June 2009 Archives

Advice through your social influencers. Is it a suffocating prospect for us?


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vark.jpgToday's New York Times has a great story on Aardvark and how it uses your social graph to help you find answers to questions. It works rather simply - you pose a question via email or IM and Aardvark channels the question to people in your social graph (currently that's just your social graph on Facebook) and then brings back the answers to you. Users who don't respond aren't exposed so there's no discomfort created. As a result no social capital is expended either.

Currently, Aardvark works only with Facebook and pings your friends and their friends for volunteers to answer the question. So it take the question to ties that are once removed from you. But it just doesn't ping everyone automatically, using its proprietary technology it pings only those friends who are most likely to have the answer and to respond to the question. It also organizes the responses and determines when it has received enough feedback. If no one in your network answers, the question is extended to second and third generation ties.

Why is this special? Because it leverages human capital and algorithms to determine who are the most likely people to be able to answer a question as well as who will be most willing to do so. It makes your social influencers work for you. It's built fundamentally around the concept of strength in weak ties recognizing that people in your network (and maybe the weakest ties) are most likely to be able to answer the question and will probably bring back the most trusted answers.

Is it more of a decision engine than Bing? Time will tell but what is certain is that by applying an intelligent filter on my social graph it is making it far more meaningful to me  beyond the obvious social, entertainment and networking purposes that the social graph serves. Check out Aardvark and ask yourself what else would you like filtered through your social graphs. Or ask Aardvark to ask that. Maybe which ads to watch....33Across and Media6Degrees are already exploring that territory. It is just a matter of time before we see the world through the lens of our social graphs. It'll make life easier but here's a warning - it may limit our outlook on everything too.

Social Influence Marketing for Dummies


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dummies1.jpgIf you're wondering why my posts to Going Social Now have been a little infrequent of late here's the reason why. I'm writing a book for the Dummies series tentatively titled, "Social Influence Marketing for Dummies." It is available for pre-order on Amazon already. I'm in the last throes of writing it with barely two or three chapters left go now.

Writing a book is a pretty unique experience. Firstly it kills your social life if not your family life. Secondly, you learn to live with a permanent feeling of guilt as you're always a chapter or two behind what you promised your editor. And thirdly, as soon as you finish a chapter you feel you could have written it slightly better. But even then it is exhilarating and an exciting experience. It forces you to explain yourself and share your thinking explicitly and simply (especially with a Dummies book), it encourages you to research specific topics more deeply than you normally would have and really teaches you how to express yourself in more engaging and informative ways. All in all a totally worthwhile experience.

As I get closer to the launch of the book, I'll publish more about it. For now you can check out the description of it at Amazon and if you're so inclined maybe pre-order it too!

Facebook Vanity URLs and Inequality


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Ok, so maybe I'm a little miffed that I wasn't one of the chosen few who got to register a Facebook username before everyone else did. I'm not a journalist and nor am I a Facebook employee. Nor am I personally an advertiser on Facebook so maybe I don't deserve to have been given the opportunity to register a username before anyone else. Still I think there's something wrong with this process.

Facebook isn't just any old company anymore. Sure it is privately owned and privately run. And yes, it has every right to do what it likes. But what Facebook doesn't realize is that it is its users who make Facebook a success. Facebook has an obligation to be fair and equal to them. The social network contains our social graphs and our content. Facebook is uniquely positioned to be more than just another web publisher with audiences. It wants to be the social utility for the whole web. Those are great aspirations and in many ways they're done a lot of good to get on that path. But it cannot simply met out favors to whomever it may please. Imagine if Network Solutions started giving its employees first dibs at vanity urls? How absurd that would be! 

Facebook is launching vanity urls for users and companies starting at 12:01am EDT, Saturday, June 13th 2009. However, select journalists, companies and employees have been given an opportunity to register names beforehand. Sorry Facebook, but to me that smacks of inequality and as a long time user of Facebook I believe that is not in the ethos of the service. It reminds me of the net neutrality debate and how certain cable companies want their preferred content to run at a faster pace than other content on the internet.

If Facebook is about preferential treatment, then maybe their tag line should be changed from, " Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life" too "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life and if we like you we'll help you a little more than the others."

Here's the Wall Street Journal coverage and the Techcrunch post which got a lot of comments too. As Silicon Alley Insider pointed out, Facebook could have charged for these vanity urls or even auctioned them off. Both those options would have been better than this.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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