Shiv Singh: October 2007 Archives

Visualizing Social Networks

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1767579846_f7e46a01eb_m.jpg Wondering what social networks may look like? Check out these flickr photographs for some fun images. The source is Skyrails which is a social network visualization system built on scripting languages that can be used by anyone. You have lots of flexibility in how the different nodes in a network can be represented. It's perfect for visualizing social networks whether they be within your organization or beyond.

Bear in mind that the software is currently in beta mode which means that there is very little software documentation available for it. Yose Widjaja from the University of New South Wales is the software's author.

Social Networks. Are they a corporate asset?

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Over at Web Strategy, Jeremiah talks about Visible Path's Corporate Social Network Design Council event that he spoke at recently. A key question that he highlights is how do personal and professional networks become both a private asset to an individual as well as being shared by the enterprise.

There's no question that networks are an incredible asset and they have been for decades. That's half the value of an MBA program most people would say. The question is whether anything is different in the online space now that it has gotten far easier to manage one's networks and to mine a network by leveraging the different degrees of separation.

They're certainly an asset but I don't think the networks can be shared by an enterprise without the active participation of the individual. I can give you my phone book. But unless I personally introduce or connect you with all the people in the phone book, no one will take your calls. This means that networks are primarily an individual asset and will always be. Rather than trying to mine an individual's network, companies should focus on helping employees build their own personal networks. As long as those employees are with the company, the company will benefit too.  

Being scared of Social Media

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So I grew across three continents in a world where I never shared too much about myself. It might have been because I was in a boarding school for several years where I had no true privacy. So I sought to hide certain parts of myself from others. I wanted to have a private life too. Later in the early 1990s, I started to get involved in online communities like the AOL forums and the WELL. Those worked quite well for me. I was able to design a very specific online identity tied to specific interests and compartmentalize my life. This carried on for years as the web grew and I joined more and more communities. But now things are getting harder.

Social Media is frightening. I'm expected to participate and have an opinion on practically everything I touch. Whether its in the workplace or at home, everybody wants me to collaborate and contribute. Words, images, voice - everything and anything needs to be put in the public domain. I must upload my photographs to flickr for friends to see, my facebook status must reflect my activities, my wiki profile needs to reflect current professional interests and if I am not twittering then I'm not cool. You get the idea? Social Media has a dangerous side. Not only are we forced to reveal more than we may want to, but we're also pressured to do so just to be a part of the conversation.

What's the solution? I don't know. But as I navigate the social media landscape, I'll be constantly asking why participate, what value does the participation bring and does every conversation need to be joined? We have private lives for a reason, because we like to keep some things private. Does that need to change?

Microsoft buys into Facebook

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The mystery is over. Microsoft has bought a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million valuing the company at a $15 billion. It is hard to tell what it will mean for the users of Facebook. Probably little if anything at all. It seems to primarily an advertising defensive play. Microsoft did not want Google to form a relationship with Facebook. A key reason why Facebook went with Microsoft was their existing advertising relationship. The deal allows Microsoft to target more advertising at the Facebook 49 million users.

With the deal, Microsoft will be the exclusive third-party advertising partner for the social networking site. The ads will expand beyond the US to Facebook's international presence as well. No Microsoft technologies will be integrated into the Facebook platform. That's good. Facebook is winning, why try to fix something that isn't broken. What's left to be seen is actual ROI on the advertising on Facebook. The word on the street is that people click less on ads when they are on social networks because the content within the network is so much more attractive.

I wonder whether Facebook decided to go with Microsoft because they did not want anything to do with Google's own social networking plans. Those call for a more open ecosystem of social networks driven by OpenID and other similar technologies.

Newsbreakr, a citizen journalism alternative

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newsbreakr.jpg Citizen journalism is all the rage. And it is one of those subjects, just as blogging is, that makes journalists rather nervous. Here's another citizen journalism example, one that was created at Avenue A | Razorfish as a prototype of the possibilities. It mixes mobile with the web allowing citizen journalists to post from their mobile phones and geotag their news items. It is a prototype that came out of our innovation lab so it doesn't have an audience. Nevertheless, take a look to see how the web, mobile and geotagging can work together.

Getting it wrong with Social Media

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choate.jpgThe other day's New York Times reported how law firms are using video to recruit summer interns. Apparently, it is a fiercely competitive market and attracting the best can be difficult. While it is a nice social media type thing, I'm quite disappointed with the efforts of one of the firms. A 100 year old legal firm in Boston with 200 employees is using video clips that are a spoof of the infamous Mac versus PC ones.

The problem? Firstly, they should try to come up with something original. A spoof simply reinforces the stereotype of lawyers lacking imagination. Secondly, next time use real lawyers not actors. Actors make it look fake. If you can find lawyers to do the testimonials, I'm sure a few of them can do the acting as well. And finally, please post to You Tube. I'm not sure whether to trust the view count of your inbuilt flash built in video player. Doesn't seem very authentic to me.

Google to launch a Virtual World?

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Rumor has it that Google is planning to launch a Second Life, virtual world type competitor. This comes from Techcrunch. Arguably, with their Google Earth product, they wouldn't have a hard time entering this space. We all ready know that they want to do something in the social networking space so this is probably tied to that. Maybe the next thing is a social network + virtual world + iGoogle type functionality. Now that's something I may actually consider joining.

Monetizing Social Media is not easy

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facebook1.gifI read an interesting Wall Street Journal article that compared Facebook to Geocities which had gotten sold for $4.7 billion to Yahoo in 2000. The article provides a sobering lesson to Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the Facebook crew. For one thing, they're not truly the first in this space and nor are they immune from disaster either. Reading the article, I was struck by this quote -

"It's not that easy to monetize social media," says Eric Hippeau, a managing partner of Softbank Capital that made more than 20 times its investment in GeoCities. He also sits on Yahoo's board. "Once Microsoft's deal with Facebook expires, as does Google's deal with MySpace, they're going to have to sell advertising for themselves and it's going to be a challenge." So far, he says, "it's not that easy to match the right advertising with the right audience."

Yes, its certainly not that easy to monetize social media. And the reason is simple, the media simply isn't yours. Anyone who gets too greedy when housing someone else's media should beware. They make take it with them elsewhere. I'll be watching Facebook to see how it handles my media.