Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mesh: Social Networking ain't very social.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go. Taxi's outside blowing its hornMan, do I love Leaving On a Jet Plane The song that is. The actual act of flying? Not so much. I'm really looking forward to attending and speaking at Mesh Conference this Monday. I've been asked to collaborate as part of a discussion on the question "Can the Web 2.0 change the world?"

There are certain obvious examples that scream yes. George Soros supplied 400 photocopiers to libraries and universities throughout Hungary in the early 80s which helped promote free speech and ideas that would otherwise be restrained or stymied. Blogs themselves are not revolutionary (let's assign them to 1.0) What really created a revolution in online media are the applications that allowed discovering, tagging, searching and promoting of personal media which is what falls into the 2.0 camp. Blogs are the paper, but the photocopiers are the apps that allow disseminate, create an audience, etc. The photocopiers required people to distribute the papers. The modern photocopier still requires people to distribute the paper. It's good ol fashioned word-of-mouth that creates an audience for a blog. I think it's a good idea to contemplate the fact that everything that is Web 2.0 in the world of social bookmarking, User Generated Content ("UGC") etc is still very much reliant on word-of-mouth to find its audience. The Web 2.0 applications themselves are not yet king-makers. How much credit does an app deserve for generating a URL to be emailed or IM'd?

I hope it's not long (maybe a year or so) until we get to the next evolution of the social bookmarking, tagging and content sharing apps and networks. The point about king-makers is that I don't think there is huge amounts of actual discovery that occurs (except perhaps with StumbleUpon and while new audiences are created, the audience is not big enough to create major sway) amongst the current social bookmarking and UGC networks like YouTube. Discovery still happens the "old way" which is to say that someone actually proactively tells you to look at something by emailing you or IM'ing a link. With the exception of StumbleUpon, I have never once found something that I have gone back to or forwarded to others through social bookmarking. The greatest example of this is YouTube: I've been called to the site by many links that people have sent me but when I have searched through Most Viewed, Most Popular, Recently Added, whatever, I have never found anything that I myself would want to share. The next generation of social bookmarking and Personal Content Networks will be heavily based on "egocasting" whereby I'm able to discover ideas and content based on which personalities have recommended this content. It's when someone is able to imprint the personality of the recommender that social bookmarking will really become social.

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