Tag Archives: social network

Fun with Google Social Search

Google Social Search is now available in Google Labs. Danny Sullivan has the most in-depth coverage out there but it’s worth turning on yourself because you’re going to be the best judge of how well this feature performs for you.

Be sure to dig deeper than the default two results Google throws timidly down at the bottom of your search results. Click Show Options and click on the Social category in your sidebar. Check out the results you get for People and you’ll get a feel for the power of this feature.

Google Social Search

You have the full index of Google quickly filtered by names that should be familiar to you. In a stroke of genius, Google has re-labeled this extended network your, “social circle” which a much better label than “friends” (which didn’t sound right) or “social graph” which no one really understood.

The screenshot above is my aha moment – I had no idea that Caterina ever was in Finland and certainly didn’t know that she took the time to suggestions of things to do in Helsinki. This is a post from 2003 which most certainly have been lost to the sands of time if it were not for this feature which surfaced this gem in just a few clicks.

And now for a feature request. As you can see, this is a great feature for retrospective searches which makes the foggy past plainly visible.  What about adding an RSS subscribe option so that you could apply these searches to the prospective future?

It would be great to know when any of my extended social circle also wrote about my adopted hometown. I suppose it would be easy enough to script something but why not build it in?

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Social Discovery, Social Filtering, and other Web-Squared Shapes

It’s hard to wrap up a major conference, especially when you didn’t attend, but viewing things from a distance sometimes helps because only the loudest messages make it all the way over.

Before the conference even started, Fred Wilson threw out a one-liner that got people thinking. He called it the Golden Triangle.

The three current big megatrends in the web/tech sector are mobile, social, and real-time.

To Fred, the vectors between each of these points on his triangle represented the biggest opportunities over the next few years and where he, as a technology VC, was going to focus his attention.

Ross Mayfield, his line from the first Web 2.0 conference is still relevant, added Geo to Fred’s Triangle and posted his virtual napkin up on flickr.

ross mayfield web squared

The importance of Geo cannot be ignored as the most obvious (and easiest) way to add context to information which is being harvested and sent our way in increasingly alarming rates. We talk about a world in which there are 1 billion mobile devices. Imagine what happens when each of these gets a camera, gps, and bluetooth sensor and an IP connection to pull in real-time updates. Adds a new dimension to Right Here, Right Now.

So while HTML Page Indexers of yore were failing at finding us the best Chinese in Helsinki or plumber in London, Social Discovery became the new nectar. Facebook leads to FriendFeed leads to Twitter and now our capacity to consume and process has overloaded. Groups, Hashtags, Lists, Folders, call them what you will but this manual organization of streams is beginning to feel like e-mail folder management all over again. The Googles and Microsofts have added the Twitter firehose to their indexes but somehow I don’t see that as solving the problem unless they can filter on your social connections as well (rumor has it Google Profiles are about to play a much more important role Google Social Search is now live).

Which brings us to Social Filters.

Marshall Kirkpatrick has been following this topic for a long time. He bangs the Social Filter drum again in a post about Facebook’s News Feed redesign,

Someday social networking is going to be like the telephone. Today you can’t send messages from Facebook to people on MySpace or LinkedIn but that isn’t going to last forever. Just as you can call someone who uses T-Mobile from your Sprint phone, someday sharing and messaging between online social networks will be a given.

How will social networks retain users then? Why stick with Facebook when some smaller service offers a decentralized social networking service outside of Facebook’s control but still tied into your friends on Facebook and elsewhere?

These services will someday have to compete on user experience, when they no longer have your social connections locked-in. The service that does the best job filtering up the most important information you have coming your way will likely be the service you stick with. That’s going to be a key area of competition between social networks.

Yes, it’s no longer about who “owns” the social graph – it’s who provides the best services on top of a shared graph. Someone mentioned that Tim Berners Lee said at the conference that AOL was to WWW as Facebook is to distributed social networks. Just as we thought it silly that AOL wanted to put it’s famous wall around the internet, we may also look back in amazement thinking that anyone could have the audacity to think they could own the world’s social address book.

Some historical perspective from Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle in Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On

There is a race on right now to own the social graph. But we must ask whether this service is so fundamental that it needs to be open to all.

It’s easy to forget that only 15 years ago, email was as fragmented as social networking is today, with hundreds of incompatible email systems joined by fragile and congested gateways. One of those systems – internet RFC 822 email – became the gold standard for interchange.

We expect to see similar standardization in key internet utilities and subsystems. Vendors who are competing with a winner-takes-all mindset would be advised to join together to enable systems built from the best-of-breed data subsystems of cooperating companies.

Bringing it all together you can almost hear the synapses of the global brain achieve self-awareness. Not only are we moving to a web of sensors feeding real-time data into the grid, we are annotating it by injecting bits of human commentary and behaviors across an increasingly distributed social graph.

A phone in one corner of the world sends off a snapshot which is immediately re-tweeted via the world’s largest telephone tree. More reasoned minds pick up the samples, turn it over and examine it and later conclude that no, the calculated mass of the balloon could in fact not hold a small boy aloft – rumor refuted! Lesson learned and the network becomes a little smarter, more skeptical, less knee-jerk adolescent. Sentient if you will.

The pieces are in place, the machines are warmed up. It was fun while it lasted but it’s time to put Failblog aside and see if we can move on to tackle bigger problems. O’Reilly and Battelle wrap up with their call to arms,

2009 marks a pivot point in the history of the Web. It’s time to leverage the true power of the platform we’ve built. The Web is no longer an industry unto itself – the Web is now the world.

Mobile Social Networking “up for grabs” in the United States

Jason Calcanis has a great post on 10 things the new MySpace CEO should do. All of them are good (buy a search engine, add casual games, virtual currency) but I particularly liked his comment about the wide open space for a successful mobile social network here in the US. Japan is leading the way, the US is just not there yet.

Let’s face the facts: Facebook is a much better platform on the Web. MySpace has a lot of work to do just to match Facebook’s offering. However, Facebook and MySpace both suck on mobile phones. Translation? Mobile SNS (social networking services) is up for grabs in the United States.

On my recent trip to Japan, it became very clear to me that the majority of social network activity was occurring on mobile phones–not desktop PCs. No one has built the ultimate iPhone and BlackBerry social networking tools, although some folks are starting to get there. Geolocation tools, combined with the social graph, are the Holy Grail of social networking.

The full post is here.

You Kids Never Had it so Good!

Getting up to speed here at Nokia after joining three days ago – lots of institutional knowledge tucked away across the intranet which features a bewildering array of internal blogs, wikis, and video archives. One thing I immediately notice is that the average age of people who work here in the Mountain View office is older than that at Yahoo. There’s a historical perspective to what they build which informs what they do so it’s sensitive to regional and generational needs and practices.

A colleague recently passed around a link to a Wired article that lamented that modern day social networks have killed the ability to “lose touch” with a friend and let them fade into the background. Instead we have to take action and ban, block, or un-friend them which seems a bit rash (especially when services such as Qwitter tell you when someone has un-subscribed). It’s like shouting out to someone, “You’re not my friend!”

From my perspective, Nokia is very interested in the social impacts of the tools that they build. For instance, on the drive down I was listening to Matt Locke talk about how people have collectively “hacked” social gestures for the introduction of mobile phones into society. The phone booth that we would use to exit a public space to make a phone call evolved into a “hood” structure. With cell phones we used to cup our mouth or duck our head to indicate we were on the phone but now have evolved (?) into talking freely in the clear while sporting a blinking Bluetooth headset. It is still early days with regards to social networks. We haven’t evolved a similar set of shared gestures beyond perhaps the @reply which is really only understood by a tweetist.

Later I ran across the following passage from Reprise Media’s excellent Search Views blog:

When I was a kid we had to network socially by punching a random bunch of digits into a keypad, (or twirling a dial with your finger – a dial!) picking up a big clumsy plastic thing attached to a squiggly wire, and speaking into it. If you were lucky your buddy was on the other end. Worse, it was done one person at a time! You kids never had it so good!

Updating my Facebook profile to reflect my new employer, I notice that I know no one here at Nokia. I have a list of people my manager recommend that I synch up with to soak up the lay of the land – should I use the phone, email or maybe Facebook?

Further Reading: How Mobility Will Change Social Networking

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