When is There Too Many?


Another week, another social network. It seems like that at the moment doesn’t it. Are we really getting to saturation point with social networks.

You know the drill you have to work out if your friends are on there yet. Is it going to be appealing, will your friends adopt this application. Do you invite them or not. If they are there, what email or username are they under. If finding your fiends isn’t enough, there is the whole communications aspect of the social network.

As Jeremy Keith and Derek Featherstone have all discussed a while back, what we need is a way to control the relationships and your authorisation from a central resource we can control (like your blog). So now Kevin Lawver comes to the rescue with news that someone is at least attempting a solution with OpenId and OpenAuth. Okay OpenAuth is a little closed in with AOL, but at least it’s a start in the right direction. Can OpenID and XFN with a little magic finally be the social networking savour as opposed to glue application like FindMeOn. Well networks like Dopplr are at least having a go, as are others. This is generally good to see, any progress in making it easier to link up again with your network will allow an online system to endure.

I was just running through all the social networks I have profiles on. Most of the time I have just allowed the profile to rot and stagnate or I have just deleted the profile if the network has really proved to be not suited to my current requirements. Maintain the information across all these social networks is just impossible give the modern time constrains we are all under.

But where do these social networks fail where do they let us down. Its in the simple things, the communication and interface, the interaction. Maybe we can all learn something from a quick look around the social neighborhood.

  • Twitter

    Yes, I have discussed Twitter before at length. But lets look at the point that it does allow people to communicate across SMS, Web, XML based applications be they on the desktop or on a mobile device (PDA or phone). This a think that Jaiku only does to limited degree. One thing twitter does not do well is allowing you to re-find your friends. It could also do with groups and the ability to send a message to a group of friends, oops followers. Simply Twitter maintains the communication chain between users, this is its power, its drawcard.

  • Pownce

    Michael Arrington has said that Pownce is the Twitter killer. All this talk is on the wrong track. Yes Pownce is like Twitter in that it has desktop applications. But its across various media and really is based on communication of information not information communication. It’s about the sharing of information (links, files, short messages, discussions) between groups of friends. But even Kevin Roses’ baby Pownce has problems, its impossible to block or remove unwanted spammers or e-stalkers. There is no SMS, no RSS feeds, the notifications point to the web site, breaking the communication chain. Well we know why the communication chain is broken, as Thomas Vander Wal points out, its all dollars and site stickiness. Really just minor points, but you don’t want too many of them. On the upside, re-finding people on Pownce is very easy, with an added plus of the the friends of friends feature. This is something Facebook and a few others could do with looking at.

  • Gleamd

    To be fair Gleamd it’s still in private beta. However it’s a cruel brutal world in the social networking, users are extremely disloyal. This application is a classic example of when you really need to take on the skills of an interface designer. Nearly every aspect of the sites interface design has a major flaw. Really they are all nothing major, but the combined effect of these flaws transmutes this application into a barely usable web site. I do hope they take the advice people have given them and stop operating under fiscal restraint.

  • Facebook

    The media have touted that Facebook is becoming the next MySpace. Others like John Kirriemuir have examined why it works and is successful. But Facebook is more than a pretty MySpace clone like Virb. It is a walled garden, a closed community or maybe its something else as Duncan Riley thinks, with a locked down network it can become the web application OS of the future.

    This all may come to pass. But Facebook fails in one major aspect. When it communicated with you to notify you of an event, message or such it just emails you. Not the message, but just a notification to go back to Facebook. So you have to login again , find the message and read it. Not so bad maybe once a day. Have it happen several times a day and you start to get a little frustrated with Facebooks immature attempt at being sticky. Also it would be nice if Facebook allowed people to retain a login until they logoff, not till the end of the browser session. Facebook breaks the communication flow.

  • Bebo and MySpace

    Is it just me or is Bebo full of people under 15, and like Myspace is just another teenage hang zone with some really creepy spammers and a few social misfits.

  • MyBlogLog

    Yahoo purchased MyBlogLog and everyone had high hopes that Yahoo could breath new life into the social networking site. Sadly nothing much has changed. The magnitude of spammers is the same. MyBlogLog is just too much work on average to leverage any advantage out of the social network it is fostering. It just seems to work like a sexist meat market. Put an avatar up on a corresponding profile of sexy young girl, ideally with lots of flesh or exposed breasts and yes you will get lots of friends and lots of hits. Is this prudish on my part, no not really, I just think it’s a little immature and sad. Again MyBlogLog doesn’t get the messaging, you have to visit the site to find out what is happening. This again breaks the communications flow with your “friends”. Correction – yes It does have the communication flow, but it is the type of people from the community that frankly I just don’t have any trust in.

  • LinkedIn

    Well Linkedin does get it to a degree. You don’t get the communications chain broken as much, which is good. But connecting up with people can be hard. It does tend to rely on email as the linkage between contact a little too heavily. However this on a the plus side does ensure a degree familiarity between the contacts.

Do any of the social networks have it right? Have we discovered the perfect model. Is there a perfect web2.0 (sic) social networking application or is that just a crock of gold at the end of the intraweb rainbow. Are we asking way to much to want to have easy re-findablity of our friends and to be in control of the communications flow. I think not.

Update: Tantek Çelik has put together a Social Networking Portability Wiki on the Microformats site. Go read and support, nice concept.

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  1. Actually, you don’t have to visit the site to see your messages, to find out if you have been tagged, etc. All of our ‘you have received a message’ emails include the full message in the email. 🙂

  2. Excellent review Gary. Definitely agree regarding Facebook.

  3. @Robyn, I stand corrected. However my other comments on MyBlogLog stand. Its almost as if its becoming an interaction networking ghetto. Strong words. Maybe I’m just not getting it, but it just seems to be missing various key elements.

  4. Hi Gary

    I don’t know if there can be a “perfect model”, the different networking sites seem to have a different focus. And, of course, it depends on one’s motivation and what they want to get out of the community.

    Probably the one that I get the most out of is BumpZEE, where the focus is on the community rather that the individual (blog or blogger). It certainly sees the most interactivity.But the “communication flow”, as you refer to it, isn’t great – you have to visit to see the discussion.

    MyBlogLog has become pretty impersonal, and I barely spend any time there now.

    LinkedIN vs Facebook – I think it’s much easier to connect and interact on Facebook (which I’ve only recently joined). LinkedIn seems very rigid and pompous in comparison. But again, it really is a different focus, so probably not a fair comparison.

    I reckon I’m getting to a saturation point – you can only invest so much time…

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