Some fun thoughts about social networks (a side benefit of having spent the last couple of months up to my eyeballs in social networking data). It may or may not be useful.
Up until now, Facebook and Twitter have just been riffs on blogs. These networks are pretty much dealing the same ideas the community building blogging software was talking about back in 2001.* Essentially: blogs + RSS (really simple syndication) = knowledge/social networks for organizations. Another similar approach is what LiveJournal was doing with teenagers.
The above implies that the real next generation of social networks (2.0) is not just more of the same. That revolution has passed. It's something else entirely. So what is it? My belief is that this next phase is going to be driven by the following: a combination of software that makes group formation/mx easy and online gaming,
A sign that at least part of this is on the right track: Facebook has just jumped into this area with some new grouping features that they think is critical to their future.
Here's a restatement of the opportunity to turn Facebook into the equivalent of AltaVista/Yahoo of social networking:
- Software that makes grouping easy... from initial recruitment, first member recognition, rules for behavior, enforcement, goals, and reward allocation. Everything you need to build a group that operates as a club, a tribe, or a company.
- Open MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) functionality. Basically, a set of functionality that enables people to build their own games on the network. As in: You get points for.... Your quest is.. Your reward is.... This gets even more interesting if you believe, as I do, that all real world social networks (like the global economy) are just poorly written MMGs (massively multiplayer games) with obscure/hidden/rigged rules.
- To really do this right, by avoiding cognitive slavery and zooming the platform to new levels: the entire platform should be owned in large part by the users. Make the users of the platform financial partners (based on their participation) and this could turn into something that gives modern capitalism a run for its money.
* NOTE: As an example of some early (albeit clunky) thinking on social networks, read some the posts I made to my old k-logs group during 2001 thru 03. K-Logs (knowledge management weblogs) was a relatively influential discussion group back in the early days of social networking, when there were only a couple of hundred (soon a couple of thousand) of us in the blogging universe (I'm not claiming any prescience on this, only noting the similarity).