Social Networks

Entries related to social networks, group psychology, anthropology, and really any of the social sciences.

Following our bliss

Last week, I receive an email with the question, “Christian asks: Has anybody seen my bliss? I was following it but I think I fell too far behind.” Christian has a good job. He’s published a book. He’s newly married. I would have expected him, of all people, to be keeping up with his bliss. Perhaps it is endemic of how hard it is to follow your bliss these days. Perhaps some of it is that people aren’t even sure what their bliss looks like anymore.

Being the geek, I thought I would check out Here’s what I found: Links to Teen Magazines, Bliss Magazines, Matchmaker sites, Free Chat sites, Horoscopes, Wedding Dresses, and Teen Fashion. It that what bliss looks like?

I’ve used the excuse of following my bliss to try and explain my current situation. Consulting to political campaigns and non-profits just isn’t on the same pay scale as working on Wall Street. The other day, I received a job offer from a non-profit I really like. It was less than 10% of what I used to make on Wall Street. It was less than what it takes to support my family, and instead of being insulted or disappointed, I tried to find ways to make it work.

I’ve thought about the fancy dinners that I used to have when I worked on Wall Street, yet they pale in comparison to the wonderful dinners my wife prepares, especially for those special times when the whole family is together. I’ve thought of all the trips I used to take to Europe. Most of the time was spent in conference rooms and it isn’t as romantic as it seems, but it is probably the travel that I miss most.

So, I sit, I write, and I hope that somehow, I’m having a positive affect on the lives of those around me. Sure, I’m not getting anything fancy or expensive for my family and friends for Christmas this year, but hopefully, I can find something more meaningful to give them. Yeah, there are times that I have my doubts; too many times like that, but still, it’s life’s illusions I recall.

So, I’m not sure where Christian’s bliss has gone. Perhaps it is walking down the street, talking with my bliss, stopping to befriend a homeless man, spending a little time helping a teenager find her voice, and doing a little social networking to help other people find bliss that is more meaningful than talking about fashion, horoscopes and the desire to find Mr. Right in an Internet chat room.

Am I, Though, Really?

That was the response that a social networking guru friend of mine at Yahoo! wrote in response to my inviting him to join the group “i'm making a difference”.

On Friday, I received an email from the Sierra Club which said,

I'm writing because, with your help, we can get Microsoft to donate an additional $50,000 to the Sierra Club. Here's the challenge: If more than 50,000 people join their "i'm Making a Difference" Facebook group *through* today, Nov. 9 (until midnight EST), they'll give $50,000 to whichever organization gets the most votes.

This sounds an awful lot like the urban legend kicking around the Internet for ages that Internet users can receive a cash reward for forwarding messages to test a Microsoft/AOL e-mail tracking system.

If it hadn’t of come from the Sierra Club, pointed to a Facebook page, and been something I heard folks from Microsoft talking about as a successful marketing strategy at ad:tech, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

However, this one isn’t a hoax. The Instant Messaging space is pretty calcified. Everyone has their favorite IM client by now and people aren’t changing clients much. There just isn’t that much difference. It is sort of like Coke and Pepsi.

Recognizing this, folks involved with marketing for Microsoft decided to try and use social media and people’s philanthropic interests to get people to pay attention to the latest release of their Instant Messaging program. I haven’t seen any studies on changes in market share of instant messaging programs recently, but folks involved with the effort are touting this as a great success.

The ‘i'm making a difference’ group now has over 50,000 people in it. I suspect that $50,000 is a pretty small price for a marketing campaign like this, but can be a significant help to various non-profits.

So, yes, I believe that my joining the Facebook group, ‘i’m making a difference.’ A chunk of money will go to non-profits as a result. Marketing people will see that using social media and appealing to people’s philanthropic interests can be an effective marketing strategy. Both of these are ways that I hope my social networking guru at Yahoo! is also hoping to make a difference. The third difference may be an increase in people using Microsoft Live Messenger instead of Yahoo! Messenger, which might be a difference that my friend doesn’t want to make.

Now that the 50,000 people have joined the Facebook group, Microsoft is keeping things alive with this:

The i’m™ Initiative from Windows Live Messenger™ makes helping your favorite cause as easy as sending an instant message. Every time you start a conversation using i’m, we share a portion of our advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective social cause organizations. Each of our partners will get a minimum of $100,000. As for the maximum? There is none. The sky's the limit.

Let’s hope this puts pressure on more organizations to share a portion of their revenue with effective social cause organizations.

Technology Adoption Curves and the Twitter Lifecycle

In a previous post about ad:tech, I mentioned how I learned about NY Times' Facebook page from a twitter by Steve Rubel. I commented about this in the press room, and one of the reporters was surprised to hear that twitter was still around and active. I reflected back on hearing speakers at OMMA predict the demise of Twitter, Facebook and Second Life and it struck me that the standard technology adoption curve that we all hear so much about, may have a lot of interesting nuances.

One nuance that gets talked about a lot is the chasm that Geoffrey Moore talks about between the early adopters and the early majority. Perhaps Twitter is currently hiding in that chasm. Perhaps that chasm is tied to what happened at OMMA and other shows. Here is my proposed narrative for understanding a little of this.

As the innovators go out and try to convince people of a really cool new technology, and the early adopters start piling on, the laggards hear about this and try to convince everyone else that there isn’t really any value to the cool new technology. The innovators and the early adopters happily keep using the cool new technology. It keeps getting better and better, and then crosses a threshold where it becomes easy enough for the early majority to start using it and discover that the technology really is interesting.

This fits nicely with Twitter. Yes, us innovators and early adopters continue to play with it. Today, I received an email on the Second Life Educators mailing list, another gathering place for innovators and early adopters, talking about Twitter. Several twiterholics, myself included, came forward and talked about our experiences and the neat new tools that have come along to make twitter easier and more useful. Will it be enough to get Twitter to cross the chasm? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, I’m following some new friends on Twitter, and even found a version of the the Twitter Life Cycle

Exploring OpenSocial

I’ve always been interested in emerging open standards for open connectivity between different websites, so OpenSocial has caught my attention. Without knowing a lot about it, I’m starting to explore OpenSocial and see how it could interoperate with my preferred development environment, Drupal, as well as with other tools that I’m interested in such as OpenID, FOAF, XFN, and so on.

The first two sites I found were the Google’s OpenSocial API site and the OpenSocial Developer Forum on Google Groups. This led me to a tutorial and to the OpenSocial Garage Wiki.

As I searched for OpenSocial and Drupal, I found what sounded like a promising site, Perhaps this would be a list of sites that are already using OpenSocial, perhaps even Drupal sites using OpenSocial. It turned out to be a very interesting site powered by Drupal, CiviCRM and tied to N-TEN. However, it didn’t have anything to do with Google’s OpenSocial.

I also looked around a little bit for OpenID and OpenSocial, but haven’t found anything. Instead, much of the discussions are about whether or not OpenSocial is really open and whether or not it is much of a step forward.

I will leave those discussions to the pontificators. Instead, I’ll take a few moments to explore OpenSocial. Before you can do much of anything, for a programmers perspective, you need to authenticate.

The People Data API Developer's Guide, part of the OpenSocial Data APIs documentation, lists two ways of authenticating.

In the note at the top of the page, it says,

The OpenSocial People data API hasn't been released yet; this document is a preview of the developer's guide that we'll publish when we release the data API. All of the details are subject to change, but this preview should give you a general idea of what the API will be like.

It describes “ClientLogin username/password authentication” where you post an email address, a password, a source, and a service as an application/x-www-form-urlencoded content type to Digging deeper, it appears as if much of this is all the same old Google Gadget stuff that people have been kicking around for a while.

Will it be possible to roll this into a user authentication module for Drupal? Could this be used to make an OpenID system for Google? Will the ClientLogin be expanded to support authentication from other OpenSocial systems?

It looks like it might be a while before I get passed the authentication to really start looking under the hood.

Open Social

Yesterday, TechCrunch had an article talking about Google launching Open Social on Thursday. Today, Open Social has become a hot topic on various mailing lists I’m on. People want to know how they can connect with Open Social, how it relates to other open connectivity efforts, and why it matters in the first place.

On one list, I put some of my thoughts about the importance of this into a historical context. I wrote about interconnected small-scale white-labeled social networks.

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