data abyss?

Generation young

There are many examples already in this relatively short digital age of the power of the 13 year old. And the teenager will lead them. And the tween is right behind.  The sphere of influence of the next generation must never be overlooked.  They only know digital life.

Friendster, myspace, and Snapchat to name a few are examples of apps and services that begin with a mostly younger audience. The inroads to Facebook’s market share and beginnings of a new network’s adoption start with young people and I believe end with innovation.

A new hope

The hope for my ideal social network would balance crazy fast innovation across OS and device with a cult like grassroots following by the 13-34 demo. The new network would then dodge the billion dollar valuations from Google and Facebook and then take market share like breaths of air.

The new one would integrate voice, text, and video and take input from the other big 3. The algorithm to rule them all would cut the noise as a hot knife through buzzfeed butter.

The product would be simple for those that want simple but complex and precise for those that demand it.

Great content, important content would float like a buoy to the top of the cluttered content sea. Content discovery would also be important too as we are shown what we need before we know we need it.

Digital Seafaring

So as I peer out in the digital sea, I see no ship on the horizon but that’s ok. Our digital lives are consuming. The waves are getting higher and I am ready for a lifeboat.

I certainly will not be the first to spot it but I will know when it arrives. In the meantime I will dream of FriendFeed.

Leaders In Internet Social Networks

leadership-smallWhen you gather people together in any sort of group, a social structure most always arises. Leadership is something that comes natural to some, and others have it thrust upon them.

A small group may never appoint official leadership but receive leadership in some form from one, two, or a few. Unofficially or not, leadership roles are filled.

Leadership is defined by Wikipedia as the…

“process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”

As I began to write this post, I thought about several things. First, my assumption was that leaders definitely exist in social networks. Next, I believe leaders have certain responsibilities within the social setting. I have an expectation for a leader. Is this unrealistic or just simply unfair? These are some the things I want to discuss.

Do leaders exist in social networks?

Large scale social networks are filled with many groups, cliques, and small pockets of users. The users may have affiliation with each other via real life or only online relationships.

Often groups or cliques are simply people of similar interests or some similar trait that draws them together. Even in a group of peers, someone will inevitably stand out for their leadership qualities.

In an online social network, often this is seen by their popularity. In real life popularity is certainly not a determination for leadership or intelligence. In an internet social network, often we perceive the popular as leaders of the community.

This may or may not be a good method for finding leaders. The popular may be power users, but are they leaders?

Do they portray leadership qualities? Did they gain popularity from expertise? Are they an ambassador for the service? Do they wield power over the herd of users? Do they have a large sphere of influence?

If the answer is yes, I believe you have found a leader.

Is leadership expectation unfair?

What do you expect from a leader in real life? They obey the law of the group, the law of the land, and adhere to the accepted code of conduct. It is very easy to transfer these same expectations to a leader of a social network.

Unfortunately, a leader in this situation is, number one, not formally recognized. Second, they are certainly not compensated directly for their service to the organization.

I expect a certain decorum and behavior from a leader. The leader has the ability to incite riots, lead the herd in a way of their choosing, and generally abuse users in any way they see fit. Are my expectations are simply unfair?

How can we fix leadership in an online group?

One of the things that makes a social network work is the open format. The lack of rules and organization often leads to unique collaboration and an exchange of ideas.

Limiting user freedom and independence would be method for site admins to tighten control over their network. I am not for tightening control.

I am against formulas for processes that are informal. Formula or function where, by definition or inception, there is no formula or function. Freedom of expression on the Internet is great and can lead to innovation and invention.

These processes include all methods of communication, collaboration, and speech on today’s Internet. These creative processes can largely be stymied by rules, order, and unnecessary constraints.

However, the point of this post is power. In a social group, whether informally or not, someone gains power. The power to lead. To lead for the good and bad of others. Should site admins constrain users?

When power users lead the herd abusively, what action should be taken?