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Sunday, July 29, 2007

My evolving social network

For sometime now, I've looked from the outside in at social networks. They just weren't for me. The Chinese got them, the Japanese got them, the American youth got them, but I didn't get them.

My social network was dispersed. Some of my network was at Flickr (I have long believed Flickr's power had little to do with its photo capabilities and more to do with its social network). Some was in IM. Some was in Twitter. Some was in gmail. Some in Google Reader via friend's blogs. People looking for jobs hung out Linked-in.

Fred's quote below is from a slightly different context, but it made a few light bulbs go off.
A VC: Declaring Bankruptcy: "And I share Jason's frustration with Facebook. It's just not my world. The web is my world. Blogs are my world. Flickr is my world. Twitter is my world. Facebook aggregates all of those features, wraps a social network around it, and provides a turnkey solution. It's better in many ways. But when you make it easy, you get overload. And that's what Jason is facing. And that's what I am facing."

That is, my world was the same as Fred's world. But something happened. My network reached critical mass on Facebook.

Now I've stopped Flickring, I've stopped Twittering, and I soon I may stop blogging outside my social network.

This partly has to do with who my network is, and how I have built my network. That is, I pretty much only accept friend requests from people I have met in real life. This makes my virtual social graph the same as my actual social graph.

If my actual life has 24 hours in the day and it is manageable, then my virtual life also stays manageable. If I am not very social personally, then I am not very social online, and thus I don't get overloaded.

Now, in the context of the problems Fred is having and Jason Calacanis is having, their issues are the same: they have a higher level of fame than most, but have opened their online lives way more than most people of their fame would do so in actual life. Most people (outside of stalkers) wouldn't knock on Fred's door and say "let's be friends" if he didn't invite it.

But, online, he does. And it has made him the successful VC he is today. That is, by doing everything he can to understand his potential entrepreneur base (which I am presumptuously categorizing as a generation younger than he) and opening up his life (such as where he is on family vacation at any given time) he has made himself totally approachable by the social networking generation. This is critical to his business, yet has created some interesting problems.

So I agree: what's going on with Facebook is too important to ignore. Mostly because it's made us Web 2.0 biodome dwellers realize the power of having a centralized social networking platform.

I don't think Facebook will be the only successful player in this space. Like most social network it caters to a specific demographic, and there are lots of other demographics out there. But it sure is working now. Let's hope we can all continue to avoid the overload.
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