A good 12 months ago you could depend upon a a solid core of your social network to be centralised on several common social networking sites, such as flickr, twitter, facebook, linkedin. Things where relatively stable, well as much as they can be. Comments on one sns stayed on that sns, comments on a blog, stayed on the blog. The core of the sns mob would from time to time go explore a new sns, sometimes integrating it into the group of core sites sometime not.
That was Then
That was then, as Nick Cowie has pointed out with his person usage, online social networking is changing. As more and more and of the sites move out of their early adopters phases and start to experience growing pains (yes twitter is an example) they can start to loose their appeal, be it from service interruption, gaining mainstream appeal or just lack of the coolness of being shiny and new. Hence the mob starts to move away, it’s not on mass like rats from a sinking ship, but a slow bleed.
Yes, social networking online has changed. As you would expect it has morph and transformed as the online communities have embraced the changed in the online environment.
Is it Distributed?
With this type of change it’s no longer centralised or decentralised, its more just distributed. Your community is spread not just over a few services but now four, five, ten when does it end, be them Plurk, Plaxo, Bright Kite, Identi.ca, Seesmic and so on. You just can’t be expect to keep up with all these aspects. Can you? Sure you can use ping.fm, hello.txt or MoodBlast (locally) to pump out your status update with an echoing shotgun across the networks. But that only allows for the output.
Well as was pointed out a few years back what we need is a lifestream aggregator, such a Friendfeed or Plaxo. Both these services offer to republish your existing feeds and allow comments on your lifestream.
So now you recollect the community on these services, but they are not aggregating the comment feeds on these aggregated lifestream feeds. Although they do promote the use of comments on there centralised location.
Hence the problem remains if you want to get the full picture of the community discussions you still have to visit all the respective sites. So all the lifestream aggregators have really done is add a layer of complexity to it all, the conversation is still distributed like it was on blogs etc.
Are There Solutions
What we need is a conversation and comment aggregator. Even so consider the noise level, at present services like Friendfeed aren’t too bad, but if you get the feeds of friends friends activated then it becomes a little overwhelming. Especially if those people are the usual noisy self appointed A-listers. That’s what the block function is for, it brings back the sanity.
Sure you can make your lifestream pretty looking with swurl. Or you can use interface tools like feedly to make the localised feed aggregation via Google Reader that much more usable. But still the comments are all over the place.
We need a tool that is going to follow the chain of links to the comments and bring them together in a virtual sense so you can see the conversation in one place. Now maybe idAuth can help to a degree, but like OpenID and OAuth it has to take traction. As after all it’s about the conversation and community. What good is a distributed conversation. Maybe socialthing is the answer. But then it’s more a social network manager.
So what do you think has it changed for you, is it for the better, just different, or are you going to just give up and go sulk in some hole in the ground?
Tags: aggregator, brightkite, comments, facebook, feedly, flickr, friendfeed, googlereader, hello.txt, idauth, identi.ca, lifestream, linkedin, ping.fm, plaxo, seesmic, sns, socialconversation, socialnetworking, socialthing, swurl, twitter