Do Social Gestures a Business Model Make?

Is twitter a directory or a utility? This is the question that Charles Hudson raises in his post The Database of Intentions is More Valuable than the Database of Musings. While investigating prospective business models, he raises good questions about the ability of a collection of “accumulated musings” to determine intent which is what is most valuable to advertisers.

But maybe advertising  is not the great revenue driver of the next generation of startups after all, at least not advertising as we know it. Maybe it’s just me but I feel a need to make sense of all the stuff we share with each other. There seems to be value in tapping into the pulse of the “now web” but the methods of pulling meaning out of the noise seem crude. Keyword searches? Is that the best we can do?

Something went wrong with the Intense Debate comments on last night’s post on Keywords and Meaning. It’s unfortunate because there were some really thoughtful responses to the post which I’ll repeat in this post because they are worth reading.

Todd writes:

Keyword extraction from Twitter could be cool, but may kill of serendipitous discovery, my favorite aspect of Twitter. If keywords or meta-categories are predetermined truly unique hawtness, unprecedented new things ( a Twitter specialty ) will just get deleted? That would be FAIL.

I wonder if more of a “people with attributes” are really what’s needed. Example, I do want to know what’s going on with the latest developments for Symbian operating system, particularly activity streams and address book stuff. Rather than rely on keyword extraction, I could just assign an attribute to your tweets…

twitteruser:iankennedy=novi

…I can be fairly assured news filtered by real humans, THEN assigned an attribute of my choosing will bring me some good results. A tag cloud of all tweets containing “symbian, activity stream, address book” would be noisy ( pollute with people asking each other for tech support? ), difficult to pull meaning from while drinking beer at my favorite bar.

Jonathan Strauss writes:

The TechCrunch post you cite was inspired by John Borthwick’s very interesting essay on how Google’s approach to content filtering breaks in the realm of what he calls the ‘Now Web.’ Like you say above: “Google’s PageRank, while valueable in sorting out the reputation and tossing the hucksters, is no good when applied to real-time news which is too fresh to build up a linkmap.”

In the (relatively) static web, the network nodes are pages and the endorsement actions are the links between them which are effectively permanent as well as public, and thus crawlable. In the Now Web, the network nodes are people and the endorsements are ephemeral share actions, the majority of which are not public or crawlable (i.e. email, IM, Facebook — what I call the ‘Deep Now Web’). And so, authority also takes on a different form from the aggregate view that PageRank provides to the personal measure of how much influence an individual has with her social network on a particular topic at a given moment.

I agree that we need to have a means of systematically capturing the newly important metadata of share actions and that it needs to be done at the point of sharing (see Jeff Jonas). But, I believe the more easily adopted (and thus ultimately more useful) taxonomy will be one of contextual metadata (i.e. who/what/when/where/why/how) rather than the more personal folksonomy/tagging approach you suggest.

There was also reactions via twitter from Kevin Marks:

The act of sharing links, photos, or other metadata on social networks is an action, to a certain extent, that gesture is more interesting than the actual data itself. The fact that my usually dormant cycle racing friends are now extremely active on twitter these past few days as the Tour of California is on is as much an indicator of interest as the actual substance of their conversation.

Keywords are part of the picture – the complete context around who/when/where/why/how are just as important as the tidbit of data itself. The meta-data contains more clues than the data.

The cellphone is a rich source of meta-data which can be captured at the source, the moment of sharing. Feeding contexts captured from the cell phone would be a great way to add context to any act of sharing.  There are privacy concerns and ownership questions. There needs to be a real value demonstrated to the potential user before they give up some of this privacy. But that’s a topic for another post.

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