As competing social networks vie for my attention, I notice that the email outreach campaigns have kicked into gear. Maybe they want to catch the kids before they head out for Summer vacation but it seems like all the services I signed up for back when I was doing some research are reaching out for some love.
I just received Issue 1 of Bebo’s email newsletter, Spotlight. Among a couple other new features including a Facebook Status clone, they also are promoting an “invite your friends” feature. I’ve seen this on a number of services including LinkedIn and it is often included in the sign up flow as a way to quickly bring along all your friends (and so on, and so on, just like the old shampoo commercial).
Basically the service uses your Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or GMail address book and compares it to their membership database to see if they’ve got a match and prompts you to connect with people you already may know. Bebo takes this one step further by then listing up all of the friends of people in your address book.
In my mind this is going a little bit too far. I don’t really want to know about all the people I *might* want to connect to because they happen to be friends with people that happen to be in my online address book. It’s a bit shocking to see who some of these second degree characters are and I feel like I’m taking a quick peek and rifling through someone’s black book.
I know, you could get at this information anyway by browsing their profile and checking out their friends but it somehow doesn’t seem as bad if you’re browsing around. When it’s one huge data dump with a “check all” box, it just feels wrong.
Leslie Harpold will be counting down the days of Christmas with a new daily entry for her online Advent Calendar. Taking advantage of the medium, she will post a carefully selected graphic and link to pair with a Christmas memory from her community. She’s been at for five years so she’s developed quite a following and today solicits her audience for stories of their own.
Merry Christmas everyone!
[thanks for the tip Michael]
UPDATE : I’m sad to hear that Leslie Harpold passed away. As a sad reminder of this, her Advent Calendar is stuck on the 7th of December.
Apple & Nike launched a new joint service that combines a wireless sensor that you put in your running shoes that uploads pace and distance data to your iPod Nano which you listen to while you run. After your run, you can sync with your nikeplus.com account and share your stats with other nikeplus.com members. Nike is also making special shoes with the sensors built in available in mid-July.
It’s worth looking at the video on the nikeplus site. Apple and Nike have done this integration very well and there are many little touches that make it clear that they’ve thought this through very carefully. On the nike site there’s an audio clip of Lance Armstrong talking about how listening to music helps him power through his workout and then there’s a link to the iTunes store where you can eventually purchase Lance’s “Sport iMix.” This channel might even kick off a whole new genre of Sport Music Playlists.
Looking forward to when Apple hooks up with someone for a cyclists’ version. My mix tape of the Cocteau Twins & Sundays helped push me over the Pyrenees.
Three really great links that explore the relationship between a vibrant community site (i.e. Digg, MySpace) and an engaging multiplayer online game.
Casual Games =~ Social Software – Duncan Gough
Putting the Fun in Functional – Amy Jo Kim’s slides from eTech
Write up of Amy Jo’s presentation – Bruce Stewart
Two posts that came together on the same riff but from different angles. Do communities scale?
First Danah Boyd on “coolness”
“Coolness” is about structural barriers, about the lack of universal accessibility or parsability. Structural hurdles mean people put in more effort to participate. It’s kinda like the adventure of tracking down the right parking lot to get the bus to go to the rave. The effort matters. Sure, it weeds some people out, but it makes those who participate feel all the more validated. Finding the easter egg, the cool little feature that no one knows about is exciting. Learning all of the nooks and crannies in a complex system is exhilarating. Figuring out how to hack things, having the “inside knowledge” is fabu.
Then today I read Seth Godin on “authenticity”
Here’s the problem: The moment you take your special, authentic, limited-edition product and leverage it, make it widely available and normal, the very people who loved it inevitably rebel. “Starbucks isn’t what it used to be,” they tell you. The tastemakers who made you successful in the first place turn on their heels when they smell that you’re not authentic anymore.
When a product is everywhere, when it’s hyped in the media and advertised on the sides of buses, sometimes it seems as if the product exists and succeeds because it is everywhere. Before ubiquity, when it seemed as if the product (or its creator) wasn’t in it just for the money, somehow that felt more real, more wonderful, more authentic.
– from Tom Chappell sell out
It’s a trick to get this balance right. The quote from Seth was spurred by the news that Tom of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste sold to Colgate for $100 million. News that struck a similar chord are last week’s announcement that L’Oreal bought the Body Shop for over $1 billion, Six Apart’s acquisition of LiveJournal, and the buyout of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream by Unilever back in 2000.
In each case, the story was painted as a faceless corporation trying to usurp the community built up around a product to serve it’s short term commercial objectives. Yahoo has sailed through these rough waters as well when it acquired flickr, upcoming, and delicious. The point often missed in the hysteria is there is absolutely no benefit to a large company coming in and sucking the life out of a young and vibrant community. Why bother to set aside capital for an acquisition only to quash it and rob it of it’s value?
I think Yahoo has shown that it can take a community such as flickr and give it a good home (servers, bandwidth, and other resources) and also learn from that community and internalize the best things about it (tags, open apis, ui design).
There’s lots of talk about scaling an application to serve a larger audience. The one sold out session at the recent eTech conference was Flickr developer Cal Henderson’s tutorial, “Scaling Fast and Cheap – How we built Flickr” One thing that is not discussed as often is the other side of growing which is scaling the community. What are some of the best practices around taking a small, home grown community and scaling it out to serve millions?
The posts above identify the problem. Are there any examples of successful communities that have managed to retain their “coolness” and “authenticity” while at the same time becoming “universally accessible” and “ubiquitous” or are the two mutually exclusive? Religion comes to mind – are there others?
One of the things you don’t want to do when you’re trying to start a community is create a barrier to entry for potential members. The key to the survival of a community is a rich and diverse membership. One example of this is the San Francisco Motorcycle Club which has evolved and morphed through the years with only one central thread, an interest and passion for two-wheeled motorized transport. But even more than that, they have a very low-key message to potential members poking around on their website (which is endearingly 1990s-esque). This invitation just the right tone. From their website FAQs:
The San Francisco Motorcycle Club is, paradoxically, made up of people who aren’t club-types. Club-types gravitate toward associations because all they’re interested in is the posing. A club doesn’t provide them with instant gratification. Our clubhouse is kept up and filled by people who enjoy motorcycles, and since you seem inclined that way yourself, you’re likely to meet people at the clubhouse who share your interests. Stop by on a Thursday evening or for a club ride and check us out. Do not be deterred by the application process, just stop by and hang out a while. The clubhouse’s walls are covered with 99 years worth of framed photographs, banners, awards, trophies and documents. It’s a veritable museum to San Francisco motorcycling, it’s free to drop in, and you should.
You can learn more about the club and listen to a podcast of it’s history at Sparkletack.
Thanks be to the Gods of the Internet! After trawling various chat rooms a kind soul named Lydia offered to tape us the final episodes for us so we can save ourselves the embarrassment of admitting to Motoko that we can’t operate a VCR.
Since submitting my email address to these X-File chatrooms, my spam profile has taken an interesting turn,
Now I get an entertaining mix of offers for miniature shotgun mikes and infrared cameras. . .