January 2008 Archives

Understanding Data Portability

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Wondering what's data portability especially as it pertains to social networks? This introductory video clip tells you everything you need to know.

DataPortability - Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut Media on Vimeo.
To learn more visit the data portabilityGoogle Group and the Data Portability website.

Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes

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Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was interviewed by 60 Minutes recently. As expected, he didn't share any important business information (Facebook is known to be extremely secretive). However it was interesting to watch the reporter focus on Zuckerberg's age and whether he makes a good CEO or not. The reality is that Zuckerberg is running an extremely successful operation and while he may have made mistakes with the Beacon launch, by and large he's being doing a good job.

I found Charlene Li's comments that Facebook is becoming a better search tool than Google fascinating. There's no doubt that we're starting to depend upon each other more for information. We're trusting each other more than the technology. Will we reach a point where we'd rather first search (or ask friends questions) on Facebook than Google? Who knows, but I'm sure Google is wondering too.

MySpace's Growth Curve. Is it over?

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Silicon Alley Insider is reporting that the latest Comcast figures show that MySpace's growth is slowing down. Page views declined 7% year over year in contrast to Facebook's 43% growth. There are two reasons for MySpace's slowing down - one is simply that when you're so large, there's a limit to how much more you can grow. The second is the Facebook influence. MySpace is hoping to address this plateauing by growing out of the US and generating more revenue from each page view and user. We'll be watching to see how successful they are.

8 things you didn't know about me

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I was invited me to participate in the "8 things you didn't know about me" party by Susan Scrupski. Thank you! The rules are fairly straightforward - 1. Link to your tagger and post these rules. 2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself. 3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names. 4. Let them know they've been tagged. 

So here goes - first the eight random facts about me. 

1. I'm getting married in barely a week's time. It's going to very large wedding (I'm Indian after all) and I'll probably know not more than a fifth of the guests personally. Fortunately, I don't have to pay for the wedding. 

2. I have a day job and a night job. By day I work for Avenue A | Razorfish and have been with them for a number of years. But I also co-publish a wine magazine. It's India's first and only magazine dedicated to wine. And yes, India is both a producer and a consumer of wine.

3. I nearly didn't make it past two. Maybe that sounds dramatic but it is true. I was deathly ill and the doctors couldn't diagnose the illness. For months I was in hospital on life support. But then a new medicine hit the market and was tried on me. It made all the difference.

4. I've been a huge mac fan for quite a while. In fact, I own one of the 20th Anniversary limited edition macs which was bought when Apple wasn't that cool. Its a gorgeous machine and few come close to it. Today, I mostly use black MacBook and an iPhone.

5. I've lived on three continents and hope to live on a few others too at some point. I grew up mostly in India and the Middle East, studied and worked in both North America and Europe. I would absolutely love to spend a meaningful amount of time in South America or Australia next.

6. I travel a lot for work and pleasure. In the last 12 months I averaged an international flight practically every month. While I don't enjoy air travel anymore, I see it as a necessary evil. Fortunately, I can sleep easily on flights.

7. I adore books. I am a bibliophile. I definitely buy more books than I can read but that doesn't stop me from buying more. They're candy to me. A home isn't complete without lots of books.

8. I'm a politics junky. I follow American, British, Israeli and Indian politics closely. They have more in common than you would expect. All in all, I believe the parliamentary form of democracy is the strongest format.

So that's it eight facts on me. I'd like to ping David Deal, James Robertson, Jane McConnell, Peter Boggards, Andrew McAfee, Peter Kim, Mukund Mohan and Jeremiah Owyang.

Facebook and Plaxo with Scoble in the middle

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social_graph.jpgIt was only a matter of time before Facebook and Plaxo started arguing more publicly. Robert Scoble presented this opportunity when he contracted with Plaxo to have them test his social graph. He allowed Plaxo to run a small automated script on his Facebook account that scrapped the contact information of his social graph (his network of friends) and import that information into a Plaxo service. The only problem - it is prohibited to run scripts like that on Facebook. So Facebook disabled his account which probably wasn't the smartest thing to do as Scoble is extremely influential in the blogosphere. Check out this Facebook Group and this News.com article for more on the issue.

My take - Plaxo is trying every way they can to get more users to switch to their service by encouraging its members to import their Facebook social graphs. Do users own their social graphs is the key question. Personally, I don't want anyone automatically porting my contact information into another social network. When I friend someone on Facebook or another service, I see that friending as context specific. I don't expect that friending to carry through to anywhere else without my permission. The smaller social networks may not like this and arguably it isn't open but its my data after all and does not belong to the friend who I have friended. Do you agree?

Facebook restored Scoble's account on the condition that he did not run those scripts again. Plaxo may not launch the new feature that allows users to import their Facebook Social Graph into Plaxo Pulse and everybody seems to be quite happy now.

Plaxo For Sale. More to come?

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plaxo.jpgPlaxo appears to be up for sale according to Techcrunch and the New York Times. Originally an online address book service, Plaxo morphed into a meta-social network in the last year with their Pulse product. Their network address book has approximately 20 million registered users and appears to be growing fast. But why sell then? Is it because Plaxo has discovered that building a strong revenue model around a social network can be a challenge? They are apparently expecting as much as $100 million for the sale. Approximately, $30 million has been raised for the business so far.

We're all suffering from social network fatigue. I liken it to car purchases. At the end of the day, you can only drive one car at a time. You may have two or three but one will be your primary vehicle. The same applies to social networks. And Plaxo competes directly with LinkedIn and to a lesser extent with Facebook and the upcoming Google Social Networking service. Either Pulse is not doing as well as they hoped or Google and LinkedIn are worrying them.

Virtual Worlds for Children. A Surprising Success

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Virtual worlds for children are expected to explode with roughly 20 million children becoming members by 2011, up from 8.2 million today according to eMarketer and as discussed in a recent New York Times article. Virtual Worlds designed for children either as extensions of physical toys or as pure virtual experiences are both having significant success. 

Sitting next to a Lego executive at a dinner last month, I discovered this firsthand. He explained how children are rushing to the websites as they like to connect with each other virtually as they play with their new toys. He also talked about how security is extremely important and requires lots of active measures. Lego takes extreme measures to make sure that their virtual worlds stay child safe. For example, every message posted is first screened by a person at Lego. Interestingly, parents trust Lego because they grew up on Lego themselves. New brands have a more difficult time building trust with the parents. (The picture above depicts some of the Lego Message Board rules).

It got me thinking, why are Virtual Worlds for children succeeding where those designed for adults have failed? Here's what I believe are some of the reasons, a few of which are also mentioned in the Times article. Firstly, children enjoy virtual worlds because they allow them to escape the confines of reality. Children also like the idea of being in control of their lives. They get to make all the decisions online. Just as important, children take to virtual worlds when they are extensions of real world toys. It is another way to play with their toys and let their imaginations take them to new places. Virtual Worlds let them explore. Similarly, children enjoy playing and connecting with one another online through the toys. The toys bring them together. 

So what's the lesson in all of this? Don't create virtual worlds or even broader social media solutions expecting people to simply show up. Give them reasons to come. Those reasons can't be manufactured. They should be centered on a theme, an event, an icon or a trace. Something that establishes a sense of commonality among the visitors. And tied to that, find ways to build their trust recognizing that it may take time.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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