Monday, August 23, 2010

The Social Media Firehose

Background: Leo Laporte got upset because his posts disappeared from Buzz and nobody seemed to notice. Adam Singer and then Louis Gray both responded by emphasizing the importance of blogs (where an individual owns and hosts her own content) over social media (where Facebook owns everything).

My Take: I think Leo's problem is bigger than that he lost everything he thought was on Buzz for two weeks. The real problem is that nobody noticed. Buzz, like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and every other social media out there, is a firehose of information. They're not designed to be read "cover to cover". Instead, they're designed for you to read what's at the top of the list, and keep scrolling down until you find something better to do.

I've said this before: We need a new interface.
As a content producer, I care about who receives my content (public, private, private to certain people). This is especially important if you consider my (anyone's) role as a content filter, and the increasing amount of data that gets shared. I only want to share with YOU the links I think YOU will be interested in.

As a content consumer, I care about the source and topic. I'm interested in a number of topics, but I'm not interested in everything YOU are interested in. I want you (or someone) to tag your items and I want a filter that allows me to ignore everything you care about that I don't.

I don't care about the length. I don't need posts that are 140 characters or less separated from longer posts. That's a stupid idea.

Are you listening, Google Me team?
As it is, social media is centered around which website you use (Twitter or Facebook or Buzz) and communication between those sites is limited. (I know, you can feed your tweets to Facebook or Buzz, and vice versa, but it's a pain.)

What if, instead of following someone on all those different sites, there were a place where all of a person's content is listed and sorted, and you could choose what to follow? Say, a personal profile site?

My Google profile sorts my original content by format (blog entries, photos, tweets, etc.), and Buzz items by type (posts, comments, and likes), but that's not very useful. If you're my dance friend, I assume you're interested in all of those things, but only a portion of them (those pertaining to dancing). Instead, my profile should list the topics I care about, and allow you to subscribe to all types of content on a particular topic.

Of course, I would be able to limit what you see using the typical public/private/private to certain people settings.

Common comments
The other important step is to create a standard for comments, so that whatever program you use to read my topics, you can discuss them with someone using any other program.

Comments should be their own type of message, like a tweet, but have metadata that associate them with an original post (URL), and that limit who can view it. If I comment on a story, tag it with a topic you're interested in, and make it viewable to you, the original story would show up in your reader, with my comment visible. Similarly, you could comment, make it public to me, and it would show up in my reader, associated with that original story.

Even Facebook?
It would have to work with FB. That is, if FB is your preferred way of viewing the web, it should allow you to "friend" my Google profile, and choose which topics you want to hear about in your FB stream. Since FB is the "king", I have a hard time seeing them cooperate with this. But maybe if there were a FB app for it...

What do you think? Am I on to something?


  1. Sarah9:54 AM

    Did you see this?

    >>>> “While our work here may be done, the struggle for open, interoperable social networks is still only just beginning, and I’m looking forward to working on that in my new role at Google,” Mr. Khare wrote.

  2. I didn't see that! This Google Me thing sounds like it's going to be bigger and bigger. Some people worry that it will be "another facebook", but I think Google will go about it a different way-- less closed (code-wise, not privacy-wise) and less aimed toward time-wasting social activities. Google has a long history of open source development, and even after the recent net neutrality fiasco, I want to believe that they have the greater good at heart. They also have a somewhat hidden, but large base of experience in professional services in Google Apps for your domain, which I think will lend a more professional, utility-minded angle at Google's social side. Also, they're all geeks.

  3. This is an excellent post and may be one that needs to be followed up to see what happens

    A buddy e-mailed this link the other day and I am eagerly anticipating your next write. Keep on on the awesome work.

  4. LOL, no pressure or anything. Thanks for the kind words. This blog really proves my point, though, that we should be able to subscribe to tags within blogs, or at least categories, not just the blogs themselves. I presume you're not interested in the photos from my guest room remodel?

    I'll see what other internet inspiration comes my way this week.

  5. Located your blog via bing the other day and absolutely love it. Continue the great work.