Monday, September 24, 2007

Auto-Biography, a Conceptual Business Piece on Social Networking

So, this is a conceptual business piece called Auto-Biography: Social Networking for People Who’ve Really Lived. It could be the beginning of an open source business plan for building a social network for older consumers. Take it, mash it, money it, etc. Just remember to hire me while there are still options available.

By way of explanation and in the style of Craig Damrauer’s New Math: Equations for Living, I offer the following:

Conceptual business piece = (What’s The Big Idea? – Capital) + No further ado

As social networks push out beyond the 14-25 year old demographics, the way that relationships (contacts, friends, associates) are extracted will become of increasing importance. Structuring the input of relationships will become important. Most social networks provide little structure for discovering and entering data about one’s life story.

Notable exceptions are LinkedIn via company networks and job histories, Classmates via high schools, and Facebook via colleges and companies. Note first that these are three of the most widely used networks and second that many people have meaningful relationships that were formed outside of their work and school experiences.

What is missing, really, is a sense of time passing. Facebook and MySpace were designed to capture a right-now social network. But older folks have had and lost friends. People have died. Cities have been moved to and from. They didn’t have children and then they did. And that entire fourth-dimension is missing.

All current social networking attempts to do two things: 1) present an autobiographical sketch via profile, pictures, etc and 2) highlight the “friendships” between these abbreviated people. Almost all social networks have emphasized the second part of the mission, very narrowly defined. The price of that choice is authorial control over one’s narrative. I can’t say that Ed is my friend without him agreeing: two-way connections require that both parties agree. This is difficult when one of the parties is, for example, dead. I can’t even define my relationships beyond simple friendship or non-friendship, “Top friends” excepted.

My guess is that older consumers want more of part 1—autobiography—and less of part 2—showing connections. A conceptual framework for building out the social networks of older people is necessary to make the social internet work for them. We need tools that will allow them to access the crusty memories of yore first, and then allow them to reestablish contact.

A big part of the reason behind sticking to very basic user network extraction tools is that information input requires work on the part of the user. The goal of the process—the profile—is of very little value. It is little more than a glorified name tag with some outlinks to people you know and some “lifestyle” markers. If these are our online representations, they are very reduced and not quite adequate for making a snapshot of a real life.

What if the very building of the profile created value for the user? What if the building out of the profile was practically a single-user application that helped our older consumer organize the information and relationships of their increasingly complex and geographically disparate lives? Then, the time cost of inputting more data into a 2.0 application would decrease.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III this week.

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home