Thursday, February 21, 2008

Social InterWeb 2.0

DISCLAIMER: This stuff seems really cool and profound to me, but I may be talking about things that are pretty inane and problems that have already been solved, so forgive me if this post is really stupid.

Well, it's almost here. In a little over a week, I will be fully immersed in the social web. As someone who isn't probably the hippest dude when it comes to the new Internet, I have some boning up to do on how people use the web, what makes a site both 'cool' and (more importantly in my humble opinion) 'useful'. I see (younger) people today who route almost all their interaction through some form of social web component. I usually think in terms of just emailing my buddy, or *gasp*, calling them to see what they are up to next weekend. For that matter, my buddy was someone who I had known for a while, or at the very least, had actually met. Now there is whole dynamic whereby you can have 'friends' who you have no interaction with outside of 'poking' or posts on a wall, or a comment in a myspace page. This is all weird, but this is what I need to start to grasp.

See, I am the guy who doesn't answer his cell phone half the time that it rings. It's a tool of my convenience, not a direct line to me wherever I may be. I have IM, but I don't have a big friend list. I have a myspace page, but it has the same 51 friends that it had after about 2 wks of having the page. I have a facebook page that I put up to do development, and something like 9 people found it and did friend requests. I have one post on my 'wall' (thanks Zahra!).

I do participate in the social web - I provide recommendations, feedback, and ratings about things that I have done, places I have visited, books I have read, music I have listened to. I get recommendations for things to buy from others who participate. I think it's fascinating to examine the science of the social web - to understand how social networks actually work. I have been thumbing through Programming Collective Intelligence, by Toby Segaran, which gives a primer on the algorithms behind so many of the Web 2.0 sites. Fascinating to think about how the people are connected, and how someone can take these connections and find a way to monetize them. Things like the Small World Phenomenon are pretty incredible. I wonder (and I am sure this happens a lot more than I know), but I wonder if there is some sort of mathematical formula you can use to see:

a) How much is a given profile worth? (social networking potential)
b) How can you say what features have more social reach (how many degrees of connection do they span and how quickly)
c) How vital is a given member to a group (structural cohesion)

Are companies like facebook and myspace already utilizing these kinds of models to apply value to their users? Is this possible? Does it work? Such cool stuff.

As someone who comes from a business background, and who is interested in sociology, I think that my new job will provide me with an avenue to explore the intersection of technology, marketing, sociology, and sales. It makes what is an exciting move that much more fascinating to me, and I can't wait to dive in headfirst. I'll be letting you know how it goes, and hopefully writing a lot more about this as I start to figure more of it out.


lapsed cannibal said...

I think my favorite social networking site so far is -- not because it links me to other people, per se, more because it links me to other people's music recommendations. I think that's the best aspect of this whole SN phenomenon, at least for antisocial misanthrope types -- who don't care much about connecting with other people, but love the creative cross-pollination of the hive mind, its narrowing and focusing qualities. It's the most successful response to information overload we've come with, I think.