When I blogged "My Social Networks are Broken" in March I had already stopped trying most of the new ones. Now with the flurry of posts round Many to Many I'm watching the implosion of SNS... Will they all just collapse into each other or will something new emerge that is useful, integrated and adaptive to the individual? Stowe's posted "Ten Commandments" which is interesting because I was thinking about a "Manifesto for Social Networks" and haven't had the time to go there yet. I began by digesting Adam Greenfield's and recent Many to Many posts lamenting the lack of new prescriptions.
Before I lose my thoughts or they become dated in the slipstream of fire I'd offer up the following ingredients to take the dialogue up a level strategically. This is not just about spam and e-mail. It is about you and me, and how we connect. When we think social networking services put "individuals" at the center.
It's my Network:
At the risk of saying some things twice. I believe we should look outside the current crop of SNS for the SNS of the future. Blogs are a better model, they are distributed (many have them hosted which is ok). Unfortunately there is no profile plug-in (Typepad has an "about" though I've not seen it as special.). Skype like IM (Instant Messenger) systems are better at connecting in real time, provide presence and new opportunities for file and data sharing etc. IMHO this could be modified to be a SNS Manifesto and these are additional points.
My Blog is Better at Networking:
I know the humble blog has been held up as a social network many times. From experience my blog is much better than any of the SNS as a networking tool. One advantage my blog has over all the SNS is I can make connections with people that aren't in any network. I've found some of the non-blogger connections to be the most important of all. I've also found following up on trackbacks and comments much more valuable.
Create Markets for Connectivity:
Social Networks should look at how they can facilitate markets for conversation and connectivity. The conversations in most Social Networking Services today are stilted and hampered by poor connectivity. Do you really want to link through three other people to get to someone in LinkedIn? Connectivity remains poor because they lack diversity and depth and the mechanisms to harvest both depth and diversity are lacking. So create a market for me where I can trade different kinds of information about myself. Enable bots or search capabilities that can create unique inquiries and then return helpful connections and results. We all have information to trade, the problem is we don't know what to trade. In a networked world those that facilitate markets win. eBay remains the best example I know. However eBay only really applies to hard goods. I'd like to know who is going to broker "the people's" information?
Adopt user centric models.
The solution has to work in my hand, when mobile. The only device I carry like that now is a cell phone or possibly future PDA. To jump into this realm the solution must address "Presence". Without presence real-time inquiry is impossible and pointless. Not everyone needs the same presence information. Non of the social networks I'm a member of require "daily use" in stark contrast to my IM clients for my newsreader.
Encourage Face to Face.
A few unique relationships may begin without face to face contact. With both blogging and Ryze I made great contacts globally without any early "live" meetings. Yet each time I meet another blogger / networker at a conference or in their home town the relationship takes on new dimensions and presents new opportunities. Other bloggers have expressed the same sentiments. In fact blogging leads to the desire to collaborate, we just don't have the tools to close that gap too easily. Ryze as an example is encourages F2F through their Mixers and that is one of the reasons for their continued success. However when it comes to collaboration tools after or around the blog it remains difficult. Skype has helped bridge the cost gap and thus opened up new avenues for conversation and reflection.
Integrate with IM / VoIP.
I've pushed this thread for awhile. The future of communications is changing. Presence is the driver and it will be controlled from wherever you are. The more seamlessly the better. None of the centralized IM systems enable personal control and even Skype requires you to log-in to a cloud. However I expect Skype will enable "clouds" for corporates, and potentially "personal clouds" down the road. For the moment this is a convenient intersection, where converging technologies create a wholely new set of applicatons.
No to Accelerated Spam:
Orkut was exciting when it was built. It emerged almost over a weekend. The viral effect in overdrive. By contrast I'm not sure Multiply is having the same effect. It has certainly spammed me with invites although not as many times as others. See also Clay Shirky's comments on spam.
Where is my demand? It sits between wanting a better address book and better presence information. I feel the capability in my network and the potential for new connections and new value opportunities. However so far the tools don't let me synthesize these very effectively. The system that bridges this has a neat opportunity. I'm going to download Wired Reach again. I still don't know where or how their business model will work. However, I'm up to trying Wired Reach again. You should read Ashish's blog on "What is P2P" and "Beyond Social Networks", the latter I would have missed if I didn't go looking for a Blog. Clearly Ashish gets it. His blogging will bring him more exposure.