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March 10, 2007

Twitter Tips the TunaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

On Wednesday, Twitter tipped the tuna.  By that I mean it started peaking.  Adoption amongst the people I know seemed to double immediately, an apparent tipping point. It hasn’t jumped the shark, and probably won’t until Steven Colbert covers this messaging of the mundane.  As Twitter turns 1 on March 13th, not only is there a quickening of users, but messages per user.

Twitter's 1st Year

Twitter, in a nutshell, is mobile social software that lets you broadcast and receive short messages with your social network.  You can use it with SMS (sending a message to 40404), on the web or IM.  A darn easy API has enabled other clients such as Twitterific for the Mac.  Twitter is Continuous Partial Presence, mostly made up of mundane messages in answer to the question, “what are you doing?” A never-ending steam of presence messages prompts you to update your own.  Messages are more ephemeral than IM presence — and posting is of a lower threshold, both because of ease and accessibility, and the informality of the medium.

Anil Dash was spot-on to highlight “The sign of success in social software is when your community does something you didn’t expect.”  A couple of weeks ago it became a convention to start messages with @username as a way of saying something to someone visible to everyone.  Within the limited affordances of the tool, people started to use it not only for presence, but a kind of shouting at the party conversation.  Further, when you see an to someone who isn’t in your social network, you find yourself inclined to go see who it is or add them if they are a friend who just joined.  This kind of social discovery goes beyond seeing friend lists on profiles, aids network structure and quickens adoption.

While the app is viral (you have to get others to adopt to be able to use it), mobile social software has great word-of-mouth properties.  At Wikimania this summer, a buzz went off in my pocket when I was having dinner, which prompted me to get Jason Calacanis, Dave Winer and the brothers Gillmor to adopt.  Wednesday was the first day of TED, so a bunch of A-listers spread it.  At SXSW it seems to be the smart mob tool of choice, and there is even a group for it with a feature I’ve never seen before, JOIN.

Most recently there has been a rise in fake identities and even celebrities. Partially because people want to form more than one group, sometimes as integration points with other communities.  Some of the groups I’ve spotted include AdaptivePath, Barcamp, Technorati (a hack that begs people for blurbs in WTF), Techmeme (a hack that posts new top stories) and Wordpress (release updates).  Andy Carvin hypothesizes Twitter could save lives in a catastrophe, but group forming is already ahead of his theory with the USGS Earthquake Center on Twittter.

This week most of my company joined Twitter and I set up for no reason in particular.  I posted the login in a private wiki page to let anyone contribute.  But when Moconner saw how simple the API was, he wrote a bot to let us post from our IRC channel.  Now we have a low threshold way to express group identity that fits with the way we work.

Liz Lawley well addressed the differences of this form of presence and criticisms of mundane content and interruption costs.  She highlights “exploring clusters of loosely related people by looking at the updates from their friends. There are stories told in between updates.” 

However, I do think the the interruption tax is significant — especially with the quickening of adoption.  You use your social network as a filter, which helps both in scoping participation within a pull model of attention management, but also to Liz’s point that my friends are digesting the web for me and perhaps reducing my discovery costs.  But the affordance within Twitter of both mobile and web, that not only lets Anil use it (he is Web-only) is what helps me manage attention overload.  I can throttle back to web-only and curb interruptions, simply by texting off.

Good thing too, because back when it was called twittr people held back believing what they posted would be interrupting on mostly mobile devices.  Lately I think people just go for it, and most consumption is on the web or other clients.  I’d love to see some research on posts/user, client use, tracking @username, group identities, geographic dispersion and revealing other undesigned conventions.

Cross-posted on

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

October 29, 2006

danah profiledEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

The Financial Times has a great profile of danah with broad coverage of social networking.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

October 4, 2006

SlideShare -- the YouTube of PowerpointEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

SlideShare launches today — the YouTube of Powerpoint.  While Powerpoint destroys thought, so does TV.  And misgivings aside, slides can be an art form in and of itself.  They are objects you spin stories around.  Like this:

It is easy to embed a presentation and player within a site, blog or wiki. The above presentation is one I found by danah.  I’ve been playing with the Alpha and really have to applaud Rashmi (you may know her from Dcamp), Jonathan and the gang at Uzanto.

You upload your Powerpoint (PPT and PPS formats) or OpenOffice (ODP format) slides into My Slidespace with a familiar title, description and tags. The flash player is fast and intuitive.

Slides are findable by search (the content of the presentation is indexed), Latest, Popular, Featured, Profiles and Tags (Latest, Popular this week and Popular all time).  Here is an RSS feed of the latest.

What’s also fascinating is their servers are backed by Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service).  The other week when Socialtext 2.0 launched with a large-file webcast, we got Techcrunched and were worried about the load on our servers.  After a little scrambling in IRC, Pete Kaminski leveraged S3, and problem solved.  In this case, SlideShare has web serviced their scalability.  An interesting model to watch, and good thing if this thing is a sudden hit.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

September 21, 2006

Socialtext 2.0Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

We launched Socialtext 2.0 today. Techcrunch has the story, but I thought M2M readers might be interested in this screencast which talks through the design decisions.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

September 7, 2006

Wiki Wired ExperimentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

UPDATE: Veni. Vidi. Wiki. The published story, and commentary by Ryan Singel, The Wiki That Edited Me.

I believe the Wired Wiki experiment can be called a success, and yesterday I would have said it was doomed. Just came back from Wiki Wednesday, where Wired reporter Ryan Singel held a conversation about it.  How we conducted the experiment, what part of the editorial process it was directed at it and the participation of the community gives us a lot to learn from.

Do recall that the use of wikis in journalism has been significantly tainted by the LA Times Wikitorial debacle.  It was a failure in wiki implementation, goal setting, content structure and moderation.  While the media has embraced public blogs, they still have a while to go before public wikis are accepted. 

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 29, 2006

Edit this Wired ArticleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Last time someone tried this it was a disaster, but Wired News has boldly put an article about wikis into a Socialtext wiki for anyone to be a Wired editor:

In an experiment in collaborative journalism, Wired News is putting reporter Ryan Singel at your service.

This wiki began as an unedited 1,059-word article on the wiki phenomenon, exactly as Ryan filed it. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do the job of a Wired News editor and whip it into shape. Don’t change the quotes, but feel free to reorganize it, make cuts, smooth the prose or add links — whatever it takes to make it a lively, engaging news piece.

Ryan will answer questions from the comments page, and, when consensus calls for it, conduct additional reporting. If there’s something he missed, let him know, and he’ll get on the phone and investigate, then submit new text to the wiki for your review.

Readers can also submit headlines for the story, and write and edit the “deck” — a blurb for our front page and RSS feed that promotes the article.

To make any changes, you’ll first need to create a free account at Socialtext.

We’ll release the results under a Creative Commons license, and, if the whole thing doesn’t turn into a disaster, run the final story on Wired News on Sept. 7, 2006.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 24, 2006

Shameless PlugEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

It is without shame that I can share the release of Socialtext Open, an Open Source distribution of Socialtext. I figure this is in demand by M2M readers, and, well, we are quite proud of it. For your downloading pleasure.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 16, 2006

TwttrEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Prepare to be spammed globally.  Twttr just launched, a mobile social software app for SMSing your social network developed by Odeo.  It’s slightly simpler than Dodgeball, not location centric and a bit more viral.  Biz Stone calls it present-tense blogging. Ev notes you might want to upgrade your SMS plan and they are working on compatibility outside the US.  To me its reply-to-all baked in your phone.

If they support MMS and let me send a photo to twttr and CC flickr, it will be a killer app.  But for now, put my SMS’ in a sidebar widget or give me feeds I can splice.

Yes, I am a twtt.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

DandelifeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I’m advising a new startup called Dandelife, which is a Social Biography Network.  TechCrunch has the scoop, but let me tell you why I think they will be successful.

Ever get that feeling why you are blogging and flickring your life away that you have lost something?  That you are telling your life’s story, but it is lost in the archives and in the minds of people who are really paying attention?

There is a gap in social software for binding stories in a chronology.  For building biographies of people, places and things.  I think Dandelife serves as different object to tell stories around.  Time.

The horizontal and vertical visualizations are what makes this work:

Dandelife is definately beta and Edward and Kelly are working hard on it.  But when you can upload your blog and photos to start your story, its pretty powerful.  Go play.  And let them know how it can get better.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 27, 2006

Wiki Case Study: DrKWEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Socialtext released an update to the Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) case study on enterprise wiki and blog use.  Based on the usability interviews performed by Suw Charman, the case addresses ease of use and adoption issues that lead to wiki traffic outperforming the intranet within six months.  Specific use cases such as managing meetings, brainstorming and publishing and creating presentations collaboratively are explored in depth.

We had to move away from a static, dead intranet,” says Myrto Lazopoulou. “The wiki has allowed us to improve collaboration, communication and publication. We can cross time zones, improve the way teams works, reduce email and increase transparency.”

The case study is also available in PDF format and complements other research done on this leading deployment:

* An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in the Enterprise
* Enterprise 2.0 article in the MIT Sloan Management Review
* Harvard Business School Case Study: Wikis at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein
* JP Rangaswami’s blog

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

May 22, 2006

Enterprise 2.0, SoA and the Freeform AdvantageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Andrew McAfee, who first mentioned the term Enterprise 2.0 to me on December 1st 2005, provides a definition:

Now, since I was the first to write extensively about Enterprise 2.01 I feel I’m entitled to define it:

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of freeform social software within companies.

‘Freeform’ in this case means that the software is most or all of the following:

  • Optional
  • Free of up-front workflow
  • Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
  • Accepting of many types of data

‘Social’ means that there’s always a person on at least one end of the wire with Enterprise 2.0 technologies.  With wikis, prediction
markets, blogs,, and other Web 2.0 technologies with clear
enterprise applications people are doing all the interacting and
providing some or all of the content; the IT is just doing housekeeping
and/or bookkeeping.

I’m in agreement, and find it easier to be than naming debates of the past (and reminiscent at my first stab at naming: “Social Software adapts to its environment, instead of requiring its environment to adapt to software”).

If there is debate, it will be on two fonts: the role of organizational identities (Egalitarian) or an emaphasis on technology over social dynamics.  McAfee focuses on the second, that of Enterprise 2.0 vs. SoA:

Full post is on my blog…

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

May 12, 2006

Social Science and Design QuestionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Last week Liz organized the Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium. I shared some raw notes here, and here is a good gaming summary, but most of the activity was in a private Socialtext wiki. Among other things, Clay and danah held a session on the lingering questions in our field. This should tease out what work is already done or in progress, but I thought they may be thought provoking at the least:

Social Science Questions

* How can we measure the success of different types of online communities, and their survival and prodictivity and various criteria?
* Coates: which community software is more successful in which environments?
* What are the boundry conditions for mobile and pervasive (social) computing systems?
* To what extend, in what ways, at what rate/time scal will mobile and/or pervasive systems change the way humans interact socially?
* Do natives of social media systems have a different notion of themselves as individuals and abour their relation to broader social groups?
* What are the mechanisms that cause people to act, mark up, buy or sell bits they care about online?
* What tips people to try something, what’s enough to bring value?
* Does the “regular public” want to connect with people othey do not know? (outside the context of dating)
* What level of visual representation of the body is necessary to trigger mirror neurons
* Are the online community members of tomorrow going to be more or less participatory than today’s? And why?
* What impact do computer/video games have on the everyday habits and routines of the gamers?
* Is society becoming more or less individualized?
* How can we use the computational ability of our machines to transform communication?
* How can we get access to behavioral (server logs) and attitudinal data (survey data) from large scale worlds?

Design Questions

* What elements of MMOG can be adapted to web applications?
* How can we build virtual worlds/spaces where we can operate parallel servers with slightly variable rulesets?
* … so that we can change one experimental condition and obverve the response by the inhabitants?
* What are the barriers to contributing to social group ointeraction (social bookmarking, wikis)?
* …What are the steps to mitigate the barriers?
* How do we make memories portable?
* How do we use social judgement to surfae what your peers care or are interested in? What the crowd is interested in?
* How can communities support veterans going off topic together an new commers seeking topical information and connections?

What lingering questions do you have for possible research?

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

April 13, 2006

Enterprise 2.0Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee:

I have an article in the spring 2006 issue of Sloan Management Review (SMR) on what I call Enterprise 2.0 —  the emerging use of Web 2.0 technologies like blogs and wikis (both perfect examples of network IT) within the Intranet.  The article describes why I think this is an important and welcome development, the contents of the Enterprise 2.0 ‘toolkit,’ and the experiences to date of an early adopter.  It also offers some guidelines to business leaders interested in building an Enterprise 2.0 infrastructure within their companies.

One question not addressed in the article is: Why is Enterprise 2.0 is an appealing reality now?…

He continues, in his blog:

As described in the SMR article, these tools include powerful search, tags (the basis for the folksonomies at and flickr), and automatic RSS signals whenever new content appears.  As I type these words I don’t know the best site to serve as the link behind the abbreviation ‘RSS’ in the previous sentence.  To find this site, I’m going to type ‘RSS’ into Google and see what pops up (sure enough, the Wikipedia entry for ‘RSS’ was pretty high in Google’s results).  I also don’t know the URL of the page I’m using right now to type this blog entry.  I do know that it’s on my page, tagged as ‘APMblog,’ so I can find it whenever I want.  And I don’t know what work my three collaborators on a research project are doing right now; I just know that when any of them has some results to share or a new draft of the paper they’ll post it on the project’s wiki (which is powered by Socialtext) and I’ll immediately get an RSS notification about it.

These examples are not meant to show that my professional life is perfectly organized (that assertion would be worse than false; it would be fraudulent) or that we’ve addressed all the challenges associated with the growth of the Web.  They’re meant instead to illustrate how technologists have done a brilliant job at three tasks: building platforms to let lots of users express themselves, letting the structure of these platforms emerge over time instead of imposing it up front, and helping users deal with the resulting flood of content.

As the SMR article discusses, the important question for business leaders is how to import these three trends from the Internet to the Intranet —  how to harness Web 2.0 to create Enterprise 2.0.

Andrew also dug deep to develop a Harvard Business School Case Study: Wikis at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

Former HBR Editor Nick Carr, always one for orderly skepticism, comments on the SMR article:

McAfee sounds a note of caution along these lines. He notes the possibility that “busy knowledge workers won’t use the new technologies, despite training and prodding,” and points to the fact that “most people who use the Internet today aren’t bloggers, wikipedians or taggers. They don’t help produce the platform - they just use it.” There’s the rub. Managers, professionals and other employees don’t have much spare time, and the ones who have the most valuable business knowledge have the least spare time of all. (They’re the ones already inundated with emails, instant messages, phone calls, and meeting requests.) Will they turn into avid bloggers and taggers and wiki-writers? It’s not impossible, but it’s a long way from a sure bet.

This is true, adoption is the rub.  But one hedge we have is, to McAfee’s point, how these tools help cope with overload.  I’d wager, in fact I have, that email volume will only increase, some devices only exacerbate the problem, and unlike KM — more productive and simpler models have an upper hand.

Dion Hinchcliffe focuses on the technical aspects of this trend: Ajax, SaaS and SoA.  But what is really different is the focus on users ahead of buyers and architecture.  Remember, it’s made of people.

Comments (22) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

March 12, 2006

Clash of UncivilizationsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Jon Turow passed on an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg in the Daily Princetonian. Facebook recently expanded from college to high school, resulting in a clash of uncivilizations:

…If we really wanted to, we could steer clear of the groups by just avoiding the high school profiles. But we can’t ignore it when they post on our walls. And my god, do they post. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that by posting “OMG how are you? I haven’t seen you since our Model UN trip three years ago!” they are undermining the college personas that we have so carefully constructed over the past there years. And when a 16-year-old girl pokes us, we worry that poking back could result in a cyber-statutory rape conviction. Something tells us that when having sex with one of your facebook friends could result in a criminal violation, things have gone too far….

Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

March 9, 2006

The Experimental Wing of Political PhilsophyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Clay may end up posting something about pattern languages for moderations systems here, but Nat has great notes from his talk at Etech and I couldn’t help but lift this quote:

This is the direction that the conversation around social software is taking. Hobbes would say that Dave had the right and all was good. Rousseau would reply, “no he didn’t, software systems that don’t allow the users to fight back are immoral.”
Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn’t realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.

Then again, Plato argued in the Seventh Letter that only philosophers are fit to rule.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software

March 6, 2006

An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in the EnterpriseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Perhaps the greatest competency Socialtext has gained over the past three years is fostering adoption of social software.  Adoption matters most for IT to have value.  It should be obvious that if only a third of a company uses a portal, then the value proposition of that portal is two thirds less than it’s potential.  But for social software, value is almost wholy generated by the contributions of the group and imposed adoption is marked for failure.  Suw Charman has been working with Socialtext on site at Dresdner Klienwort Wasserstein and has spearheaded the creation of the following practice documentation.  I believe this will be a critical contribution for enterprise practices, so do read on…

An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in the Enterprise

Experience has shown that simply installing a wiki or blog (referred to collectively as ‘social software’) and making it available to users is not enough to encourage widespread adoption. Instead, active steps need to be taken to both foster use amongst key members of the community and to provide easily accessible support.

There are two ways to go about encouraging adoption of social software: fostering grassroots behaviours which develop organically from the bottom-up; or via top-down instruction. In general, the former is more desirable, as it will become self-sustaining over time - people become convinced of the tools’ usefulness, demonstrate that to colleagues, and help develop usage in an ad hoc, social way in line with their actual needs.

Top-down instruction may seem more appropriate in some environments, but may not be effective in the long-term as if the team leader stops actively making subordinates use the software, they may naturally give up if they have not become convinced of its usefulness. Bottom-up adoption taps into social incentives for contribution and fosters a culture of working openly that has greater strategic benefits. Inevitably in a successful deployment, top-down and bottom-up align themselves in what Ross Mayfield calls ‘middlespace’.

...continue reading.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: social software

January 2, 2006

Social Software Top 10Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield


…With the caveats that Alexa’s data is not comprehensive—and even if they had perfect stats, “Alexa Rank” is still just one definition of popularity (a combination of reach and pageviews)—here’s the 10 most popular social media sites (with corresponding Alexa 100 rank):

1. MySpace (8)
2. Blogger (16)
3. Xanga (20)
4. Hi5 (31)
5. Orkut (33)
6. Thefacebook (41)
7. Friendster (46)
8. Flickr  (51)
9. LiveJournal (NA)
10. Photobucket (77)…

As the caveat noted, this is just one dimension to view such things.

UPDATE: A constructive comment points out that Wikipedia isn’t on this list.

Comments (26) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software

December 30, 2005

The Business Blogging 500Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Chris Anderson (Wired/Long Tail Blog) kicks off an open research project:

Short Form: In collaboration with Socialtext, we’ve created a wiki that tracks which of the Fortune 500 is blogging. Check it out here. 

Jason Calacanis already did by contributing Time Warner Inc (he should know), increasing the count to 14 of the Fortune 500, or 3%:

Blogging F500 Company Sample Blog Inc. Amazon Web Services Blog
Avaya Inc. 2006 FIFA World Cup Blog
Avon Products, Inc. Beauty Dish
Cisco Systems, Inc. Cisco High Tech Policy Blog
Dell, Inc Linux Engineering
Electronic Data Systems EDS’ Next Big Thing Blog
Ford Motor Company 2005 Mustang Blog
General Motors Corporation FastLane Blog
Hewlett-Packard Company HP Blogs
Microsoft Corporation MSDN’s Microsoft Blogs
Motorola Inc Motoblog: 4 bloggers & a phone
Oracle Corporation OraBlogs
Sprint Things That Make You Go Wireless
Sun Microsystems Inc Jonathan Schwartz
Texas Instruments Video 360 Blog
Time Warner Inc AOL Blogs
The Boeing Company Randy’s Journal

Chris (and Doc) may be on to something about observing the correlation between F500 blogging and stock performance.  But at the least, this can serve as a renewable resource for informing social software adoption.

Comments (25) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: social software

December 8, 2005

Freedom of Anonymous SpeechEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Assume that John Seigenthaler gets what he wants from his criticism of Wikipedia.  He very well may gain congressional hearings on anonymity.  Purportedly in comments to a post by Larry Sanger that begs the question, his intent is to have the private sector regulate anonymity on the net.

The way he described it, you could shift the burden by changing the law so that Internet Service Providers would evaluate the plaintiff’s
evidence, and decide themselves whether revealing the customer’s
identity might be appropriate. If the decision is yes, at that point
the ISP notifies the customer, who is given the opportunity to initiate
legal proceedings to enjoin the ISP from revealing his identity.

Given the consolidation of telecom, this would empower a handful of ISPs, as in 5, to be judge and jury for revealing identity.  Anonymity is a critical facet of society, and it’s value is more than whistle-blowing.  I wouldn’t call it a right, but would call it a feature of the virtual and real worlds (we don’t walk around with name-tags).  Regardless of how you value anonymity, you should agree that this would:

  1. create undue costs for ISPs,
  2. privatize governance and enforcement,
  3. create undue legal costs for consumers, which
  4. could lead to infringements on civil liberties, because
  5. customers would be guilty until proven innocent.

Now, if the ISP or legal action revealed the libelous party it would resolve Seigenthaler’s complaint against Wikipedia. 

Beyond this attempt to weaken anonymity on the Net, Wikipedia’s open nature is also under attack.  Adam Curry edited podcasting history in his favor.  Big deal.  It’s a wiki, just edit it if you disagree and let the community’s practice work over time.

Consider regulating against graffiti.  You have two options:

  • Guard every wall in town to prevent the infraction from occurring
  • Paint over infractions and enforce the law by chasing down perpetrators

The former is not just prohibitively expensive, it kills creativity and culture.  The later is the status quo and generally works, especially where communities flourish.

So what would have Wikipedia do?  Lock down contributions through a fact checking process with rigid policy?  Or let people contribute, leverage revision history and let the group revert infractions.

Social media is disruptive.  The role of regulation significantly impacts how society will manage transition.  Today much of media is regulated through complaints (e.g. indecency).  It only takes one horror story for us to loose freedom of anonymous speech.  The easiest and most dangerous way to curb social media is to have it conform to mainstream models.

UPDATE: Cnet has a pretty good article on the liability reform sought by Seigenthaler, the first argument I made.  Mitch Ratcliffe takes issue with my second argument, about how a wiki works and how best to regulate it.  Mitch, you keep trying to fit Wikipedia into your model of how an encyclopedia should be instead of recognizing how it is different.  A print version of Wikipedia should have an editorial process bolted on to emergent practice, as it is a comparable product, frozen in time.  But instead, the evolving nature of Wikipedia needs to be recognized and celebrated for what it is.  Help people understand what it is, not what it is not.

Comments accepted over here.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

November 17, 2005

The End of ProcessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

If a knowledge worker has the organization’s information in a social context at their finger tips, and the organization is sufficiently connected to tap experts and form groups instantly to resolve exceptions — is there a role for business process as we know it?

Post continues over here…

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: social software

November 3, 2005

Programmer's Definition of Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Jimmy Wales:
“I think, partly because of the personality types who become programmers… I don’t know what it is exactly… a lot of programmers, seem to me to think that the whole point of social software is to replace the social with the software. Which is not really what you want to do, right? Social Software should exist to empower us to be human… to interact… in all the normal ways that humans do.”

Via a correction in danah’s comments

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software

October 28, 2005

Social Software CriticEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

A slew of social software startups have arisen as of late, and while we don’t cover the news here, it’s a good time to be a culture critic.

Ning — Social Apps

Ning is the latest entry into the social applications space, aiming to be the mother of all social software. Aiming to be a platform from the get go is a tough haul, the prize is admirable, but most platforms start as apps first. I’ve never heard someone utter the words “killer platform.” As a result, the applications are relatively shallow and they are competing against decentralized open source application publishing.

Since I used them as an example of stealth as an old school model, it turns out they are located a block away from my office and I have met a bunch of great people there. So let me offer this more constructive take away. Today Ning fosters transient micro communities with only pivots to bind them. When the first class node is an app, as opposed to a profile, group or other object that centers on people, you have to construct an overlay of sorts to enable group forming across networks. In other words, object-centered sociality is currently isolated, which limits network effects. On the upside, the information architecture does a decent job handling underlying complexity, their terms of service are well done and they are leveraging standard languages instead of seeking lock-in.

One sentence suggestion: Focus less on the apps and more on the social.

Flock — Social Browser

Flock is aiming to be the browser that we always wanted. Yes, it’s more of an alpha than a beta, and after you start playing with it you want more. For Innovators, we already do all this stuff with well groomed bookmarklets and personal hacks. For Early Adopters, it’s not quite there yet.

Maybe that’s the point. It’s an open source play that is releasing early and often. If the Innovators build upon it (and from what I understand, like Greasemonkey and RonR, it’s like being a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for developers) it may fulfill the needs of a more active mainstream. Today the blogging client and favorites features are too shallow to move me off of Firefox, bookmarklets and Etco/1001. There are two almost hidden features that demonstrates synergy (cough) between modalities:

  • Search auto-completes with the breadcrumbs you leave behind. It’s not social search, but could be a perfect compliment to Yahoo (which points to both the Biz Dev challenge that will really enhance the product and is their core revenue stream — but also the potential exits as the browser war heats up).
  • When you add a favorite, if the page has a feed, you can go back to see what’s new from the source.

Aggregation may be the modality (compared to Browse, Search and Author) that could blossom, as it needs better interaction design, there is a lot of demand to bring reading and writing together and the client gives you offline capabilities. I’m starting to speculate here, but that’s the exciting thing about Flock, it makes you speculate to the point you want to engage.

One sentence suggestion: Focus on interaction between modalities and services, manage for quality and get busy with Biz Dev (I can’t believe that’s a job title again).

Wink — Social Search

Wink is a nice Social Search play that incorporates user tagging and ranking to provide recommended results and block spam. My favorite feature, of course, is the ability to create a concept around a query that is an unstructured wiki page. If the concept exists as a pagename within Wikipedia, it populates it with that page and offers related concepts based upon the content. I’m not sure that Wikipedia eats Google, but there is higher quality metadata available and a great way to augment the user experience. Wink is a small startup with lot of promise, but has the inherent challenges of vertical search play (how to attract users, is Google ad revenue enough, and the portals are not acquiring).

One sentence suggestion: Bake into blogspace.

Memeorandum — Social Aggregator

Okay, this one may not be social yet. But Memorandum is starting to solve a problem for me, where to go for a dashboard view of blogs and MSM with the ability to drill down into conversations. I’m not sure that it has the accuracy yet that Google News does for the top two stories, but this is an invaluable dimension to get me out of my subscribed echo chamber.

One sentence suggestion: Let me filter using my social network, even if it’s uploading my subscriptions.

Sphere — Blog Search

I’d agree with John Battelle that Sphere offers a good incremental improvement over existing blog search engines, but others have already extended to advanced tagging and feed features that make it more useful for bloggers. It is relatively spam free and speedy, but we will have to see how it scales.

One sentence suggestion: Differentiate beyond core search for blog reader utility.

Rollyo — Personalized Search

Rollyo’s roll your own search engine is more than a great tag line. Letting people build their own search with a strong identity has utility for the creator and users may benefit from those that bubble up. But there is something missing here, something more socialized than personalized.

One sentence suggestion: Give searchers as well as creators a way to intertwingle for greater engagement.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (4) | Category: social software

October 22, 2005

Social VerbsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Social verbs in online gaming are gestures that do not change the meaning of a object. When someone’s WoW Mage waves to your Paladin, you choose how object’s meaning will change because of the gesture. Language is power, just as an emoticon can get your out of trouble for telling a borderline joke.

I’m paying particular attention to verbs these days as they seem to have greater meaning than nouns, especially places (which are non-persistent; persistence is vested in objects that take actions). The reason I keep coming back to my WoW research (cough) isn’t because of the virtual world, but what I do with a group.

Beyond this gesture, the extended entry riffs on attention management, pull vs. push, marketing strategy and ownership of identity.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software

October 20, 2005

I don't trust your attentionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I’ve been meaning to blog about a simply great article in the NY Times, Meet the Life Hackers, as I am a fan of the interruption tax, but I keep getting interrupted.

When [Gloria] Mark [from UCI] crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, “far worse than I could ever have imagined.” Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What’s more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically. Yet while interruptions are annoying, Mark’s study also revealed their flip side: they are often crucial to office work…

Focusing on the cost of interruption is one of the better design principles, not just for productivity applications, but all those social software apps clamoring for attention. The answer is not automation, but using the social network as a filter and pushing things down to asynchronous modalities.

My 11 minutes are almost up. Really, it’s a great read, and for now I’ll point you towards Jon Udell

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

Nick Carr's AmoralityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Cast aside the anti-hype rhetoric, and keep in mind it is an argument not of fact or policy, but value, and you will find Nicolas Carr’s post on the amorality of Web 2.0 has a salient point — that social software is on an inevitable march of disruption. Commoditization wrought by commons based peer production does enable the triumph of the amateur over the professional. But this does not portend the destruction of mainstream media, only it’s reformation.

Yes, the economics favor the bottom-up. This allows the creation of an alternative we have never had before. A choice. But media selection theory holds that old media simply doesn’t die. Carr’s very desire to retain professional media as his selection is one consumer’s proof point.

The underlying economics of MSM must change, and it will, through creative destruction and unfortunately the loss of many jobs in the transitionary period. Think of social media as a fork in social software, or a third party movement in politics. Unfulfilled demand is self-fullfilled by a new grassroots consituency. New and previously unrepresented constituencies are forming fast as the cost of personal publishing and group forming trend towards zero. But the mainstream gradually co-opts these experiments and movements as their own to stay in power. Today MSM is experimenting with social media in areas where the cost structure previously prevented them to access the market, such as hyperlocal media. To say that mainstream media will not leverage the tools and co-opt the culture of the amateur smacks of technological determinism.

But this is an argument about values, so it’s important to highlight what values needs to diffuse from professional to amateur. Dan Gillmor’s mission to pass on ethical standards from journalists to citizen media is case in point. The former audience is about to go through media training on a massive scale, all in all a good thing, but there is much we can do to pass on practices.

Carr provides a healthy contrarian perspective for the blogosphere. Perhaps by claiming amorality he makes us think, and is advancing our values.

Where I have to take issue on fact is with his post on Wikipedia. I won’t repeat the dead, tired and defeated arguments on quality, so let’s center on fact:

Now, there’s a way around this “collective mediocrity” trap. You can abandon democracy and impose centralized control over the output. That’s one of the things that separates open-source software projects from wikis; they incorporate a rigorous quality-control filter to weed out the crap before it pollutes the product. If Wikipedia wants to achieve it’s goal of being “authoritative,” I think it will have to abandon its current structure, admit that “collective intelligence” makes a pretty buzzphrase but a poor organizational model, and define and impose some kind of hierarchical power structure. But that, of course, would raise a whole other dilemma: Is a wiki still a wiki if it isn’t a pure democracy? Can some wikipedians be more equal than others?

Open source software and Wikipedia are both driven by commons-based peer production. How they differ, and the reason software development requires rigorous quality-control, is that code has dependencies. Writing code is vertical information assembly, while contributions to a wiki is horizontal information assembly. Wikipedia does have quality control and an organiztional model, but it isn’t a feature embodied in code, it is embodied in the group. I know of no goal of being authoritative, but the group voice that emerges on a page with enough edits (not time) represents a social authority that provides choice for the media literate. Carr could create a Wikipedia page to help define what “pure democracy” is to help him answer his rhetorical question — but a wiki is just a tool, and Wikipedia is an exceptional community using it.

Keep in mind that most wiki use is behind the firewall where there is an organizational hierarchy and norms in place. There it taps into similar economics, without the great debates on social truth, and for the competitive advantage of firms.

Back to values, when you tap into the renewable resource of people in mass collaboration, allocated against the scarcity of time, driven by social signals — is this not of greater benefit for social and economic welfare than the disruption that created mainstream media in the first place? I’m glad we agree with Carr on the facts of the disruption. If we can get past the misunderstanding that there is a value difference, we could maybe focus on the right policies that will help us in years to come.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

October 17, 2005

Ward Cunningham on the Crucible of CreativityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

UPDATE: Ward left Microsoft

Impressionistic transcript from Ward Cunningham’s opening keynote at wikisym

I don’t need to explain wiki to this audience. It;’s so tiny it doesn’t need explanation, but you don’t understand it until you have been there and done that. It’s you and the community that participates that makes it real, gives me perhaps too much credit. My hope is that wiki becomes a totem for a way of interacting with people. Tradition in the work world has been more top down, while wiki, standing for the Internet, is becoming a model for a new way of work. Largely driven by reduced communication costs, it changes what needs to be done and how it’s going to get done. I hope that the wiki nature, if not the wiki code, makes some contribution.

A wiki is a work sustained by a community. Often asked about difference between wiki and blog. Something tangible is ve The blogosphere is the magic that happens above blogs — the blogosphere is a community that might produce a work. Whereas a wikis a work that might produce a community. It’s all just people communicating.

One’s words are a gift to the community. For the wiki nature to take whole, you have to let go of your words. You have to be okay with that. This goes into the name, called refactoring. To collaborate on a work, one must trust. The reason the cooperation happens is we are people and it is deep in our nature to do things together. Important to make a distinction. Cooperation has a transactional nature, we agree it is a mutual good. Collaboration is deeper, we don’t know what the transaction is, or if there is one, but if I give of myself to thsi collablration, some good will come out of it. You have to trust somebody to collaborate. With wiki, you have to trust people more than you have any reason to trust them. In 1995, it was a safer environment, don’t know if I could have launched wiki today.

Refactoring makes the work supple. Word borrowed from mathematics, not going to change the meaning of the work, but change it so I can understand it better. Continuous refactoring. Putting a new feature into a program is important, but refactoring so new features can be added in the future is equally important. The ability to do things in the future is something that I consider suppleness, like clay your hands that accepts your expression. Programs and documents get brittle very quickly. Wiki imagines a more dynamic environment where we accept change, with the aid of a computer not make that dramatic, embraces hypertext which lets a document start small and grow while always being the right size. When there are two ideas in the page, split them into different pages with new names, so a third page can reference both. This is built into the web in some sense, it’s just exploited in a wiki. Phenomenal that so much as been done in a tiny text interface, writing an encyclopedia. I have to apologize as a computer scientist that we have to go through that, but also says how strong the desire is for people to work together, but I look forward to the day where we don’t have to do it just this way.

I was in favor of anonymity when I started this. Anonymity relieves refactoring friction. Have learned that people want to sign things. But try to write in a way where you don’t have to know who said it. But when someone who is not in a giving mood uses anonymity (spammers), that abuse can drive us away from anonymity. But I hope we can drive the ill-intended out without having to give up the openness. Can one trust the anonymous? If you think of trust as believing people will behave in the way they did before, it seems dependent upon identity, but it may not be imporant to know if online behavior is consistent with offline behavior. But knowing what is going to happen when you give something away is significant.

The web has been an experiment in anonymity. Conscious design of low level protocols. Lots of identity infrastructure has been created to make it an online shopping mall, which makes it unpleasant for all of us because the machinery isn’t that great.

Result: people can and do trust works produced by people they don’t know. The real world is still trying to figure out how Wikipedia works. A fantastic resource. Open source is produced by people that you can’t track down, but you can trust it in very deep ways. People can trust works by people they don’t know in this low communication cost environment.

Result: the clubby days of friendly internet are over. Lots of technical questions about to sustain something we have experienced in a more complicated environment.

Opportunity: reputation systems for the creative (non-transactional). Reputation systems are an umbrella term for where the computer keeps more track over who you are and trys to make that visible in controlled ways to other people. eBay as an outstanding example, creating a space that didn’t exist before. Again, going back to collaboration vs. cooperation. Doing this well depends upon excellent collaboraiton between the scientific community and the practitioners. Hopes this symposium becomes the center of this exchange.

Opportunity: organizational forms supporting creative work. The form we have today is a legacy from GM. Corporations aggregate and deploy capital to make things happen. Necessary back when communication was more expensive in this country. Top down hierarchies make communication work when it is expensive, I hope that wiki can be a flagship in this move in the industry to produce computer support for this kind of work and evolve organizational forms.

Eugene Kim asks about the conflict between anonymity and reputation. He calls it an opportunity because it isn’t reconciled. The first thing we think of with reputation will be wrong and has adverse impacts. Do it by watching the impact it has on people in the area of creativity. Doesn’t have to be complicated, but careful with what it reveals. If you walk in

Richard Gabriel: reputation can be attached to an individual or to something, such as words. The reputation can be attached to the words can enable anonymity. Ward says great, idea — take notes.

On moderating change in the original wiki over the past year, and the tools he created for it (the following is probably only of interest to wiki moderators)…

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: social software

October 15, 2005

M2.0MEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Comments seem to be broken here, so I’m replying to danah’s existential post here.

Wrestling with the same issue, I’ve found it’s difficult to decide what to contribute here, because topics are being commercially exhausted. We went through a period where new companies and products were passed on as news, in between well thought-out posts. The job of covering social software news started being done by others elsewhere. As we enaged deeper in out own kind of ventures, this effort was well appreciated. We also found less that was really new to report. The bar was set pretty high for the well thought-out pieces, almost introducing a formality for contribution, that in busy times couldn’t be met.

But with the whole Web 2.0 thing, it may be more important than ever.

What was unique about social software and it’s design principles was how it didn’t emphasize tools, but practice and an understanding of social context. Too much of Web 2.0 is not just made of white people, but an alphabet soup of supporting technologies that mean nothing without communities, networks and even real business models. As the market we helped found continues to froth, commentary on new business models based on power laws matters even more.

But the real reason I haven’t been contributing as much as I used to is because we forbade MMOGs in the topic, and I’ve been playing too much World of Warcraft.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

October 11, 2005

Intranet Wiki Case StudyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

When a bank replaces their Intranet with a wiki, something wonderful is bound to happen. We’ve been working with Suw Charman to document it and the first version of the case study is in. It’s a great account of the adoption pattern, user experience and mass collaboration.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein has adopted Socialtext at a depth and scope well beyond what most businesses have attempted. The following case study points to the near-future of simple collaboration in the enterprise.

One thing that didn’t make it into the case study in time is a practice I’m considering myself. The manager of an equity trading group has created an email filter that auto-replys to any team member with instructions to put their message on the wiki. I’ve had managers tell their team they will only read what is in the wiki before, but this truly grabbing the bull by the horns.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

This thing on?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

About all I can offer is that Web 2.0 is made of people, while keeping this blog clean of commercialization.

But let me share two neat wiki communities with you. Om Malik just put up the Broadband Wiki: We are building a “broadband profile” of the planet. What I would like to do is find contributors who are kind enough to write 250 words about the broadband situation in their country. In the spirit of Loic’s European Blogosphere, the data is coming in fast and furious.

Also check out the Startup Exchange, a renewable resource for those working with fewer resources. It’s chock-full of links to resources and includes a Startup Kit of wiki templates and best practices. Given the number of Web 2.0 products out there without businesses, it might be a good place to start — over.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

October 4, 2005

Email 2.0Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Tim O’Reilly (I’m not worthy! — huh, that kind of rhymes) picks up on my email signature meme:

This is a first for me, but I expect it will eventually become common. I received an email with the following addition to the signature block:

this email is: [ ] bloggable [x] ask first [ ] private

Now that’s a social hack that could one day be replaced by a technical hack. Email messages could have “bloggable” as a mime-type for example, and forwarding to a blog client would set up an entry. Lacking that mime-type, you’d have to resort to cut and paste, as now…
I post this here not for sake of memetic vanity, but to make a point. The reason we are building Web 2.0 is because we were not able to build Email 2.0. The first web didn’t support our social needs, so we used email for everything. But we couldn’t really hack it. Most social software has by now adapted to email, but email could never have adapted to it.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

September 9, 2005

Patient OpinionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I'm at Our Social World in Cambridge, UK today and taking notes here. But wanted to point out a really interesting Enterprise Social Software project that Headshift launched today:

Patient Opinion is all about enabling patients to share their experiences of health care, and by doing so help other patients — and perhaps even change the NHS. As well as allowing everyone to see what patients are saying about their services, it also offers a way to feed the experience of patients back to the NHS so that their insights and ideas can be put to good use.

They leverage structured calls on a new NHS web service for data about health service providers, then let people tag and blog about their experience with them. What a wonderful feedback loop.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

September 2, 2005

Seb Joins SocialtextEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I'm completely stoked to share the news that longtime M2M contributor Seb Paquet has joined Socialtext. I've wanted to bring him on board since we started the company and was pleasantly suprised to find us at the top of the list he put out when he announced on his blog that he was looking for something new.

Let me use this as an excuse to reintroduce you to Seb. Prior to coming on board, Seb was an Associate Research Officer at the National Research Council of Canada, where he worked on innovative uses of social software, in particular in collaborative learning and knowledge management. Over the past several years, Seb has been contributing insightful articles and talks about those topics in English and French and has been running blogs in both languages. He will help us reach out to new customers and pitch into enhancing the experience and value of our software.

Yet another great person hired by blog. Welcome aboard, and see you at Wiki Wednesday, Seb!

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 22, 2005

WikiwygEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

This weekend we put something cool out into the world. Wikiwyg is what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor for wikis, or pretty much any other text area on the web. It's open source licensed, available for download and demo. Jeff Jarvis said wikiwyg is "the way wikis are supposed to be."

Our hope is this makes the two-way web usable. You can see the genius of Socialtext lead developer Brian Ingerson in something that is almost a bug, but might be a feature: double click anywhere to edit. Then you will notice it snaps into edit mode, as the editor was already loaded with the page -- reducing, but keeping, the distinction between display and edit mode. You can toggle between wysiwyg and wiki text (more efficient when you know it). Sexy Ajax pixie dust lets you edit without touching the server until you are ready to save. Always remember that Wiki Wiki is Very Quick in Hawaiian.

Here's some wikis running it:


One of the benefits of being based on open source is not only that we can share, but innovate openly. We still have some work to do (IE support, ugh) until it's ready for Socialtext production and would appreciate feedback and participation.

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 16, 2005

I am 344, hear me roarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Feedster launched the Feedster Top 500 setting a new standard for length, the first salvo in the size matters war of microcontent. Go here and bitch about M2M isn't on the list, but my crappy blog is, or if you have to, contribute something constructive.

Kidding, but they should be commended for providing an inclusive process for otherwise exclusive outcome, by both opening the algorthim and being open for feedback on a wiki page. An index is a reflection of a community, and the more inclusive and open the process for it's creation, the more we trust it and grant it authority.

Mary Hodder's latest activist wiki, topicindex, is a Community Algorithm project to open the engine of attention. Given the importance of rankism, it's worth paying attention to. My hope is this does more than shift the debate from ranks to clouds, but gives us the tools to seed our own.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 12, 2005

Governance, Scaling and Anonymity in Wikipedia.Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I'm sitting in Jimmy Wales' talk at OSAF, as though I am his roadie these days, and reminded about anonymity in Wikipedia. Anonymity is not something commonly valued in the blog world, where it is largely a strong expression of identity, but seems to be an essential attribute within the Wikipedia community. Maybe it's just the difference of people working together vs. having conversations. Perhaps it's the initial user experience of being able to edit without logging in, or strong enough social bonds and extreme cases for widespread support for maintaining anonymity.

Jimmy describes the basics of Wikipedia, and then gets on his self-acknowledged soap box. Most social software is designed in away that makes no sense. If you think about it resurant, serving steak, you need knives, because the customers might stab each other, so, no knives. This creates a culture without trust, with comunity. Most software is too complex from trying to keep people from being bad. Leave things open when you know people can do bad things. Instead of locking pages, leave a note asking them not to damage it -- an opportunity to build trust. When they haven't done any damage in a while, I know Stewart, for example, has not vandalized this page, so I trust him more.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 9, 2005

Valuing Social GesturesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Mary Hodder offers an open source algorithm for scoring blogs beyond authority:

We wanted to see these measures used in an algorithm that balanced the weight of each social gesture, put against large data sets to see whether the resulting score or characterization felt right against what we know about blogs as readers and writers. One thing to consider is that some data sets are made up of spidered data (including blogrolls), while others are made up of RSS feed information (some partial and some whole posts, but there are no blogrolls in RSS feeds) and some are a blend. So we would want to adjust the algorithm for different types of data sets.

So this is my first post think about making an open source algorithm...

The value of the Paris Index approach is three-fold:

  1. Current indexes value blogs without involving blog readers (link ranks) or without involving blog writers (sub ranks). It's like a market where price is only set by sellers or buyers.
  2. An open algorithm is akin to a standardized contract for commodity markets. Today the market for AdWords works gives the market owner the benefits of information arbitrage while buyers and sellers have little transparency into market clearing mechanisms.
  3. An open algorithm is akin to an open standard, upon which new services can be built. If this algorithm gave significant weight to 2nd generation links, this could be the Cost Per Influence metric for Sell Side Advertising.

See Also: Seth Goldstein points to Michael Goldhaber's 11 Principles of the New Economy which directly relates to CPI. Stowe Boyd ruminates on the Paris Index. Shelly Powers on good and evil. danah on the biases of links. Calacanis does his thing. Adina Levin on ranks vs. clouds. There is probably more to see, but after disconnecting for two days I don't have anyway to sift through the 1,500 posts in my aggregator to tell what's worth attention.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 5, 2005

Jimbo's Problems: A Free Culture ManifestoEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I'm in Frankfurt this week for the first Wikipedia conference. Jimmy Wales has been warming up for his Wikimania Keynote on Larry Lessig's blog, talking about 10 things that should be free. The idea for this list comes from Hilbert's problems. In 1900s Mathematician David Hilbert posed 23 problems, 10 were announced at a conference, the full list published later, very influential. He notes that all of these things were obvious, suggested or proposed by others.

10 Challenges for thee Free Culture Movement

1. Free the Encyclopedia!

Mission is to create a free encyclopedia for every person on the planet in their own language. For English and German, this work is done (of course there could be be quality control, etc.). French and Japanese in a year or so, ton of work to be done globally. Will be done in 10 years time, an amazing thing when you consider minority languages that have never had an encyclopedia.

2. Free the Dictionary!

Not as far along, but picking up speed. A dictionary is only useful when it's full of words you don't know, unlike an encyclopedia. Needs software development, such as WikiData. It is structured information, for cross reference and search.

3. Free the Curriculum!

There should be a complete curriculum in every language. A much bigger task than the encyclopedia. Need not just one article about the Moon, but one for every grade level. WikiBooks isn't the only one working on this project. The price of university textbooks is a real burden for students. The book market doesn't take advantage of potential supply of expertise. Not hard to imagine 500 economics professors writing instead of one or two to create a better offering than the traditional model.

4. Free the Music!

The most amazing works in history are public domain but not many public domain recordings exist (even in classical music). Proper scores are often proprietary derivative works (such as arrangements for a modern orchestra). Volunteer orchestras, student orchestras could provide the music for free.

5. Free the Art!

Show two 400 year old paintings. Routinely get complaints from museums saying there is copyright infringements. National Portrait Gallery of England threatens to sue, a chilling effect, but they have no grounds. Controlling physical access keeps people from getting high quality images "I wouldn't encourage you to break the law, but if you accidentally take a photo of these works it would be great to put it on Wikipedia for the public domain.

6. Free the File Formats!

Proprietary file formats are worse than proprietary software because they leave you with no ability to switch at a later time. Your data is controlled. If all of your personal documents are in an open file format, then free software could serve you in the future. Need to educate the public on lock-in. There is considerable progress here and continued European rejection of software patents is critical.

7. Free the Maps!

"What could be more public domain than basic information about location on the planet?" -- Stefan Magdalinksi. FreeGIS software, Free GeoData. This will become increasingly important for open competition in mobile data services.

8. Free the Product Identifiers!

Hobby Princess blog Huge subculture of people making crafts, selling them on eBay, but need competition from distributors.

Increasingly, small producers can have a global market. Such producers need a clobal identifiers. Similar to ISBN, not ASIN (proprietary to Amazon). Suggests the "LTIN: Long Tail Identification Numbers" would be cheap or inexpensive to obtain (has to have some cost to fend off spam). Extensive database freely licensed and easly downloadable to empower multiple rating systems, e-commerc, etc. The alternative is proprietary eBay and Amazon. Small craft producers should be able to get a number and immediately gain distribution across them.

9. Free the TV Listings!

A smaller issue, it may seem. But development of free software digital PVRs is going on. Free-as-in-beer listings exist, but this is tenuous. Free listings could be used to power many different innovations in this area. Otherwise we will be in a world where everything you watch will be DRM'ed -- so this is important.

10. Free the Communities!

Wikipedia demonstrates the power of a free community. Consumers of web forum and wiki services should demand a free license. Otherwise, the company controls the community. Similar to a feudal serf, company maintained communities have a hold on communities. Are you a serf living on your master's estate, or free to move? Social compact: need to have Open Data and Openly Licensed software for communities to truly be free. Wikicities - for profit, free communities - founded by Jimmy and Angela. Free licensing attracts contributors.

He will be adding more on Larry Lessig's blog over the coming weeks.

Notes from the extended Q&A are here.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

August 2, 2005

Hacking the A-ListEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Following Liz's read of BlogHer, one of the more interesting points to come out of the conference is the need for constituent algorithms -- ways of revealing hidden groups. For the BlogHer community, the Technorati 100 was more than a whipping boy, but an index where a group was under-represented. Mary Hodder's approach, spot on, is to develop alternative indexes.

No index is all-inclusive and all are biased. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Each is just a way to view the world and it's information. But the interesting part is the sociology of how coders frame the world with each index and how we accept, reject or game the indexes that frame us.

Think about the politics at play with the US Census, Gerrymandering jurisdiction or any list constructed by the mainstream media. Or how we over-react any time someone makes a new blog index when it hints at a hierarchy. Suddenly we are thrown back to gold stars, grades, being picked for the kickball team, caste judgments, nationalism, ageism, other isms, clicks, ins and outs. But an index is just one way to view the world. What happens when creating and distributing an index is as democratized as blogging is today?

Each index is an attempt to institutionalize, where merely publishing it with credentialed claims invites circumspect vigilance. Somehow we teat lists as authorities, further incenting people to create lists to claim authority. Lists are just groupings, or clusters, but as such, we treat inclusion seriously. With easy group forming, we also get easy group representation -- so on the whole the scarcity of groups decreases with the right and convenience to fork.

Other great idea to come out of BlogHer was a list. Mary started a Speaker's Wiki as a simple answer for event organizers that say there aren't enough women speakers. What's great about this idea is that was implemented on a Sunday morning. Initially, it's an answer, but I think it will raise some questions. The index begins with all women. But will it evolve to reflect the state of the events markets with a male-dominated power law? Or will it shape the curve? As the gender or other balance tips, will it spawn a fork for under-represented constituencies?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 28, 2005

SmashedTogetherSearchesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Ever notice that SmashedTogetherWords, like you find in some wikis, can be queries of a machine code culture? Try people's names: clayshirky, danahboyd, sebpaquet, lizlawley, davidweinberger and rossmayfield on Google, or the same on Technorati. Try with other Pronouns and even more than nouns and you discover the emerging culture. Or maybe just a byproduct of blunt tagging and usable urls. Anywho, maybe it's better spaced out, but this is higher quality metadata.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 8, 2005

Tag Spam EnclosureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Steve Rubel points out that Yahoo's Social Search is cluttered with tag spam. Further evidence that Clay's definition of social software may be spot on.

But take a deeper look. Everyone's Tags are about to be overrun by Nigerians, a future for most social bookmarking services. My Community's Tags (2 degrees) are definitively not spam. At least in my little community.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 4, 2005

wikiHow to Open ContentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

wikiHow is one of the more interesting cases of opening a proprietary content and community site. A couple of entrepreneurs bought eHow (editorially produced How To Guides, a dot com showcase) out of hock and appended a wiki to it. Today it may be the second fastest growing public wiki and they recently adopted Creative Commons licensing. The real story is the process of opening an asset, transitioning a community and how to be a net-enabled entrepreneur.

During the boom, eHow spent $30 million, developed a rich base of How To content, respectable traffic an loyal contributors-as-users. Many of these contributors were experts in their fields and valued how they could contribute content while retaining copyright. Under a questionable business model, eHow filed for bankruptcy in February 2001, but traffic continued at 250k visitors per month. Another now defunct internet company called purchased eHow, but also was unable to run the site profitably and began to look for buyers.

Two entrepreneurs who happened to love the site, bought the asset and worked part time to keep the site operational. Literally, it is a nights and weekend labor of love.

They leveraged Internet Archive to find an republish lost content during the bankruptcy and published 1,000 articles previously composed by the dot com's professional editors. But noting the parallel between the Nupedia/Wikipedia story, they looked to evolve the user-generated content model. One of them happened to be a Socialtext customer (was the first deal I closed via Skype, incidentally) for their day job, so I've been helping them out informally.

They adapted the open source MediaWiki to fit the eHow format by breaking the wiki page into title, summary, steps, tips and warnings. With zero publicity, they simply stuck a wikiHow tab on the top of the site. wikiHow is six months old and has already generated 1400 articles (by comparison, Wikitravel, a great resource, generated 1000 articles in seven months) and traffic is doubling every three months.

The very first piece of advice I gave was to focus on the social contract and adopt Creative Commons licensing. They executed the social contract (in human readable summary: a civil group effort, family content and limit egregious self-advertising) quite well, but licensing proved to be an issue.

A big part of the co-founding intent was to share and develop the asset with the community. Unfortunately, we don't have an analytical framework for opening intellectual property (like we do with transaction cost analysis for buy vs. build). The co-founder decisions were further complicated by the existing community structure. Many eHow contributors were considered experts in their fields. They valued the ability to retain copyright on their work as a promotion of their expertise. On the other hand, while the site purposely shied away from publicity, it began to attract another generation of contributors more familiar with Creative Commons licensing.

It also attracted some detractors, such as Ernie Miller:

Yeah, except that, unlike Wikipedia, their Wiki isn't under the GNU Free Documentation License. In other words, they're basically asking people to slave away for them for free. Thanks, but no thanks.

The Open License Proposal provides some good detail on the narrative of adopting Copyleft. Most of the conversation on open licensing occurred within the wikHow discussion board. One key issue was the risk of screen scrapers and spammers bastardizing content for search engine optimization. I put them in touch with Creative Commons and Mia Garlick (General Counsel) provided compelling arguments and guided them through the process. At a certain point, they were able to gain support from the existing eHow community. Now at the bottom of every wikiHow page you will find the (CC) logo and This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

No better way to conclude this story, for now, with co-founder Jack H's own words in an email:

I’m very happy to report that wikiHow has rolled out a Creative Commons license over the entire site. Our small but growing community had a long discussion about which license to choose and why. As you may remember, Josh and I had originally proposed giving authors the ability to opt-in or opt-out of an open license. And the community liked the idea of the open license, but the majority of the participants wanted the open license to be mandatory rather than optional. So Josh and I wisely decided to follow their lead. And after hearing their views, it is now obvious that they (and you) were right. It just didn’t make sense for wikiHow to be half free. The most active community members work on the entire site, not just their own articles and therefore they should have the satisfaction of knowing that everything they do can be used by anyone under the terms of the license. I’m very excited to have made the switch to this license. I know that I will be really proud the first time I hear about a blogger or school using our content on their website or other publication. Offering free, helpful instructions to the problems of everyday life is wikiHow’s core mission and the open license will help us get these instructions in the hands of even more people. I’m really stoked.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

July 1, 2005

Flu WikiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

During the SARS epidemic I noted that a Wikipedia page was the best source of information for an evolving event. Now three bloggers have launched a new experiment in collaborative problem solving in public health, The Flu Wiki. They hope the wiki will be:

  • a reliable source of information, as neutral as possible, about important facts useful for a public health approach to pandemic influenza
  • a venue for anticipating the vast range of problems that may arise if a pandemic does occur
  • a venue for thinking about implementable solutions to foreseeable problems

What can you and two of your friends start to change the world?

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 28, 2005

Yahoo Social Search, Act IIEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

If you have been reading this blog, you have known that social search is coming. At Supernova 2005, Jeff Weiner, SVP Yahoo! Search outlined a vision for social search. Today, the social search beta was opened.

Yahoo views the web as a play with three acts.

• Act I: Public (e.g. Web Search)
• Act II: Personal (e.g. Desktop Search)
• Act II Social (e.g. search communities)

I got a sneak peak at this. You can save, annotate and tag any webpage -- and then share it with two degrees of separation in your Yahoo 360 network, or, everyone. Social discovery happens around time, people, locations and topics.

The timing of this release may have to do with Google Personalized Search. I slammed Yahoo for not moving from Personalization to Socialization once, and don't need to repeat myself.

Google once took the lead for the annotated web by fostering blogs. But subscription is the new search, and sharing trusted annotation and tagging will build the best index to feed it. Think for a minute about what happens to search when you introduce high quality metadata, scoping and authority that is relevant to you to enhance relevancy. Search has had two great innovations: PageRank (links are votes, thank you Google) and AnchorText (the text of a link, thank you AltaVista). With My Web 2.0 (which I prefer to pronounce "squared" as it's not about me anymore), trusted groups are adding a third dimension to search -- that enhances the search index even for free riders. And those who do participate get top-level benefits, whether they be filers, pilers or neithers.

When you make search social, what matters is trust, expertise and context. They may gain object centered sociality around web-pages, where stories around pages yield connections that yield stories. While this may at first glance look at a real threat to and other social bookmarking sites, they don't have the social incentives quite right, yet. They either need to strengthen them (they eye personal, social and economic [ack!] incentives) or remove many clicks to get to Act III.

Two degrees of separation is a course model for all the facets of our identity and groups we seek to share with. Unlike a site like Flickr or, there is less enclosure with a web-wide search function, which may lead to social awkward social situations. Privacy issues may arise. In contrast to browse, search is a filtering function -- and this is the first large scale implementation to use social networks for their true strength -- as a filter.

But if subscribe is the new search, where are the streams? Openness is forthcoming, and Yahoo! does have a recent track record of participating in it's surrounding community and supporting open standards. Whenever I hear the word integration, I reach for my gun (I do the same for the word content). The risk is the pull of a major enterprise's portfolio when misguided group think starts to think they can own the social web. Maybe I want to leverage the tagging activity I do in, EVDB, Twaggle and my blog/Technorati, or my graph in LinkedIn or Tribe, or annotations in Socialtext or Typepad -- Flickr isn't the only service made of people. Not just import/export but synching across services. Maybe I want to develop upon API goodness (even for non-competitive commercial entities, such as a search group for a Meetup). Maybe I want to see contributions to open source, even though it is a consumer service. Most likely, alternatives will be available that don't depend upon integration and embrace open loosely coupled business architectures. So the big question will be if Yahoo! continues down the path to the Open Web or cubbyholes itself in a Closed Web.

So yes, this is a very big thing. A clear watermark of social infrastructure being developed upon physical infrastructure. I'm not apologetic for calling it a new kind of web, and I think my friends will too. The great promise, of course, is for non-bloggers to annotate the web. Which is perhaps Act III.

Collected through my primative search engine I call an Aggregator: Flickr, Battelle, SiliconBeat, Yahoos, snapshot, Waxy, Matt Haughey, SearchEngineWatch, John Markoff, Battelle hits the bong, Canter is way ahead of him, ...

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 26, 2005

Supernova 2005 Wrap-upEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Two highlights of Supernova 2005 came on the last day: John Seely Brown's Keynote and the Attention Session. The panel following JSB dug deep into identity, authentication and permission structures that are a barrier to group forming. Nat Torkinton provides to-the-letter notes on Linda Stone's presentation that went beyond continuous partial attention, Jeff Clavier captures the panel conversation, John Hagel provides remote reflections, and Nat reflects back. The event wrapped up with a fun and chaotic backchannel unpanel.

Supernova is made of people.

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June 22, 2005

Letter to the WikitorEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Okay, I’m still a bit irked that the LA Times Editors shut down the Wikitorials community. I started to become engaged in the community and saw promise. They shut it down without warning and without thinking things through to begin with.

So, why not use a wiki to compose a letter to the editors of the LA Times? Let’s write an Open Letter to the Wikitor. Who knows, they might even acknowledge or print it.

UPDATE: The letter is looking pretty good, I’m sending it in on Sunday, so go contribute if you so desire.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 20, 2005

CTC: Collaboration Is IT's Last Chance to MatterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Excerpts from a panel on if IT should be an owner or operator of collaborative technologies (middlespace issues) at the Collaborative Technologies Conference.

Clay Shirky: was at CSC last Thursday watching a project manager using Lotus, he asked what she used it for, and she said she only used email. They have a bunch of database apps created a few years ago. Lotus most expensive email platform in the history of IT. When you don't give your employees a vote, you give them a veto. Vetos are more expensive. Anything that requires the employee to have coordination with the IT department or getting the IT department to do something, it will have worse propagation properties. This is how PCs and spreadsheets. Perimeter based defense works great except with two kinds of companies: those with vendors and customers. People use IM and Wikis because those ports aren't blocked. How much can an employee do on their own and be able to collaborate with third parties determines that technology will trend away from IT.

Melanie Turek: What's happening now is IT taking control of things that are entering into the enterprise from the bottom up. But will they step up to the plate and adapt.

Michael Sampson: With email, we had departmental solutions until SMTP allowed enterprise wide productivity. Today I can't sit in a Sharepoint interface, you can't in a Lotus interface and you can't in a Socialtext interface and all work together. Those standards simply aren't there yet.

Someone from the audience from McKinsey says the question is the wrong framing, you need to get groups together first, then decide how to support them. Melanie Turek responds by saying not everyone wants to collaborate, how do we incent them to change is the question, less what technology to apply.

Clay Shirky: Users will find the tools that fit their practices. Employees know what they are doing, sticking with email despite the problems until something better comes along.

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June 18, 2005

Wikitorial ForkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

I was quite skeptical that the LA Times Wikitorial experiment could foster anything but an edit war. Especially when the first editorial (and Wikitorial) was on war itself. But as it turns out, it is a wiki, and the users have forked the project. In a brilliant move, Jimmy Wales himself started a Counterpoint Page. Here's the first edit of the discussion page:

It seems impossible for someone who disagrees with the central thrust of the original editorial to both respect the intentions of the authors, and also to have a voice. So I'm proposing this page as an alternative to what is otherwise inevitable, which is extensive editing of the original to make it neutral... which would be fine for Wikipedia, but would not be an editorial.

LA Times editors couldn't have possibly hoped for Neutral Point of View editing, and my only guess is they were trying to whip up a good fisk. With Jimbo's fork, Wikitorial gains distinction from Wikipedia and may allow constructive community building. Will be interesting to participate in the Editorial Desk and watch it grow.

Wikis can be adapted to most any form of content and conversation. They inherently foster trust through shared control. By de-emphasizing identity wikis are fairly disarming. When conflict arises, because there is infinite space, you can fork conflict and give everyone space to own.

By quoting Jimbo's comment, this post, depending upon how you interpret fair use, is in violation of the Terms of Service:

You may not, for example, republish any portion of the Content on any Internet, Intranet or extranet site or incorporate the Content in any database, compilation, archive or cache. You may not distribute any Content to others, whether or not for payment or other consideration, and you may not modify, copy, frame, cache, reproduce, sell, publish, transmit, display or otherwise use any portion of the Content.

There is already a discussion on licensing. But this conversation cannot be one-sided and the LA Times staff are nowhere to be seen to address this issue before the next fork.

UPDATE: /. -> goatse -> shutdown -> failed -> history. At one point, I removed a goatse myself by tracking recent changes. How disappointing for the MSM to open and close with a single slashdot, forsaking our contributions? I'm sure they will open up again, and there are other MSM pilots, but let's clarify the social contract.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 13, 2005

WikitorialsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Blogging LA reports that the LA Times is launching "Wikitorials." From the editorial page:

"Watch next week for the introduction of "wikitorials" — an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials."

This is one media experiment to watch. However, from Socialtext's experience with public wikis, offering up otherwise finished text for rewrite has limited effect. Generally, wikis can work best when something is slightly unfinished, when room for contribution is left clear. Finished text leads people to drop in links or short comments. Quite different from wikitechture that involves people in the process of production and encourages development of shared practices.

Also, this is a marked departure from the reference model most public wiki users know, the neutral point of view of Wikipedia. Almost begs for edit wars. But starting with the least newsy section of the news could be a good place to start.

UPDATE: The project has forked

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

June 11, 2005

Wiki SwarmEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Loic Le Meur started with a simple post pointing to a wiki and asking for help flushing out facts on The European Blogosphere.

Over the next 24 hours an incredible resource was generated with 400 contributions. Loic abandoned Powerpoint and presented in wiki to Reboot7 (wish I could have been there, and kind of was). Contributions keep coming and the process evolves.

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The Power of UsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield


The Power of Us in BusinessWeek by Rob Hoff.

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June 1, 2005

The Korean ExceptionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Joi highlights to the Korean exception, where the most wired country on the planet has developed social software traction through centralized models like OhMyNews and Hompy (derivative homepages). This is in stark contrast to decentralized blogging that leverages open standards, which is all the rage in some larger countries like the US, France (no!) and the UK.

While many factors contribute to consumer blog adoption (broadband, regulation, culture, social networks, celebrity and mass media to name a few), my sense is that smaller countries like Korea will trend towards centralized models. Language barriers to existing network effects, the simplicity of a single location, and cultivation of a community within bounds all contribute to my generalization. In the absence of connections, nodes are state attractors.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

May 25, 2005

Fear, Greed and Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Enterprises are adopting social software out of both fear and greed. Fear is the primary driver for corporate blogging, while greed is driving adoption of social software within the enterprise. I have used this metaphor to explain what I see in the market lately, so here it is in one place.

Fear Drives Corporate Blogging

Fear is a powerful emotion for the corporate animal. An early adopter wave of non-brand-centric tech companies from Sun to Microsoft to SAP saw opportunity to engage developers with the tools they use. Today most every F500 company is looking into blogging, particularly brand centric companies, but they do so differently. All those revolutionary bloggers having conversations about their brands and influencing others is pretty scary. Suddenly your brand is being watched, augmented, de-located

Corporate executives unfortunately fear their employees more than they trust them. An even greater risk to their brand, they fear, comes from within. Since the advent of email, employees have had the ability to message and forward the influencers, the press, regulators, anyone. Further, the hierarchical structure of commands flowing down and information flowing up enabled horizontal flow of information.

What is new are cases like Microsoft discrimination policy being Scobleized and the Los Alamos National Laboratory revolt. Here the heterarchy transcends the firewall and pressure can be applied from without. Sometimes business follows developments in politics. When Reagan ran into resistance from a Democratic Congress in the 1980s (lobbying or institutional pluralism failed him), he leveraged the media for mass appeal to fax representatives (individual pluralism). In other words, he was Going Public, in a way similar to how employees can through blogs when institutional mechanisms to influence executive decisions fail them.

In practice, only a few employees (e.g. Scoble, Tim Bray) have gained enough of a following to consistently lead through Going Public. However, the emergent attention forming structure of the blogosphere can take a fit message and self-organize around it with a moment's notice. While extremely rare, this pattern gives employees the notion of empowerment by pulpit that can be ignorantly abused. Nobody gets fired for blogging, the real role of a blogging policy isn't a policy itself, but an opportunity for education and re-engaging employees in a more common sense.

Fearing these scenarios, the corporate animal uses it's fight or flee instincts. No better way to keep your employees from blogging than to sue other bloggers. When conversations aren't going your way, carpetbomb them. View the people in these conversations as consumers instead of participants, and set up fake blogs for them to consume. Or do what you are great at, nothing, ceding early mover opportunities to others.

Sidebar: Please understand that I am generalizing about Fear in corporate blogging, but I do think it is the norm. There are wonderful exceptions where corporations are embracing the blogosphere as an opportunity. But they are exceptions. The other qualifier I will put on the above remarks is that fear quickly turns to greed. What we once fear we then understand, see opportunity and embrace. Oh, and one more, fear may not get you laid, but it does in the parlance of corporate M&A (while governments treat corporations as individuals, they are no more than a Fakester in my heavily bounded reality). Anywho...

Greed Drives Enterprise Social Software

Behind the firewall, it is a different story. We are emerging from a post 9-11 phase of insecurity that put a premium on security and compliance. While regulatory requirements have leveled new burdens in the enterprise, demand is shifting back to the traditional reasons enterprises invest in IT -- competitive advantage.

But this time, it may be different. Where competitive advantage used to stem from automation of business processes to drive down costs, those opportunities may be gone. Not that Nicolas Carr was right, far from it, but value has shifted yet again.

In the one business strategy book you must read this year, The Only Sustainable Edge, by John Seely Brown and John Hagel, the authors not only argue that innovation is the only sustainable edge, but that collaboration underpins innovation itself.

Most will read this book to view offshore outsourcing as a positive, rather than a negative. The world is flat, and it helps to understand the Ricardian specialization at play, and how clusters of capabilities are not only a natural, but a good thing. The book actually suggests this as a fact and value argument, I am imposing a frame of value.

But, returning to the fact of IT for competitive advantage, the readers of this blog will be interested in this. "95% of IT expenditure in companies supports business processes. Almost nothing goes into the social fabric." Meanwhile, the vast majority of what workers actually do is handling exceptions to process, what you could call the domain of business practice.

Wikis, Blogs, RSS Aggregators and other Social Software provide an alternative to email for supporting the social fabric. Hidden in email is 90% of collaboration and 75% of knowledge assets, but all the value disappears below the fold -- while spam, occupational spam and viruses hamper productivity.

Sidebar: The Social Life of Information was the one book that perhaps inspired me most to co-found Socialtext -- with cases of how value is realized from the social context of tools, and perhaps how social context within tools fosters value. Full circle. My takeaway when we were all defining Social Software (I still say Social Software adapts to its environment, instead of requiring its environment to adapt to software):

People are smart about how they get their work done. If a software-driven business process fails to serve their activities, they will adapt using their informal network resources to get it done. In other words, when business process fails, business practice takes its place. This is a major point of John Seely Brown's Social Life of Information.

If the opportunities to gain advantage from automation are largely gone, the remaining frontier is innovation. This latest work observes how leading companies like Li & Fung build capabilities across loosely coupled networks with productive friction to foster innovation. They envision a new stack to accelerate not only productivity, but innovation:

  • Social Software -- easy group forming to handle exceptions with diverse specialization, innovate, remember and learn
  • Service Oriented Archiectures -- to realize economies of scope and span
  • Virtualization -- to realize economies of speed and scale for underlying datacommodities.

Back to adoption. Fear is hardly the reason for IT adoption of social software. Interestingly enough, enterprise social software is orders of magnitude cheaper while providing 80% functionality -- than previous generations of collaboration, portals, content, document, knowledge and other "management" systems -- but this only lowers the barrier to pilot. Simple group productivity may be the spark, but the great intangible is helping people innovate together. Enterprises adopt social software because of the opportunity to change through innovation.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Individuals are greedy as much as the next individual. Like all disruptive technologies (PCs, spreadsheets, local area networks, email, IM) and horizontal productivity apps, Social Software is entering the enterprise from the bottom-up. It is the individual who brings an open source or hosted tool to serve her needs or her workgroups needs to gain advantage over others within the enterprise.

But if you follow JSB and Hagel's work -- the language and source of competitive advantage is changing from competitive advantage to cooperative edge. We innovate through trust, sharing and productive friction between individuals and partners with diverse expertise. Open source is more than a licensing scheme, it is a way of working to learn from.

Turning Fear into Greed

Perception of risk can foster new markets, prompting each player to at least bet their ante. In practice for publishing, for example the ante at this stage is simply offering an RSS feed for existing content. But when you only act in fear, fight or flight instincts kick in to prevent you from seeing opportunities. The upside is someone else isn't acting out of fear and zero-sum competition (e.g. Sun in corporate blogging, DrKW in enterprise social software). Enlightened enterprises will act on opportunity, gain an edge, later to be copied out of greed, but the edge is sustained by innovation.

Welcome, Slashdot overlords

UPDATE: Some of the feedback I have received points to the need for more success stories, particularly in corporate blogging. Anyone know of any studies that have demonstrated the value proposition of letting employees blog or having a corporate blogging initative? It could help turn fear into greed.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software

May 24, 2005

RoadcastingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

When I was in NYC last week, a friend praised the serendipitous sociality of Manhattan. It is LA's turn. Roadcasting allows anyone to create their own radio station, broadcasted among cars in an ad-hoc network.

Om Malik interviews the team behind the automaker(linking in hopes of Bob Lutz' opinion)-funded Carnegie Mellon HCI project, saying, Think of it as pirate radio-meets-smart mobs at 60 miles per hour. It's open source, which may prompt use beyond the car (think roaming laptops, condos and mobile devices). Good thing too, as earbudded New Yorkers are starting to function like Angelenos without the crash protection and cup holders.

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May 21, 2005

Tag This?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Feedster is introducing a Tag This widget that blog authors can include in their posts for readers to anonymously tag posts. A volunteer manual way of building a database. After you enter a tag, you get to see the list of tags for the post, but they don’t link anywhere so the reward for the effort is unfulfilling. (Rafer notes: The tags submitted now are “real” and being databased, so give it a shot on your blog or mine. Just due to time constraints, the tags are only displayed once a new tag is submitted. All the tag data will be available via the expected and reasonable mechanisms shortly.) Blog search engines serve readers and with future iterations this hints at a good distributed way to engage them.

form element removed for Safari users

See Also: Bookmark This

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May 13, 2005

The Cost of PresenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Before the advent of email, senders bore the brunt of communication costs. Spam is an economic problem, and solutions with the greatest potential are seeking to correct this imbalance. This is well known.

But consider IM for a moment. Yet another Push medium, the most efficent way to get someone's attention happens to be very expensive for others. Not only for the time you are interrupted, but the interruption tax of 15 minutes it takes to cognitively recover from the task at hand. Receivers are responsible for communicating presence to avoid interruptions, but we don't have ways of automagically signaling presence that is both rich enough and leverages the social network as a filter. Heck, the most efficient ways of communicating rich presence is asynchronous (blog posts, Flickr, Plazes) and yet to be integrated -- there is no Xfire for real worlds.

When you factor in the rise of RSS as a Pull mechanism that the receiver controls -- there is a significant shift underway to make senders pay. If you don't write a worthwhile blog post, people don't pay attention. Readers slap through posts with their space bar and have their trigger finger on the unsubscribe button.

Within the next five years or so senders will pay the postage due.

As social networking becomes core infrastructure, you gain the filter to respect privacy while enabling presence. Breadcrumbs will sprinkle trails beyond the beaten path of on/off/sleep. With cameraphones we are really just experiencing the first wave of rich and convenient presence. Presence that provides object-centered sociality to tell even richer stories.

The behavior we are seeing around events are prefect examples of what happens when you add Where to the presence mix. Today events provide a fixed object for activity to organize around and are public enough to share stories and artifacts without breaking social norms. When cell phones capture and constantly transmit spatial presence we may be in for the biggest privacy shock of our time. Like a camera over our shoulder, only it's in your pocket, everywhere and nearly always on. Social norms will significantly evolve.

However, with the social network as a filter -- coordinates of time, space and activity (what am I listening to, my calendar, use of modalities) can automagically provide a reasonably rich presence. When the cost of presence and interruptions are reduced from the receiver, we may find it more efficient to connect.

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May 12, 2005

CellphediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

While you are playing Dodgeball MoSoSo, you should grok Cellphedia. It’s like Dodgeball for triva instead of getting laid, and topical groups instead of friends. It’s not Wikipedia, tho inspired, but like the community behind it that loves to know it all. It’s like Google SMS without the algorithms getting in the way of people. Anywho, it’s neat, and as people game the game it might create more interesting games.

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May 3, 2005

Backfence Local Social MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

A high profile experiment for the low end of media launched today in The classic problem of local media is the cost of production relative to the scale of distribution. You can’t send reporters to every Little League game and only a subset of the local community is interested in the coverage. MSM doesn’t touch this untapped segment. Apply a little social software to enable participatory journalism and you could get local social media — changing not only the economics of production and distribution, tap the edge between local classifieds and yellow pages — but fulfilling our needs to efficiently participate in local community.

That’s the promise, anyway. I had a chance to meet the co-founders, Mark Potts and Susan DeFife, and admire their community vision. They are starting with McClean and Reston Virginia with a simple and clean ColdFusion site. At launch there are a couple of bugs that prevent posting to news, but the scope of features is ambitious. Members post news, express blog-like voices, contribute to a wiki-like community guide, share photos openly, add events to the calendar and can post classified ads. The Yellow Pages is coming soon.

Interestingly enough, one bit of news is if locals think a Metro to Dulles Airport is worth their local tax dollars, whereas travelers and the greater metro area wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. These are the conversations that usually remain in coffee shops, perhaps now they can become news. Jay Rosen and others will have more…

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April 29, 2005

The French ExceptionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

The vibrant growth of the French blogosphere is something to behold. French is the second largest language and half of students in France blog. This is due, in no small part, to Skyradio telling their listeners to Skyblog what they think at most commercial breaks -- a multi-million dollar advertising investment from an MSM to make blogging cool. Effective, considering they have 1.5 million bloggers according to Pierre Bellanger's presentation. Wonder what will happen when they begin podcasting.

I really enjoyed the contrast Jochen Wegner provided in his presentation on how Germany needs a second pope. Basically, nobody blogs in Germany despite their population and broadband penetration. He implied that there hadn't been an event, or celebrity, or major marketing push to help it along. Could also be similar to when i asked Orkut why Estonia was the six most populous nationality on Orkut the a population the size of Skybloggers -- he said one of his good friends was Estonian. Adoption happens from social networks of founders plus mass event exceptions.

The Germans I spoke to said wikis were far more popular than blogs and the credited Wikipedia (the German version is the second largest), which are both network and mass drivers.

One of the recurring conversations at Les Blogs, beyond metaphysical notions of what is a blog, is why doesn't everybody have a blog? While lots of blog pundits are quick to agree that the real action isn't blogs as publishing (aside: Doc's presentation put the nail in content instead of conversation) -- but chatter with friends that happens to be in the open. We have explored this as part of the network structure, demographics, interests, everything. Barak from 6A noted that focus groups show people consistently think of bloggers are people who are self-important and have too much time on their hands. My wife, who was outed as part of the community this week, and is my favorite focus group, agrees violently. And nobody gives a damn who has more traffic than who.

However, the reason I cringe when toolmakers says all the action is in the skinny part of the power law (uh, long tail) is that the toolmakers haven't followed through. Two notable exceptions are LiveJournal and Flickr. We all know that social networking (especially as a filter) is due to merge with blogging. However, one consensus from insiders over the past week was that tool innovation significantly lags social practice. I'd suggest this is the focus of where toolmakers will catch up over the next year or so.

Caterina made some claims that not everyone has something to write, but all can take snapshots. All true, and the tech makes it dreadfully easy. Time-spread media like audio and video has a tougher time until editing is emergent. But people who use computers are generally literate enough to write letter to friends.

Back to the rest of the world. Not every country has a salon culture. Some are waiting for inflections of networks and mass. Many are oppressed and don't have events to move their voices like Iran. Some still look for a third way like what I can't wait to have emerge from countries like Korea.

The story at Les Blogs wasn't some hot heads from the network core coming over to barf up panel sessions that have been heard before. It was the mix of cultures at a moment in time that expect a day when we all write what we really think through the web.

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April 25, 2005

Yossi Vardi on Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Notes from a talk by Yossi Vardi of ICQ at Les Blogs.

20 million bloggers are not journalists, what are they? They want to fulfill a human desire of self-expression. ICQ was founded by four Israeli kids who wanted an indication for when their friends would enter a chat room. Initially they bet they might have 3k users, now approaching 400 million. ICQ 297M, Jesus 277M and Bible 250M mentions on MSN.

I'm not of the digital generation. When arguing over a feature in ICQ he didn't understand, the kids said, "it doesn't matter, your generation is dying anyway." If I tried to understand ICQ use (14 days a month is 6 1/2 hours a day). Those up to the age of 35 thank me, and if they are above 35 they say, "my daughters..." Can't reduce the human user experience down to an algorithm, otherwise anybody could copy it. However, there are 3-4 major forces on the Internet:

  • self expression
  • communication
  • sharing
  • collaboration

Most people want to get Joi's video and share it with others -- we have a need, desire to share, it gives us comfort to collaborate. We used to pay an unjustified premium to rhetoric. Imagine if in every class there was a backchannel. Now everyone is in charge, can create and express themselves. If you want to understand blogging, understand social software. The killer app on the Internet are people. It provides tools for people to enhance their social potential. Other than the telephone (communicate) and telegraph (collaborate) -- we didn't have much of an invention before it.

Social signals in presence. At Yahoo IM, the most desired feature is seeing the song their friends are listening to. What I am doing now, generally, synch/asynch, on all the time. Facebook doesn't provide dating, they provide social signalling and social cues.

Social software like Flickr takes the power to create APIs from the hands of programmers to give them to the general public. Create a whole phenomena of innovation without having to create. Blogs will be an interface for many applications.

Enhancing reputation and verification: Hal Varian in Info Rules: when you want to consume an experienced product, you know if you want it only after you have consumed it. How do you know if a restaurant, theatre or book is a good one?

32 women played the Prisoner's Dilemma in an Atlanta study, they accreted dopamine 5x greater when they collaborated. We get more satisfaction when collaborating than competing.

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April 20, 2005

Rojo MojosEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Web-based aggregation network Rojo came out of Beta today. Been playing with a preview version and have to say it’s a nice re-design and a simpler way to share while reading. In effect, they are trying to blur the line between blog writer and reader — emphasizing a social network of readers that tag and share.

Therein lies the strength and weakness, as it is trying to be many things to many people. Some bloggers will note that they engage openly in the same activities as readers in the course of writing and linking — contrast with blogging and as more open infrastructure.. Some readers still view it as a entirely private activity. On the other hand, Rojo may introduce more people to sharing on the web — just as social networking did get more people to express at least a facet of their identity and Flickr for photo sharing.

Wherein lies the threat and opportunity. The threat is that more accessible models from an ecosystem of tools may gain faster traction. The opportunity is that this is a well implmented tool that is a great fit for distribution by established media companies. The prospect for a branded aggregator with modest viral atrtributes to engage readers with purposeful sharing activities while accreting metadata is pretty interesting.

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Untethered CommunitiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Jon Lebkowsky on a WELL discussion:

We’re seeing more and more ways to connect, and no one mode is all of the story. The virtual communities I hang out within these days are more fluid and less enclosed than the conversations on the WELL, and you can’t zero in on a single technology or mode that the typical community uses. They may have conversations via their blogs, collaborate via wikis, have realtime discussions via chat, do email and IM, have conference calls, find each other in social network sites, share bookmarks via and photos via, etc. What’s happened is that communities are no longer tethered to specific technologies or virtual places. They find many ways to connect, and they keep searching for more.

He summarizes: We often argue that blogs are conversations and that blogs in aggregate work as platforms for online community, but they really are less conversational than dedicated discussion forums, so if you focus on blogs alone, it’s harder to get the sense of community that you have in more traditional virtual spaces like the WELL.

What’s your take on the changing sense of community? Are these less conversational forms?

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April 15, 2005

Clusty WikipediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Testing Clusty, a cluster search engine by Vivisimo that has its own tab for searching Wikipedia. This should search Corante:


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April 14, 2005

Content WeekEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Ross Mayfield

Spent the first half of this week at Buying and Selling eContent in Scottsdale and the Gilbane Content Technologies Conference in San Francisco. Provided some Guerrilla Event Wifi, but wasn’t on conference blogging duty, but took some notes:

  • New Content Technologies and Models
  • Content Industry Outlook
  • Gilbane Panel on Blogs & Wikis
  • Gilbane Panel on KM & Collaboration Case Studies

    Quite a mindwarp to go from the Open Source Business Conference to be exposed to industries with top-down enterprise applications and DRM models of monetization. Wonderful to hear praise from a content buyer at Pfizer for Open Access, Factiva is in beta with RSS and a desire for content licenses that let enterprise users freely remix and share. Bizzare how some XML gurus can’t wrap their heads around the beautiful mess of social software or even fully grok last year’s lessons of blogs undermining CMSs.

    There are real needs for the boring stuff like directory, monitoring, backup and storage to fulfill the promise of collaboration at scale. There are real data integrity issues for adding structure in erstwhile unstructured enterprise apps. There enterprises beginning to see their problems as opportunities for innovation. I’m starting to feel like an old guy with an ever-evolving product that has been in the market for two years now. Many still need to hear the basics (ppt), but the conversation quickly leads to real issues and an interest in driving adoption. We, not just my company, are starting to shake up the enterprise market for good.

    The Content Industry has the familiar refrain of those that avoid commoditization. In absence of business-level standardization (contracts) the market is flocking to the free (where you need no contract, and people are happy to produce). Technology providers seem to focus on managing complexity at cost, without seeing the importance of practices and the willingness of users to play a role when it’s made simple. Both of these issues center on trust, but spillover has yet to occur aside from some key early standards work. Meanwhile simpler and empowering alternatives are arising from the bottom-up.

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    April 8, 2005

    Microsoft Emulates WikipediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Funny how Encarta doesn't come up in the Wikipedia vs. Britannica debates. Well, now it seems they are enabling wiki-ish editing of Encarta encyclopedia articles. Jimmy Wales puts it perfectly:

    Hmm, now people have a choice. They can donate their time and energy to a nonprofit effort to make the world a better place by giving away an encyclopedia under a free license. Or they can go to work for free, enriching Microsoft.

    I wonder what the most talented and dedicated people will choose. :-)

    Funny how Microsoft never came up in the list of potential donors to Wikipedia alongside Google then Yahoo. I signed into Passport and tried adding some facts about Microsoft being a convicted monopolist to the Bill Gates entry, it is still pending editorial approval.

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Open Source Innovation PracticesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    My thoughts in prep for panel at the Open Source Business Conference on Open Source Innovation are in the extended entry of this post, mostly on the role of collaborative methodologies in innovation...

    I also took notes on a panel on community practices with Brian Behlendorf from Apache/Collabnet, Josh from PostgreSQL, Chris Hoffman from Mozilla, Larry Wall from Perl and David Wheeler from Bricolage that may be of interest.

    ...continue reading.

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    Persistent SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Like many over the past few months, I have happily filled my aggregator with persistent queries from the likes of PubSub, Newsgator, Technorati and Feedster. At first it was ego surfing without leaving the couch. Now I'm creating lots of queries for even short term memes I want to track. There is a lot of buzz about

    One of the many disturbing points a Spammer made when interviewed by Chris Pirillo was that they could even spam RSS. Chris said something to the effect of, "bullshit, there is an unsubscribe button." But when he explained that RSS provided perfect fodder for creating blogs that looked real, there was an Oh Shit moment. No need for scraping, blogging has structured it for you.

    All this clicked for me recently when I noticed an uptick in stupid fake blogs in my pretty smart feeds (I am not linking to examples). All that persistence is pretty easy to use for spam. Of course, there will be countermeasures as with any spam war. An link-based reputation and confirmed ties beat the heck out of black or white listing. But it is a shame when social software is a victim of its own openness. When you have to sacrifice your peripheral vision for greater focus on nagging problems. Ah well, at least I can still subscribe to my friends, and some of them have time to filter for me.

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    April 6, 2005

    Geoffrey Moore: The Role of Open Source ComputingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    While at first it will not seem on-topic for M2M, here are my notes from a talk by one of my favorite people. Geoffrey Moore at OSBC.

    I’m a little bit of a late arriver at this party.  Personally, a late adopter.  You want to catch up when you are late, but I don’t think sobriety is your strongest suit.  Want to talk about what you look like to someone coming late to the open source cultural, personal and technical movement.  And why are we where we are now?

    ...continue reading.

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    March 30, 2005 Goes ProEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Very noteworthy that M2M guestblogger, Joshua Schacter, has quit his very good job to go full time with, the social bookmarking network that all of us are so fond of.  Much of tagging originated with Josh and he deserves praise for taking this calculated risk.

    [via Gen]

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    March 29, 2005

    EVDB Goes LiveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    EVDB, the events and venue database, took their beta live tonight.  Below is a published Smart Calendar, here is a sample event page.  Go poke around.

    See that little green button?  I’ll lay odds you will see it more often over the next year than you imagine. 

    Yesterday EVDB announced a $2.1 million raise from Draper Fisher Jurveston, Omidyar Network, Esther Dyson, Ev Williams, Mark Pincus and others great angels. 

    Some people really like it.  The event space is heating up, with (neat new features announced) and Whizspark with their own approach. They all seem to be supporting open standards and we should see some interesting things happen as events and venues become nodes.

    Disclosure: I am an advisor as previously noted

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    March 28, 2005

    The Enterprise BlogosphereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    InfoWorld’s coverstory is The Enterprise Blogosphere. The whole thing is wrapped up in a nice .pdf. I absolutely love this quote:

    “Blogs and wikis play opposite roles,” says Martin Wattenberg, a researcher on the collaborative user experience team at IBM Watson Research Center. “Blogs are based on an individual voice; a blog is sort of a personal broadcasting system. Wikis, because they give people the chance to edit each other’s words, are designed to blend many voices. Reading a blog is like listening to a diva sing, reading a wiki is like listening to a symphony.”

    And, of course, there is a great review of Socialtext.

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    March 25, 2005

    Adam Bosworth on Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Adam Bosworth reflects on social software at Etech and PC Forum:

    …As long as we don’t let the ontologists take over and tell us why tags are all wrong, need to be classified into domains, and need to be systematized, this is going to work well albeit, sloppily. What it does is open up ways to find things related to anything interesting you’ve found and navigate not a web of links but a link of tags. At the same time Wikipedia has shown that a model in which content is contributed not just by a few employees, but by self-forming self-managing communities on the web can be amazingly detailed, complete, and robust. so now people are looking at ways in which the same emergent self-forming self-administering models of tagging and Wiki’s and moderation can be used for events (EVDB) and for music and for video and for medical information. It’s all very exciting. It is a true renaissance. I haven’t seen this much true innovation for quite a while. What I particularly like about all this is how human these innovations are. They are sloppy. To me Tags are sloppy practical de-facto ontologies. Wiki’s are sloppy about changes and version editing. It is accepted that we’re trying new things and that sometimes messes will occur. In short, it is unabashedly creative and imprecise. I’ve always believed in the twin values of rationalism and humanism, but humanism has often felt as though it got short shrift in our community. In this world, it’s all about people and belonging and working with others….

    Adam goes on to note that social software gets spammed (nod to Clay), “We got, unfortunately, any application talking to anyone (we call this spam).” He raises privacy concerns and the cost of interruptions to conclude:

    It is going to be fascinating and exciting to watch how these tensions play out, namely the rising trend of people working together and collaborating and communicating over the web in increasingly real time ways contending with the human needs for privacy and reflection and with the unfortunate nature of some humans to vandalize rather than to construct.

    As things play out, I’d suggest we will see forms of communication more asynchronous than email, the social network employed as a filter, richer forms of presence, easier group forming and reputation used only at large scales.

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    March 23, 2005

    Social TVEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    You just knew this kind of potato salad would happen. BusinessWeek reports on a PARC project, promising the social aspects of the Super Bowl experience without the dropped popcorn and the spilled beer:

    The Social TV project is in research stages right now. But the idea is that, with the help of a bit of software, perhaps a keyboard or two and several strategically-placed microphones, people can remotely discuss a TV program while they are watching it. You’ll be able to see which of your buddies is watching which program in his or her house, and join into the viewing. Or, you might start a program-watching session of your own and invite friends.

    Indeed, in many ways, Social TV will be similar to the Instant Messenger you already use on your computer. Only it will be more dynamic: Social TV software, located on a device like TiVo or even your TV set, might notice that your and your buddy’s yacking has gone well past the commercial break. The software would conclude that you are no longer watching the show and, perhaps, pause the program until you are ready to resume, says Nic Ducheneau, member of PARC research staff.

    The follow-on invention, of course, is a social spam filter that mutes your friends when you are trying to watch TV.

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    March 22, 2005

    PC Forum Roundtable on TaggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Scribbles from a session led by David Weinberger and Esther Dyson at PC Forum, also posted to the wiki.

    Lots of productive friction here.

    David Sifry, Caterina Fake and Ross Mayfield helped with an intro to tagging. (can't remember what I said, please edit in)

    Rael Dornfest: reminds me of RDF, but the cooling is its not in format or intent

    David Weinberger: Take that semantic web! We will do it ourselves with tags!

    ...continue reading.

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    March 16, 2005

    Folksonomies at EtechEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    A transcript from a talk with Clay, Stewart, Joshua and Jimmy.

    Clay: Not a debate about the meaning of folksonomy. This is about allowing a large group of users in on organizing a large volume of material. this is usually a function of professionals, why did you do this and what have you observed:

    Jimmy: launched in June, didn't have software to support it before. First few weeks was a madhouse in English. Germans held off but then the floodgates opened with order. Became more sensible as people adjusted the categories. We let the masses categorizes because its the crazy wikipedia way.

    Stewart: Activity is for the individual first. Because of the word folksonomy, people assume it is for categorization.

    Joshua: started with a text file collection of links. Started putting short descriptions in, hash mark and some text to find links. Built a web version so I could point friends at a URL. Then made it massively multiplayer. Behavior around tags that have nothing to do about categorization. tag: to_read is quality of document and context of the user combined. Groups, workflow, RSS stuff, multiple unintended uses.

    Clay: you both emphasized value of individual, what tensions arise and how do you resolve?

    Jimmy: Entire community organized around high quality Wikipedia, so tension is between individual and the goal. Category scheme doesn't allow people to categorize individually, which is against the goal.

    Joshua: but (with wikipedia) there is some consensus on how it fits together. Sometimes its clear, sometimes not. What category something is in may requires consensus. In Delicious, Wikipedia (free, encyclopedia and reference), reference is not a word used by Wikipedia itself.

    Stewart: less of an issue dealing with the individual than a group. A person went to Tijuana, used the Etech tag, but for everyone else they want something else under the tag. At the group level, need to filter these things out. Pictures of hotel rooms in Tokyo aren't interesting to people looking for Tokyo.

    Clay: Circle and square pattern. Some social activity has arisen despite the social bias. People using the comments field within delicious for conversations.

    Stewart: First uses of tagging were for group forming on Flickr

    Joshua: why distinction between groups and tags?

    Stewart: there are differences

    Marc Canter: now that we have tags, can we connect them between different systems?

    Jimmy: very interested in this, talking with folks at technorati, should share dumps of tags.

    Stewart: to a certain extent Technorati is already doing that. Lots of collisions. 200k tags in a shared space, not sure what the utility is.

    Joshua: 190k tags, mostly single use. Need more tools to trim the hedges in the data garden. Flickr you tag for yourself, delicious mostly the same, Technorati you are tagging for someone else. Does it make sense for these different kinds of tags to be brought together, need more understanding.

    Clay: the pull and reuse model, having Rest-like APIs may make this happen. Bring tags into remix culture.

    Alex: how are you giving the user feedback to help their tagging get better?

    Jimmy: once you get involved, its a community of 600-1000 people who do the bulk of the work.

    Stewart: In Flickr there are no bad tags. Point is giving people to have tools that create happy accidents (Ward Cunningham's term) at a global level.

    Joshua: two types of feedback, your own tags and the experimental interface that gives you your tags, top couple of tags for the thing you are bookmarking and the intersection between them. Don't want to have people dominated by groupthink.

    Clay: User and time as impermissible categories usually. But it allows you, however context dependent, something responsive to user interests.

    Stewart: Wikipedia model of large group and core group to develop semantic web approaches might work.

    Jimmy: To create a large scale category system, a large group with feedback and monitoring will out perform a small group of experts.

    Clay: Switch motivations from intrinsic to extrinsic

    Stewart: Philosophical issue of meaning, cleaving nature at the joints.

    Joshua: one thing that bothers me about semantic web is that it doesn't pay attention to what people are actually trying to do. They want to find and remember things. A natural scale. Tagging too broadly or to narrowly doesn't serve yourself or groups.

    Audience question: What happens with Technorati is searching more tag services?

    Jimmy: Google is the real answer to that question.

    Joshua: tagging for you to find vs. for others to find

    Dozed off on a question about RDF

    David Weinbeger: trying to make sense of this mess about mass of tags. Need metadata about the tags, who what when where why? How much meta meta?

    Joshua: if you say this tag is a child of other tags, they we are back to hierarchy. But the thing is they are easy to type, use, lower barrier to entry. If you encumber them and make them complex entries.

    Stewart: has to happen after the fact, cant force people to specify language.

    Jimmy: Cardinal baseball and bird, fits into hierarchies.

    Joshua: like that you can type java and perl instead of categorizing. May do two level tags, letting you bundle them.

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    Wikipedia and the Future of Social ComputingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    An impressionistic transcript of Jimmy Wales' talk at Etech on Wikipedia and the Future of Social Computing.

    What is wikipedia and how successful is it.

    500k articles in English as of today, German 200, Japanese 100k, and much more 1.5 milion articiles across 200 languages 19 languages with > 100k articles.

    350k articles with categories, hierarchical peer reviewed taxonomy. Just barely more popular than the NY times, 500M page views monthly.

    The original deam of the Internet and what went wrong

    People sharing information freely. Early experimentation was Homepages. Worked well, but problems: quality control (reputation of homepage author), author fatigue (thousanbds of hits can be found for 'haven't updated' at today).

    Founded Wikicities, which extends the social model to new areas. Growing faster than Wikipedia Social computing successor to free homepages. Right to fork, uses free license to build community trust. For profit, portion of profit donated to Wikipedia.

    How Social Computing addresses what went wrong

    Author fatigue -- since the site is managed by a community people can come and go and the site is till maintained/improved.

    Quality control -- everything is peer reviewed, leading to higher quality generally. Shows diff feature in Wikipedia as an example.

    Social model of a wiki is hard to explain. In wikipedia, democracy, consensus, aristocracy and monarchy. his role is the constitutional monarch, but german paper quoted him as being the queen of England. We don't a-priori settle how decisions will be made, software does not enforce rules. Votes for deletion in english wikipedia page. Voting not enforced by software. Just an editable page with Deletes and Keeps.

    Wikipedia is a social innovation. This social innovation will spread to other areas beyond just the encyclopedia. Software which enables collaboration is the future of the net.

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    Yahoo 360Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The other shoe is dropping for Yahoo, with the announcement of their blogging, photo sharing and social networking service, Yahoo 360. Here is the AP story, Charlene Li’s Analysis, and highlights from the WSJ article.

    Anyone tried it? Marc has. I’m sure we will get a chance soon.

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    February 27, 2005

    First Two Laws of Commons-Based Peer ProductionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Brittanica editor Robert McHenry's “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia" is criticism of Wikipedia asserted that quality declines over time. Rather silly, as the one thing that is known about the quality of a given Wikipedia article is that it is better than it was before and will get better with more time and attention. In "The FUD-based Encyclopedia" Aaron Krowne has not only fisked McHenry's claims, but relates open content to open source -- a very similar topic to what I just contributed to a forthcoming book on open source to be published by O'Reilly. Krowne sees McHenry's efforts as similar to the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt campaigns waged by threatened by incumbent software vendors. But of particular interest to M2M readers is Krowne's first two laws of commons based peer production, and the illustration of their interplay:

    (Law 1.) When positive contributions exceed negative contributions by a sufficient factor in a CBPP project, the project will be successful.

    With wikis, as phantom authority pointed out, transaction costs are low for making a contribution and even lower for fixing mistakes.

    (Law 2.) Cohesion quality is the quality of the presentation of the concepts in a collaborative component (such as an encyclopedia entry). Assuming the success criterion of Law 1 is met, cohesion quality of a component will overall rise. However, it may temporarily decline. The declines are by small amounts and the rises are by large amounts.

    Coding is vertical information assembly, marked by dependencies between contributions. Writing, as in the case of Wikipedia, is horizontal information assembly, which has little dependency. You can get the date of birth wrong in an article, but the article still generally works and can be built upon in the process. Doing the same in software could result in a Y2Kish meltdown. This distinction accounts for the authority models that Krowne describes later in his article, owner-centric and free-form. Krowne also adds a correlary for the two laws:

    (Corollary.) Laws 1 and 2 explain why cohesion quality of the entire collection (or project) increases over time: the uncoordinated temporary declines in cohesion quality cancel out with small rises in other components, and the less frequent jumps in cohesion quality accumulate to nudge the bulk average upwards. This is without even taking into account coverage quality, which counts any conceptual addition as positive, regardless of the elegance of its integration.

    Dependency is not necessarily a negative factor, as it can prompt refactoring. It has been said (link? will refactor in later) that Wikipedia could not be a poem because of inherent structure. But I wonder what impact a language or fact-checking refactoring tool could have on cohesion by highlighting dependencies.

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    February 12, 2005

    From Personalization to SocializationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Wednesday night a bunch of bloggers and media executives attended a Yahoo! briefing on Personalization. Susan Mernit noted:

    Yahoo's potential to own a huge piece of the blogosphere via distribution, tool sets and content acquisition did not go unnoticed by media companies in the room---just the perception they can dominate could possibly spur progress by online newspapers (I hope.) Grassroots media folk and search companies present at the event took notice as well.

    Yahoo has blended personalization and RSS to form the most widely used aggregator on the planet. Keep in mind that the vast majority of traffic goes through a handful of portals (and an oligopoly of carriers) and mainstream attention follows the power-law. Most users do not enjoy the diversity or serendipity that blog readers do. Blog writers who want to make impressionistic returns will feed off of major portals. Somewhere in middlespace, the bottom up will be incented by the top down. A new editor is rising and it isn't your blogging client, nor branded aggregators, its an algorithm that supposedly will grow to know you better than people can.

    Personalization is supposed to be the answer for how industrial era print media evolves into the information age. A shift from media companies broadcasting to the world to the media broadcasting to you.

    If you share your tastes and demands, you get matching information. You browse without effort, sit back and consume. This is sheer bliss for marketers, you also get increasingly framejacked ads. With search, you narrowcast what you are looking for and get ads that supposedly could be helpful along the way. For now, there is no memory of your queries and profiling for others, but it will happen as a personalized search is a useful engine.

    Corporate personalization is also a bargain of consummate efficiency. The value proposition of enterprises portals is reducing the time spent looking for information. Of course, part of the contract for employees is to perform a specific function and submit any conceivable data to assist the system There are no ads, all interactions are commerce, yielding ruthless modeled efficiency.

    The criticisms of personalization as an instrument of control are not new. Yahoo! is actually taking personalization into new directions by emphasizing user programmability. And a branded aggregator is based on open standards, which is a big leap into a second web. But its important to realize that Personalization is not a world of ends and the means of the trend ensnare us just as before.

    Over the next year or so, every major portal will have personalized aggregation of RSS. I say personalized because branded aggregators will have initial appeal the existing audience of a media site, but have no differentiation. Older media will apply traditional editorship to suggest the best feeds according to expert judgment. Newer media will suggest feeds based on what we like. Both approaches will provide limited differentiation, but even more limited utility -- because finding feeds is not a significant problem when most posts in a feed provide their own suggestions, link by link.

    Brandmasters will disagree. They will say their promise is strong and trust held by the audience will lead them to trust their expert or automated judgment. But being a provider of information does not beget a relationship, you have no clue if your audience is even impressed. People trust themselves over brands and now they have their fingers on the unsubscribe button for anything they are fed. They roll their own media personally. And before trusting a brand, people are inclined to trust other people -- the promise of influential people is stronger than brands. Now more information flows through and between them, and these flows underpin relationships. Every meme is underwritten by social capital. The most influential mass or custom marketing is in concert with buzz. All media becomes saturated with advertising and consumers are sensitized with each new form. Today this happens at an accelerated pace.

    A corporate portal may provide information required for process, but will fail to inform decisions when exceptions happen and hinder my ability to form relationships that help resolve them. Worse, without a diversity of input and the socialization of information, saving time looking for information is pointless when the information isn't shared in the first place.

    The basic problem with Personalization is that tailoring information to you limits social discovery. Users contribute value to the database only for them and the service provider, not for each other. People design algorithms outside social context, and error arises in profiling, categorization and filtering. Narrowcasting creates micro-silos as it limits a user's view from more diverse and otherwise peripheral information compared to modes of browsing and searching. Over time, users are taught to rely upon this mode as their primary source of information. Nowhere in this mode is sharing, conversations, remixing and socializing information.

    By contrast, consider how social software enables people to create their own networks. Groups form, information is shared and implicit and explicit relationships are fostered. Profiles, ties, posts, links and tags provide dimensions to explore. Spam happens as a consequence of openness, but as social networks become the new filters, it is a minor problem and yields benefits of connecting people. The appeal of personalization is sheer convenience. Today social software fails, with a few exceptions, to deliver the same level of convenience at scale, but give it time.

    Replace the word information with relationship, and you get how people want to use the net, with other people. What is shared through filters is very different from a blogger saying, "hey, my group of readers would be interested in this," or "Doc makes a fine point, but when you consider what Jon says it really changes things," or "everybody I know is talking about this." When my network socializes information for me as a natural byproduct of interaction, while respecting my privacy (an important aspect of keeping things personal), I discover relationships that make my life convenient and empowered.

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    February 8, 2005

    A Folkonomy of WordsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Great article on Tagging in Salon that covers the applications, social use and commercial implications. Quotes three M2Mers, but you have to love this:

    "It's like Friendster for knowledge as far as I'm concerned," says Howard Rheingold. "I look to see who the other people are on who tag the same things that I think are important. Then, I can look and see what else they've tagged ... And isn't that part of the collective intelligence of the Web? You meet people who find things that you find interesting and useful -- and that multiplies your ability to find things that are interesting and useful, and other people feed off of you."

    UPDATE: The Tagging story had a big focus on 43 Things. Turns out that 43 Things is a stealth project funded by Amazon. Makes the original title of this post quite prescient. Now that you know who you are sharing it with, you might want to rethink that goal of owning the collected works of Adam Smith.

    The holding company responds by blog, saying the social contract still stands. Personally, this kind of private equity is so personal it should have been public in the first place.

    Another Update: Further clarification on the investment timing.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    February 6, 2005

    Contact and Feed FlowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Christopher Allen tackles the issue of social network saturation and what to do when you have more than 150 connections on a social networking service. I previously distinguished between active and latent ties and their impact on social capital. The issue is similar to Steve Gillmor's comment to the latest gang that when feeds are abundant you need social attention-based filters. Chris provides some tactics for dealing with contact overload, one of which Jeff Clavier used to prevent extending undue social credit, but I can't help but think this isn't a significant issue.

    Social networking services that do not leverage social spam to grow membership do not burden your attention to function as contact repositories. Recall that the Dunbar number is what you can manage with your own faculties, so somehow you are cognizant of your active network. Having a repository of your latent ties and the ability for those in it to grab your attention, at the risk of their own social capital, is convenient augmentation.

    Steve has a great point that we will need greater feed filtering as the network grows. Not for discovery of feeds, there are enough inherent and implicit ways to find good sources in blogging. But for those busy moments where you need to go on vacation or really work and want to stem the tide.

    But like contacts, you only want to stem the tide at the moment of congestion. The ability to recall and search gives you the confidence to skim or skip when need be. When you initiate a connection, you have to make an investment, deciding what impact it may have on your attention and social capital. But so long as the flow is passive and under control, the augmentation is more productive than not.

    Beyond overload, Adina Levin provides a far more considered take on the issue.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 31, 2005

    Guilt is GoodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Dan Bricklin picks up a thread from Shelley to AKMA and Winer on blog post categorization (David Weinberger tracks it, but also see his recent newsletter on tags and Jay's comments) to suggest Guiltlessness as a design criteria for a type of successful system.

    I think Dave has pointed out a key problem with tagging. It seems like a nice idea but it requires us to always do it. The system wants 100% participation. If you don't do it even once, or don't do it well enough (by not choosing the "right" categories), then you are at fault for messing it up for others -- the searches won't be complete or will return wrong results. Guilt. But because it's manual and requires judgment you can't help but mess up sometimes so guilt is guaranteed. Doing it makes you feel bad because you can't ever really do it right. So, you might as well not play at all and just not tag.

    This is the opposite of what I was getting at in my old Cornucopia of the Commons essay about volunteer labor. In that case, in a good system, just doing what you normally would do to help yourself helps everybody. Even helping a bit once in a while (like typing in the track names of a CD nobody else had ever entered) benefited you and the system.Instead of making you feel bad for "only" doing 99%, a well designed system makes you feel good for doing 1%. People complain about systems that have lots of "freeloaders". Systems that do well with lots of "freeloading" and make the best of periodic participation are good. Open Source software fits this criteria well and its success speaks for itself.

    In Cornucopia of Cooperation and Social Spillover, I suggested that tagging was an example of the Volunteer Manual method of building a database. I still find this true, because:

    • Blog post categorization is still not tagging, but will be soon
    • Tagging in and Flickr supports freeloading and rewards contribution

    Categorization in blogging still lacks a easy tagging interface. In Typepad today, for example, you have to (a) add a new tag to your list, and (b) be done if you want just one tag, or (b) select multiple tags from your list. Encouraging one tag is categorization, is the pursuit of topic by design.

    The Topic Exchange (nod to Phillip and M2M's Seb) lets you categorize your post through a trackback or manual entry into a topic channel on an aggregating site. More persistent groups within this system had a fascination with RidiculouslyEasyGroupForming, such as social software bloggers. Easy New Topics (nod to Matt and Paolo), took additional steps to enable extensible categorization within the blog client and easy group forming around topics. K-collector's pioneering implementation of ENT did bring together some early adopter bloggers around select topics, not too coincidentally among those more fascinated with ontology like KM bloggers. Note that contribution to these systems is not a byproduct of regular use (without adding a category, your post is not added to the database) and has relatively high transaction costs. Since use centers around formed groups, I would agree that guilt may come into play.

    You can, and many do, use and Flickr without adding tags to links and pictures as objects. You still contribute value to the system, the object itself, which others can pick out of the stream to add value. When you do tag, however, you gain the reward of your own organization and the emergent structure of the group. Use centers, first and foremost, around individuals instead of groups, so guilt is barely a factor.

    Dan's original example of Napster demonstrated Cornucopia effects where Greed is Good. You can take advantage of the common resource, but as a byproduct, you contribute to the commons, thereby increasing its value. But it must be noted that in some social systems, Guilt is Good. In particular, it can be used to curb negative behavior and even freeloading, which can increase the value of the system. UCLA researchers have highlighted the role of shunning in social systems:

    "Up to this point, social scientists interested in the evolutionary roots of cooperative behavior have been hard-pressed to explain why any single individual would stick his neck out to punish those who fail to pull their weight in society," [Anthropologist Robert] Boyd said. "But without individuals willing to mete out punishment, we have a hard time explaining how societies develop and sustain cooperative behavior. Our model shows that as long as it is socially permissible, withholding help from a deadbeat actually proves to be in an individual's self-interest."

    Perhaps a system isn't social if it only has first order commons dilemmas (governing the resource) and doesn't support management of the second order (governing each other). When a group explicitly forms around a tag, guilt may come into play (for example, shame on you people for not posting really ugly and fairly pointless parking lot photos!), and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Comments (8) | Category: social software

    January 29, 2005

    A Wiki Search Engine or Bottom-up Extortion?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Cross-posted because this raises interesting questions of leveraging top-down machine generated content on the cheap and trying to make it social not only for monetization — but enclosure and bottom-up participation to enhance quality.

    This is pretty interestingWeb’s Biggest not only claims to be the biggest search engine, but the biggest wiki. 

    It leverages existing search engines and scrapes the whois database.  The spider captures summaries, which is all the engine searches, which gives you easy breadth, but not depth.  The summaries are far from perfect, but it seems the idea is they are meant to be changed.  A smart hack, if legal (Andy Beal wonders if this violates whois guidelines).

    Users can edit search results and must provide their email addresses to be notified when there is an edit.  Past edits are stored below.  This doesn’t make it a wiki whatsoever, its closer to blog comments, but an annotated search engine isn’t a bad idea.  The founding concept for Google wasn’t a search engine, but developing the annotated webKwiki-based Wikalong is the closest to that in the wiki world, blogs are the analog.

    Revenue model seems to be some advertising, but mostly paid directory listings and driving comissioned activity to other search engines.  In effect, anyone can modify the site summary, and you pay for a more permanent directory description alongside the chaos.  So text ads are defending your territory, perhaps extortion could be a good business if it became popular or useful for reasons I can’t fathom.

    Even if its not a wiki, it raises an interesting question.  Can you automate information collection and then rely on bottom-up participation to make it useful?  This is the opposite pattern of social software, where you may apply some automation to help sift through and reveal social signals.  Wikipedia had one autopopulation in its history, importing the CIA World Factbook, but it didn’t stimulate much refining activity.  Web’s Biggest tries to incent participation through small enclosed interests and email notification to return, but I’d bet that real community is a much stronger force.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 26, 2005

    Finding Mavens in UsenetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    An answer person Yesterday I had a long chat with one of the humans at Microsoft, Marc Smith, who runs the Netscan project which provides analysis of Usenet. During our conversation he shared how they are using social network analysis to identify types of participants in threaded discussions.

    two dominant answer people with emerging 3rd APOne of these types is represented in these three graphs produced by Danyel Fisher, also of the Microsoft Research Community Technologies Group, is of Answer People. Marc described them simply as people who answer people who dont answer people. They are the central nodes with many uni-directional ties. APs are what Malcom Gladwell would call Mavens, their influence is through their expertise, which they share widely.

    two answer peopleAOL isn’t just handing over Usenet to Google, Netscan has a firmer grasp of this very long tail. It will be disconcerting for most to find data about you made explicit and visualized, especially when its personified, which raises real issues. At a certain point, being Profiled (RSS) as a Maven for Windows XP (RSS) who has bad Mondays may innundate you with pitches every other day of the week, so you might stop. The difference between explicit and implicit categorization and relationships is going to blur very quickly.

    UPDATE: Go see Danyel Fisher’s subsequent comment on AOL/Usenet and his comment below which implies Connectors in these images. Also take the Rorschach test for yourself.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 22, 2005

    Cornucopia of Cooperation and Social SpilloverEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    This is a lengthy rant where I suggest that Cornucopia production can be realized not just through cooperation in developing a resource, but building upon success in governing each other as peers while in the act.

    Tagging Napster

    What do Napster and Wikipedia have in common? Both had or have rapid growth with value created by users. But what's fascinating is how this value was generated from personal and social incentives.

    Dan Bricklin's classic 2000 essay (yes, anything written in 2000 that stands the test of time to 2004 can be deemed a classic), Cornucopia of the Commons, provided a framework with three ways of building a valuable database: Organized Manual (e.g. Yahoo), Organized Mechanical (e.g. Altavista) and Volunteer Manual (e.g. Slashdot)

    Napster provided incentives for users to contribute organized content and a simplified UI where creating the copy in the shared music directory can be a natural by-product of their normal working with the songs. Bricklin defined this as a Cornucopia of the Commons, where Use brings overflowing abundance.

    This is in contrast to Garrett Hardin's 1968 classic The Tragedy of the Commons:

    Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

    Back in 2000, around when Ev wrote his 2000th post, he pointed out: There should be a payoff to the user for entering accurate information. Specifically he noted that HotorNot's ratings didn't provide any incentive for accurate photo data.

    By now you can probably guess that tagging is a Volunteer Manual construct that leverages Commons-Based Peer Production with incentives for accurate information. Creating bad labels hurts your own organization and lessens your group benefit when you want to pivot on the global view of the tag. What Flickr demonstrates is not only adoption growth, but the creation of a database that scales socially.

    Keep reading...

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 13, 2005

    Technorati Takes Tags GlobalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Technorati just launched Tag Search across blogs, Flickr, and Socialtext wikis. Here's a zeitgeist and a search for social software tags.

    How It Works

    Their implementation goes beyond the concept of Taggle and implementation of Taggregator to break down social silos in some fascinating ways.

    Scraping Flickr and tags seems to be the easy part. They also infer tags from blog post categories in major blogging platforms like Blogger and Typepad. You can also include a tag within a post with a simple rel="tag" statement added within an html link, like this indicatr. Socialtext added rel tags to its categories enable open discovery of tagged wiki pages.

    But as tagging goes global, its a good time to consider even more why tagging and folksonomy work.

    Networked Individualism

    What Flickr and do really really well is provide both personal and social incentives for participation, which fits the networked individualism model. People are not bound to a single group or themselves alone, they are the center of a network that ebbs and flows through multiple communities with different facets of their identity. You own your photo collection or bookmarks and tag them first for your own benefit. The individual incentives are strong for collection, and the interface for tagging lowers barriers to doing so. Group incentives for sharing, such as attention, feedback, implcit reputation and group forming itself encourage meaningful classification.

    Emergent Intelligence

    There are strong similarities to how wikis and tagging works. Tagging lowers transaction costs for contributions and fixing mistakes. This increases participation and the probability of the right data actually existing in the first place. It also enables a dedicated community to self-govern (and note that as in the case of Wikipedia, the enthusiasm hasn’t worn off)

    A single tag can be applied in error, and be fixed locally, but that matters less when viewed in the aggregate. Larger patterns arise that are statistically significant.

    The other day I was listening to an interview with Malcom Gladwell about his book Blink, which posits that snap decisions are better than carefully considered judgements. Especially when made by experts who have developed a muscle memory of the brain. One of the callers pointed out (at 9:00/30:15) we are better than making snap decisions work better at discrimination (does it belong in the good category or the bad category) between things than characterization (determining the nature of things). Fine, I thought, that's tagging.

    Gladwell's theories seemed to run counter to those of another popular book these days, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, which holds that group decisions are better than those of individual experts. But not only are these two views complimentary, Surowiecki and Gladwell are having an open conversation about it this week.

    So just think about the emergent intelligence mechanism we are creating with a neural network overlaid on the net. Considered blog posts gain authority through link attention. Consensual wiki pages gain authority over time. Links and snapshots bridge across places, physical and virtual. Tags are applied in the blink of an eye and patterns emerge from the crowd.

    Social Discovery

    But below all that global heady stuff, what tags do really well is aid social discovery. Technorati's tag search may be disconcerting at first, it plugs structural holes between clusters in ways usually left to people as boundary spanners. Facets of identity may be impacted by context shifting. But social software services are adapting to support context within group forming. On Flickr, you have friends and family privacy with the social network as a filter. On Socialtext, you have private spaces defined by the group of participants. The open affordances of tags have led to local/global/local navigation and easy group forming. But the same opennes raises interesting questions about tag spam and the tyranny of the majority.

    UPDATE: Technorati’s official launch

    Full Disclosure: Technorati is a customer of Socialtext and I have lots of friends who work there. I also happen to think this is very cool stuff.

    Tags: , , , , , , .

    Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 10, 2005

    Scaling WikipediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Our very own Clay and danah in a Wired News piece on Wikipedia Growing Pains.

    “One of the mysteries of scale is that there’s no such thing as scaling well,” said Clay Shirky, who writes about culture, media and technology. “You can make something 100 times bigger, and if it works, you think you’ve got it licked. But the next power of 10 can kill it. So I don’t know whether or not openness and co-creation are incompatible at Wikipedia scale.”

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 8, 2005

    Attention as a Social FactEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    In the context of the Wikipedia debate, Clay asserted that trust and authority are social facts. What is worth your attention is increasingly a social fact as well.

    Part of the debate is really just media literacy in an evolving landscape, but it also centers on the institutionalization of authority. Institutionalism in sociology holds, as the name implies, that institutions shape our social fabric greater than any other factor. What may be new is the pace at which greater connectivity develops and challenges institutions.

    The curious thing about trust, though, is that it is a social fact, a fact that is only true when people think it is true. Social facts are real facts, and have considerable weight in the world….Ebay has become trustworthy over time because the social fact of its trustworthiness grew with the number of successful transactions and with its ability to find and rectify bad actors…Like trustworthiness, authority is a social fact, though authorities often want to obscure this. A PhD is an authority figure because we all agree that the work that goes into getting a doctorate (itself a social fact) is a legitimate source of authority. So, under what conditions might the Wikipedia become a kind of authority, based on something other than authorship or brand? And the answer to that question, I think, is when enough people regard it as trustworthy, where the trust is derived from the fact that many eyes have viewed a particular article.

    Perhaps the neutral point of view ethic of Wikipedia may make attention a viable indicator, but as Clay goes on to explore, other dimensions such as edits and longevity may be better proxies for trust. Andrew Lih revealed edits are the most reliable metric (pdf). But as Wikipedia is increasingly cited, putting aside if it should be or not, metrics for citation networks will have increasing relevancy.

    Wikis and blogspace have different approaches for determining what is important. In blogspace, links guide attention which can accrete authority. But controversy and error draws attention and can disinflate authority. This is in stark contrast with wikis, where the goal of your writing is to be ignored — to write for permanence in future edits rather than attention to your Permalink.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 6, 2005

    Fukuyama's PenguinEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    I have this pet theory, rather grand, and falls into the category of what you believe is true even though you cannot prove it. That open source will realize the end of history.

    In 1989 Francis Fukuyama wrote the celebrated and controversial book, The End of History, which posited that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a Hegelian triumph of liberal democracy as the last remaining form of government and political philosophy. Fukuyama went on to explore issues of social capital and tyhmos, “desire for recognition” that drives free-market economics. His critics were manifold, particularly those on the wrong side of history. Marxist criticism centered less on liberal politics than liberal economics — particularly market failure. The classic debate over the role of government centers on what economists call market failure: when the market fails to provide social goods.

    Similar to how Doc says the demand side is supplying itself, with open source and open content social goods are produced through peer production. Let’s explore one aspect that is less about code and more about social dynamics triumphing over economics, language. For a small country like Rwanda, a localized version of Office would never be supplied, so they do it themselves. Some vendors are open sourcing their localization in recognition of unevenly distributed demand. While more research is required, some patterns emerge with stories behind them when comparing language support by markets and peers:

    Rank World Population Internet Population Web Content Wikipedia
    1 Chinese (Mandarin) English English English French
    2 Spanish Chinese Japanese German German
    3 English Spanish German Japanese Spanish
    4 Bengali Japanese Chinese French Japanese
    5 Hindi German French Swedish Italian
    6 Portugese French Spanish Polish Chinese
    7 Russian Korean Russian Dutch Portuguese
    8 Japanese Italian Portuguese Spanish Swedish
    9 German Portuguese Korean Italian Dutch
    10 Chinese (wu) Dutch Other Portuguese Korean

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Year of the Enterprise WikiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Jon Udell calls 2004 The Year of the Enterprise Wiki, or at least when Enterprise Wiki stopped sounding like an oxymoron. I happen to think this year is the big one, but that’s my job. Jon looks to the future:

    As the Wiki phenomenon enters its second decade, it’s hard to predict just how the technology will evolve. Two things seem certain: Wiki culture will continue to thrive, and enterprise users will continue to seek lighter, easier collaboration tools.

    Jon also discovers the marriage of wikis and folksonomy. Socialtext has been tagging since early 2003, before Flickr and took it in great directions, we just call them categories.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    January 4, 2005

    6A Acquires LJEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Six Apart is acquiring LiveJournal, according to Om Malik. The result is the largest blog vendor, and a fairly independent one at that.

    LJ is a web scale hosted service at 5.6M users, with 1.4% generating $2.325M/yr. 6.5 million users combined, or blogspace is 40M users including bloggers and readers, possibly if you assume the Pew study, but that would be 80% of blogspace when you stick journalspace in the peanut butter. And all this stuff is growing.

    Follow along with this watchlist (RSS)

    Update: It’s official, 6A/LJ Press Release, Mena’s Mood: Optimistic, Brad’s Mood: Excited, Six Apart Interview

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    December 16, 2004

    Skype Goes SocialEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Skype opened up the beta for their new Multi-party Chat. I had a chance to meet its developers in Estonia and have been playing with it for a little while.

    It is pretty slick in its early form and will bring many of the virtues of IRC to a wider audience (sorry, no bots yet). The default chat window is multi-user enabled, so expect heavy use of this feature. The big difference with IRC is that you have to be invited into a chat and history is stored by default. The easy group forming properties and functional profiles are fantastic. Of course, it meshes will with their conference call capability (Stuart Henshall already demands greater scale. Of course, their P2P architecture means no server will be overloaded.

    You can recall past chats as groups, but it still doesn’t treat groups as first class objects in the system and the persistence of history with fluid groups leads to less comfortable context shifting. The beta is windows only.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    December 14, 2004

    Powerfully Powered by PeopleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Simon Waldman of the Guardian takes a look at participatory media and sees two striking contrasts in unfolding models in powerful people, or people power?  First, a classic debate of the showcased A-List vs. the Long Tail:

    The more I learn (and frankly, I still feel pretty dumb in these matters), and the more I look, the more I realise that blogging’s great
    legacy is likely to not the individuals who sit at the top of the power curve, but the incomprehensible swarm: and, critically, the order that emerges from it.

    Second, blog citizen’s media vs. aggregation:

    But, there are problems with this model: and they all stem from issues of scalability of communities and the tragedy of the commons. OhMyNews, is fantastic, but it still has an editorial staff of 53 (about the same as the NYT site). Even the Northwest Voice has a full time editor (both to give it shape and cover topics such as property). Wikipedia might have let anyone write or edit anything, but it takes a tightly defined social order and significant efforts from some very committed volunteers to keep everything in shape.. You can always cover much more ground by ceding traditional editorial control systems - or opening them up - but someone still has to stop it turning into anarchy.

    The aggregation of Blogdex et al, however is completely scalable: because it simply depends on individuals keeping their house in order: which they do out of self interest, rather than altruism (and, in my experience, it is always safer to rely on people acting out of self interest than altruism). Also, as the overall pool of blogging grows: both in quantity and quality, aggregation becomes simultaneously more necessary and more efficient.

    While we should celebrate both forms as participation at scale we haven’t had before, we should recognize that these forms will converge.  They both involve human editing of a sort.  Aggregation is vertical information assembly where the editor codes.  Citizen’s media is horizontal information assembly where the editor, made even more clear in the Wikinews model that appends a more formal editorial process to the end of emergent practice.  The two will work in tandem.

    Just as a Technorati Watchlist of a blogger’s Cosmos can inform the editorial gaze of a blogger, aggregation will feed the higher value human judgment.  Higher value both in how value is added and perceived — its harder to trust an algorithm than person, no matter how branded. 

    An algorithm may have been conceived to address complexity and volatility, but the same genesis is its very undoing over time unless branded recalibration is managed appropriately.  While an index can be a common point of meaning (e.g. the Dow), you gain greater affinity for an organization or individual who interprets where it is going (e.g. broker).   Each shock leads to new models that are opportunities for new entrants.  In this market of memes, anyone can be a broker, analyst or quant with the right skills and desire — and the right moment of entry.

    My point is really the middle of the road.  Aggregation will augment Citizen’s Media as it needs to scale.  Editorial process will augment emergent practice.  The long tail will wag the dog.  If we will it to.

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    December 10, 2004

    Weight of WordsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The 10 ten words of the year according to Merriam-Webster, based on lookups: with and Flickr tags.  Also links to currently blank wiki pages and Wikipedia articles.

    1. blog: del, flickr, wiki, pedia
    2. incumbent: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    3. electoral: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    4. insurgent: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    5. hurricane: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    6. cicada: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    7. peloton: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    8. partisan: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    9. sovereignty: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    10. defenestration: del, flickr, wiki, pedia

    These are, of course, very different from the most popular tags.  I would love to see a visualization of the relative weight of these words.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    December 6, 2004

    Jigsaw Contact MarketEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Its one thing to put your contact information in a social networking service. Its another thing to make connections explicit. But its an entirely different thing to make contact information literally tradeable.

    The latest YASNS aims to just that, which launches today with venture backing:

    The Jigsaw platform is basically a cross between the online marketplace of eBay and the social networking site of Jigsaw users are able to buy, sell and trade business contact information. The service costs $25 per month, which gives users access to 25 contacts per month (plus an extra 20 as a sign-up bonus). A salesperson generates access to additional contacts by adding new listings to the system. For each contact added, a user receives two in return. Those who supply at least 25 contacts per month can bypass the monthly fee. Fowler says the reason for this interactivity is two-fold. First, it keeps Jigsaw as a cash-upfront business, which lowers overhead and reduces the amount of outside capital required. Second, it helps keep the information dynamic, since users also are encouraged to update their contacts’ information for shared use.

    Now, I have said the network is the market, but this may be going to far. There is some merit in the notion of a virtual currency for contacts, especially as the target market is sales guys, But contact information, and people for that matter, are not fungible. There would be strong incentives to game the market by trading bad contacts for good.

    Jigsaw explicitly says they support contact information, not relationships, and perhaps avoid Plaxo pitfalls.

    But consider this exceprt from Michael Schrage’s classic essay on The Relationship Revolution, courtesy of Jerry Michalski:

    Consider a small thought-experiment: Whenever you see the word “information” — as in the strategic importance of managing information, or the importance of timely information in solving problems, or the need to make substantial investments in information technology in order to compete in the cutthroat world of global competition — substitute the word “relationship.”

    Then consider the value of the information being traded compared to the underpinning relationships.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 29, 2004

    Orkut Media?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Google launched Orkut Media and the response is a collective whaaa?

    Columns on such topics as… A lick of poli-pop culture.
    Advice on love, sex and things your parents never taught you.
    He foams and froths so you don’t have to. Random thoughts on random things. It’s like cracking your knuckles, but better.
    … surely must mean something. A foray into content? The next evolutionary step of portal transmographication?

    Probably not. Mark Pincus from Tribe says “It’s less than blogging and only available to people inside Orkut.” So true. But to satisfy our blog introspection and Google worship in one fell swoop, lets admit something. Not everyone will blog, more people will find an identity online through social networking through blogging and seeing how the masses are asses, what is offered to them will be dumbed down and pointless from our view. Oh, and don’t wait around for Blooglerkutmail.

    Best explanation I can give for it is someone said, “that’d be cool,” and a couple of people agreed, which is cool in itself. Got any better ideas?

    Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 26, 2004

    Bo ke Revolution in ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Guestblogger Xiao Qiang published an in-depth article in New Scientist on Blogging (bo ke) in China. Beyond the sheer growth, the failed attempts of the central authority to censor the most decentralized and adaptive of media holds promise for change.

    Related: Ukraine Revolution via Loic

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 22, 2004

    BuddyBuzzEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    BJ Fogg and the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, which studies how technology changes behavior, have created BuddyBuzz. It helps you find the most interesting articles to read, based upon your friend's ratings -- and allows you to read 300 to 800 words per minute from your mobile phone. Reading works by having a single word blinked at you at a rate you control, similar to other experiences on the web, but it simply makes more sense with mobile form factor and lifestyle.

    I got a demo at the Accelerating Change conference two weeks ago and it seemed that if you can teach yourself to read this way (or if it can teach you to read this way), it could be downright fun. Now all it needs is to source text via RSS.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 12, 2004

    Open Network EffectsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Network effects drive adoption on a single platform as the network value grows according to Metcalfe's law's measure of the number of nodes. The history of fax machine adoption is the clearest example, the first machine was worthless, the second had a little value, the latest one has the greatest.

    But I am continue to wonder if Metcalfe's law is an adequate measure of network value when the network is a platform and the network is open. Allow me to provide a recent illustration.

    When Feedburner launched its feed splicing service, the initial value proposition was only to publishers by letting them see statistics of their RSS subscriptions. For readers that had already subscribed to a blog with the unspliced feed, there was little incentive to switch.

    Now open value added services are being spliced in such as Flickr for photos and for social bookmarks. With less effort, authors can include new forms of content into their feed that provides. Readers then gain an incentive to switch to the new feed and can do so with nominal switching costs.

    The value of the network grows in something closer to Reed's Law of group forming. Flickr and represent different groups, where what is spliced in is not just the value of the original authors activities, but their participation in the group and options for interactions with others. For example, they can with almost zero effort, copy to amplify a bookmark. Search costs for better bookmarks are reduced because of collective activity in these separate groups.

    Participating vendors have combined their applications into a common network platform with nominal transaction costs because of open standards to grow the network as a market as a whole. Certain structural holes persist between applications that are networks. But the incentive to cooperate is accelerating and the marginal value of proprietary protection declines. For example, Skype certainly could remain proprietary after developing a SkypeOut bridge to the traditional telephone network -- that's what carriers do -- and are working on SkypeIn and SkypeWifi. But they have chosen to release an open API. No longer is the circuit circuitous.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 2, 2004

    Vote LinkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Technorati is tracking vote links, thanks to the efforts of Kevin Marks.

    Here’s my vote, for John Kerry.

    And my anti-link: I oppose Bush

    And a vote for Shirky too.

    Vote early, vote often.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    October 27, 2004

    MiddlespaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Bottom-up phenomena has accelerated in recent years because of social software. A relatively simple decentralized pattern of enabling more connections and groups to form has complex results. These results (for example: open source, the long tail, heterarchical organization, emergent democracy, wikipedia and participatory media) hold great promise. Bottom-up production is driven by social incentives, comes at a lower cost, realizes economies of speed and enhances quality through diverse and greater participation. Despite these benefits, Bottom-up phenomena is perceived as a significant risk because the dynamic of control is uncertain. But every risk has its rewards and can be managed if known.

    Where the bottom-up and top-down meet -- middlespace -- is the realm of policy, metrics, incentives, cooperation and sharing control. The practice and politics of this realm are best explored through new case studies.

    Monetizing Fakesters

    When Friendster launched, users enjoyed relative freedom of expression and connection. Many used it as a platform to form their own communities, some got laid and some were even more creative. Fakesters, or fake profiles, proliferated in abundance and helped make the culture unique in ways designers didn't anticipate.

    Friendster tried to shut down the Fakesters because they were outside their design and encroached on their property. I once thought there was a certain logic to this because it disaffected network structures, as a Fakester was a node that collapsed the network, artificially shortening network horizons. As could be expected, the community reacted negatively and many abandoned the platform en mass.

    While the burning man and urban hipster crowd moved on, the network grew in very different directions, dominated by asian cultures. Visit lengths have continued to be about 2 hours, a golden metric for advertisers, which led to their first generation business model.

    What's fascinating is the current business model is a reality TV show, complete with major accounts such as The Apprentice -- with the ad property being endorsed Fakester profiles. This is a case of a hostile takeover of the the Bottom-up phenomena for Top-down gain.

    This isn't necessarily bad, but the business model doesn't benefit from bottom-up economies. For example, if creation of Fakesters by the network was enabled it would not only unleash the creativity of the network, but provide another reason for "being there." As people connect to Fakesters, its a perfect metric of emergent effects. Popular Fakesters that can be associated with commercial entities could be sold to advertisers to sponsor. Advertisers gain free creative work and the ability to invest in momentous word of mouth.

    Final Four Journals

    AOL Journals didn't begin as a Bottom-up blog platform, which may explain relatively low levels of adoption, despite the advantage of resources and an existing community of users to tap. The September That Never Ended, never quite began. But as they cultivated their community they have executed some of the better moves in middlespace.

    AOL Journals has a large segment of sports bloggers. To engage these users from the Top-down, they held a contest for tickets to the NCAA Final Four tournament for the best sports blogger. They didn't determine it through editorial judgment, as that would mean little to anyone except the winner. They held rounds of voting from the community, which also sparked volumous conversations about sports blogging and the voices in their community. When they narrowed it down to the top blogs, they gave them full billing on the community homepage, driving enviable attention. It turned out that the winner was a housewife who blogged under a pseudonym (she revealed herself late in the contest).

    What's fascinating is that the contest could have only happened through top down means, but enabled bottom-up participation. The contest captured not just the attention of the community, but their imagination while discovering new talent.


    The Wikipedia Community is in the process of bringing its encyclopedia to print with professional caliber editing. Mass quantities of peer practiced content, almost 400k articles, run through a group fact checking process and selection criteria prior to publication -- will completely disrupt the publishing business.

    Now they are voting on the creation of Wikinews. It similarly applies an editorial process to the end of a peer production practice. Beyond acceptance criteria, they may establish reputation for contributors -- which should only be done as a side experiment as new as, well, news. If they apply explicit reputation, try it on process first, practice second. The metrics would be fantastic for managers, if that role was pre-ordained, but since it isn't, messing with an emergent culture requires iteration with increasing scope.


    Much has been written about the forces that are decentralizing the enterprise. Arguments put forth by Tom Malone and others show that decentralization of decision making is enabled by communication technologies enables greater satisfaction, lower costs and great innovation. More importantly, they show that decentralization enables this value while realizing economies of scale.

    The organizational change of decentralization requires committed leadership as it changes the dynamics of control. One of the prospects of tools of change, such as wikis, is that they can bring a new level of transparency and foster a culture of working openly. At first, this is seen as a benefit for the rank and file, but there are equal if not greater benefits to managers. A similar pattern occurred when email entered the workplace, and now email is more heavily used by managers.

    The greatest tool of organizational change remains IT. The strong signals to listen to are DIYIT by users and developers. Users and managers can acquire consumer technologies and ASP services to meet unfulfilled needs. Developers and IT staff will bring open source and open services in for low-cost experimentation Half of IT leadership is noticing what paths to pave, the other half is working with people to get it done.

    Incenting Middlespace

    The point of the above stories is that when rules are kept simple and incentives are provided from the Top-down, the energies of the Bottom can be realized for mutual gain. However, negotiating the sharing of control is both ripe with risk and opportunity.

    Several mechanisms can be used to fuse the top and bottom. The Friendster case is an example of how the emergent property can be simply claimed by the top, but there is still the opportunity to share the property and take advantage of metrics and incentives. The AOL Journals case is a perfect example of using metrics and incentives. Wikinews adds editorial process to the result (at a moment in time) of emergent practice to produce a marketable good.

    Experienced community managers recognize these examples as levers for fostering participation. Community Management itself is a renewing domain, with new tools and practices. This expertise should now be a core competency for most businesses -- as customers change from consumers of what the Top produces to participants in productive networks.

    Community management has been more of an art than a science, something that is going to have to change if for no other reason than managing risk. Take the well known case of Six Apart's shift in pricing structure for a good that gained significant contributions from its community. Its hard to generate metrics to set incentives without data, so as a direct marketer would do, test on a subset and then iterate.

    Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    October 7, 2004

    Bill Gurley on Virtual WorldsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Bill Gurley, a VC with Benchmark, gave a very different presentation for him at Web 2.0, on MMORPGs of all things. Why? "Some of the most interesting things going on are Social in nature." Also available as MP3 via Weblogs Inc.

    But mostly because its a great business model:
    * Recurring revenues
    * competitive "Moats," user investment of time raises switching costs
    * Network effects/ increasing returns
    * "Real" Competition
    * Time engaged (20 hours/week on average)
    * Unlimited complexity
    * High risk, high reward

    Shanda, the largest market cap in China tech $2B.

    * Key was distribution through internet cafe penetration
    * $100MM rev this year, 700K concurrent users

    Ncsoft, $1,6B market cap in Korea, Lineage

    In the US
    * Sony's Everquest, $500JJ in profits in eight years, $80-90MM in revenue

    Passionate about MMORPGs
    * Prosecution of in in-world theft
    * Real-world retaliation
    * Resale of digital assets/accomplishments
    * Earn a living playing games ($40-60k a year for leading players)

    Casual Games & Avatars
    * Many in Korea (NHN
    * TenCent in China (QQ) -- leading IM company in China, 90MM active monthly users
    Revenue models: extra game play, levels avatars, clothing, furniture
    * AOL and Yahoo following suit, experimenting in the margin
    * Gaming, communication and social networking are colliding

    Interesting products in the US
    * NeoPets - 23M registered users (kids), argues it is a virtual world. His characteristics for a virtual world: avatars, persistence, education, group activities, currency and virtual economy
    * SecondLive by LindenLabs, focused on development tools to let people in the world create the world

    Will be a very competitive alternative for a consumer's time.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    October 6, 2004

    New Wiki Case StudiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    We just posted a new case-study on using wikis as a People’s Portal at Informative.

    Also of interest, is how not just wikis are being used at Disney, but how to introduce the cutting edge to regular business folks and how Socialtext participates in an ecosystem of tools with Moveable Type and Newsgator.

    We have also outlined our vision and progress for Wiki 2.0 that stays true to social software principles.

    Also, the word at Web 2.0 is Rojo looks pretty damn cool, Snap provides a different kind of open structured search, 37 signals has a great design practice of iteration, and of course, Flickr is all the buzz.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 29, 2004

    Friction Between Modes of ProductionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Taran Rampersad has a wonderful essay describing his view of Wikipedia as a contributor following his mention in an Associated Press story on wikis.

    Richard Stallman wrote The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource, and it describes the Wikipedia completely - and yet, for some reason, a lot of people don’t seem to understand the implications of a Free Encyclopedia; an Encyclopedia born of and nurtured by Freedom. It’s an idealistic and moral endeavour, which apparently means that it’s perceived as lunacy by some. But it’s more than that. It’s amazingly practical…

    What has changed is the level of cooperation around the world; the amount of content that has been created is amazing - the capacity of future content is staggering. The truth is that the Wikipedia has just started; nobody has said it is finished…While some say that content is missing because of biases of contributors, this content is not missing because of biases - it is missing because people aren’t contributing and submitting their own content….

    Knowledge is the cornerstone of this world, and the future of our world. Maybe we should try to improve upon systems regarding knowledge instead of attempting to debase them. If it’s not perfect, make it better.

    This prompted me to think about why issues of accuracy, reputation and completeness have been raised so strongly over the last couple of months.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 18, 2004

    Citizen Deliberative CouncilsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Future Salon alongside Zack Rosen and Tom Atlee on the Tao of Extreme Democracy, a wonderful fusion of tools, practices and political activism.

    Zack demoed CivicSpace, a funded continuation of DeanSpace, and showed how it was empowering Music For America to get 1 million voters registered organized by a staff of 10. He also demoed Progressive Pipes, which aggregates activist mailing lists.

    Tom is the author of the Tao of Democracy and an expert in methodologies of dialogue and deliberation. He proposes that Citizen Deliberative Councils (CDCs) could be a significant feature of Extreme Democracy, to help fulfill something Joi said: "social technologies have emerged that enable citizens to self-organize more easily. These technologies may eventually enable democracies to scale and become more adaptable and direct."

    Tom highlights some potential differences (which reads like Yin is to wikis as Yang is to blogs, but most ED chapters focus on blogs):

    Characteristic Features of Extreme Democracy

    • dynamic interactivity
    • competitive, empowers partisans and interest groups
    • distributed network intelligence
    • participatory

    Characteristic Features of Co-intelligent Democracy

    • wisdom-generation
    • integral, empower an inclusive We the People
    • whole field intelligence
    • holographic

    Tom provided examples of how CDCs have worked in Canada (.PDF), Denmark and British Columbia (.PartOfCanada). Deliberative Polling has been a facet of Emergent Democracy, recognizing the strength of diverse groups to make decisions over individuals. Tom suggests broader applicability of facilitating dialog and deliberation between common and diverse participants to inform political decision making.

    Social Software can address the problems inherent in CDCs today: cost, publicity and the need for self-organization to lessen the effect of framing by organizers. If you have ever had an interest in Emergent Democracy, I encourage you to contribute to the wiki page where Tom has shared his talk and deep thoughts on how to converge these practices and tools -- and consider how we can foster democratic participation after the election.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 15, 2004

    Wikis in the NewsroomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Last week Mark Glaser wrote a great piece on Wikis in the Newsroom for Online Journalism Review that quotes Liz and myself:

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 7, 2004

    Wikis AnonymousEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Brian Lamb has a great article on wikis in academia in EDUCAUSE Review. I didn’t interview for the piece (would have shared how academic communities in Stanford [our very first customer], Berkeley, USC and others are using Socialtext with our discounted academic and non-profit pricing), but Brian more than did his homework and sources from some of the better posts at Many-to-Many by Clay, Liz and myself. He even ends the piece with this:

    Please, grant me the serenity to accept the pages I cannot edit, The courage to edit the pages I can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference

    —The Wiki Prayer

    The actual serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is used in every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I raise this point to tie issues of privacy and anonymity in wikis. Back when Socialtext started, our hard security approach caused a stir with some on Meatball, although Workspaces can be easily made public or private, something Brian covers:

    Many wiki systems employ more structured architectures than Cunningham’s WikiWikiWeb and feature password protection, private spaces, IP banning, and other “hard security” measures. Socialtext (, an “enterprise social software” company based in Palo Alto, is pioneering efforts to integrate open-space approaches within corporate IT environments. Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield notes that Socialtext’s “Security and Operations Policies and Procedures meet the demands of most IT organizations.”13 It’s arguable whether such approaches are true to the original vision of Cunningham’s WikiWikiWeb, but they do suggest that moderated wiki practices can function effectively within corporate environments.

    Back when Ward was an advisor, we had some good discussions about this, how it was necessary for organizations, and I can tell you it wasn’t outside his vision. I can’t emphasize the obvious enough. That without some privacy for groups, participants can’t share. Similar to how AA members are able to open themselves up to strangers provided they are anonymous to the outside world. Heck, the US wouldn’t exist if anonymity wasn’t provided for contributors to the Federalist Papers.

    Chris Allen defines four kinds of privacy: defensive privacy, human-rights privacy, personal privacy, and contextual privacy. For most spaces and cases, the issue for wikis is contextual privacy, or what danah called the ickiness factor when something is socially off-kilter when context shifts.

    The point of providing privacy or anonymity may be moot if there isn’t a sustainable solution to online security and trust — thrusting us into a transparent society. But we still have a choice to submit to the always on panopticon.

    Of course, privacy comes at an opportunity cost for others to build upon your contributions. Negotiating context shifts over time proves to be the most difficult, socially and even legally, to let resources accrete value. Setting the mission and vision of a space requires a great deal of forward looking imagination while balancing the basic need to define a social context for sharing.

    Cross-posted on my personal blog as the other M2Mers are on vacation.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Social Software Funding in the FallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The VC column in the Mercury News has a story suggesting that following Social Networking funding last fall, the harvest of the year will be Social Software. You might recall that at BlogOn I predicted there would be talk of a bubblet in about a month.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 6, 2004

    Guestblogging on M2M: Kevin MarksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Please help us welcome Kevin Marks from Technorati, instigator of Vote Links, contributor to XFN, creator of mediAgora (“DRM destroys value”), early participant in emergent democracy and many fun debates, #joiito regular and many other good things.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 5, 2004

    Stress Testing Wiki AuthorityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Slashdot has picked up on the Wikipedia accuracy/authority/reputation meme as Frozen North did the same Techdirt experiment as Alex Halavais.

    Not so needless to say, testing the rigor of Wikipedia by vandalizing a community resource isn’t the best approach — and thousands of Slashdotters could be put towards more productive use. But its great to have the issue raised to this level.

    Wemedia Project update: Andrew Lih of Hong Kong University (blog) and author of Wikipedia as Participatory Journalism: Reliable Sources? Metrics for evaluating collaborative media as a news resource (.pdf) has volunteered to coordinate the fact checking methodology.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    August 31, 2004

    Fired From Friendster for BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Joyce Park claims she got shitcanned from Friendster for blogging.

    Apparently because she blogged about Friendster moving to PHP for scalability over JSP, which got picked up by Jon Udell in a great piece that shitcans the Myth that IT Doesn’t Scale (it can start small too) and Slashdotted. Anyway, they are making their money through soap operas.

    A social networking company firing a blogger a common ingredient of success?

    Jeremy Zawodny has already found out how easy it is to unsubscribe (credit due for having the feature).

    She happens to have written a book on PHP , contributes to open source, and shares some good research on semi-permeable blogging. Who knows, she might have been hired by blogging in the first place.

    But I’ll hold opinion until the other side has its say.

    There are so many threads in this to be explored. Employee blogging policy, education, leadership, PR, setting market expectations, architecture, supporting advocacy, supporting research, supporting open source, competitive strategy and social network relations.

    But, wait, the other side isn’t going to have its say. Any company that comments on the details of the termination of an employee opens themselves up to lawsuits.

    It’s a good time for a standard employee blogging policy that bloggers can bring to their companies to set expectations and a way of doing things right.

    Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 29, 2004

    Wikipedia Reputation and the Wemedia ProjectEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The core issue of collaborative editing, that of accuracy and trust, has reached a point in debate where research is needed to advance the practice of content use and development. Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globle offered a Wikipedia criticism in July, calling it One great source — if you can trust it:

    For it lacks one vital feature of the traditional encyclopedia: accountability. Old-school reference books hire expert scholars to write their articles, and employ skilled editors to check and double-check their work. Wikipedia’s articles are written by anyone who fancies himself an expert…

    “I think it’s exactly the right price,” said Michael Ross, senior vice president of corporate development at Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. in Chicago. Major articles in Britannica are signed by the author; all articles are vetted by an experienced team of editors and scholars. The libraries that pay $1,500 for a set of bound volumes or the family that pays $60 a year for an Internet subscription are buying confidence as well as information. … Ross admits to reading and enjoying Wikipedia, and has even gotten ideas there for future Britannica articles. But the absence of traditional editorial controls makes Wikipedia unsuited to serious research. “How do they know it’s accurate?” Ross asks. “People can put down anything.”..

    In 2002, Wikipedia was criticized because it couldn’t scale and have in-depth articles. Turns out that more was put down than expected, surpassing the Britannica.

    Hiawatha raised a key issue, that of quality and reputation, and his piece highlighted Wikipedia’s ambition to publish a first print version. Coupling emergent content development and formal editorial process is a very competitive business model for print. But if the public learns to use and trust the content that emerges in Wikipedia as an authority, it is even more disruptive.

    This week Al Fasoldt, a Post-Standard Columnist in Syracuse NY claimed Wikipedia is untrustworthy, based upon an interview with a high school librarian:

    “As a high school librarian, part of my job is to help my students develop critical thinking skills,” Stagnitta wrote. “One of these skills is to evaluate the authority of any information source. The Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. It even states this in their disclaimer on their Web site.”

    Wikipedia, she explains, takes the idea of open source one step too far for most of us.

    Mike from Techdirt takes the columnist to task for misunderstanding Wikipedia:

    What’s most amusing about this fear mongering piece concerning Wikipedia is that the librarian in question claims that she uses Wikipedia as an example of an “untrustworthy” site in trying to teach students to develop critical thinking skills. If that’s true, she’s doing a dreadful job. If they really wanted critical thinking skills, shouldn’t they do more than trust this uninformed librarian, but do a little research about Wikipedia itself, how it works, and how the power of Wikipedia is the fact that it is edited — but by anyone else using Wikipedia? There’s just something that seems to freak people out about Wikipedia, when they can’t fathom the idea that “the masses” could produce something of value by simply being able to correct each other, allowing them to build something much more beneficial and much more useful than an expensive encyclopedia edited by just a few people.

    Mike took another step of contacting the reporter, and the exchange led him to ask, whom do you trust, the wiki or the reporter?

    The quality of Wikipedia Articles, at the very least, at a moment in time are better than they were before and will improve over time. Mike offered a Techdirt Challenge: I pointed to the Wikipedia page on Syracuse, NY where he apparently lives, and suggested he change something on the page, to make it provably, factually incorrect — and see how long it lasted. Alex Halavais, for one, is taking the Challenge. While the results of the challenge (update: 13/13)will provide some valuable insight, it lacks an untampered collection methodology and introduces unfair costs to the system itself.

    Joi Ito rightly condemns Mr. Fasoldt’s assertion and views this issue as traditional vs. collective authority:

    In fact, on very heated topics, you can see the back and forth negotiation of wordings by people with different views on a topic until, in many cases, a neutral and mutually agreeable wording is put in place and all parties are satisfied. Traditional authority is gained through a combination of talent, hard work and politics. Wikipedia and many open source projects gain their authority through the collective scrutiny of thousands of people. Although it depends a bit on the field, the question is whether something is more likely to be true coming from a source whose resume sounds authoritative or a source that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people (with the ability to comment) and has survived.

    Shelley Powers delves into the issue of truth and authority:

    The reason, according to those with more modern views, is though the authors could be considered ‘authorities’ on the topic, they don’t have the ‘truth’ because the truth, in this instance, is held by those who have new, and fresh insight into the existing material–they have reached an epiphany the others, weighed down by the mass of research material and outdated ideas, can’t hope to achieve.

    According to these blessed with such insight, they have truth without authority, while the historians have authority, but can’t possibly understand the truth. Who you trust then, depends less on authority or even truth than it does on who you want to believe–literally whose interpretation rings your bell the most.

    The Manifesto for the Reputation Society describes Wikipedia as reputation for the community as a whole by helping to create a public good where there is more flexibility as reputation and other motivations substitute for direct reciprocity. As the Manifesto hints, Wikipedia is considering codification:

    An item of debate within the Wikipedia community is the degree to which contributors should acquire some form of reputation, which might then be used to make their contributions to the encyclopedia harder to modify. Letting reputation of contributors emerge in a transparent manner will reward higher–quality contributions, and may provide a partial answer to coordination problems if those who make good contributions receive some proportionate ability to decide conflicts. However, the contrary point of view argues that it is the very openness of Wikipedia that made it a success. One suggestion that balances both points of view is to keep the full Wikipedia open, but to use a reputation system to highlight entries that will be periodically copied into an unmodifiable backup; more ideas can be found in the online discussion of a Wikipedia approval mechanism (WikiApproval, 2004).

    Which brings me to an lingering thought — that explicitly codifying reputation introduces a cost which can constrain commons-based peer production. Wikipedia was never supposed to work, somehow does because of good club theory and transaction costs, and has gained a reputation as a resource. Introducing reputation for contributors or articles is the greatest risk to the Wikipedia community. Getting a base study on factual accuracy can help inform this decision as well as educate the public on how to use and participate with this commons resource.

    I’ve been quitely forming a group of journalism schools, media centers and experts to engage in the Wemedia Project, which begins with a formal Wikipedia Article fact checking excercise and publishing findings. The USC Annenberg Center has already announced their support and next month we will begin the collaborative research process within a Socialtext Workspace. Without getting into defining truth, you can separate issue of fact, value or policy. The approach is to apply a formal fact checking process to a sample of articles to gain a baseline measure of factual accuracy and explore issues of reputation.

    More to come, suggestions appreciated.

    Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 28, 2004

    Social Capital and IncomeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Social Networking Services are, at the least, decreasing the search and transaction cost for individual ties to organizations. But as early adopter tools they have yet to provide benefits to a mainstream and diverse user base and some tools discriminate by design.

    In fact, in a recent working paper, Professor Arrow and Mr. Borzekowski conclude that a worker’s net worth can have a lot to do with the worker’s network. In their model - and it is just a model, not based on empirical data - a person with one corporate connection would be expected to earn $19,570. By contrast, a person with links to five companies would be expected to earn $30,410. Ultimately, they conclude, “the difference in the number of ties can induce substantial inequality and can explain 15-20 percent of the unexplained variation in wages.”

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 26, 2004

    Does Sell Side Advertising Need a Buy Side?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    John Battelle builds upon Cost Per Influence with his expertise in publishing to account for a Sell Side Advertising model: a very interesting idea that flips current advertising models upside down. In essence, this new model for online ads reverses the relationship between publishers and advertisers. Read the whole thing.

    But one issue, the initial origination of ads. In Sell Side Advertising the ads are cast out, perhaps through like directories and ad networks like BlogAds or from advertiser sites themselves. But is this first source influential? Are they in a position to set the initial price?

    It may mess up the elegance of how John’s description, but it may need a Buy Side component, at least to help set clearing prices. Much like what BlogAds does, blogs could list a rate for hosting an Ad. Advertisers could offer an Ad, if its approved or sponsored and posted, then the chain begins.

    If you combine both, the Ad network could function as a Market Maker — standing ready to offer a price on both the buy and sell side to enhance liquidity. But again, starting simple is very good.

    John also pointed out a key attribute of this concept to me over the phone — putting publishers back in the decision making process also serves to encourage socially responsible advertising.

    In related news LinkedIn is serving User-Sponsored Links and Blogger is offering a revenue sharing program with Bloggers.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 22, 2004

    What's Important About Innovation?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Tim Wu asks, who cares about innovation? We hold creating the new as something we worship, but how valuable is it compared to other missions? He concludes with some great thoughts for developers of Social Software (especially those creating social costs right now):

    Consider a question that professor Brett Fischman asks his class about the internet, the central monument for innovationists: “What actually makes the Internet valuable to society?”

    This question stopped me for awhile. Measured in social value, surely some of the oldest applications, like email, relatively untouched by innovation, produce most of the network’s present social value. Sure, I think VoIP over powerlines would be pretty cool (thanks Adam Thierer). But compared to finding old friends, staying in touch, and everything else that email does, there is no serious comparison. Logic like this suggests that faith in innovation is a faith out of touch with human ends. Perhaps making what is obviously useful – like email – reach more people is more important than constantly reinventing, redestroying, or finally writing the perfect debugger.

    I do think the criticisms can be rebutted. Email, after all, was an invention, and required the right environment for it to come about. Innovationists don’t always think about nothing else. But those who share a faith in the importance of innovation should be sure that what we fight hardest for is not just the abstract beauty of new technologies, but ideals that actually have some connection to human ends.

    And Social Software is just a means itself.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 17, 2004

    CaptainitisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Psychologist Patrick Laughlin from the University of Illinois has a new study that shows that groups outperform even the best individuals in decision making. Always good to rethink groupthink, but I’m not digging up the echo chamber meme.

    A cooperating unit benefits from diversity and parallel processing. Without cooperation, errors such as captainitis (when a team defers to the expertise of others) and when a leader possesses so much expertise they isolate themselves. The article suggests a common lesson of invoking collaboration even when its not immeadiately necessary.

    With our little company, it helps that we work openly as possible and I try to involve as many people as feasible in a decision. We also borrow the extreme programming practice of pairing to get tasks done. Even Watson and Crick cracked the code through pairing:

    At first, Watson ticked off a set of contributory factors that were unsurprising: He and Crick had identified the problem as the most important one to attack. They were passionate about it, devoting themselves single-mindedly to the task. They were willing to try approaches that came from outside their areas of familiarity. Then he added a stunning reason for their success: he and Crick had cracked the elusive code of DNA because they weren’t the most intelligent of the scientists pursuing the answer. According to Watson, the smartest of the lot was Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant British scientist who was working in Paris at the time.

    The only thing more dangerous than someone making decisions in isolation is hoarding the information others need to make decisions.

    Related: Best practice does not equal best strategy (process-based strategic decision making fails); more on the wisdom of crowds.

    [via Jeff Nolan]

    Update: Valids Krebs points out the Captainitis of the new Intelligence Czar, which increases the distance from the President to sources of information. Social network analysis aside, in today’s administration, this could be a good or a bad thing.

    Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 12, 2004

    Collaboration Cases and SpacesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Socialtext posted a new case study on the use of wikis in business by Stata Labs. Its a good account of how Social Software is being applied across a medium-sized business for customer care, research & development, marketing, working with partners and project communication. It also describes how they used an intimacy gradient to design spaces:

    • The broadest tier is a guest space, available to all.
    • The second tier is a knowledgebase, accessible to all employees and contractors.
    • The third tier is product development, for employees and contractors bound by a confidentiality agreement
    • The fourth tier is for the core management team to share confidential financial and HR information.

    Yesterday I participated in a day long training session for a division of a F500 organization to kick off their use of an appliance. The primary use case is project communication to replace group email. What’s interesting is how the four departments initially share a common space. Because its also a shared namespace, this put a focus on defining common language up front and requires groups to work more openly than they had before. Two of the groups quickly agreed to share resources (project blog, project page) on a common project, eliminating redundancy, but also reducing coordination risks. Of course, their usage pattern can and should change, but beginning use without barriers helps determine what barriers to create.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Hacking vs. ResearchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    BusinessWeek interviews Howard Rheingold on his Cooperation Project. He describes what’s happening as the creation of a new economic system, the reaction of record and movie companies (Never before in history have we been able to see incumbent businesses protect business models based on old technology against creative destruction by new technologies.) and also offers a different model for exploring innovation:
    …If I was a Nokia or a Hewlett-Packard, I would take a fraction of what I’m spending on those buildings full of expensive people and give out a whole bunch of prototypes to a whole bunch of 15-year-olds and have contracts with them where you can observe their behavior in an ethical way and enable them to suggest innovations, and give them some reasonable small reward for that. And once in a while, you’re going to make a billion dollars off it.
    Q: A focus group on steroids.

    A: This would be more like ethnography, where you let them loose and watch what they do. If you want to think out of the box about innovation, let’s not put all of our bets on 50-year-old PhDs in laboratories. We now have dispersed the means of individual and collective innovation throughout the world…

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    August 5, 2004

    UscriptEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Franz Dill posts on Printing, Uniformity, Optimism at the IFTF blog, extracts a fascinating passage on Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation on the influence of the emergence of printing during that time:

    …Printing, which produced multiple identical copies of a text, encouraged a familiarity with uniformity, very different from the individuality of a manuscript. That in turn was able to produce a sense of how significant it was when differences occurred: Uniformity, paradoxically put a premium on individuality. A culture based on manuscripts is conscious of the fragility of knowledge, and the need to preserve it. A priority must be to keep it secure simply to avoid the physical destruction of a single precious source, and that fosters an attitude that guards rather than spreads knowledge…. a manuscript culture is going to believe very readily in decay … because copying knowledge from one manuscript to another is a very literal source of corruption. This is much less obvious in the print medium: Optimism may be the mood rather than pessimism … (p. 71)

    Printing influencing the form of ideas? How might the ability to cross link on the web, to blog and comment, to transfer memes readily have on our modes of thought?

    When information is abundant, copying common but maliable, and with varying sources at any point on the planet — it may be that pessimissm similar to the manuscript era rules the day. The pace of change having quickened also reduces our trust in information.

    But what may be different from the manuscript or printing eras is our involvement in the media itself. If information is corrupted, links correct. If its outdated, we edit. I’d suggest, perhaps blinded by my own participation and use, that the form of our media and how we script it gives cause for optimism.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    July 29, 2004

    The Wiki Street JournalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Great article by Kara Swisher in the Wall Street Journal today on wikis in the workplace. Quotes Clay and yours truly:

    …Indeed, the creation of communal fabric is one that a wiki revives, says Clay Shirky, an interactive telecommunications professor at New York University, who has written extensively about the beneficial uses of social software like wikis in the workplace. “It’s got to be a fluid, ongoing conversation to work,” he says, noting that too much emphasis on the Internet has been about attracting giant passive audiences to Web sites over which they have little control. “But suddenly, people are realizing that perhaps the most human value actually occurs in smaller groups.”

    In other wiki news, in the shameless plugin department, at OSCON they are running SubEthaKwiki, a Kwiki plugin for SubEthaEdit and a Technorati plugin. Kwiki plugins work on both the open source Kwiki and commercial Socialtext.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    July 28, 2004

    What You Share Makes Us CareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Part of the business of Social Media discussed at BlogOn was adoption patterns. Lycos’s Tripod and Angelfire blog hosting services shared the results of their survey of 2,000 users. They make the case that blog adoption is being driven by media sharing, abundant connectivity and advances in ease of use.

    Whereas 14% of Internet users own digital cameras, 68% of their bloggers do:

    When asked what kind of content their users create, the results mirror ownership of devices. How they share, however, is still dominated by email (72%), burning a CD (58%) and then posting to a site that offers storage (40%). Its implied that posting is on the rise.

    Camera phones are the fastest-selling consumer electronic device ever. I’ll assert that photo blogging and moblogging are the fastest growing segments of our little space. Our Corante neighbor is calling this the year of the photoblog.

    This directly related to why Blogger bought Picassa, the popularity of Fotologs (especially among Brazilians), embracement by incumbents, the popularity of album complements to blogs and the rise of Flickr. Analyst firm IDC predicts that by then end of 2004, the number of digital images that are captured and shared will reach 249M. This number is expected to grow to 626M images by 2007, a compound annual growth rate of 34%. As the scrapbook goes social, expect much of this sharing to be facilitated by these services.

    Also worth noting that Lycos was sold for $95M today, used to be worth $12.5B.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    July 24, 2004

    Blog Censorship and ExpressionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    At BlogOn, I met Kevin Wen, a social software proponent who runs a blog hosting service in China. As you know from following Xiao Qiang’s posts, its hard to fathom the challenges of running a business that encourages free expression under an oppressive regime.

    When a user posts a to their blog, its scanned for keywords and automatically censored on a per-post level. The year 1989 and the place Tiananmen do not exist in the Chinese blogosphere. The keyword list was gained from another industry participant, a shared practice to avoid having the entire service being shut down by government censors. Without this commercial self-censorship, the service wouldn’t exist. As Clay said, Social software is political science in executable form. Different constitutions encode different bargains.

    Presumably users route around this by modifying their own language an act of individual self-censorship. Optimizing for expression within boundaries. This is a common practice in totalitarian regimes. Before my former employer became the President of Estonia, he was an anthropologist, writer and filmmaker. When politics are oppressed, leaders lead through culture and signal in code.

    The practice of self-censorship isn’t too distinguished from what many bloggers do every day. We optimize our language for attention and in some cases, profit. Whether it be picking clever titles for posts for search engine optimization, or more explicitly choosing language to drive Google AdSense revenue.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    July 22, 2004

    Discussing Social MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    This post is in lieu of Powerpoint to introduce the Defining Social Media panel at BlogOn tomorrow with Dan Gillmor, James Currier, Reid Hoffman, Michael Sikillian and Jim Spohrer.

    How We Got Here

    The Internet has always facilitated conversations and augmented relationships. When a critical mass of participation is gained, cooperation ensues and simple tools have complex results. The earliest innovators in this adoption lifecycle were geeks and hackers. Put enough of them together and you get a new mode of production to disrupt the software industry and enable a new phase of growth — open source.

    What we are witnessing is segments of early providers and early adopters form previously unrepresented networks and apply participatory technologies to disrupt industries. Earlier adoption segments include software, media, advertising, entertainment, politics, dating, recruiting, consumer electronics, sales, management, the list goes on. All these segments are information intensive and rely on relationships. And as Doc says, its a revolution in demand-based supply:

    Social media are another example of the demand side supplying itself. We’re seeing this with open source software, with new standards like RSS, and with the new media we call blogs. We’re even seeing it in movies such as Outfoxed, and with Internet radio (in spite of destructive fear-based regulation). None of these things came from the Big Boys. They came from you and me and the rest of us here.

    There is little point in defining Social Software, Media, Search, Computing or Networking, except that new language parallels innovation. Here’s my way of mapping the space, feel free to modify and make your own.

    Social Software, a term coined by Clay Shirky, is the design of systems that supports groups with an underlying value proposition of building social capital…

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    July 12, 2004

    Cost Per InfluenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Internet advertising was subjected to broadcast media metrics from the beginning. CPM, or Cost Per Thousand Impressions, was borrowed from print and was accepted by traditional advertisers as a measure of reach and frequency. Back then, if a company had a site to point to it was largely brochureware, a corporate identity on the web. But when the bubble burst its effectiveness beyond branding was questioned. The industry shifted to Cost Per Click around the same time that most companies had transactions available on their sites. An ad was effective if it drove transactions (Cost Per Action is another metric, a step beyond a click as a lead to an action as a sale). Consumers became sensitized to how broadcasted ads were trying to influence them. Google stepped in with a market for advertising, based on CPC, that rewarded effective narrowcasting. Both ads and sites are optimizing their messages for what people are looking for to gain traffic and transactions.

    This model works fine with companies as the only influencers and the only ones with sites. But it ignores the influence of social networks. And what happens when consumers become users with their own identity on the web? When conversations influence attention?

    I’ve suggested its time to explore new ad metrics:

    What’s different with new media is simply that it’s not the number of impressions you make, but who you impress. In other words, instead of subscription counts, its the number of subscribers my subscribers have, discounted by the probability of my memes getting through. Cost Per Influence.

    Jeff Jarvis comments:

    You’re right: We need to define new metrics. This medium isn’t about impressions; it’s about relationships; it’s about conversations; it’s about influence; it’s about authority. We are starting to measure how many conversations a blog starts (or at least takes part in) with Technorati. But it’s just a beginning.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: social software

    July 11, 2004

    Network Influence MattersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Bernardo Huberman of HP Labs who developed their decision markets and Fang Wu of Stanford, published a study on Social Structure and Opinion Formation. Bernardo noted in an email to Howard Rheingold that: “the notion of a tipping point in opinion formation does not seem very sound,” although the results do support the notion that highly-connected individuals can speed the spread of opinions through social networks.

    …These opinions can be either the result of serious reflection or, as is often the case when information is hard to process or obtain, formed through interactions with others that hold views on given issues. This reliance on others to form opinions lies at the heart of advertising through social cues, efforts to make people aware of societal and health related issues, fads that sweep social groups and organizations, and attempts at capturing the votes and minds of people in election years…

    In this paper we propose a theory of opinion formation that explicitly takes into account the structure of the social network in which individuals are embedded. The theory assumes asynchronous choices by individuals among two or three opinions and it predicts the time evolution of the set of opinions from any arbitrary initial condition. We show that under very general conditions a martingale property ensues, i.e. that the expected weighted fraction of the population that holds a given opinion is constant in time. By weighted fraction we mean the fraction of individuals holding a given opinion, averaged over their social connectivity. Most importantly, this weighted fraction of opinions is not either zero or one, but corresponds to a non-trivial distribution of opinions in the long time limit. This coexistence of opinions within a social network is in agreement with the often observed locality effect, in which an opinion or a fad is localized to given groups without infecting the whole society.

    Our theory further predicts that a relatively small number of individuals with high social rank can have a larger effect on opinion formation than individuals with low rank. By high rank we mean people with a large number of social connections. This also explains the fragility phenomenon, whereby an opinion that seems to be held by a rather large group of people can become nearly extinct in a very short time, a mechanism that is at the heart of fads.

    Opinions don’t just tip when they cross a threshold, they are influenced, connection by connection.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    June 18, 2004

    Re-IDEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    After calling RSS opt-in authenticated Email, Doc takes up the issue of RSS as a substitute for email:
    Obviously, RSS isn’t e-mail. But what might it bring to email that isn’t there now? In a word, relationship. Now think about the relationships supported by what RSS provides: notification, subscription, syndication. The first two give new meaning to the third, when you think about what can be done to make email as personal as mail was in the first place. I would gladly subcribe to writers whose correspondence is accompanied by an RSS notification. I would gladly syndicate my willingness to relate with people who know me, within the context of an email system that respects the meaning of the verb relate.

    He goes on to relate email and RSS to Andre Durand’s three tiers of identity. The suggestion is that a combination of email and RSS could make Tier 1 (Personal) and Tier 2 (Corporate) obviate the need for Tier 3 (Marketing). More on this train of thought in Doc’s presentation to Identity World.

    There are a number of ways to look at relationships. One is ties in a social network. If you plotted a graph of directional ties using email and and one using RSS they would be different, perhaps even the opposite. Email ties would point from Sender (A) to Receiver (B), a Push Model. RSS ties would point from B to A, a Pull Model. If enough positive message flow exists between A and B you can imply a confirmed tie with either Email or RSS which is an indicator of a relationship.

    Both message formats are simply conduits that get stuff between A & B. They share a common problem of writers thinking their words are more important than reader’s time (my ego is doing this to you right now and you are wishing I could give you a simple bullet point for your mental outliner). But there is something different about the Pull and Push Models.

    Push Models have higher transaction costs because risks and costs are not evenly distributed. It costs nearly nothing to compose and send a message and costs practically nothing to send an additional copy to someone. Costs are borne by readers, something well known and the cause for spam, the burden of processing messages coming to you without your control. Risks are borne by the Receiver for having an address alone. The real costs are incurred when the Receiver tries usurp control over costs. It could be cost of filters or the opportunity cost of false positives, but that only addresses commercial spam and is relatively nominal. The larger problems are the tax of interruption (albeit less than IM) and addressing occupational spam by coordinating preferred etiquette with Senders. Any message requesting a change in behavior puts your relationship at risk and will likely result in a costly back and forth negotiation. Coordination risks could be reduced by having a manager give the offending Sender a good talking to, but getting managers to address communication effectiveness isn’t the easiest politics to pull off.

    Contrast this with Pull Models. The difference is the Reader chooses and can control whom they want to subscribe to and when they want to be interrupted. Risk is borne by the Sender with every message they put out and the quality, albeit with a low bar and informal culture, they are consistent with. Costs are controlled by the Receiver. They choose what to subscribe to and more importantly unsubscribe from, on average less than 150 feeds, an expected group size. The transaction cost for unsubscription is clicking a button, which hold message volume at a relative constant.

    But there is something still missing from both models and Pull is beginning to fulfill. Nested feedback, at a low threshold and cost. Adina puts it thus:

    But signing up for an RSS subscription isn’t a “relationship”, any more than signing up for a magazine is a relationship. If the information flow is one-way, then it’s publishing or marketing, not a “relationship.”

    Today if you write a post you get great feedback when you write something great in the form of links, referrers and traffic. You can follow links to understand the context of a post to a reader. What’s missing is greater visibility into RSS subscriber patterns, over half of the traffic of a blog. When do people unsubscribe? I’m usually quick to condemn people (mostly Radio users who have an integrated aggregator/blog tool) who cross post your content without any value add or annotation. But when a person makes a conscious decision to amplify your meme its really good feedback. Its often said that blogging is writing for writers. Not everyone is going to be a writer, and tools like that provide insight into readership will be rewarded.


    Identity and messaging are deeply intertwingled. Right now, email has the identity of Receivers and syndication has the identity of Senders. Doc points out that the combination may allow us to circumvent tier 3 identity. But assume for a moment that Sender ID becomes adopted, perhaps even before the next Exchange upgrade cycle. Then email gains end-to-end identity. Its doubtful you will see a similar push in RSS/Atom unless transport begins to leverage Atom’s API functions for tangental benefits to transmission.

    The one area I could see this happening is as browsers become aggregators. My favorite scenario is Mozilla offers aggregation first and second pre-emptively adopts Alchemy. That second step is somewhat science fiction, but they did build in their own Google Toolbar. For now, its just fun thinking.

    But the deepest question I am wrestling with on identity is in social networking. When a composite identity is formed in a network without your participation. Your friends upload your contact information to make you a node in the network, your emails with them and information scraped off the web builds an identity that you don’t own or control.

    A Composite Identity isn’t Personal, Corporate or Marketing. I asked Doc about this and he thought it may fit into Corporate identity extended to individuals as corporations. Eric Norlin of PingID define Corporate for me as “identity that takes place in a shared context.” But there are individuals intermediating with the corporation to form the identity. The individual being identified isn’t sharing this context. There is re-course to the corporation hosting the network that will allow you with some effort to have your node removed. Marketing identities are abstracted from data gained and put you into segments, but this is networked marketing and relationship-based. I believe that a Composite Identity represents something new, potentially scary, that fits somewhere between Corporate and Marketing identity, perhaps a fourth Tier.

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    June 10, 2004

    Stowe on Social ToolsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Our Corante neighbor Stowe Boyd's latest Darwin collumn is on The State of Social Tools. In it, he lays out his four Co's:
    Communication: instant messaging, e-mail, Web conferencing, streaming video and voice tools, and other messaging solutions Coordination: calendaring, task and project management, contact management, and related technologies Collaboration: file and application sharing, discussion, wikis, blogs and other shared-space technologies Community: social networking, swarmth (digital reputation, also called karma or whuffie), group decision and other explicit community supports.
    Note the difference with the old Lotus Bible on the three C's:
    • Communication - rich electronic messaging;
    • Collaboration - facilitating a rich, shared, virtual workspace; and
    • Coordination - adding the structure of business processes to communication and collaboration, so as to implement an enterprise's policies.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    June 8, 2004

    The State of EmailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    I'm not one to give an address on the state of email (leave that to Eric Hahn), but I can address how the state of email is changing after participating in the INBOX Event last week. Since 1973, when it was 73% of Arpanet traffic, email has been the dominant application on the network. A simple open method with a message format and receiver addresses to push it to, was relatively too simple during the boom compared to the amount of investment the web received. Email service providers like Critical Path being the exception. During the bust, people kept using email, of course, but it was a victim of its own openness. Combating spam and viruses became cause du jour, creating the Spam Bubblet of Summer 2002, the last gasp of the boom. The Compliance Economy, marked by security and regulation with the economy largely stimulated by the government, fostered many a startup. Its nice wihen the government doles out requirements and the value proposition of fear is compelling. Sarbanes Oxley alone led to a raft of companies with a simple mandate -- you must comply. The net effect is the email industry is doing fine, thank you. Well funded startups solving spam, viruses, security and compliance. Service providers and enterprises committed to support a now standard modality with coffers open for anything that can institute control over rising costs. You have heard the stats before, email volume is growing at 40% per year, spam at 65%, etc. Fundamentally, spam is an economic problem -- low cost to send in volume, high cost to receive. Spamware costs $30 and provides 40k open relays and proxy servers to exploit with a wizard for idiots. Bonded sender programs are starting to bear fruit, but extracting a direct financial penalty only applies to senders you can identify or solutions that require unfeasible scale. New approaches like Pre-solved Computational Proof may create direct hard costs for senders. That said, vendors are declaring a modest victory over spam -- best of breed solutions have spam at a constant. But this protection is only afforded to a handful of power and enterprise users. Consumers are waiting on economic, legal and technical solutions to take hold. Sender ID, a new standard approach for authentication will not be adopted in a reasonable timeframe. I've already wasted enough space talking about spam, a topic that self-propogates and ends up with people sharing their personal agnst, so I'll stop. Steve Gillmor already covered some of the issues of the Compliance Economy and how RSS presents an alternative and I wrote up the cost of control in the enterprise. Bottom line is that users will arbitrage around restrictions to use their own tools which has a bottom line consequence. So lets get to how the state is changing. Dave Crocker rightly pointed out that email wasn't designed, for its present scale, costs or applications. Its these costs (average Fortune 1000 employee spending 4 hours a day in their Inbox, and counting), that are forcing change in some cases -- and at the least opening people to new alternatives. An opportunity for new developments like RSS and Atom. This is where the Email is Dead thread comes from. Why we are watching the rise of alternative modalities. Time to talk about Email 2.0. Media adoption theory holds that the rise of one media seldom means the complete replacement of the old. But unlike previous media, email creates negative externalities that I believe test the theory. Costs well beyond the burdens advertising and congestion has placed on us before. For the record, email isn't going to die, I just don't think we have history to inform models -- and its state is going to change. Esther envisions an Email 2.0 that blends with the cloud:
    ...More fundamentally, as the world becomes more real-time and connected, the virtual and increasingly the actual configuration of the system is changing. There's a rich, complex, shared data store in the cloud, and mail is simply the passing of notifications and alerts that tell you to pay attention to/download specific items in the cloud that are new or changed or that someone wants to share with you. this creates huge challenges in version control, updating and permission management....
    Esther also pointed out at the conference the increasing challenges in attention management. Let's consider three aspects attention management : Search, User Control and Network Structure. Part of the problem is we view email as something we have to consume when we get it. The marginal value of a message exponentially decays because there isn't confidence in retrieval (Bloomba and Gmail are addressing this with deep search and usable metadata). We force ourselves to pay attention to every interruption and live in our Inbox, suffering an interruption tax of 15 minutes to fully recover to the cognitive state we were in before the ping (this is why I believe IM is due for a cultural shift, and we already see signs of it with interrupt flow largely being top-down in careful interrupting your boss, its not convention). RSS, Atom, Blogs, Wikis and Workspaces represent a Pull Model model of attention management that lets users control what the subscribe to AND when they want to receive it. Email, by contrast, centers on an Inbox beyond your control. Once someone has your address, at least your gateway will be bombarded. You have control over your subscriptions in your client. If someone starts to spam, you loose trust and unsubscribe. Reputation has some value in feed selection, but if it fails you have recourse. Occupational Spam, email sent out of context characterized by CCs, is 30% of corporate email. You know this problem and are a part of it. You want to keep people informed and you want to be informed. The problem is email wasn't designed and its best use is for one-to-one communication. Enter Workspaces, which in our latest case study dropped group email from 100 messages per day to practically zero. The efficiency for information flow gained is similar to moving network structure from point-to-point to a hubbed architecture. But beyond the network structure, greater transparency allows people to be informed when they have time for peripheral attention. Workspaces are designed for Many-to-Many interaction, where group communication should occur and with the right email integration it doesn't demand up front change in behavior. In the future, everyone will be Larry Lessig for 1500 messages a day. All addresses will be exposed and everyone has a global constituency that will ping you. You have a choice of declaring Email Bankruptcy or shifting to other modalities. Use Social Networks as your whitelist and a web of trust for new Senders. Use public blogs for open broadcast. Use Workspaces for group communication. It may be interesting to note that Communities Tied to One Technology pattern applies less to strong ties, but social networking services and a public identity as a blog will keep you in touch with weaker ties. In the end, they are all messages -- and email and the web are blurring as a platform to give you greater control and choice.

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    June 3, 2004

    Wiki for Group CommunicationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Just published a case study for how the division of Ziff Davis media used a hosted wiki for group communications. The results are a pretty compelling value proposition:
    "We used to have over 100 group emails per day. Now it's rarely one per week, we've saved a month in a four-month software project, and everyone is on the same page...saved us 25% of the time of a four month project," said Tom Jessiman. "We couldn't have done it any other way. Otherwise we would have been stuck in endless meetings, trying to keep track of decisions with printouts and lost emails. We always know the latest version, and had archives of older versions. If there was any debate about something, someone would always say -- go look at the wiki."
    100 group emails per day add up to over $1M in soft costs. Part of my email is dead(kinda) rant. More on the business side of wikis in BusinessWeek and eWeek over the last week.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    May 30, 2004

    Ethnographic DisruptionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    An interesting interview with Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell challenges assumptions of technology in disparate cultures. "My hypothesis was that there was no variation, that there was a global middle class engaged in the same kinds of relationships with technology. It was a hypothesis that was rapidly disproved." We have highlighted the use of social software to support third places, between work and home, by early adopters in the West, however:
    One of the things that became clear in Asia, and is becoming true in the West, but we're not really good at seeing it, is that people are using these technologies for those third activities. In Asia, it's visible in the way people use mobile devices to support religious activities. The nicest example is people using their mobile phones to find Mecca. LGE, a Korean handset company, has produced a Mecca-finding handset with GPS technology in it. So it's a tool of religious devotion. They anticipated selling 300 million units in the first couple years.
    AJ Kim also highlighted the people-centric (instead of topic-centric) nature of social networking has an intrinsic fit with mobile devices. But what happens when not everyone can afford one so they are shared? Or when cost and skills require intermediation with devices?
    In the U.S., we imagine that mobile phones are linked to individuals, and it's a mode of individual communication. In fact, the model of privatized ownership is one of our foundational social notions, even within the family. We have one of everything -- our own cars our own TV, PC . . . But people believe in different ways of ownership . . . There's a bunch of working classes and ethnic groups that own phones in common. The model is not individual-to-individual communications, but node to node, or social network to social network, and that model is proliferating, particularly as devices move out of middle classes and into a wider spectrum in society where people are never going to own them individually.
    Its interesting to consider tools that support individuals who are a proxy for an offline social network. Groups become more than first class objects, the proxy represents the multitude of interests and combinations to other groups. Mobile devices that support transitive ownership may be more server-centric and counter the models of device manufacturers (intelligent edges) and service providers (variable billing). What happens when there is no end to end-to-end?

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    May 22, 2004

    IFTF: A New Literacy for CooperationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    This week I participated in a mind-bending IFTF event shaped by Howard Rheingold on A New Literacy of Cooperation. They are developing a new famework which challenges the assumptions of business strategy that centers around competition. The rise of open source, intellectual property commons, participatory politics, participatory media, and social software all give rise to new cooperative strategies for business. One of the participants is good friend and UCLA professor of Sociology Peter Kollock, whose work includes the sociology of cyberspace, reputation, how markets are actually social and social dillemas (.pdf): Social dilemmas are situations in which individual rationality leads to collective irrationality. That is, individual rational behavior leads to a situation in which everyone is worse off than they might have been otherwise. Competition and collaboration go hand-in-hand where social dilemmas arise, so the framework provides lenses and levers to understand and shape how they emerge. Peter provides a great rationale for why you shouldn't be the first one to defect, be envious of business partners and why you should be generous. There are great incentives to be open, but it comes at risk. There is no algorithm for community, there are algorithms for destroying one. We are just at the beginning of developing language and models for cooperation. Measured by the response of enterprise participants at the event and in the Eventspace to the frameworks presented, Howard is really on to something by moving us past zero-sum thinking. Not just for business, but our survival.

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Welcome Guestblogger Xiao QiangEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Help us welcome guestblogger Xiao Qiang. I met Xiao when were panelists on social software at an IFTF event. He has been a political activist since Tiananmen, is the founding executive director of Human Rights in China, is a MacArthur and Santa Fe Institute fellow and now directs Berkeley's China Internet Project. Besides his personal blog, he blogs with John Battelle and others at China Digital News. Xiao can help us understand more than the state of blogging in China and all those links you wish Google can translate. Social Software in China faces issues of control even if not applied to activism or media. Its a place where the digital divide could result in another revolution and the greatest country least understood.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    May 18, 2004

    100 CEO Blog ConversationsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    We're trying something unprecedented for the Red Herring event -- 100 conversations with 100 CEOs of the Red Herring 100 Top Private Companies on 100 Weblogs. The space is open to the public, some video will be streamed and Mitch Ratcliffe is going to be video blogging. Of course, the early adopters have already jumped in. Marc Canter posted about FOAF to the LinkedIn Blog. LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman responded with his rationale for when to adopt FOAF and asking if there is a clear application for it yet. So, now I'm wondering who is going to take the DRM company to task, talk privacy with Plaxo, scribble on Motion's tablet, spam MailFrontier, service Grand Central, sforce EchoPass, open with Scalix, snipe Vonage, gaurd against Forum Systems, reason with IM Logic, subscribe to KnowNow or yodle with Yodlee? You get the idea. The train is leaving the station, so drop them a clue. BTW, I'll try to tone down references to Socialtext for a while in polite response to a comment on this blog. Its what I do, I'm busy, so its pretty natural for me to blog about it and I stay on topic. If we were to get these 100 CEOs to blog, you have to expect them to blog about their passions too.

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    May 16, 2004

    Social Computing Alliance EventEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    This week I am participating in a virtual 5-day course on Blog, Wikis, Social Networks - what can social software do for you?, hosted by Social Computing Alliance. It's not an alliance of the Social Software Alliance variety, but an organization where Lisa Kimball and Tom Mandel will be hosting some events, conference calls and writing a book. You may know Lisa and Tom from their days creating Caucus community software. Its great having some new voices that are old hands at community entering the fold. There are some great real world events this week too, more on that later.

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    May 13, 2004

    Google Groups Part DeuxEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Google is beta testing Groups 2, a free email list service destined to replace its Usenet archive (Groups 1, which it builds upon). It won't suffer exactly the same fate as Usenet as it allows public, moderated and private lists. Groups 2 shares login with Gmail and of course has a nice and usable design. I created a group called Groups if you want to play and have a conversation about it: Server errors happen occasionally and I encountered errors using a private list and even spelling errors: Visit to join or learn more about who is alloed to post to the group. Love it. The cost of group forming just fell again. And Yahoo has a real concern (the war) and there is more to come. An email overlay on Usenet essentially brings Google on par with Yahoo Groups in one swell foop. But still, the good groups aren't lists anymore, but spaces and feeds. UPDATE: Groups to have ATOM feeds

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    May 11, 2004

    Flickr NotesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Flickr released two things that proves they are going meta on us. Flickr Notes allows annotation of photos for telling stories:
    One thing that is not public anywhere yet is that we're committed to helping to develop and supporting a standard for annotation, based on Greg Elin's Fotonotes stuff. (Once there is something to be compatible with, Flickr will be 100% 'Fotonotes R/W' (read/write) compatible.) The JPEG format allows for 8 headers (of 64k each!) and EXIF is the only real respected standard right now, but once it's possible for people to upload photos with Fotonotes headers into Flickr we'll display the notes - and if you want to export a jpeg from Flickr with the notes intact you'll be able to do that too.
    Flickr Tags allow easy assignment of even more metadata to images. Its a rip-off from one M2M guestblogger to another, Josh Schachter's social bookmarking tool. Portable links can be used for queries, just replace cat with what you are looking for: Somewhat related, Adam finds a GPS-enabled photoblog for telling trippy stories.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    May 5, 2004

    Sem@code Real World HyperlinksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Semacode is a URL barcode readable by camera phones.
    Print the above image, tape it to a physical object. Next time someone wanders by with a Symbian/Series 60 phone they point, click and their browser takes them to Camera phones are the fastest growing consumer electronic device. People take them everywhere in the real world. And like Greg Elin from Fotonotes says, "they are just data capture devices." [via Dan Gillmor, see also: Smartmobs yesterday and in July]

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Ad Hoc Collaboration in a CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Sean Gallagher threw up a wiki when a division of Ziff Davis was locked out its offices and saved the day:
    Under normal circumstances, I don't recommend running a mission-critical application for a large media company on a $7-a-month Web hosting account. But it worked in a pinch. I did a quick test of the Wiki, posted a sample page to provide some basic user documentation and instant-messaged the Wiki's URL and user and password information to the rest of the team members—well, at least the ones who had Internet access. And in a few minutes, the work was once again flowing. At 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Sprint managed to restore the Internet connection to our Manhattan office, and once again we had access to our corporate workflow solution. The Wiki, having served its purpose, went quiet; I archived the text files created in it to a CD and flushed them off my Web host. But it's still there if we need it. And odds are, we'll need it for something.
    Of course, could have done all this with two clicks with Socialtext, by anybody, but that's not the point. There are moments when the flow of works break down and real people save the day. This is where new practices are discovered.

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    May 4, 2004

    Political Patterns in MotionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Valids Krebs released his third iteration of networks of political books using Amazon purchasing data:
    The big difference between this network map and the previous two are the number of books in the middle. The release of two popular middle books, colored purple, expose a further network of middle books. Ghost Wars reveals one group of middle books, while The Rise of the Vulcans reveals a second group. Yet, the increase in boundary-spanning books does not indicate a shift in the political landscape. The three network maps are not that different within common statistical limits. The division between left and right remains strong. Network metrics, as well as the visuals, show two dense clusters with high preference for homogeneous choices. Echo chambers, on the right and left, remain amongst book readers in America.
    I would lay odds that the recent bestsellers divides this network in motion.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    April 29, 2004

    Captology BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, directed by BJ Fogg, has a new blog that is a Must Sub.
    In our research we continue to find that virtually all web sites have a persuasive purpose. In other words, those who create websites usually want to influence your attitude or behavior in some way. Nobody wants this to be true, but it is. The web is not about sharing information with people -- that's an illusion. In reality, the web is about changing people's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. We've recently analyzed the leading websites, and we'll be ready to share our results soon.
    Some great posts such as a reader, shareware and social pressure and manipulation pattern: first teach, then sell. So click on a link, pretty please.

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    April 28, 2004

    Xfire and Persistent PresenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Mike Pusateri posts about Xfire, an IM app that transcends gaming worlds. IM within games is commonplace and users who straddle platforms have demanded this for some time. He particularly values how presence is made persistent, something he would like to see in other tools:
    In other social software, the software does what the user tells it to do and usually creates a profile about what a person says about themself. Xfire takes this to the next level. It creates a profile about a user actually does, and allows others to see it. Imagine if you will, running a piece of software that watched what you did online. It could tell where you spent your time online and what you were connected to currently. If you were in an IRC channel, it could point your friends to the IRC channel. If you were posting a lot on a specific message board or wiki, it could tell your friends that's what you'd been up to recently.
    Its a great blend of the real world and virtual worlds. And a good hint for social software developers. Stowe Boyd made this point in February when he happened upon it.

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    April 27, 2004

    Enterprise Weblog PitchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Lee LeFever won the perfect pitch competition by highlighting the unique property of weblogs to capture context:
    First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context — the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making. With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources? Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company — context that can profoundly affect decision making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.
    To build upon it, the value add is social context. Internal blogging doesn't have to be a side activity -- an outcome of project communication is capturing internal and external news in the social context of an author. Enterprise weblogs can save people time performing activites and seaching for information while developing a group memory; accelerating project cycles and reducing project risk. Huge thanks go to Judith Meskill for facilitating the contest and dealing with the judgemental judges:Dave Pollard, Dina Mehta, Don Park, Flemming Funch, Jim McGee, Lilia Efimova, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff, Ross Mayfield, Scott Allen, and Ton Zijlstra -- we all had fun in Socialtext to get it done.

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    April 23, 2004

    Open PostEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Posting a 2x2 matrix is kind of a cop-out. While they are the friend of the analyst or consultant, its such a general and non-specific framework that it by itself contributes little -- but they can lead to interesting conversations. Recently I attended a conference where there was a group session used a matrix to invoke discussion very effectively. Was going to write a big post about the above matrix. It does tease out a few controversial issues. Instead, lets write it together. At some point next week, this wiki page will become a post here. Contributors so far: Janet Tokerud, Denham Grey, Enoch Choi, Shannon Clark, Gillo Cutrupi...

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    Many-to-Many SpaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    To help celebrate our blogiversary, we set up a Many-to-Many Space, a wiki to complement this blog. Check out and contribute to the Social Software Timeline and Social Software Reader. Feel free to contribute Story Ideas and whatever else to the space. Here's the feed for Recent Changes:

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    April 15, 2004

    How to Achieve Zero Degrees of SeparationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    If you are suddenly getting anti-social spam from ZeroDegrees, here's why. They are a little behind in growth (320k vs. LinkedIn's 20 million, for example), so there are strong incentives to turn the virality knob. Christopher Allen points out a new feature which lets you upload your address book. No big deal, except it invites all your contacts without warning and makes them contacts. Suddenly your Inner Circle can see your entire address book, even if they are not members. Without warning, you may find yourself apologizing to your contacts, like Chris and Stowe.
    Be careful clicking the Next button. UPDATE: Jas clarifies my wording, which I appreciate

    Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    April 14, 2004

    Ridiculously Easy Syndicate FormingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Jason Kottke makes an interesting point that RSS/Atom shouldn't be called Syndication because this:
    BBC content --> regional UK newspaper --> readers becoming this... BBC content --> readers
    ...and because the data is more specialized and structured than HTML with smarter edges using them. What he is describing is the vertical disintegration of content industries. Long ago, Kevin Werbach wrote how Syndication meant a trend towards directness and looseness that would reshape industries. But before we go naming anything, lets consider these evolving forms:
    BBC content <--> readers ...and this... BBC content <--> users
    | X |
    users <--> users/developers
    What's changing is the economics of group formation and property. A syndicate is a group or association with rights to redistribute. The cost of group formation has fallen to the point where the marginal cost of adding or losing a member is nominal, so individuals dynamically organize networks. It turns out that the most valuable form of personal property is, indeed, personal. When a house is on fire, you save your photos. We value content in the context of social capital, as converation. Our peers encourage the production for the commons. The abundance of free leaves little scarcity only for the spot (e.g. real-time market feeds) and that differentiated by reputation. It's a powerful force for vertical disintegration. It also drives the local entropy reversal that lets more complex forms emerge. A symbiotic relationship between content and reader/writer or forming syndicates that are less association and more group. I'm not brave enough to venture a new term for Syndication, but unless one is found, there is a lot of explaining to do.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    April 13, 2004

    Technorati CommentsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Technorati released a comment tracking feature for MT similar to TrackBack (but not in breadth). Already employed on BoingBoing. Its a comment spam solution, for now. Susan Mernit's user perspective: I hope, however, that this nifty new featurette doesn't supercede Bongboing's use of message boards-the impact of posting and reading those 258 odd responses to Mark's query last week about the site making I(mo) money couldn't be achieved with a mess o'links to individual bloggers posts.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    April 12, 2004

    Wiki BooksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Posted my chapter of the forthcoming Extreme Democracy book to wiki. One thing of note for readers here is the extreme editing guideliness that attempt to fork content and conversation with a combination of blog and wiki. Along the way, collected some links that may be of interest about wikified books, ranging from Wikipedia's Wikibooks Portal to the distributed proofreading project.

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    April 6, 2004

    Portable LinksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Tom Coates on Kinja:
    So basically, I thought it was polished and useful but I didn't think it was interesting. But the funny thing is that I think I've changed my mind. And the reason I've changed my mind is because of the tiniest feature that I didn't even notice the first few times I used it - it's not the fact that I can create my own little version of Haddock Blogs that's interesting, it's the fact that I can chuck it around to all my friends. I can link to it like this and - if I wanted to - I could stick it at the end of my blogroll so that other people could play with it too. I could e-mail it to someone, or IM it or even just tell someone my user name and have them go and find it.
    Big time. What was the single most important invention of blogs? Permalinks. Persistent links make micro-content eminently linkable and portable. What Tom is suggesting is beyond permalinks for blogs as individual voice, you need a form of portable link for zeniths of group formation.
    ...In my opinion - rather than setting up a central weblog for a course or a project in which people can post their thoughts only as comments, the simplest and most effective way would be to have something like haddock blogs or the uk weblog aggregator or a kinja group digest sitting in the middle in between all the participants...
    Ultimate. There is a place in the middle of blogs. Sometimes its something like a Metablog, or Topic Exchange, Kinja, or an Eventspace that persists. After you use a wiki for a while, the URL becomes your command line and each page or index becomes a portable link. Don't even get me started on projects, which requires a different space entirely, which is why this post most end before the commercial. ---- _Follow-up from Clay_: What he said. Just want to echo Ross's intuition about Coate's post -- this is ridiculously easy group forming, blog-style, without requiring the central database of a LiveJournal. Coate's personal plea to Nick is also worth quoting:
    Please, please, please Mr Denton - don't try and sell me weblog-management. Don't try to make it easy to replicate the functionality of my RSS aggregator. No - your killer app is this sharing of digests, this creation of really user-friendly throw-aroundable clumps of groupness. That's the the core of the enterprise.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    April 4, 2004

    Flattening the Technology Adoption LifecycleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Geoff Moore's seminal book Crossing the Chasm is the foundation for technology marketing beause it provides the basis for timing and where to spend attention. Understanding the distribution of buyer and user psychodemographic profiles as deviations from the mean tells us what to build within a bell curve. But the bell curve may be changing into a power-law:
    This has several implications:
    • More Visionaries -- as the fatter tail on the left implies, there are more innovators and eary adopters. Before serving pragmatists, be sure you have realized the full value of visionaries.
    • Influencers Matter -- Interdependence means that success in some segments may lead to others faster. Reference value is half of word of mouth.
    • Tornados are Dust Devils -- The slope of the early adopter segment may have declined.
    • Design for Scope and Span -- The ability to version the product for different situations and have it interface throughout the stack may have greater importance than facilitating economies of scale and speed.
    I'm still flushing out these implications, but creating and competing in a market of greater interdependence may also call for one greater over-arching strategy -- hand over more control to users. This means both open interfaces for users as developers and more flexibility to adapt by non-developers.

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    Typical Situation in These Typical TimesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    If you haven't read Clay's piece on Situated Software, I can't really help you. Clay has, yet again, identified an important emerging trend of users as developers creating software for specific social situations.
    It's a typical situation in these typical times Too many choices... Everybody’s happy everybody’s free Keep the big door open, everyone’ll come around Why’re you different, why are you that way If you don’t get in line we’ll lock you away... It all comes down to nothing. -- Dave Matthews
    The amount of users as developers is clearly increasing, not just because the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl) offers a low cost and accessible way to make stuff, but the rise of the hacker ethic. Clay has identified a trend that is not just a case of social Do It Yourself IT (DIYIT), but what I think is the beginning of a technology adoption lifecycle for social software. Situated Software arises when solutions don't match social needs. And right now there is a dearth of solutions. Most software begins as a rapid prototype, it iterates and if it has a market is then revised according to requirements side of the Web School. I'm seeing the rise of Situated Software in startups. Many of our favorite social software tools were first created for social situations personal for the innovator(s) and cast on to the Web. Necessity of success then makes them deal with scale. Startups, even the non-social ones, used to jump directly to the Web School. They would acquire three or more beta customers, generalize use and architect for presupposed success. But dearth of venture capital now has most software startups beginning as consulting firms or under the wing of a single large partner, so the first implementation is for the specific. So most enterprise startups begin with Situated Software for not just a specific process, but within a specific customer. Just as there is a chasm to cross in the market, there is a Development Chasm to cross in advancing the product. Actually, there are two: preparing the product to deal with the scale of the early majority and the customization requirements of the late majority. Thankfully, some software can continue to leverage the LAMP stack to deal with the former for architectual scale. I pointed out to Clay that while a wiki may meet generic requirements, use adapts for a specific social situation. Clay agreed and said this is what he calls Situational Information Architecture. He also pointed out that the social software for today's situations may spread to tomorrows not just by scaling through the lifecycle, but through the transmission of practices for others to adapt to their own situations. But it may just be too easy to point to where this is on the adoption lifecycle. I believe the increasing interdependence of networks and markets means the technology adoption lifecycle is changing.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    March 31, 2004

    Noise Society or Network Society?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Nicklas Lundblad's paper on Privacy in a Noise Society (pdf, via Politech) provides an interesting framework for thinking about privacy in policy and tool design. He contrasts the collective vs. the individual expectations of privacy. If both are high, the result is Privacy Society (e.g. EU legislation), which has high costs of administration and interpretation of privacy laws and investments in privacy enhancing technologies. If both are low, the result is a Surveillance Society (think Orwell), which has high costs of collection, classification and structuring of data and archiving, format conversions and storage. Because information is abundant, he believes that the costs are so high in both cases that a collective privacy border prevents pragmatic policy. The conclusion is that we are in a Noise Society, with a high expectation of collective privacy and low individual privacy, which pragmatically suggests policies the focus on abuse of abundant information:
    An analysis of cost structures gives evidence that seems to imply that we live in a society that is neither a privacy nor a surveillance society. Peculiarly we seem to be living in a society that is a mix of both. The reason for this is simple: the cost of amassing data on individuals is significant to any attempt of mapping large populations. We live in a society where it is possible to chart the life of anyone, but not the lives of everyone.
    In a Noise Society, the suggested guiding principle is to avoid attracting attention, or anonymity loves a crowd, which implies avoiding use of encryption and explicit resistance to the system using tools that help blend into statistical norm or generate noise. I find this bothersome, not only because it disrupts community dynamics and discourages diversity, but while a policy that is based on enforcement of abuse rather than constraining regulation -- the social costs are too high. The fourth quadrant is discounted far too easily: For the sake of completeness it is also possible to include a strange and unusual kind of society where the collective expectation of privacy is low, and the individual level of privacy is high. He suggests this is the relm of science fiction (with a wrong example of the Borg as having high individual privacy) or saunas. A Network Society of low collective and high individual expected privacy would represent the emerging decentralized structure of the web as Invisible Villages. The policy implication is the same as with a Noise Society, regulate abuse, not design, for enforcement and cost containment. For tool design, the implication is fulfilling the demand for user control of expression of identity, relationships, group formation and information shared. Now that's the strange and unusual kind of society we should strive for.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    March 30, 2004

    Activity Partners for ActivistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    So all my friends and advisors are at the MS Symposium and I'm crashing the backchannel. During a talk on Activism and Dating, I had to ask if there was a YASNS for dating your political representative or seeking activity partners for activism. Was joking, but then Danyel pointed out Act for Love: because activists need love too....

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    March 18, 2004

    LinkedIn GroupsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    LinkedIn will launch LinkedIn Groups next week at PC Forum. The first group is PC Forum attendees, which can use the group as a filter to search for attendees. When you find one, you can request contact without going through an intermediary, as though the group was helpful node. I have already received requests to meet at the conference in this way, a great use case. Also, their Outlook toolbar helped doubled the amount of connections for beta users.

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    March 16, 2004

    PC Forum EventspaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    So with all the talk of SXSW having blogger-unfriendly policies, I thought I would point out something quite the opposite. For the second year in a row, we are providing a Socialtext Eventspace for PC Forum: Just like last year, its open to the public. A great way for remote participants who can't afford a C-level conference or can't make it this year to interact with attendees and benefit from the self-organizing content of the event. We get to build off of last year, which is already providing some interesting perspective on what has changed. This year the conversation begins before the show, with controversial discussions on Offshoring, spam and business models for online content. Chime in with your thoughts on these issues now. One of the greatest things about an Eventspace is provides first time exposure to blogging for some people. Writing on the Web isn't a new thing for these kinds of attendees, but conference blogging alongside others provides just the kind of social feedback to get people going. More as the event unfolds...

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    March 10, 2004

    Scaling GroupsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Christopher Allen dives into the detail of my ecosystem of networks. His analysis suggests some of the more optimal sizes below 12 and 150 with some great anecdotes. Its important people understand the scaling limits of groups at 12 and 150. I never ventured a guess at optimal group size, as its heavily context dependent. Instead I would suggest that our challenge as creators of social software is to enhance social capital so productive teams can be dynamic while extending their limits with cohesion.

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    March 9, 2004

    The Value of RelationshipsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Bambi Francisco interviews Kleiner Perkins VC and investor in enterprise social networking vendor Visible Path Ray Lane. Lane contacted Bambi Francisco about Spoke's privacy concerns. The resulting interview is full of 80/20 rules. Apparently, the value of a business relationship is $600 per year.
    (CEO Anthony) Brydon said that Visible Path interviewed 30 vice presidents of sales and asked what they'd spend each year to access the relationships that have been made by the entire corporation. That's 20 percent of the $3,000 that companies spend on each salesperson who use a sales force automation tool provided by Siebel Systems.
    Layne suggests the KPCB contacts will only be available through Visible Path while citing that only 20% of relationships are of value. They also signal a shift from an OEM business model to selling directly to enterprises. On handling privacy, the distinction they draw is keeping two degrees from the enterprise anonymous. This is a better approach, but they are still modelling nodes in the network that haven't volunteered to participate in it. This is pretty standard for sales intelligence applications of social networking, but it is a shortcut. Twenty percent of the contacts may give you the other eighty percent, but it comes with eighty percent of the privacy concerns. Over time this may devalue relationships, but until further iteration we won't know if its by eighty or twenty percent. The irony is the bottom of the power law has a stronger demand for relationships, while the top values filtering demand. This may not effect our fuzzy and fun valuation, but targeting the wrong market need could have a greater impact than pricing for a startup.

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    March 1, 2004

    A Whole New YASNS DomainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Looks like the island nation of Palau is getting into the social networking business. PW Registry Corporation Launches New Top-Level Domain Devoted Exclusively for Online Communities and Social Networking:
    With its unique structure and policies, the PW domain is the ideal address for individuals looking to better manage and control their social network. Unlike traditional social networks that are fragmented by professions or social interests and require users to compromise personal address books, a PW address enables users to establish their membership in a social network without exposing the identity of colleagues and friends...PW also enables individual applications such as “web logs” and digital photo albums at addresses such as “”.
    What a crock of crap. First of all, a top-level domain does not provide identity any more than a second level domain does. Second, social networks are naturally fragmented by interests. Third, if you don't contribute your contacts the service cannot build a graph. There is no synergy for top-level domain names and email addresses with the "killer applications" of the day. Only a larger namespace.

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    February 29, 2004

    Enterprise Social Networking Service AcquiredEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Barry Diller's InterActive Corp acquired one of the enterprise social networking services, ZeroDegrees (congrats Jas!). Apparently, he is eyeing consumer social networking services as well. Exit, anyone?

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 25, 2004

    Stowe Boyd on WikisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Corante neighbor and Blogalyst Stowe Boyd has a seriously great article on wikis in Darwin. Its a good intro to wiki, compares them with weblogs, highlights their emergent properties and role as social tools.
    ...Wikis are built upon an inherently open model of social interaction and collaboration, with very little constraint placed on the participants. In a sense, this puts the onus back on the members of a project group to self-police: to build structure out of the minimalist forms of Wiki components, to correct others' grammar, syntax and wrong-headed arguments, to cajole others to your viewpoint or ideas where the project should be headed. But it's exactly this frisson between partners, affiliated around shared purpose, that builds social ties and generates social capital. Wikis directly support us in our efforts to get more from the whole than the sum of the parts.
    Stowe also bases his views upon using Socialtext in the context of a workshop where he actively collaborated with other participants.

    ...continue reading.

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    February 22, 2004

    Guestblogging: Amy Jo KimEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Please help us welcome a new guestblogger, Social Architect Amy Jo Kim. Amy is relatively new to blogspace, was most recently VP of Social Architecture at and has lately been musing on mobile social software.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 21, 2004

    Amazon's Social Networking ServiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    According to the Chicago Tribune (reg. required), Amazon is entering the social networking space... will join the fray when it rolls out PriceKut, a social network where customers can meet each other to discuss bargains, but only after first purchasing something at the site. Tom Anderson, president of MySpace, thinks this branching out will only confuse consumers. "People are always going to associate certain names with certain ideas and utilities," he said. "Their branding is too strong; they've done their job too well."
    Only one problem -- Pricekut is a joke made up by Brian Dear of YASNSs like Tom Anderson can rest easy. As for the Tribune, its unclear if this is a case of the media using blogs as a source or not. Like David said, It’s satire, ok?

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 18, 2004

    Social Networking Cuts Spam in HalfEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    We've blogged quite a bit about how social networking can be used as a filter for inbound and outbound messages, forming a mutable whitelist. Now in Nature Magazine, UCLA researchers are showing it can be effective for half of email by forming both whitelists and blacklists.
    The e-mail clusters can be mapped out by inspecting the 'from', 'to' and 'cc' fields in a user's inbox. An automated system can quickly build up a blacklist of spammers, as well as a 'whitelist' of approved sources. Boykin and Roychowdhury found that by quantifying the clustering of incoming e-mails, they could eliminate about 54% of spam. E-mails above a certain 'clustering threshold' are always friendly, and those below a lower threshold are always spam. Messages that fall between these two clustering thresholds are 'don't knows' - the system can't be sure how to classify them. Typically, say the researchers, this applies to about 50% of the mail received. The remaining half of the e-mail then has to be filtered in a more sophisticated way. But by then the scale of the problem has been cut in half.
    When combined with other techniques it can be fairly effective, the remaining spam is waiting for an economic solution. [via Techdirt]

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 17, 2004

    The Difference Between Communities and NetworksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    One of the most common questions about social software and social networking services is: Online communities have been around for a while, what's new? Here's a simple framework to explain the difference between online communities and social networks: Communities
    • Top-down
    • Place-centric
    • Moderator controlled
    • Topic driven
    • Centralized
    • Architected
    • Bottom-up
    • People-centric
    • User controlled
    • Decentralized
    • Context driven
    • Self-organizing
    The fundamental change that spawn new models was the falling cost of group forming to the point where individuals rather than organizations can create their own communities. I actually see the term online communities doing more than going out of style. If I could come up with a new term for them without offending anyone I would, and reserve the term community for when either of the above two models has healthy social dynamics. But there is more here than naming, lets give some examples:
    • Bottom-up social networking services like Orkut, Tribe & LinkedIn allow individuals to construct their own networks to filter the world and groups to organize it
    • Meetup allows anyone to organize a physical meeting
    • Wikipedia allows anyone to contribute or edit without restriction
    • Weblogs let anyone do more than personal publishing, but form ties with content before connection
    • RSS and Atom allow people to choose whose views they want to subscribe to, and more importantly, unsubscribe
    • Technorati and Feedster are the most personalized search available, if you are a network participant
    Try getting a contentious message through a moderator or unsubscribing from someone's views on a mailing list or discussion board. Try having a topic shift to your context without straddling across platforms. Try moving a community beyond its original purpose. Fundamentially, its about choice demanded by today's consumers and businesses. Amy Jo Kim, who pointed out the place vs. people-centric difference to me (I was thinking it was interest, rather than place), adds a critical factor for where social software is going -- mobile devices are people centric. Keep in mind the near total adoption that smart phones is expected to gain -- and that camera phones will outpace sales of phones and cameras in five years. Your network is in your pocket and will do more than guide you.

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    Content and Social NetworkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Say what you will about it, but the Always On Zaibatsu seems to be the first fusion of online media, blogging and an explicit social networking service. There are more on the way.

    Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 16, 2004

    Networks are ClumpyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Yesterday Mark Newman presented a new approach for identifying clusters within networks.
    "The structure of those networks can tell you quite a lot about how the systems work, but they're far too big to analyze by just putting dots on a piece of paper and drawing lines to connect them," said Mark Newman, an assistant professor of physics and complex systems at the University of Michigan. One challenge in making sense of a large network is finding clumps---or communities---of members that have something in common, such as Web pages that are all about the same topic, people that socialize together or animals that eat the same kind of food. Newman and collaborator Michelle Girvan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, have developed a new method for finding communities that reveals a lot about the structure of large, complex networks... "The way most people have approached the problem is to look for the clumps themselves---to look for things that are joined together strongly," said Newman. "We decided to approach it from the other end," by searching out and then eliminating the links that join clumps together. "When we remove those from the network, what we're left with is the clumps."
    It's interesting that you need to remove community straddlers to identify communities, but its the straddlers themselves that are the most valuable to community and the ecosystem. [via Roland and SmartMobs...I'm looking for more]

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    February 14, 2004

    Vote LinksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Whenever you link to a page, the link itself contributes to the ranking of that page. Whether you agree with the content of the page or not. A while ago we were talking about Emergent Democracy, Deliberative Polling and anti-links and how all links are not created equal. I suggested creating a polling system. Kevin Marks had a more elegant idea that he called Vote Links. Discussion ensued. Naming got in the way of implementation (my fault) -- until he and Tantek Çelik discussed it at an Etech session on real world semantics and moved forward to draft an XHTML compliant Vote Links specification.
    Add a set of three new values for the rel attribute of the <a> (link) tag in HTML. The new values are "vote-for" "vote-abstain" or "vote-against", which are mutually exclusive, and represent agreement, abstention or indifference, and disagreement respectively.
    We are stuck in a Power Law without the benefit of both positive and negative feedback. Where the loudest voice in the room impels the focus group.

    ...continue reading.

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    February 12, 2004

    My Friend FlickrEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Best social software beta launched at ETech has got to be Flickr. Put out into the world by Many-to-Many guestblogger Stewart Butterfield. Like all great social networking services, you can add your profile and photo, add your friends, click on your friends to see their friends...but...there is actually a point to it. When you launch the web-based application you get a rich social space. Not a place, but where context is defined by the social interaction. Chat and IM are blended with ridiculously easy photo sharing. As Fotonotes lets groups tell stories with photos, Flickr lets storied interaction be told with photos. Drag and drop a photo into a session to show people what you mean. The social network creates a whitelist, so you can share baby photos with people you know. Groups are treated as first class objects, so if you want a porn group for your immediate gratification, so be it. You don't have to be invited to be part of it.

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    February 9, 2004

    The Political Effects of Blogging: Call for IndicatorsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Tim Oren and I have been going at it in disagreement about the impact of participatory media on the political scene. So we met at Joanie's in Palo Alto for breakfast, to see if we could construct an interesting and meaningful bet that could be resolved in the context of the primary and/or general Presidential election.

    We came to the conclusions that:

    We can't construct a meaningful bet on the issues, which would be resolved by the 2004 elections. Even exit polling is too blunt an instrument to analyze the effects of the Internet as medium on the political process or electoral outcome. Questioning re Internet usage does not discern how the net is being used, which may make a difference. A single question does not control for other indicators of likely voting preference, and even if we could get the polling organizations to cough up their raw cross-tabbed data, the sample sizes would be insufficient. Finally, a vote for a candidate in one race is simply inadequate to test the propositions which we think are interesting...

    ...continue reading.

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    February 8, 2004

    Conference BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Blogged lots of conferences lately. Of course, part of it is my business. I have observed a couple of different modes of conference blogging:
    • Dedicated Transcription -- word for word. Usually conference bloggers will cede this mode by the second session to someone who does it really well, who then feels obligated to keep it up. Perhaps the most helpful for readers. For some bloggers this helps them absorb what is being said. Archetype: Heath Row (example)
    • Impressionistic Transcription -- paraphrase with flair. Usually makes the speakers sound better than they are. Adds a little context that makes particular sense if you have been following related memes in blogspace. Great for the writer because the informality excuses waning attention and need to quote accurately. Archetype: Cory Doctorow (example)
    • Running Commentary -- paraphrase with opinion. While blogging in real time, interspersing the opinions or views of the blogger. Perhaps the most value added activity of one person. Takes real skill to capture the essence of a session and add your own. Archetypes: Mitch Ratcliffe or Doc (example)
    • Poignant Reflection -- pure commentary. How most people blog conferences. Listen, reflect and post. What drives the post is usually a key quote or a contrary opinion. Archetype: Jerry Michalski (example)
    • Coverage -- producing a report. This isn't really conference blogging, but there are pros that cover events as journalists. Now they have lots of competition, but are also sourcing blogs to help their production. Archetype: Shel Israel (example not available because you have to pay for it)
    • Backchannel -- chat without content. Of course, you an always not blog, but what you say may end up in someone else's blog. Archetype: #joiito
    • Remote Participation -- fact check and amplify. Particularly with webcast or Chiki conferences, remote participants add greater context and commentary. In-room participants watch these remote posts and sometimes bring activity at the edge back into sessions. Archetype: Kevin Marks (example)
    • Refactor Me -- group voice. When the conference is augmented by an Eventspace or wiki. For each session, people take different notes in different forms as blog posts. Within a wiki, the group then refactors into a single session page. Opens contribution up to non-bloggers and shy domain experts who would rather intersperse important facts with relative anonymity. The result is an amalgamation of the above modes. Also leads to the creation of more diverse content, conversation and networking. Archetype: everyone (example)
    The above are obviously generalizations, interested if others have observed different modes. I often drift from mode to mode in different conferences. Usually I start with Impressionistic Transcription to get my juices flowing and communicate as much as possible for remote participants. But as the conference progresses and key themes emerge, I'll shift into Running Commentary and Poignant (hopefully) Reflection. My 7th grade biology teacher suggested an approach to note taking. Its the first year where most kids take notes, or are told to without teaching them how. Most kids went straight to transcription, but that obviously can impede learning for most. His suggestion was to write down the things you DON'T know. Having an audience for your notes, something bloggers are accustomed to, means you have the burden of what others don't know. As conference blogging picks up, this will be less of a problem.

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    February 7, 2004

    Enterprise PatternsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Adina Levin shares some of our experience with enterprise social software deployment patterns, based on observation of usage patterns of weblogs and wikis at scale on the public internet:

    ...There are three main tiers of social networks in an organization, as Ross Mayfield describes. These map to different usage patterns of social software.

    • Project teams are creative networks, groups that work closely together. These teams use shared workspaces to communicate and collaborate intensively, and maintain a continuous, shared understanding of project status. Schedule and presence capabilities will make it easier for these groups to co-ordinate.

    • Communities of practice are social networks. Knowledge workers want to be able to scan, discover, and meet other in their disciplines across the organization. On the public internet, there are communities of bloggers in technology, law, teaching, and other fields using this model today. There are established wiki communities in technical areas, like Apache and non-technical areas, like, for instance, Kayaking, RSS subscriptions provide an excellent method for members of communities of practice to discover and follow relevant projects and conversations. Blog search engines, including Technorati and Blogstreet, that are used to discover network relationships among blog communities.

    • The enterprise as a whole is a political network. Weblogs can be used by executives to communicate in an individual voice across the organization. On the public internet, the relevant model is popular bloggers such as Joi Ito in Japan and Doc Searls in the US. The link structure enables the discovery and tracking of popular ideas, with blog search engines such as Daypop and Blogdex.

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    January 30, 2004

    Point TippiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Following Clay's good thoughts on if Dean is a movement or candidate (answer still could still be both, especially with momentum), its a question that raised another quesiton for me. Naval gazing amongst activists gathers no lint. Or for hunched over technologists spending too much time close to their belly-buttons. But Clay is right that this calls into question the connection between bottom-up and top-down. Implementation is reality. Inevitably, the top co-opts the bottom when past the tipping point. Assume for a minute that Dean is not mainstream. Not to say Dean is a third-party candidate, but issues of war and participatory democracy were not mainstream when he raised them. Third party candidates have never won, but their issues become the issues of both parties. Kerry's podium has a URL on it, the environment and finance reform of campaigns past are at least cow-towed -- and the system of representation is better for it. So the question is this: will the co-opted issue be war or participatory democracy? Obviously, the responders to this question will be biased in favor of the later as they have to use enabling tools to respond. Regardless of response or campaign outcome, abandonment of identifying issues isn't or going to happen, because the point tipped.

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    January 25, 2004

    Why Orkut Doesn't WorkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Before we could learn to pronounce it, it was shut down. It's not that the servers are melting with the rapid rise to ~3 million page views or 500th most popular site in a couple of days. It's not a conspiracy of data collection or a learning curve. orkut, which should really be named Oogle, demonstrated that a high performance explicit social networking site, well designed for digital immediate gratification (one local engineer personally even complained they had to click from map to profile to add a friend), supported by brand and with the right root can unleash latent demand. I would say this is reflective of the dearth of social capital in our society, but aside from such heady stuff, it was frictionless whuffie fun, huh? Latent demand for what is the question. Internet researchers would die excruciating deaths in search of the last days of data. I would venture a guess that most of the digerati that was already pre-conditioned by existing services, an incomprehensible demographic that grants hypergrowth to the best, grants the best feedback, but is easily taketh away. okurt doesn't work because it lacks constraints. Nothing holds people back. Nobody knows what a friend means. No social capital on the line. Its so fun and easy, choices and incentives are irrational. Normally this would raise questions. Some constraints make good social compact. Some constraints on openness curb pollution (spam, security). One of the better constraints is price because it lead to profit. However, AdSense is relatively frictionless. It adds new constraints while adding value. Same could be said for other well targeted forms of content, like blog posts...

    Comments (18) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    You stole my yogurtEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Dear users: Wow. The response to has been phenomenal and I've been learning a lot about what people like and expect from a service like this. Thanks for all your feedback so far! Based on your suggestions, I'm taking back to the lab for some fine-tuning and improvements. It will likely take a few days to finish them. None of your data will be lost and I should have some nice surprises for you when I bring it back online. I'll email you when it's ready and running again. Thanks again for your ideas and for bearing with me as I work my way up the learning curve. stay beautiful,   Orkut Buyukkokten For the record, not only is this upsetting (got 5 IMs about it at once, was Orkutfighting next to Jerry Michalski at the moment), but for the first time in any network I had 1 more friend than the honorable Joi Ito. Guess we have our real lives back now.

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    January 22, 2004

    Google Social NetworkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Google is working on a social networking service, Orkut. Here's an article, another, and the site. Social yogurt anyone?

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    Social SearchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    I wrote about Social Search last year, blogspace has had it for a while in a form of searching what your friends have found (e.g. my.feedster). John Battelle, who is blogging the expanding space of search covered it a month ago. Eurekster launched its social network constrained search service today. That said, its is pretty cool. Sometimes sharing what you are looking for can help you find it and more. The search itself leaves a little to be desired, as its no Google and doesn't benefit from micro-content structure. Browsing the search terms of your friends (like this) is similar to looking at them in your referral log. Get ready for a different kind of social spam as people can ping you if they browsed in the same direction as you. It begs the is it a feature question, but anyway, the beta is out, tinker away.

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    January 21, 2004

    RSS Winterfest Today and TomorrowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    RSS Winterfest, a free webcast on Internet syndication augmented by an Eventspace (wikiblog in this case) starts at 8:30 PST today.

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    January 15, 2004

    Video of VLab Event on Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    MIT-Stanford Venture Lab has posted video from their Septemeber event on Social Software and Social Networking. Panelists and Speakers include myself, Reid Hoffman, Tony Perkins, Jonathan Abrams, Cynthia Typaldos and Andrew Anker. Here's my blog post about it and Stewart Butterfield's.

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    January 14, 2004

    More Social Than a Couch PotatoEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The first study of the World Internet Project, among other things, refutes the stereotype of the loner geek:
    "Use of the Internet is reducing television viewing around the world while having little impact on positive aspects of social life," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, the California university that organized the project.

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    January 13, 2004

    Comment Spam SolutionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    To all my friends who are deluged with comment spam, here's a tip: give up. Like email, the openness of blog comments is a pandora's box that cannot be closed. Fighting spam is a war created by the economics of near zero cost fo sending a message with a marginal probability of return. You can't win this war because you don't have the resources or incentives to fight it and every move you make will be matched by your invisible opponents. Blacklists don't work and create false positives. The only solution is to raise the costs for your opponent. So here's a solution for you. First, turn off comments. Second, do what Cory did and move your discussion to a Tribe ( [Cory notes in comments that his readers did this when they shut comments off because of spam]. This creates a social network-based whitelist for conversations. It raises the cost of commenting to registering with the service and agreeing to policies. It shifts the burden of enforcement to a third party. Third, keep Trackback on. The cost of creating a blog is still a barrier and in some cases, again, shifts the burden to a third party. Perhaps provide a friendly link or guide to starting a blog with a free service so real people can participate in these conversations. Don't you have better things to do than fight this war? Related: Burningbird

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    January 12, 2004

    Togetherness, Wiki-styleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Today's Wall Street Journal Business Solutions collumn by Michael Totty is on wikis for rapid collaboration. It highlights Socialtext and describes distributed software development and customer care use cases.
    The biggest advantage of the wiki is that it reduces the team's reliance on overused e-mail, which in most offices serves as the last repository for all important information -- whether it's to organize contacts, store the daily to-do list or whatever. "E-mail is a tremendously overloaded tool," Mr. (Gary) Boone (from Accenture Labs) says. The wiki "may represent a sweet spot between nothing or just e-mail and these more elaborate systems."
    Subscription required for the full article.

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    January 11, 2004

    Blogging the MarketEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    George Dafermos published his Blogging the Market paper (PDF) on weblogs as a disruptive technology for organizations. Disruptive both in the diffusion of technology, but as cultural disruption, an embodiment of online self-organising social systems, are essentially characterised by management decentralisation and ultimately threaten to destabilise current organisational structures and re-invent the scope of management. On external blogging, he cluefully describes how letting go of control will make marketing departments gonzo, but when they do they will rediscover how to speak and listen. He discredits the two market theory, arguing that the internal market of employees needs to be able to participate in marketing. On internal blogging:
    The transition will be as silent as email, mobile telephony and instant messaging...the case for weblogs is irresistible: massive productivity gains through far more efficient communication, collaboration, and knowledge management...they are user-centred rather than IT- centric...organisational structure loses its historic role of managing power relations at a distance, and as a result the organisation becomes truly hyperlinked and power shifts to where knowledge actually resides.
    The paper makes some of my favorite points on fostering Social Capital, transitioning from email and blogging as KM; arguing that prior to its management though, knowledge needs to be communicated and interviews Kevin Werbach:
    Where community processes are likely to have a significant financial benefit is in the enterprise.  Organizing and distributing information among workers is a critical need of every information-dependent organization. Weblog-based tools will be the foundation for a new discipline of bottom-up knowledge management, which will lead to efficiencies and productivity boosts for companies.
    On internal blogging, I see it as less of a disruption to business culture. Most of the control issues have been dealt with before with email and IM, employees can already communnicate without bounaries, difference being the persistence and accessibility of conversations. And most importantly how a conversation can be given democratic credibility. Cultural disruptions end up being co-opted, as we see with managers being the greatest users of email today. In full disclosure my company seeks to provide these productivity benefits with a more graceful transition, but it also puts me in a position to work with weblogs (and other social software) in organizations. One way of describing how weblogs don't purely subvert the hierarchy is to distinguish between institutional and proceedural authority as referenced in the Phantom Authority paper on Wikipedia:
    Organizations exist to establish a certain degree of procedural and institutional authority (Steinmueller, 2002). Procedural authority consists of incentives, social norms and power that define how decisions about practices, routines and procedures should be taken within an organization. It allows resolution of issues or disagreements among participants. Institutional authority concerns the recruitment of members to an organization, assignment of roles, government of membership conditions and of expression. In Wikipedia, some features that shape procedural authority are implicit of the Wiki software. The editing and undoing mechanisms, implemented by means of two push–buttons on each article page, are all that a user needs.
    The above applies to virtual communities, so to put differently for businesses, weblogs have the capability to enhance the influence of business practice and heterarchy, but business process and hierarchy will be governed by the traditional means of distributing power. Practice will become a greater source for promotion and incentive, but more importantly, enable organizations to change course and activities at speed based on what the organization knows.

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    January 8, 2004

    Online Community ReportEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Jim Cashel interviewed me for the Online Community Report on why wikis are so cool. Also check out Jim's top ten trends for the business of online communities where most are not economically viable, but some sectors are doing quite well.

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    January 5, 2004

    Push vs. PullEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Maybe its me, but isn't RSS a Pull technology, not a Push?

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    January 3, 2004

    Social BlogworkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The similarities between social networking and blogging have just been made very explicit. Throughout last year we have talked about how the two sectors of social software are going to converge. A year ago this week, we graphed the overlap of blogspace and a Social Networking Service. Now we have format offering applications, finally, with Typepad generating FOAF files from Friends Lists. Half the barrier has been generating FOAF files with an incentive to maintain them, and all active bloggers have incentives to maintain their blogs. But the other half has been when you have a FOAF file, what the heck do you do with it? Along comes Plink (People Link), that uses FOAF files to create an explicit Social Networking Service that lets you browse and search blogging networks. What's perhaps different is connections are made elsewhere, through conversations on blogs, and then made globally (Googly) explicit. But since FOAFs are most easily generated off of OPML files, there will also be many relationships with media instead of people. Social Networking Service that contains a form of blogging Ecademy also generates a FOAF files, but Typepad also shares its Typepad profiles with Plink. Expect fast growth of this service within the explicit crowd, but not everyone wants to be so explicit, the absence of constraints and bad data will hamper its utility.

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    January 2, 2004

    Abnormal FriendsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Over at Richard Gayle's Corante Blog, Living Code is a new study suggests that treating epidemics could do better than with than random immunuization. Take a random sample and ask them to list their friends, then immunize the friends:
    "Friends just aren't normal," agrees Mark Newman, a networks specialist at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. "Friends are, by definition, friendly people, and your circle will be a biased sample of the population because of it."
    Makes you think about the good or evil potential of the Friendster database in scale-free situations.

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    WiredReachEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The closest to the “broker intros only/connections live with the user” app Clay is talking about and Om wants is WiredReach, a P2P social networking app with search, contact management and IM.

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    December 29, 2003

    Users Drive PolicyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    From a simple request, a wonderful thread has ensued on technology, policy and the market inbetween. I was on vacation while it grew, so let me capture the thread before making some points...

    ...continue reading.

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    December 23, 2003

    Cory's RequestEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Cory Doctorow:
    The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy...The next twenty years are about using our technology to affirm, deny and rewrite our social contracts: all the grandiose visions of e-democracy, universal access to human knowledge and (God help us all) the Semantic Web, are dependent on changes in the law, in the policy, in the sticky, non-quantifiable elements of the world... On that note: I have a special request to the toolmakers of 2004: stop making tools that magnify and multilply awkward social situations ("A total stranger asserts that he is your friend: click here to tell a reassuring lie; click here to break his heart!") ("Someone you don't know very well has invited you to a party: click here to advertise whether or not you'll be there!") ("A 'friend' has exposed your location, down to the meter, on a map of people in his social network, using this keen new location-description protocol -- on the same day that you announced that you were leaving town for a week!"). I don't need more "tools" like that, thank you very much...
    Cory is right about our task to foster new social contracts (provided we don't forget that code is law). And on his request, if a tool weakens social capital more than it strengthens it, its doomed from the start.

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    December 22, 2003's Something Network ServiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield launched their social networking service. Its an interesting selection of other's ideas. There seems to be an orientation towards strangers introducing themselves to other strangers with nothing to underpin it except ratings. No social context or friend of a friend structure. So I'm not sure this is social networking. What seems to be different is its emphasis on search with the caveat of demanding you provide a full profile first to search others, and the ability to save searches. It also provides a hybrid of agent matching (suggesting matches to you) and personal connections. They are cleary in it for the muny: you have to upgrade to VIP status ($25 one-time plus $3/month) to see full profiles, make connections, pivot (like or Ryze's pivot feature), rate people (explicit as hell, binary choice of Positive or Negative) or join Teams. Teams are akin to Tribe's "Tribes" or Ryze's "Networks" and are coming soon. Not as is usually the case, the most connected node, or in this case highest rated node is Michael Schutzle (former CEO of is heading up the project. Classmates has been able to charge $39 per sub because the value of overcoming search costs for such personal historical connections is high. But job hunting and recruiting (executive and specialist excepted) is often less a task of search than it is of connection, when you find the right profile there is still a great deal of risk that a simple rating cannot hedge. Social context underpins old relationships, making new ones without it is an exercise in Whuffie. Perhaps the constraints they built the system with is best illustrated with the following path: Register => Light search => Provide info => Search => Pay => Connect => Message I stopped at the pay point. Someone tell me if this is more than a glorified resume database with new hooks to get people to submit their data. It should be said this is the first version of what may be many (not venturing into patent territory) and the space just gained its largest entrant.

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    Think GroupEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Geoff Cohen asks,
    "Could we architect social software that fought groupthink? Or does it just make the gravitational attraction of consensus, even flawed consensus, ever so much more irresistible?"
    And our very own Seb suggests,
    I think the key to avoiding unhealthy levels of groupthink has to do with designing spaces that consistently exert pull upon outsiders (or social hackers or community straddlers), so as to keep the air fresh. As long as they feel welcomed, outsiders are able to inject an essential dose of criticism into a group's deliberations, which will help steer it out of groupthink potholes.
    Seb goes on to say I think the blogosphere exhibits this kind of "outsider pull" much more than topic-focused forums, but is less effective at taking action and he wonders if group-action requires group-think. He is right that groupthink is avoided by a social network structure that allows a dynamic and diverse periphery to provide new ideas, but the core of the network needs to be tightly bound to be able to take action. That's the main point of Building Sustainable Communities through Network Building by Valdis Krebs and June Holley. When studying a community over time, they suggest a vibrant community is made up of four stages: 1) Scattered Clusters 2) Single Hub-and-Spoke 3) Multi-Hub Small-World Network 4) Core/Periphery The ideal core/periphery structure affords a densely linked core and a dynamic perhiphery. One pattern for social software that supports this is an intimacy gradient (privacy/openness), to allow the core some privacy for backchannelling. But this requires rediculously easy group forming, as the more hardened the space the more hard-nosed its occupants become.

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    December 11, 2003

    Panel on Social Networking and Social SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Just wrapped up the Red Herring conference in Monterey, CA. Mitch Ratcliffe blogged it extensively, I paraphrased as well. Participated on a panel on (Anti) Social Software with Ben Smith, CEO of Spoke, Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, Allen Morgan of Mayfield (no relation; investor in

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    December 10, 2003

    Love.comEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    AOL got into the dating game today with an IM-centric offering. Here's a link to the WSJ article only valid for seven days, but this one won't go away. works like this: Users put up a profile with information such as their age, occupation and photo and choose a screen name that can be linked to any AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, screen name they have. Those looking for mates can then search, see who's online and send instant messages to people they are interested in. (This is more than they can do with AIM's current "find a buddy" tools.) Such messages are automatically forwarded to a recipient's regular instant-messaging account, and recipients receive alerts on their screen saying someone wants to contact them. They can choose to accept the messages or not. When not in a mood to date, people can set their preferences only to receive messages from buddy lists or block out certain users. also has an e-mail service within it for those weary of instant messenger. AOL also hopes that its large network can help attract some of the 80% of online single adults who haven't yet tried online dating, according to Jupiter Research.

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    December 2, 2003

    Tools, Practice and AdaptationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    One of the better parts of my talk at the Bay Area Futurist Salon was finally meeting Eric Eugene Kim of BlueOxen. He posted some well grounded reflections, but raised some issues, so I'll continue the conversation here. Eric questioned my original definition of social software: Software that adapts to its environment, rather than requiring its environment to adapt to it.
    ...I asked him to clarify the latter statement, and he explained that most collaborative software tries to enforce too much structure. These tools force users to figure out how to fit the data into the tool, whereas the tools should fit the data. In this vein, Ross spoke highly of Wikis and blogs, and also of human filtering (such as Google's technique of measuring backlinks) as a way of organizing information.    I strongly agree with Ross's philosophy, although I don't like how he worded it in his slide. His statement is equivalent to the first part of DougEngelbart's philosophy of coevolution of tools and processes; however, it leaves out the second part, which is equally important.    Doug says that tools ought to augment human processes. However, as we learn more about the tool, we also must evolve the processes to adapt to the tool. An example that Doug often cites is the bicycle. Riding a bike is not intuitive, but it offers significant performance advantages over a tricycle. (To illustrate this point, Doug likes to show this picture.) "User-friendly" tools can be useful, but they should not be the end-goal...
    We actually share the same philosophy, far be it from me to disagree with Doug, so let me explain. A good tool is meaningless without social agreement on how to use it. Sometimes this agreement is gained up front. Sometimes the very nature of the tool fosters consensus. Without process and practice the value of IT is negative. Tools for Practice But there is the problem, adapting processes has even more latency than adapting tools. Gaining agreement is often done by imposing agreement, which hurts the prospect of new agreement that embraces change. Processes are designed by efficiency experts with a given set of information about the team, task, tools and environment. The problem is information in our turbulent word becomes out of date the second its created. People find themselves with a process that doesn't work because of new environmental conditions. The good news is people want to get their work done. When a process fails them, they turn to their informal network, to business practice. They IM their friend Sally who works in another department, but has the information they need. Or they consult their Workspace to find who has been blogging about the issue in the middle of project communications. When formal networks fail, informal networks support. This phase transition is at the intersection of social software and social networking, the opportunity for social software to support business process as well as practice. Tools that work the way people do -- rather than how they are supposed to -- is counter-intuitive. Lo and behold, they suprisingly work. From selling and servicing social software, I can tell you that one of the first issues raised is how giving up control and structure (as in data) could result in inefficiencies in reporting and intelligence. But software without pre-designed constraints is suprisingly adaptable for reporting. And the intelligence you gain from all those groups forming, intertwingling and linking openly is emergent. Suddenly you are making decisions based on what your organization knows and feels is important. I am absolutely convinced that achieving significantly greater levels of productivity and discovery in knowledge work will not come the cycles of process innovation. Tools must evolve to support business practice. Disruptive Technologies Emerge After the Salon, over pizza and beer, I was talking with some folks about how these tools are being adopted from the bottom-up and the Innovator's Delimma. A wicked smart guy from SAP was arguing that large companies had learned their lessons and watch for new innovations so they can embrace them. Some other wicked smart guys took issue, saying not all big company employees are as wicked smart as him and making a disruption a priority at the executive level simply happens too late. I suggested that perhaps with the right social software, enable wicked smart employees to vote their attention with links, such disruptive issues could rise to the top in a large organization. Adapting Software to Software During my talk I provided my rant about how email is dying. The above has probably exhausted you with rants, so I'll let Eric sum it up:
    One of his main arguments against e-mail as a collaborative tool was that it encourages discursive discourse, and that it's hard to make any sense of the sum product. I agree entirely with this argument, but would use it as an argument for how to use e-mail effectively rather than against e-mail entirely.
    Yes. That's why Socialtext works with email (creating blog posts and wiki pages from email; email alerts, etc.) to foster effective use, channeling activity to a shared many-to-many space so email can return to one-to-one and one-to-few. Which brings me to back to that definition from a year ago. Software is part of the environment of software. IT ecosystems must be loosely coupled to foster scope and span over scale and speed. Such is the role of discovery and emerging standards like RSS and Atom, but also adapting to the sedimentary layers and ingrained habits of systems and users/developers. Much work remains. The point of this post isn't this definition of social software, others are better and the discussion has been done. Its that there are some great little companies, that aren't competing, building things and helping people use them -- to solve big problems that underlie the competitive advantage of enterprises.

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    December 1, 2003

    When Users are DevelopersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Steve Lohr in the NYT weaves a web around Markets Shaped by Consumers:
    That consumers shape markets is a truism, but their influence is probably understated and certainly not fully understood. Eric von Hippel, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that a huge swath of innovation can be traced to elite consumers whom he calls lead users. These imaginative and technically adept consumers spot a need and invent a solution, often changing whole industries, from sports to software. "Needs emerge, and users scrounge around and find something," Mr. Von Hippel said, "or tools and technologies emerge, and people figure out how to use them."
    Any tool can be hacked, turning a user into a developer. Take short-text messaging.
    The evolution of short-text messaging on cellphones is an example of consumers putting technology to an unforeseen use. Telecommunications engineers in Europe began using short-text messaging in the early 1990's to alert their peers to network problems. Later, carriers tried to market the text-sending ability to businesses as a substitute for pagers. It never caught on. But the market exploded when teenagers in Europe and East Asia got cellphones. Today, the value proposition, as they say, is simple. "If you are a teenager in Europe, you can't have a social life without cellphone text messaging," said Nick Jones, an analyst for Gartner Inc. in London who has a 19-year-old daughter... Markets, it is said, are a conversation - producers, consumers and others have a voice. And consumers are using technology to change the conversation....
    Its a wonderful article (not just because of the analyst as anthropologist quote) with great examples of consumers turned into producers: Blogging, Bluejacking, Camera Phones, Mountain Bikes and Social Networking. Concludes with something a little odd. Interesting, but odd.
    At the Almaden Research Center of I.B.M. in San Jose, Calif., researchers regard social-network technology as one aspect of what they term "relationship-oriented computing." Its prototype project in the field is Web Fountain, a large supercomputer that digests most Web pages and other online information. Using search, business intelligence and text analytics technology, I.B.M. researchers can look for trends, buzz and hints of shifting consumer attitudes as evident from Web postings. I.B.M. hopes to sell this market intelligence as a service to companies. "It's the collective I.Q. of the Internet coming to your aid," said James C. Spohrer, director for services research at Almaden.
    Someone please tell me how some Superwonderhunky carnivating intelligence about consumer relationships is consumer empowerment. How are users developers? What's interesting is how the old fashioned User Group is taking new life in networked form. Where users are developers, groups form and markets accelerate. Social capital is created as a positive externality that can be applied to new markets. However, the connections that underlie creation can be a negative externality, such as privacy concerns. There is something wonderful about how social technologies empower consumers, but we have to wonder if with each advance: Does it increase or decrease social capital? If it doesn't the tide will turn us back into consumers before we realize it.

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    November 24, 2003

    Social Capital as CreditEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Social capital, or aggregate (connected) reputation, is a form of credit. Some formal transactions can be supported by social capital. Informal transactions are rarely underpinned by financial credit or legal agreement and instead rely entirely social capital. We all have our internal calculators keeping tacit track of who is wronging and righting, the health of the relationships and adjusting our actuarial tables according to experience. Sometimes a service arises to make a portion of this explicit, such as Ebay's or Slashdot's reputation system. Scaled reputation systems to date are, in fact, subjective proxies – a set of localized decisions that result in a visible emergent pattern – the pattern itself being open to interpretation. But if there is enough social agreement to play the rating game, they decrease transaction risk and increase liquidity. Not just for those with better ratings, but for the network or market as a whole. Say you are selling a couch to a neighbor at a garage sale who is going to pay for it when its delivered next weekend. The transaction could be supported by formal credit using means as varied as an IOU or contract (providing legal recourse as credit) or financial means such as a deposit, escrow or credit card. It could also be supported by social capital. The key difference is an implied agreement that default means a negative impact on the defaulting party, not from explicit penalties, but to reputation with the seller and others in the neighborhood that is a network. The overhead cost for securing a transaction with financial credit is greater. Using social capital to underpin transactions is an iterative approach. It only works if there will be future transactions and each occurs within the context of a social network. Game theory holds the best strategy is to trust but verify with each iteration. This presents greater risk up front, but builds trust and reputation with each iteration, so over time transaction risks and costs decrease. But it should be clear that without additional legal recourse for default it only works for smaller transactions. In absence of formal credit, social capital is the norm. Micro-markets, more traditional cultures and third world countries practically run on social capital as a result. Up until the advent of the Internet, markets and networks that run on social capital were unable to scale. The sad irony is that the markets that need scaled reputation the most still lack access to supportive technologies. The only cap to abundant potential connections is our mental capacity to manage relationships (150 active ones at a time). New tools are giving us greater capabilities to recall and invoke latent ties, but this is a hard barrier. What’s interesting is how with the cost of group forming falling, local networks are becoming denser, membership more dynamic and new clusters of localized decisions are ripe for enabling emergent patterns. The potential supply of social capital is abundant, only held back by search and transaction costs. Social software and social networking are rapidly driving these costs towards zero. The pace of capital formation is accelerating because of two additional factors. In the parlance of network or systems thinking: in the absence of connections, nodes become state attractors. In other words, when the amount of connections is limited, the value of connections is high. Economists have an applicable rule for this as well: Say’s Law, or “supply creates its own demand.” Now Say’s Law doesn’t work when there is money involved (creates an arbitrage opportunity, otherwise supply-side economics would make sense), but it does apply to barter, reputation and micro-markets. When money is involved, it provides a universal arbitrage path, causing a fight over equilibrium and discounting the impact of Say’s Law at a macro scale. This is one reason why you can’t trade goods or cash for social capital. Or if you do, it disrupts equilibrium across markets. Now I am sure some elaborate schemes have allowed traders on eBay to assume others’ identities and some virtual world economies have crossed this boundary. But the point is you can’t monetize social capital in aggregate, because it operates at a micro-scale. You can foster social capital for the value of its emergent patterns and what it enables: the flow and production of other tangible and intangible assets. The value of social capital is local, but its impact is global.

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    November 22, 2003

    Love in the Time of No TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    A long and storied tale from the New York Times Magazine make a point on context-shifting in online dating:
    ...The defining fact of online dating is that it begins outside any context -- historical, temporal, physical. To compensate, dating sites offer the old-fashioned comfort of facts: income, life goals, tastes in music, attitudes toward having children -- the sorts of things you might wonder about a stranger you locked eyes with. To ask whether this lack of real-world context is ''good'' or ''bad'' is to oversimplify; online personals are a natural outcropping of our historical and technological landscape -- one more proof of the fact that time and space are ceding their primacy as organizers of our experience. Better questions might be, How do they work and how is the way they work changing the nature of courtship? ...The circularity here is intriguing: an absence of real-world community fuels a schematic, inorganic online ritual that spawns a network of online friendships that ultimately pushes back out into the real world. No context becomes, in effect, a context all its own -- an avatar, if you will, of the city itself. This is how the Internet was supposed to work, and it suggests that the deep impulse behind the success of online dating could reach well beyond dating itself...

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    November 20, 2003

    Paul OtletEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Read the whole thing: Alex Wright on Paul Otlet, the forgotten forefather of hypertext.
    ...While that sentiment may sound postmodernist in spirit, Otlet was no semiotician; rather, he simply believed that documents could best be understood as three-dimensional, with the third dimension being their social context: their relationship to place, time, language, other readers, writers and topics. Otlet believed in the possibility of empirical truth, or what he called "facticity"—a property that emerged over time, through the ongoing collaboration between readers and writers. In Otlet's world, each user would leave an imprint, a trail, which would then become part of the explicit history of each document. Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson would later voice strikingly similar ideas about the notion of associative “trails” between documents. Distinguishing Otlet's vision from the Bush-Nelson (and Berners-Lee) model is the conviction—long since fallen out of favor—in the possibility of a universal subject classification working in concert with the mutable social forces of scholarship....

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    The Forest for the TreesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    A Red Herring article on social networking by Jonathan Thaw captures the healthy skepticism of recent capital formation. What's new about it is lots of threatened incumbents claiming its a feature they can tack on to their existing offerings. Backed up by an analyst who spends her time using Portals suggesting it should be a portlet, because the only time you would use it is when you are prowling for dates. I'm poking fun, but its called for. Its good incumbents are paying lip service, but when an established player has to claim featuredom the threat is real. But nevermind the vcs, network effects, patents or growing like gangbusters. The problem for incumbents is market muscle isn't organic. If a portal offers a social networking service they will have a flood of profiles with minimal connection. Like a grove of saplings with little to share except resource consumption. If an enterprise player imposes a graph from the top-down, incentive conflicts arise. Food chains are more complex than mandating the five food groups. Oh, and we can all envison the ideal user experience, but disruptions don't turn out that way. UPDATE: An anonymous coward who hasn't been paying attention wants me to delve into the detail of the last paragraph. Its all about how the graphs grow. If an incumbent has a base of customers and a large budget for development and promotion, it doesn't necessarily give them a sustainable competitive advantage. Challengers have grown their network beginning with a single node inviting his friends. And they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on...generation by generation. By requiring people to be invited into the network you assure they are connected to the main graph and receive more immediate value. Anyway, the advantage of this organic growth is a densely connected structure throughout the life of the graph. The disadvantage is growth as measured by the number of users is hampered. If an incumbent offers a social networking service to their existing customer base, the network begins with multiple isolated nodes that branch out. Take a browse through Tickle and you will see lots of profiles with few of them listing connections. This is akin to a searchable resume database, little in the way of social context and few opportunities to leverage the graph for services (like filtering messages by degrees of separation). You could offer mechanisms for people to meet strangers in other graphs with forums and the like, but these connections would be enabled without an intermediary friend risking their social capital to foster the relationship, resulting in less aggregate trust, decreasing the potential utility of the network. As I mentioned in my last post on merging networks, creating incentives for people to bridge networks is hard to do. Its easier if you have two graphs (e.g. via an acquisition), a little more difficult if initial generations are based on buddy lists and extremely difficult the service is made indiscriminately available -- resulting in almost as many graphs as there are nodes. Enterprise networks face the same challenges but also have an inherent incentive conflict. If the graph is grown company by company, it means graphs contributed to help selling make you a target for selling or could be used by a competitor, which is why contribution is often made selective. This incents gaming at the company level, contribute invalid data for erstwhile competitors while using your real graph for search. Gaming can be taken into account, but the gaming game is a lot like fighting spam, both provider and users incentives grow with the value of the network alongside the complexity of tactics. Meanwhile company by company growth lessens network effects and viral growth rates will not be achieved. The other incentive conflict is between individuals and enterprises. If an enterprise forces a salesperson to contribute their data, its something they perceive as their own asset they lease to each company the work for. If the graph is developed through hybrid contribution of enterprise and individual, providing a service for individuals as well, individuals receive less utility. Their data is being packaged as part of an enterprise sale and they cannot afford the same level of functionality as an enterprise (e.g. selective contribution of data). Without individual control over their graph or at least opt-out and with profiling of third parties without their consent raises major privacy concerns. For enterprises, the intelligence social network analysis will become a must-have and will outweigh their privacy concerns, but individuals may revolt if incentive conflicts aren't addressed. For most readers, I believe I said all this in a single paragraph and hope the elaboration is worthwhile. Since I didn't use an illustrative metaphor for my last point on how services are competitive, I won't get into detail, have a day job to get back to. I am not a journalist, don't have an editor, but this is the beauty of the social editing process of weblogs...a conversation ensues to build understanding. Of course, its hard to have a conversation with a person that doesn't exist.

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    November 18, 2003

    Merging Networks and Global TribesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Social Networking Services lurched into overdrive last week with funding announcements, patent purchases, new entries and mergers. It all boils down to companies competing at a new level, the ante is upped. I won't get into how the competition will play out, the fictional drama, or decry some of the fake announcements (ok, I will ... Evite is saying they are getting into social networking by providing boards and profiles, which I assume is a joke). What's interesting is E-mode/Tickle's acquisition of Ringo. E-mode is undergoing a full-fledged transformation to a social networking service, although issues are pending. Social networks can be merged with the right incentives for people to fill structural holes by bridging networks. It takes time for the Kudzu to creep and enjoin the two trees, but its inevitable evolution of the ecosystem of networks. Right now the focus in Social Networking is serving the urban tribes professionally and personally. Its relatively easy to envision how over time a network rollup could work with the right incentives for hop-skippers or community bridgers -- provided cultural barriers don't exist. But the biggest untapped opportunity is ethinc networks -- the vast diasporas of jewish, british, chinese, japanese, indian, hungarian and other global tribes. Ethnic identity provides a platform for social networks to transcend territory and hold heterarchy over hierarchy as the dominant feature of business. As worlds collide its difficult to see these graphs merging, certainly not at the pace in which acquirees and acquiers could hope. Or in my experience forming the Blog & Blogging Tribe on Ryze. It's not for lack of internationalization and localization. Its culture, lack of hop-skippers and even network structure. Note that doesn't have a power-law distribution, so quick hits of incenting the peak may not work, tantamount to bribing Instapundit in blogspace [tip of the hat to danah and Varga). Now Ringo was a small 4-man shop with 350k users. Take a browse at Tickle and you will find lots of profiles and little in the way of connections. Will be interesting to see these networks enjoin and if they provide incentives to grow within, not just without.

    Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    November 10, 2003

    What Kind of Social Software Are You?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    what kind of social software are you? One of the choices is between Trotsky, Dr Ruth and Shirky. [via Matt via Chris via Foe]

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    November 8, 2003

    WallopedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Kari Dean at Wired News has the scoop on Wallop, Microsoft's consumer blogging and social networking service.
    In fact, Wallop is Microsoft's venture into the red-hot social-networking arena, using the common Microsoft tack of piecing together existing technologies and packaging them for the novice user. Those technologies include Friendster-style social-networking capabilities, super-simplistic blogging tools, moblogging, wikis and RSS feeds, all based on Microsoft's Instant Messenger functionality. "IM is more of a model for what we are doing than social networking," said Lili Cheng, research manager for Microsoft's social-computing group. "You can add Wallop to your Instant Messenger and add new pictures and content that way." Cheng said Longhorn and knowledge-management researchers are exploring social-networking possibilities, but Wallop is its own entity.
    Next month they open it for a more public beta and some guess the service will launch Q2 2004. Yesterday I posted how blog vendors will increasingly provide group forming features to enhance utility at the skinny tail of the power law distribution. You have to commend MS for an IM centric approach to enhance blogs as conversation. But architecture is political and often results in archipelagos. IM continents are adrift.
    Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext, a social-networking software company, noted that while all of Wallop's features are available elsewhere, "this stitches together lots of things that others have innovated on, and the integration looks appealing as a service." Mayfield sees the integration of IM as particularly significant, as most blogging tools -- except AOL -- don't have that feature. However, he would prefer that such a tool be developed as an open-source project rather than a proprietary service. "You have to commend AOL and Google (for their blogging tools)," Mayfield said. "They are big companies not just providing blogging, but providing it with open standards, participating in Atom, the next-generation syndication standards after RSS. "We anticipate (Wallop) as being very closed and proprietary, which is antithetical to the way that blogs, as technology and a culture, have developed."
    Tell me if I am wrong, but it seems history is repeating itself. Some say its just vaporware, could be a trial balloon or a competitive service out to wallop uncontrolled innovation.
    Mark Pincus, founder of Tribe, said he wouldn't be surprised if the work on Wallop never gets off the ground as a viable service for consumers. "Microsoft had the last seven years to create something that makes (building networked) groups easy, but they still have nothing today," Pincus said, citing as an example of Microsoft's unsuccessful foray into social networking.
    The Wired article leads with the point that there has been lots of bad guessing about what Wallop is -- but this not just a result of their new rubrick of Research as Marketing, its a failure to engage the blogging community. Regardless, as Steve Gillmor pointed out, its about time and space., independent services continue to be fostered by developers as users on top of open standards -- and in this case there is no center to be had. update: Mary Jo Foley's Microsoft Watch Article includes screenshots.

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    November 7, 2003

    Knows and MemesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The rise of social networking gives greater credence to the saying "It's not what you know, but who you know." This inherently undemocratic notion concerns some, and, indeed, the Network is the Market. Within a power-law distribution, preferential attachment implies that the rich get richer, especially as transaction costs for making connections fall. Knows is a power of diverse options -- the latent potential for search, distribution or action. Counter to the power of knows is memes. In theory, a meme with enough fitness can overcome network deficiency. The right simple idea can spread like wildfire, a democratic power we each hold. Memes tansmit through replication, a copy is retained by each node that propogates it. Blogs as nodes are ideal replicators. Dawkins identified three replicator characteristics: copy-fidelity (faithful copies {especially people who use integrated aggregators and publishers}), fecundity (faster rate of copying) and longevity (permalinks). When you view blogspace in its entirety as a social network, you might find that despite its power law distribution, it is inherently more democratic than the real world. The wild card is Reed's Law of group forming. When nodes become groups the power of the network increases. To date, most blog tools are optimized for personal publishing -- the value of the network is Metcalf's law. But as they add features to facilitate group forming, not only do they increase utility within the skinny tail of the power law distribution (blogs as conversation), they enable deliberative construction of memes for distibution within an exponentially greater set of knows.

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    October 29, 2003

    Doing ManagementEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Two great Knowledge Management practitioners just posted great insights about how Enterprise Social Software transforms the practice into Doing Management. Dave Pollard contributes a paper on the Future of Knowledge Management. He addresses the primary failings of traditional KM, the rise of new tools and the need for line worker productivity converging towards a Social Software approach for KM.
    I believe that if KM hopes to save itself from imminent extinction, it needs to acknowledge and act upon the truth of Drucker’s assertion [greatest challenge to business management in the 21st century is, and will be, improving the personal productivity and effectiveness of front-line workers doing increasingly complex and unique jobs], and the following two principles that reflect what ‘improving personal productivity and effectiveness of front-line workers’ means with regards to knowledge: 1. Knowledge is most effectively and efficiently conveyed to front-line workers by other front-line workers or outside experts, one-on-one, just-in-time, and in the context of solving a specific business problem... 2. Front-line workers have a large array of tools and technologies at their disposal, but rarely know how to use these tools and technologies competently, and when they do, they often find that these tools and technologies force them to think and work in ways that are not intuitive to them, interfering with rather than helping their work effectiveness...
    KM is in desperate need of a new monkier, given the costly failings of the previous top-down approach. The bottom-up approach enabled by Enterprise Social Software puts doing things first -- because doing things socially and openly can be more productive, with social capital and institutional memory as postive by-products of effort. The new emphasis on doing can by found in Jay Fienberg's post on recommendations for an enterprise system that encourages collaboration in a public sphere. He describes a set of activities that are ideal for wikis, weblogs and other forms of micro-content ranging from meetings, documents, metrics and reports, individual and group uses. Notice the focus isn't on specifically identifying experts or more valuable content -- but activities that if done openly using simple and flexible tools yield lasting benefits. From theory to practice we are seeing Enterprise Social Software being considered not as knowledge management, but as a better way of doing management. The knowing-doing gap is closing, but not as we expected. Facilitate doing in a social context and you gain learning and insights in social context.

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    October 27, 2003

    iCan for the PublicEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The BBC's iCan is in public pre-beta, a social software project to foster social capital and democratic participation. I posted on M2M about the project back in May. (Just a little before that we were having the same power-law inspired discussion of weblog modalities we are today). Matt Jones speaks of the project's mission:
    Its all about the tail was one of our mantras during the early stages of iCan. When we were talking with people from News and other involved divisions in the BBC, we used to use the power-law curve so beloved of the blogosphere to give an analogy of the connection between the 6/7 major national or global stories that feature on the 30-minute evening news programme and the 100s or 1000s of personal, local issues that people could feel empowered to act on. 3 or 4 times a year at least, one of those personal, local issues will propel itself up the power-law curve to become a national or even global story. For instance, the fuel protests in the UK of a few years ago. iCan was about trying to increase that number, by recognising and supporting the continuum that exists between the tail and the top. Even if not every story, issue or aspiration for change makes it to the top, the community and resources of the tail will provide support, information and inspiration for each new inhabitant of the tail...

    ...continue reading.

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    October 24, 2003

    Misbehaving.netEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The tag line for a new blog on women and technology:
    "Well-behaved women seldom make history." --Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    Putting the miss back into misbehaving is an all-star cast including our very own Liz Lawley: danah boyd, Caterina Fake, Meg Hourihan, Liz Lawley, Dorothea Salo, Halley Suitt, Gina Trapani and Jill Walker Subscribe or be ignorant.

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    October 22, 2003

    The ConnectorsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Wired News: Meet the hypernetworked nodes who secretly run the world. The Tech Node: Our very own Clay Shirky The Tokyo Node: Our dear friend Joi Ito

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    October 20, 2003

    A Social Network MonsterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield launched a Social Networking Service today according to the WSJ (sub. req.) and
    The career Web site ( hopes the subscription-based service will help both job seekers and employed people who want to exchange information about jobs or goals. Monster says that the networking product will enable the site to re-engage its 40 million members, many of whom are well past the typical six to nine month initial period of activity and merely have resumes in the Monster database. "What happens is someone gets a job, and we're looking for ways to maintain that member," said Jeff Taylor, founder and chairman of Monster, a unit of Monster Worldwide Inc. of New York. "What we're able to do now is to provide an instrument of introduction or assist in an introduction to other people in their professional network."
    Monster's approach has several challenges. Top-down deployment of a social networking service results in fragmented graphs. Reccomending connections is one way of bridging graphs. Similarly, without an organically developed culture, its difficult to see how their target users with abandoned profiles will be drawn to connect with others let alone participate. Its easy to understand why Monster is entering this market. The Profile Database Market ($281m this year, $483 by 2006 according to Forrester) is the most directly under threat by new models that provide more value than uploading resumes. The subscription model is an attractive business model because it imposes constraints on joining the network rather than its information flow. But it is uncertain whether Monster users will see utility joining a mass advertised network of uncertain value compared to one their friends invite them into. It also seems prone to information pollution.

    ...continue reading.

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    October 13, 2003

    Marlow's ExplorerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Got a peek at Cameron Marlow's SocialNetworkExplorer at Foo during his talk with Dave Sifry. He is developing a directional graph of blogs, with a clean way of explaining the context of a given blog. For each blog it lists Friends (people who link to the blog and the blog links back) and Fans (people who link to the blog) and Favorites (people the blog links to). The choice of the word Fan is actually quite appropriate for popular blogs, who may have thousands of followers, but max-out at 150 friends -- as they are only human.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: on Social NetworkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    IBDN, in preparation for an event on Social Networking hosted by Rafe Needleman, posts a short interview with the CSO of on Social Networking:
    TAXICAB INTERVIEW | Cary Fulbright, Chief Strategy Officer, on Social Networking IBDN: Is the social networking space another bubble waiting to burst? Is it a fad, feature, or a real market opportunity? FULBRIGHT: It's not a bubble waiting to burst or a fad — many of us in the business world have been using social networking for years as part of our everyday life. The evolving technology specifically created to make social networking easier and faster can only help take us to the next level. It also helps people who aren't adept at public networking for the first time. IBDN: Do you think social networking companies will make money with the current business model? Or are they perfect targets for acquisitions? FULBRIGHT: In the long term, social networking technology is not a stand-alone application. It will become a feature of other applications where it makes sense to include it. You've seen it for a few years in consumer and personal applications. You will see it more explicitly in business applications such as our own CRM application. The technology itself is not rocket-science, so companies that are currently offering products limited to social networking will need to broaden their application to be more widely useful. IBDN: We know that consumers will pay to find a date, but will they pay to find business contacts? FULBRIGHT: Yes, one name for them is "leads," and sales and marketing organizations pay thousands of dollars for leads today. Leads are the life-blood of every business. Another type of paid business contact is called "candidates," and again companies have been paying recruiters or internal referrals thousands of dollars for great candidates for at least 50 years. Especially now, with tight budgets, businesses must run more efficiently and want to find the right contacts to meet their needs, in as streamlined a manner as possible. To the extent that businesses can start with warm leads instead of cold leads, and an existing pool of candidates when they have an opening, they will save millions of dollars.

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    October 10, 2003

    Buzz & Social NetworksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Virginia Postrel writes about Buzz, conversations about preference within social networks, pointing to a study The Influence of Social Networks on the Effectiveness of Promotional Strategies and the work of Yale's Dina Mayzlin and Harvard's David Godes. The research tracked memes in Usenet discussion groups during 1999-2000 and how they effected TV ratings with some interesting conclusions:
    First, they discovered that online conversations did help predict which shows would succeed — a somewhat surprising result in itself. Usenet participants are not necessarily typical TV viewers. The Usenet discussions may have directly influenced new shows' reputations or, perhaps more likely, the online comments may have reflected offline conversations. (Negative comments were relatively rare; three-quarters of the postings in a subsample were either positive or mixed.) In either case, this result suggests that marketers can tap Internet forums to see how their products might fare. Second, the study found that how much buzz a show gets does not predict much about how it will do. Who's talking matters more than how much they talk.
    Jeff Jarvis builds upon this to make the point that its not how large blogspace is, but: First, bloggers capture buzz...Second, bloggers are influencers talking to influencers...Finally, bloggers will create buzz. The paper, a great read on promotion and memetics, specifically explores linear network structures (lattices, paths or chains) and where to employ agents to promote a message. These granular network elements of a unidirectional paths, bidirectional paths and bidirectional circles are essential building blocks that are easier to analyze. Small world networks that follow a power-law distribution are not part of the study, but ironically mass advertising is contrasted as an investment option. When the promotion decision is binary between mass and buzz, mass out performs. But when both methods are employed, buzz yields greater influence. Mass diffusion provides context for a decision, buzz diffusion enables it. I say ironic because the more connected nodes, especially in blogspace, are more like mass than buzz. Its interesting that within the granular paths a meme can take who you influence matters, and it shouldn't suprise people that information travels faster within these strong ties. Hubs are obvious targets for diffusion, Sarnoff's law prevails, but the weak ties the message passes can at best provide context for influence. A strategy of influence would then address both the peak and the skinny tail of the power-law distribution. UPDATE: Kevin Buzzes about Nokia's buzz project

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    October 7, 2003

    People Are the ProblemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Mark Gibbs doubts if collaboration technologies make us more productive:
    ...Sure, some technology is so complex, overbearing and rigid that people find it hard to use it effectively (just consider how few companies use Lotus Notes as the total enterprise information solution it was intended to be). But underlying the limitations of technology is the biggest problem of all: people. ...This is because we, as human animals, are intrinsically problematic when we are collaborating...So mix all those human attributes with new ways of communicating and you are guaranteed to have problems. People will use these tools poorly because they don't know otherwise and their drives are usually unchecked by training or feedback.
    He faults a lack of management for productivity failings (training, policies, monitoring):
    ...Most crucially, if corporate resources are being wasted or abused, the organization has a responsibility to fix the problem. And if that requires monitoring and correcting or even disciplining users, how bad is that? Surely that counts as a mature, commonsense solution to a serious problem?...
    I am tempted to go off on a "its not that your dreams didn't come true, its that you dreamed the wrong dream" rant, but lets take another angle. Mark is right to first to fault usability and false constraints imposed by collaborative systems. He is right that it is a problem, the company's problem, it needs to be addressed and with most tools this is a reasonable step. But in every problem there is an opportunity. IT doesn't improve productivity, people do. Systems are an opportunity to gain social agreement and move forward together. To date, collaboration has focused predominantly on getting people in line with process. This is a fine thing, but as our environment becomes more turbulent, knowledge work is less process than practice. With the right tools, teams get on the same page. Behavior is best improved through feedback from peers, especially on such soft issues rather than from the top-down (Mike, stop spamming the the company or I'll dock you a week. Mary, according to our monitoring software you are interrupting people 5 times more than your weekly IM allotment, etc.). Toning down the noise requires social agreement on use, reflective transparency and continuous social feedback.

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    October 1, 2003

    The End of the Web as We Know ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    David Hornik from the RVC Softedge conference sees the death of email as a sea change, the end of the web as we know it:
    ...According to this scientist, SoBig and other spam bots, which he argues were designed to overwhelm spam filtering software, have so confounded AOL's email infrastructure that it has left the future of email in jeopardy. The volume of spam being sent by these autonomous spambots around the web is so great that, according to the scientist, AOL's email infrastructure has been brought to its knees this past Saturday, Monday and again today. As my source told me, AOL was ultimately forced for the first time to call upon others at the key choke-points around the web for assistance in solving this problem -- a problem which led the head of AOL's infrastructure group to state "the walls are falling in around us." Just how bad is it? According to my source "it is the end of the Web as we know it." Despite massive efforts to trace SoBig and its progeny back to their source and to unravel the code necessary to turn these spam machines off, neither AOL nor other interested parties around the web have had any success and may never. If that is the case, the sheer volume of spam as a percentage of overall Internet traffic will make untrusted email communications completely unviable as a form of communication. Spam filters will necessarily be overwhelmed but email traffic without those filters will be impossibly unmanageable and therefore useless. ...It will also have a serious impact upon the world of Venture Capital. Innumerable businesses upon which we are pitched each day and hundreds of which we have all funded are premised upon the viability of email as a communication tool (be it for knowledge management, collaboration, etc.). While a new frontier of trusted web communications will undoubtedly create numerous opportunities for technology funding, it will also leave a whole world of technology orphaned. Like any fundamental shift in technology infrastructure, this could leave a path of corporate roadkill in its wake.
    Yes, email is dead.

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    September 26, 2003

    Add Your OwnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    addyourown is a wiki-based resturant guide developed by Mark Hurst of Good Experience.
    The goal of the site is to provide a fast, easy, free way for people to find New York restaurants. The unique feature of Addyourown is that all the restaurant listings and reviews are user-generated. You can add to, or edit, almost anything on the site.
    As you would expect from Mark, its well designed, clean, efficient and a great experience. Its still in Beta, entries are growing and covers Manhattan.

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    September 25, 2003

    The Network is the PeopleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The Red Herring re-launched today and carries an interview with Sun's James Gosling.
    The harder problems are sociological, rather than technical...The network is all about connecting people. The Internet is one big social experiment. But it's not just one social experiment; it is whole series of experiments. Take the way that online dating happens. Many people that I talk to are really happy with Internet dating services – much happier than the real world sometimes.

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    Friends ReunitedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Friends Reunited is a Social Networking service, like a European ,which expands the notion of shared space and time as reason to connect beyond school to other places: work, teams/clubs and addresses. Instead of meeting new people through friends, its meeting people you met before in a given place and time. Maintaining social networks is a chore. The further in your past, the greater the transaction cost for activate latent ties. That's why their business model is charging when you want to connect with long-lost friends, which is rumored to doing very well. The model needs gross scale to achieve value, has larger privacy concerns and only value is search.

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    September 24, 2003

    Neal Stephenson WikiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, is using a wiki for participatory learning for his new book Quicksilver:
    The Metaweb is a collaborative structure for learning. In our first phase, we are annotating the ideas and historical period explored in Neal Stephenson's novel Quicksilver, seeding the Metaweb with an initial base of information. We are currently working on 108 articles, and hope you will expand and relate these and many other entries...
    [via Joi via BoingBoing via Jeremy]

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    Chief Love OfficerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    "The real story is that I'm actually acquiring Oracle," Abrams said. "And Bill Clinton is becoming our Chief Love Officer."
    Hail the chief. Not too far from the fake, Google Rumored to Acquire Friendster:
    When asked in recent days about its supposedly impending investment in Friendster, a Kleiner VC is said to have replied that it was on ice while one of its other companies evaluated the prospect of acquiring Friendster.
    Guess that would solve the business model question. AdWords for dating. Social Search. LJ community for Blogger. Anyway, more bubblet hucksterism:
    "I'm projecting that a minibubble, a bubblet, is about to happen, and you'll see VCs each funding some sort of social-networking company," said Perkins. "And I actually believe that social networking is a huge area. Perkins may have motives of his own for stoking the Friendster hype. His Always On Network, which launched as a sort of general interest Slashdot with a blogging component, plans in November to add what Perkins calls "a Friendster-type look and feel where you'll be able to link other members to your own profile." Perkins and others looking into the social-networking idea may want to tread carefully with their knock-offs. Earlier this month, Abrams warned he has something that on the hypercompetitive Web is better than friends: patents pending.
    There will be lots of graphs, but that there are limits on the number of graphs that can exist and number of businesses a that are viable.

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    September 21, 2003

    Go With The FlowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Jim McGee notes that peak performance depends upon flow, and:
    The promise of weblogs in the organization is that they help us get more accustomed to flow. The threat they pose is the same thing; they work against those who are more comfortable with control than with performance.
    The concern of control was raised in the early days of email adoption. At first, practitioners who had exposure to the tool at school or other organization brought it in on their own. Within 10 years a shift occured, and managers became the heaviest users of email. Weblogs in organizations will take less time to make the practitioner to manager adoption shift. Managers can be early adopters of some communication and collaboration technologies, such as Application sharing and IM. The simplicity of weblogs and wikis lower the barrier to entry for managers, precident set by other tools and their utility for managerial roles will accelerate adoption. Email has set a precident for unconstrained communication, whether vertical, lateral or through the firewall. It has trained users that they own their words and are held accountable for them. It has empowered managers with an attention management tool and the ability to pick up on patterns of flow. But email is no longer a productivity tool because of commercial spam, occupational spam and viruses. And the latent value of email communication is lost and attempts to realize it abuse its privacy.

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    September 19, 2003

    2nd Grade CommunityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    At Back to School night for my daughter I was pleased to learn the theme of the year for second graders was community. Of course, I geeked out on some of the mechanisms. Every student has a red card and a green card in their desk drawer. When they do something wrong or right, they have to display it on their desk. There is also a chain of paper clips hanging from a tack on the wall. When the class does something great, they add a paper clip, when its something not-so-great, they take one away. If the chain reaches the floor they get to have an ice cream party. And, get this, a student can choose if they want a card or a paper clip. At first, nobody chose to take away paper clips. The first ones who did, for personal benefit, were chided (something second graders are pretty good at). But lately a communal empathy has arisen where kids encourage demoting the community when an individual really needs it, at the detriment of ice cream. Other neat things included having them draw social network graphs of their friends. All hub and spoke in the first iteration. There is also a big collage of their community, the streets, buildings, people. One of the items is a Post It with a misspelled Nordstroms. It is Palo Alto, after all. I won't bore you with other details, just proud of my daughter learning about the world she lives in. Would be cool to see tools adapted for this experience. I am volunteering for the computer lab again this year, planning on introducing them to a wiki. Start them early.

    Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software

    September 15, 2003

    The Weakening of Strong TiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Mark Granovetter's seminal paper, The Strength of Weak Ties (summary), revealed the difference between friends and acquaintances and how useful acquaintances can be for certain tasks like finding a job. The difference between a strong tie and weak tie can generally be revealed by time commitment underpinning the relationship. Strong ties are better for action, weak ties for new information.

    But time has changed with new tools and social networking models at our disposal. For the first time many social networks are being made explicit, often without the knowledge of participants, at an accelerating pace and dramatically lowered search costs. This newfound transparency may very well make strong ties weaker.

    Top-down vs. Bottom-up Social Networking

    Top-down social networking models such as Spoke, Plaxo and Visible Path attempt to capture existing social networks through bulk processing of contacts and information flow. They circumvent what Valdis Krebs called “the Achilles Heel” of social networking – data entry. A company or person joins the network by submitting contacts and/or allowing information flow to be monitored. Traditional social network analysis relied upon surveys and interviews. Analysis has already benefited from the computational and visualization advances afforded by PCs, but now the Internet has rapidly decreased the transaction costs for performing analyses as well as allowing dynamic analysis that is closer to actual current state of the network.

    ...continue reading.

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    September 9, 2003

    The Value of Latent TiesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Much ado has been made about the phenomenon of fake characters on Friendster (Fakesters). Some users complain that it is an essential earmark of Friendster's emerging culture. But these icons are more than artistic expression, they serve as symbolic bridges that connect people. A bridge that is valued within a game that some that perceive is won by having the most connections. Bottom-up Social Networking Models like Friendster, LinkedIn, and Ryze grow from strong ties to weak, and share a predominant risk of devaluing what it means to be a Friend. Iconic Ties effectively create arbitrage paths that devalue the network economy within Friendster and perhaps are not in the long-term interest of the network. A civil war has emerged between Friendster Founder Jonathan Abrams and some members of the network. Jonathan explains the need for constraining profiles within reality:
    "What we're trying to do is create a filter," says Abrams, 33, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. "You don't want to go to a party or a bar where there are three million people. The whole point is to deliberately limit" the number and kind of people one individual is linked to.

    ...continue reading.

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    May 18, 2003

    OhmyNewsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Dan Gillmor reports in his Sunday column how OhmyNews is a transformative model for journalism:

    ...OhmyNews is transforming the 20th century's journalism-as-lecture model, where organizations tell the audience what the news is and the audience either buys it or doesn't, into something vastly more bottom-up, interactive and democratic...

    ``The main concept is that every citizen can be a reporter,'' he says. ``We changed the concept of the reporter.''  ...The new way, Oh says, is that ``a reporter is the one who has the news and who is trying to inform others.''

    ...The easy coexistence of the amateurs and professionals will, soon enough, seem natural. Publications like OhmyNews will pop up everywhere, because they make sense, combining the best of old and new journalistic forms....

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    My Impending DoomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Tim Oren points to an HP paper on information flow in social groups to predict my impending doom in the Mayfield-Shirky Cage Match.  The paper studies email use by 30 clients inside the organization and 10 outside.  However, the study combines both datasets to simulate a Power-law for the purpose of the study, information flow.  The paper identifies that it does not capture the outbound email of the external dataset, skewing the distribution.  I believe this was intentional to simulate the scale-free network characteristics that exist in large email networks, to allow detailed analysis down to individudal messages. 

    I'll continue to assert that weak tie networks are scale-free while strong tie networks, segmented by the capacity constraints of people (12, 150) have a more even distribution of connections. 

    What the study does show is that social networks are not epidemic in distributing information.  There is a low probability that a given message will be widely distributed even in a simulated scale-free network.

    ...continue reading.

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    May 14, 2003

    Bet on WomenEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I will have to take Liz's bet on gender balance in LinkedIn.  In a way, I am doubling down on the previous bet -- the commonality is that even with LinkedIn's constraints it is a dynamic network. 

    I am betting on change.  Since the network's growth isn't driven by preferential attachment, but by new invitees, the demographics are bound to change to reflect the real world.  The initial population of the network is predominantly male, but the rate of change is enough to give me confidence in at 10% of the top 500 members being female within 3 months. 

    I am also betting on women in business.  I can't see how the networking model has a gender bias.  We have already seen how in business organizations, where status is the prevalent game, new tools like email offer opportunities for people to advance themselves.  A business networking site offers such an opportunity.

    ...continue reading.

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    Jessica's BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

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    May 9, 2003

    Shirky Enters a World of HurtEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Clay, you ignorant slut.  You have preferential attachment backassward.

    What would drive the distribution pattern into a power-law isn't Joi's ego.  You can't scale or clone Joi.  Preferential attachment is when a new participant enters a network they have incentives to connect with those most connected. 

    LinkedIn, however, is not a frictionless network.  You have to know someone to join, you have to know someone's email address to initiate a connection, they have to confirm it, and if you don't know them you have to go through a referral.  These transaction costs foster trust, but they are also barriers to preferential attachment.  Joi's preference for connectivity will also max out because there is a cost to connectivity, providing referrals, which does have positive externalities, but maxes out with his available time.

    So I'll take that bet.  If I win, we will dine at New Bamboo and I'll run up a tab of Singha.  And if I lose, not only will I buy you a pansy-ass vegetarian meal at Blue Ribbon, I'll throw in as many Pabst Blue Ribbon as you can muster.

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    May 8, 2003

    Web of TrustEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    The launch of the highly differentiated LinkedIn networking community prompts an update the Social Networking Models table:


    Social Networking Models

    Network Type



    Explicit Declarative Ryze
    Virtual Avatar EverQuest
    Physical In-person Meetup
    Conversational Communication LiveJournal; Weblogs
    Private Referral LinkedIn

    © 2003 Ross Mayfield


    ...continue reading.

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    May 6, 2003

    British InvasionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Some of the most ambitious Social Software projects are across the pond.  UpMyStreet Conversations which uses geocoded discussion boards to foster localized social capital. Another project, iCan, serves to enhance social capital by empowering people with social software to engage in civic activism. 

    The design of iCan is underpinned by an ethnographic study of real-world grassroots campaigns.  Research on internet-friendly groups showed two main reasons for passivity:

    • ‘I don’t know where to start.’
    • ‘I can’t make a difference on my own.’

    My notes from iCan's presentation at O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference are posted on the Etech Wiki.  Matt Jones described a process model for grassroots campaigns:

    • Stage 1 - Discovering
    • Stage 2 - Deciding
    • Stage 3 - Planning
    • Stage 4 - Acting
    • Stage 5 - Retiring

    ...continue reading.

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    May 5, 2003

    Many-to-Many RSSEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Corante now has RSS feeds!

    Subscribe to Many-to-Many.

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    April 30, 2003

    Wikis are BeautifulEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    With respect to Liz, I have to argue the point that wikis are beautiful, not ugly.  Their beauty is in not trying to be pretty.  They emphasize function over form over aesthetics. 

    Joi Ito had some great comments on the difference between looking and reading.

    ...McLuhan talks a lot about how "looking" at TV is different from "reading" text. When you read a book, your eyes are focused a bit above the text and the text sort of just goes into your head to create symbols. With TV, you actually LOOK. You really care if the font on the TV is ugly, but you rarely remember the font of a good book you just read.

    So, maybe this is the difference. When I am on a Wiki, the way it looks really doesn't concern me as much as trying imagine and understand all of the context that is captured in the web of pages linking to and from the page. I imaging all of the people from all kinds of places and what they must be thinking. It's less about user interface and more about code...

    ...continue reading.

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    April 29, 2003

    Google's Exponential ReturnsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    There is more to Google than useful, simple and powerful products.  In the end there will be less Harvard business school cases about its product than its organization.  At Etech, first employee Craig Silverstein discussed Google's product development process and the systems that support it.  What's different is the use of smaller organizational units (groups of 3 on average) supported by lightweight inter-group communication with a culture of sharing.

    The danger of smaller organizational grouping is the potential redundancy or splintering; and the difficulty of realizing economies of scale.   The danger and difficulty is overcome through systems, but not the typical enterprise systems that seek to automate processes. The benefit is greater speed and agility (scope). 

    But in such knowledge intensive work you can't automate what is largely practice.  Instead, light weight tools like wikis and weblogs support what people need to get things done and in scale the system yields emergent properties.

    ...continue reading.

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    Weinberger on Why NowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    David Weinberger offers his thoughts on the why now? of social software:

    ...First, I consider social software actually to be emergent social software. That narrows the field to software that enables groups to form and organize themselves. Yes, it's still broad but at least it's not coextensive with any software that has a user interface.

    Second, it doesn't much matter to me whether the software is new or old. I'm excited about the fact that that type of software is now being recognized (i.e., "hyped") as important. And my question is: Given that most of the software is old, why is this category now becoming hot?...

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    April 23, 2003

    Social Capital of BlogspaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Ross Mayfield

    Perhaps we are in the Network Age [Ming], following modernism and post-modernism.  After obsessing about construction, then deconstruction, we now value the links between deconstructed bits.  When those links are between people, they can be valued as social capital.

    ...continue reading.

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