Cross Network Utility and Networks
We see a lot of startups who want to build networks but they start by connecting with existing networks and providing utility that is cross network. Aggregation is a very common example of this. Cross posting is another.
I am certain that these cross network utilities can become good businesses but I wonder if they can become networks. We debate this a lot inside USV. I am in the doubter camp.
I'd like to explore this a bit today with all of you. If the initial utility of an app is to connect to a bunch of networks, collect information, present it, and then let the user engage with one or more of those networks, what incentive is there for the user to engage directly with other users of the app and help build a network inside of it?
Let's look at a few examples.
Take Flipboard. It is an excellent app. They innovated on the consumption interface in mobile and they present media and social media in an easy to consume and beautiful way. But is it a network and will it ever be?
Take FriendFeed. It was possiby the best UI for social media engagement ever created. But, because they allowed people to pull in content from and engage with other networks, it never really built up a network of its own. It could have taken on Facebook and Twitter. It was a much better Google+. But it sold to Facebook for what has now turned into a lot of money, but it did not build a sustainable network of its own.
Take Oodle. It pulls listings from lots of marketplaces, including Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, and showcases them in an excellent UI. But is it a marketplace itself? I don't think so.
There are a few examples I can think of where cross network utility has built a semblance of a network. Hacker News aggregates content across networks but by providing its own engagement platform, they have built a network. Reddit aggregates content across networks but because of the strong community elements in the platform, they have built a network.
So clearly it can be done, but I am struggling to find a lot of examples where building on top of networks, instead of building your own, has resulted in a large network of highly engaged users. I'd love to hear more examples of that. Because this is an issue that keeps presenting itself to us and we are struggling with it.
simplistic, but the best network anywhere is nature itself …would you think modeling a business concept as close to nature as possible would result in a “better network”?
maybe that’s the way to detect the most sustainable networks
“Because this is an issue that keeps presenting itself to us and we are struggling with it.”You are downstream of the entrepreneur. Your struggle reflects their struggle to come up with a model that can successfully access and build in a network world dominated by incumbents…I guess, and stating the obvious.
yup. what about that line got your attention?
Pausing for more thought.
Chicken/eggSeems like you need to build on top of networks to gain initial traction w a plan to morph or build your own networkI think there was a similar post on this earlier this year where Zynga was cited
Zynga never really moved beyond Facebook. they are now trying to do that on mobile. it’s hard.
This was the post I was referencing is below.The distinction back in March 2012 was the same as you are raising todayA. Building a network – by leveraging an existing network.B. Is it a network – if it is built on top of another network.There is a big distinction – I just struggled a little Delineating the twohttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…”I think it is possible to bootstrap a network on top of another network. Stocktwits did this on Twitter and Zynga did this on Facebook. But both of them eventually built their own networks directly on the web and mobile. Zynga still gets a ton of game play on Facebook and Stocktwits continues to benefit from tweet distribution on Twitter, but they have made the necessary investments to operate their businesses in such a way that they are not entirely dependent on other networks. In the case of Stocktwits, they did this early on. In the case of Zynga, they waited for a while to do this.”and”But my question to Jon is a bit different. I didn’t ask if you can build a network on top of another network. I asked if it is a network if it is built on top of another network. I think in that case, the answer is no”
mobile is much more a hits based business. Mobile also has these very different, lightweight social aspects that are strange compared to the large amount of characters allowed on facebook
Imho their biggest problem is that they are inescapably in the hits business and taste is fickle.
i am not sure i fully understand what you mean by “cross network utility.” if this includes something as broad as aggregation, i feel almost everything is a cross network utility. from this perspective, i feel you cannot succeed unless you are a cross network utility. curation goes hand in hand with aggregation and it is one of the hottest and most persistent trends on the Internet, in my opinion.i think the key is to offer an environment that standardizes all the other networks being aggregated. one of the best ways to do this is to establish context. for example, an aggregation of 9/11 conspiracy links has a very different context on a conspiracy portal (where it is seen as standard and respected, thus allowing a real discussion to emerge amongst cool people) than on a mainstream media portal (where a bunch of crybabies cannot handle it and so a real discussion cannot emerge). to use one of my favorite words that i’m lobbying for as the next big buzzword, *values* can help cross network utilities establish their own point of differentiation that allows them to build their own network atop the assets of others.also, google+ is way better than friendfeed ever was in my opinion. google is really force feeding google+ down everyone’s throats and the marketers hooked on google have almost no choice but to embrace it. as a result i find great content on there that i don’t see anywhere else.
Yes, Google+ was never organic. It was top-down, not grass roots.
inauthentic, force fed, bullshit
lol all that is definitely true……still betting on it to win though. sometimes the bully does get the lunch money
i don’t know anyone in my daily life who uses it and it is force fed to all of us
do you know any search marketers?
professionally yesbut not socially
if they’re a pro SEO, and they’re not seriously considering a google+ strategy, i don’t know what they’re thinking. it does go back to your point of not being anyone’s bitch (rather diversify yourself so you are a bitch to multiple services), but if you are investing in google traffic, you now need to play that game — to the extent that you need to find people who know it is force fed crap to buy into it and give you a +1.
yep and Klout isn’t the same. everyone thinks it’s crap and it doesn’t give any value outside of their self described silly ranking (i decided one day to get Klout for being a pumpkin expert — it took me exactly 3 weeks). Not the case with Google+.
I heard pumpkins do very well fed BS.But you dont need to grow them to enjoy them.Thats why we all like being fed but we mind who harvests ourcrop
Ha! Klout thought I was an expert about Dinosaurs because of my interactions with @fakegrimlock.
YOU ARE EXPERT AT DINOSAURS OR SOMETHING AWESOME IF YOU INTERACT WITH @FAKEGRIMLOCK AND YOU AREN’T EATEN
Kid is right — most people aren’t aware of the Google+ search implications and Google isn’t the best marketing organization in the world (they are more an Ad Agency.) If they wanted to get Google+ to grow, they would focus on small business. people who want to connect with networks, don’t have a lot of money for big marketing plays, and use search as bread and butter.
G+ just had no there there, no soul, to me.The bully won’t win when it depends on the good will of the users not the value of their connections.
marketers will put the soul into it (at least as much as marketers can!) they will create content exclusive for google+ to get people in their circles, get +1s, and get content there to rank. that is why i think google can win here. they could’ve done this before, but they didn’t force feed their other failed efforts at social. they are force feeding this one by aggressively linking it to search results. that is why i’m betting on the bully to take the lunch money. there is no principal or guidance counselor to stop them.
From minute one of G+ it was clear that socialization was a Trojan Horse to SEO and SEM.That is why they’ve failed to date and will continue to do so.G+ thinks they are the “It Network” (sorry, fashion week is in town) but they are not. You can’t force socialization any more than you can force value. As a marketer at my core, pure marketing BS like G+ and Klout will implode on their own lack of behavioral value.
well, it’s real simple…..if you want search traffic from google, you’ll have to play the google+ game. the bully will demand his lunch money. if you are not interested in search traffic — and certainly many businesses can do well without it — then i agree google+ probably is not of much interest, definitely not yet.facebook is playing the same game. they are going to build their own search engine and now that that is clear i spend more time doing facebook marketing. in a way i like google+ more because it is more marketer friendly in my opinion and more conducive to content marketing.
Agree that both are playing the same game.I’ve built businesses strictly on the back of search a decade ago. I still make certain that my sites are spider friendly but my approach is never SEO first, it’s SEO also now.Honestly, I use G,FB, Twitter, Pinterest..all of them but depend on and build on none of them. If they are the center of your biz model, I think pain is coming your way.Let’s revisit this after a bit and see where we are.
be your own bitch!!!!!
isn’t that just another way of of saying “be your own network”
So then you know what you believe then
” I still make certain that my sites are spider friendly but my approach is never SEO first”And in fact having more than a smallish percentage of your business coming from SEO (as opposed to a marketing strategy which you can pay for (like salespeople, direct mail, adsense) is problematic since you will expand your business (hire people, rent office space etc.) and if something changes in the algorithm (which it will) you are SOL. It’s really no different (actually it’s worse I would say) then making business decisions because you have a large customer (and no contract) and then having that customer pull their business.”but depend on and build on none of them. If they are the center of your biz model, I think pain is coming your way.”Exactly. Build on things where there is some barrier to others doing the same.
you should always diversify, though the idea that search marketing is exposed to excessive algorithm risk is false. for starters, change is a part of the universe and thus everything is at risk of change; secondly, there are very, very, very significant restrictions on how search engines can change their algorithm. if i do a search for “fred wilson” search engines cannot show results for “robin williams.” they would lose users if they did. if you understand how search engines must function SEO becomes a much, much safer strategy.though i agree that one should diversify. i love SEO because in the process of doing good SEO one naturally diversifies themselves via links and social signals. good SEO weaves an app into the fabric of the internet.
It is perhaps more marketer friendly, but I’d rather be on the channel people are watching. I can’t even draw a legitimate comparison between my FB time and G+ time, the latter would be a rounding error near zero.
anyone who uses google search will find themselves on google+ more in the years to come. and as this becomes more clear, a self-reinforcing dynamic may emerge in which more quality content finds its way on to google+.there are ways around this, and i don’t dispute the strategy of diversifying one’s marketing approach across multiple channels/platforms. but in terms of the big platforms, i don’t see a bigger bang for the buck than google/youtube. the other big platforms don’t share enough of the opportunity. google+ may be google keeping the opportunity all to themselves and becoming more closed, although at least at the time of this writing, i find it to still be favorable relative to other options.
There’s no positive reinforcement in environments such as (eg) G+. The threat of negative reinforcement by not playing the game doesn’t work.
yep. was talking to someone about this the other day. If you care about your search ranking you are stupid not to embrace Google+ force fed bull shit or not — on that one i’m gonna agree with you.oh and ps. finally google has decided to focus on their core business and what value social brings to it. now all they have to do is figure out what value it brings to us.
No soul. +1The bully may grab the lunch money once but in the long run, there is only one loser.
define winning though. bullies end up laughjinstocks later in life most of the time. at least in Back to the future 🙂
It’s also just not that engaging. I just can’t spend more than a few minutes there, I think mostly UI and how the information is presented.
G+ has turned out to be an echo chamber of user generated content. Most users repeat/repost their content there as a matter of checking it off, and only get engagement if they have a very high number of followers.Google Hangouts is useful though. If they had started with that and let the network of connections grow organically as a result of the strength of that utility, maybe it would have been better.
not only that they are just piling on to that original wrong concept. Wish they would shutter it quickly (as a shareholder now again)
G+ is a great blogging platform because it has pretty good UI and it bakes in distribution (and real time too) into the fabric, thus helping avoid the “I blog and no one read it” problem. I think they should have just used the Blogger 2.0 analogy to describe what it is and described it as the next form of blogging platform. Of course I think I am the only that thinks this.
not the only one! i agree with you as well, and i see a lot of search marketers embracing it as a blogging platform.
G+ reminds of entrepreneurs who approach me with projects that feel like they are like school projects. Smart. Perfectly designed. But forgot that to be successful, people need to want to use them.Human nature will never fit into ‘circles’ IMO.
Lol, exactly!Life is more like a series of Venn diagrams.
Interesting. venn diagram vs circles
they also don’t fit into facebook but we’re all on that – computers don’t mimic real life very well, and the algorithms that try tend to be interestingSort of reminds me of the first date I went out with yesterday:We share a bunch of distinct, very different points of contact with mutual people that we both know that wouldn’t know anyone else beyond us. And we never were introduced before this date. There are multiple social network systems out there that we are both on that should have hinted that we should have met. The algorithm that worked to get us to meet did not have any network based data -only marketplace based dataI get the feeling that networks in and of themselves as a result aren’t going to be good at predicting connections without transactional data (and a lot of it) to make a difference about how we meet and organize humans into our lives.
What’s the reason behind wanting to predict connections if the end game isn’t a transaction?
there is this assumption going into social data that connections do lead to transactions. On some level this is true – I’m pretty sure my tastes are reflected among my friends here, and my friends elsewhere, and getting a 360 view of these connections would probably help a marketer sharpen his/her message for me/introduce me to products that I am sure I would like.without a transactional market (of some sort, technically speaking the site i met this person on does not have “real transactions” in terms of money) it would be impossible to sharpen the data down enough to know how these friendships weigh among my transactions for different types of items (lets put it this way, most of you are going to give me dress advice, whereas all of you probably would give me phone advice)
This is why I like marketplaces.Facebook, Twitter, whatever are all the implicit behavioral data gathering paradigm. Behavioral psychology with us as the lab rats leading to a data driven media model.I get this, understand this and work in some of these areas.Marketplaces are overt, explicit communities of consumption. Behaviors are the channel themselves. There are implicit undercurrents to observe and plumb and build tools around. And cross selling.I just love models where media revenue is not the end goal but an offshoot if you choose to go there.
same, though with very socially driven networks it is very hard to measure a successful transaction and therefore a successful pricing models (hence why media seems to be always scared)
i don’t think “almost everything is a cross network utility”twitter isn’tetsy isn’tkickstarter isn’tfoursquare isn’t
ah, that really helped me understand your point better. i see where you are coming from. i may be pulling a mitt romney and totally flip flopping now. it is a good issue, i think both sides make strong points.
don’t insult yourself with that comparison
hahahahahaha good point!
Engagio came to mind in reading the introLooking forward to William and others to comment
i guess engagio would fit as a cross network utility. i didn’t write this with him in mind. but i can see how you would go there.
Thanks John. I was up from 3-6am watching the Pope’s mass live from Beirut, then went back to sleep 🙂 Getting my coffee now and diving in…
Wow watching live mass w the PopeI remember taking my father to Yankee stadium to see the Pope several years agoIt made his day /week/month/year
Marketplaces and networks are not always the same.Kickstarter is my ideal of a near perfect marketplace but socialization and communications happens outside of the market itself, on other nets.This is the law of never quite black and white. Marketplaces sitting on top of nets to drive customers into the funnel. Networks looking for commerce models where the traffic itself is the feeder to other products or media.
great points Arnold.we define a network as a system that connects people and enables transactions that gets more valuable when more users join. in that sense a marketplace is very much a network.
more valuable and more powerful as more users join. the power is what they can do next beyond transact(the value to their platform), no?
“we define a network as a system that connects people and enables transactions that gets more valuable when more users join”Yes! It’s about scale. Hence the ‘network effect.’
A marketplace is a network but a network is not necessarily a marketplace.
Absolutely.As a market and community builder there is something more tangible, more articulate about the later. To me at least.
that is so good it may go up on my wall
Simply connecting external networks (read, write, or both) is not enough – the service must add something special of its own.The most obvious example I can think of is Instagram’s filters.
instagram is a great example. you can’t push content into it from another network. you have to create it there.
or maybe now on facebook; unclear what the crosslinks will be
So how does Pinterest fit into this conversation?
pinterest is like tumblrits a curation networkpeople push content to these services and then users engage around it
What’s a curation network? I don’t use Tumbler to blog, I use Blogger to power my site.
True. But IMHO ironically the early explosive growth of Pinterest was due to the fact that it didn’t need a network or a community. The paradigmatic housewife from Ohio could gain a purely personal benefit by pinning up content that was of value to her but not intended to be shared with anyone. It was only later that the social dimension took hold.
same with delicious. both are essentially bookmarking services at their core
Instagram was first and only to build a massively native network on mobile (using cross-posting for distribution). One hell of an achievement… Cross-posting, re-discovery, etc. are nice features in a network. Ultimately, the network comes to life when users inside it start posting native content. So a network needs publishing tools (like Instagram).
i think there will be more
LinkedIn just pulled it off!A few somewhat connected thoughts: Challenge with mobile is long-form content creation not optimized for the masses. Content creation in the form of emoticons and 140 characters is. Mobile though is the ideal content consumption device.Ultimately, content wins (in my world view) and it’s these networks which change the discovery and distribution of attention–therefore the content.When a network is large enough, they can become engines for content creation, too. Heck, their publishing tools just need to be as good as Tumblr and they can compete!When these networks begin to evolve from dumb pipes (discovery-only) into smart pipes (discovery + creation), they compete in the attention economy (theoretically) along the likes of Comcast and the TV folks.In general, we’ve evolved into a world of streams and boards and the page view is quickly dying. Twitter owns the mobile stream of attention which ultimately will scale with both advertisers and 3rd party developers. Cards is perfect strategy for this. Earned distribution as it relates to mobile apps could be really cool (and powerful).Capturing the conversations of an existing, real-life network around existing content (using things like RSS, social sharing, NOT Twitter :), etc) is the right strategy to bootstrap a network from a start.That’s what we’re doing at YourSports. For sports, obvi.Thanks for the comment on my though stream (blog), Fred!
TOOLS USEFUL. AND DISPOSABLE.ONLY A NETWORK WHEN SOMETHING IN IT EXIST NOWHERE ELSE.BUILD ON OTHER NETWORKS. ADD LAYER OF CREATION THAT STAY IN TOOL. NOW HAVE NETWORK.
do you have an example of a service that did it that way?
how was foursquare built on other networks?
SHARE TO TWITTER WAS MAIN USE OF FOURSQUARE UNTIL IT BECOME OWN NETWORK.
ok, i will give you thatbut that was share out not share in
IT CLOSEST THING COULD THINK OF.NOT SOMETHING MANY SUCCEED AT SO FAR.MOSTLY BECAUSE NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT DO IT. EASIER BE LAZY, BE TOOL INSTEAD OF NETWORK.THEN DIE WHEN FEED CUT OFF.
@fredwilson:disqus @FakeGrimlock:disqusI think we have to consider “reputation” to be a layer of creation each network owns. Reputation can be explicitly and implicitly earned and publicly or privately displayed. GitHub a great model of this.Also the connections themselves between people-people and people-things are layers of creations.Ultimately, the only non-commoditizable thing on the internets are the connections aka the social data. On each network, they’re different.Why? Because of conversations. The atomic unit of relationships. At the end of the day, we just want to talk about stuff that matters to us. And therefore, express.
Absolutely, David. It’s that simple, very true.
Not sure that Reddit and HN fit the description of “connecting with existing networks and providing utility that is cross network” any more than Twitter or FB do. The latter two seem to be the ultimate aggregators of news, photos, links.Perhaps there’s a scale with People on the one side and Pipes on the other. FB and Twitter start with people you know or want to know. HN and Reddit are people you don’t know but might agree with. And on the far other side you have straight pipes and very little network.
Great point here. As said many places before, FB is the place to keep up with people you already know, Twitter is a place to both hang with like minded (topic) people and meet new ones. I’m still undecided on LinkedIn, it’s supposedly business, but as a freelance developer/project lead, I’ve landed way more business through Twitter/FB, even Reddit.
maybe aggregators have networks as a part of their dna – the extent of the expression of the network determines the value?I mean, reddit has a strong enough community that people go to reddit meetups…
I think this can be a viable first step if you control a significant part of the supply side of the network or marketplace, and the demand side is fragmented/powerless enough to allow you to build a competitor over time. However, it’s hard.E.g. I think Tweetdeck had a shot at building their own network pre ToS change (Fred, you may disagree with this). I think folks like GetYardsale will eventually realize that they should be aggregators for Ebay/Craigslist (“hack the demand side”) so that their sellers become successful. Only when they control enough supply should they attempt build their own marketplace.Fundamentally agree that this is a more difficult position than starting neat. E.g. Instagram: let your network leak to encourage growth, but let all real engagement happen on the network itself. But in an age of entrenched marketplace/networks, it may be the most viable path.
The only twitter clients that twitter bought were the ones that could have become networks in their own right. The API changes reflect thatGreat comment Max. I agree with you
Max, can you expand on what you mean by “demand side” and “supply side”? Tks
Yes, that’s clear for a marketplace. But I don’t understand how it fits into a generic network of networks.
Ah yes, that works..
Liquidity consumers (not necessarily paid)/ liquidity providers
In marketplaces, buyers and sellers. In social networks, producers and consumers.
When I think about it I start with a simple initial question: does the service have some method or mode where people interact directly with other people ( a comment, backing someone’s project, etc). That nay be the fundamental requirement to start with.
if you don’t have that, you are going to be a utility for sure
True, that is one test, but not enough on its own. It’s something to build upon.
I believe that was one of the reasons my own startup (ensembli) demised – there was never a sense of community fostered from within it – if you’re expecting a user to grace you with some of their precious time, especially being a landing-page design, and for it to grow, there needs to be a tangible sense of pride in the tool/community you are a part of. Look how Twitter has become a badge to be worn with pride. It’s perceived as being cool to be part of that network.Priceless.
This is why I’m more and more focusing on marketplaces Carl.Behavior in the abstract and behavior around tangible items we support or buy or sell are different and the latter is just more approachable to me.
me too arnold
Absolutely, Arnold.Applying the tools we have all been a part of to the real world is The Next Big Thing, definitely.Metaphysical2.0.PS, have an awesome trip – looking forward to seeing the pics/etc!
Thanks Carl. Just looked at the weather to see how cold it is on Etna. Really looking forward to this trip.
marketplaces are a kind of network – but they aren’t necessarily communities (though they can grow into them). There is an etsy community and an etsy marketplace, but they are not one and the same….
I would argue that they are all part of the same thing http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…
I think as etsy has scaled that might be less true. as the marketplace got bigger, it has gotten a lot harder to know people in it.As a result when I buy things on etsy, I have very little relationship to the seller (which I would like to change long term if I bought more stuff there – it would be nice for a vintage shopper to know my taste for me in advance, eg)
If you haven’t already come across this I think you will find it interesting.http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/201…
that’s a great article. thanks for sharing.i would say that AVC operates in the gift economy
AVC – Yes.Interestingly, there is a lot of social science that has explored the distinctive the writer makes and I suspect we are only just beginning to understand its relevance to the online world. I am giving exactly this some thought right now.Meeting the writer tomorrow. Promises to be interesting!
Arnold, this is what we spoke about the other day.Creating the market around the product is really not a creation but a drawing people out of the woodwork who already follow wine, or games, or whatever. The market is there, the question is the tuning fork you use to find the best channels to engage it. Which frequency/vehicle do your buyers/network/community listen to?Go find them there in their chosen channels, and tune your message back to them so your frictionless connecting of dots of people, venue and product all come into focus like a photograph developing in the darkroom.
Platforming Behaviors is how I like to think about it.
@carl_rahn:disqus – valuable confession here 🙂 It caused me to make a note to myself: “without community, our service would be too ‘flat’; it needs to be hierarchical to succeed”. Thanks. My note is cryptic, but I know what I meant. Cheers.
always important to be able to decrypt your own notes!
This feels a bit like the middle man debate all over again.It’s easy to say travel agents are made obsolete by the internet. NOT true. Good travel agents add a lot of value by easing logistical stress of their clients.. they are well worth the money and time.As long as networks create value in the middle of the transaction, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be successful. And for that, much like good travel agents, they need personality and a soul. That’s what attracts us, as human beings to a person or a service. Our emotions drive “rational” mind, at the end of the day..
maybe it is the network over time gets rid of crap? And that most things being offered outside of the network are crap – only people who know how to finess a network are good.
“Good travel agents add a lot of value by easing logistical stress of their clients.. they are well worth the money and time.”Agree with this 100%. I hate when people just trash middlemen as if they have no value to add to a transaction. “Disrupt” is mainly bandied about by younger people who have more time then money. And it all comes down to the value of someone’s time. The mere fact that someone who does a particular thing everyday (and knows much more than you) can get you on the dartboard with a decision is worth so much.My first date with my wife was in an area that I didn’t know. So I asked someone to recommend some restaurants. He gave me a list of 3 or 4 (I didn’t even have a feel for the surrounding communities so I wouldn’t know even where to search w/o research). The date went well and although the restaurant went out of business it was perfect for what I was looking for at the time which is what he took into account with his suggestions.And I would have paid for personal interaction with someone to do the same, instead of spending time on Yelp, Open table etc. if I didn’t have that contact that I trusted.And in theory it would be more cost effective to simply pay for advice rather than have to maintain social relationships in the event you need to ask someone for advice about something and get it for free (thereby creating reciprocity whereby you have to return the favor with your time possibly.)
Really nice point, LE. Really really nice point. I think disrupt is one of those cliche’s that thrown about WAY too [email protected]:disqus Agree! :-)@ShanaC:disqus Not sure I completely follow? 🙂
Is disrupt the new paradigm shift?
people tend to prevail over technology because of the way value is surfaced if there is a strong enough knowledge base and empathy in the human?
One of the key differentiators of a social networks could be in how it helps you build relationships. This is one reason that ‘conversations’ are terrific social gesture which could start building a community. I would rather ask someone from a community built through conversations about advice or tip than someone who simply retweets or liked a couple of my comments/posts. I would like a service that would make it easier for me to search the social web for conversations and identify whether any of my contacts were part of such discussion. Does this make sense ? 🙂
I’d love to chat with you. I’m working on a project extremely related to your comment 🙂
My email address is in my disqus profile feel free to send me an email and let me know about your project.
Feel like an idiot..but I don’t see an email address anywhere there (http://disqus.com/domainreg…My email is drew at ohheyworld dot com if you could shoot me super quick note
Hmm. It disappeared? I just re-added it. It’s [email protected]
yes! you have to be really interested in travel to still be a travel agent. the internet probably got rid of all the crappy competition and crappy customers.
I agree. Create value for the user that goes beyond middle man function and I will come back to your service!!
Disqus is a really interesting case here. Very much a network of networks, but slowly seeming to take on characteristics of a network on its own, especially within communities of interest (for example across all the vc blogs that use it)They started with very much a utility problem, and have been moving towards a network from there. Successful in many ways already, but perhaps not fully a network in its own right yet.
For me, the ultimate accolade in this kind of domain is when you hear people ask (in The Real World!), (eg) “Are you on Twitter?” The new kid on the block to get this real-world networking endorsement is Instagram, typically – well, is what I see from my limited demographic sample, anyway.I’ve never heard anyone ask this of Disqus/Path/Pinterest/et al. And never hear it of Facebook, nowadays…
yeah that is a good way to think about it. works for:instagramfacebooklinkedintumblrtwitterg+reddit (I see this as more of a network than as an aggregator)etcI don’t use pinterest but I think it probably qualifies though?those are all “primary” networks — where you really join for the sake of joining. I do think its interesting though to think about networks that form in secondary ways, perhaps over time. seems like that’s what’s happening w/ disqus. I am curious to think about other networks that have become “real” that have taken this second path.
i ask people at work if they use disqus on their fav blogs …hoping they hav fav blogs worth commenting at.i also ask people if they’ve _stopped_ using facebook yet [sly grin]
@awaldstein:disqus and I were discussing FB on his blog and agreeing that small businesses get great value in the beginning to connect. That’s the only reason I’m there.
Exactly. And if you add Engagio on top of Disqus, you really get to see your network clearly and as it crosses boundaries outside of the commenting spaces. That kind of people visibility is valuable.
The other issue is about sustainable vs. non-sustainable networks. The issue with so many is that the value doesn’t increase with the time and effort that you spend with the community. Cross networks could be brilliant, but those that create them have to find ways to use the community to build upon it over time.so let’s look at friendfeed. i think it was doing most things right that would lead to it becoming a network on its own:- it created a new value that was lacking- there was unique community interaction – it was a daily habit for many of usIt’s failure happend IMO for many reasons the biggest of which i wrote about here:http://leighhimel.blogspot….Basic idea being the community becomes the service over time and if that community begins to suck, it doesn’t matter how great your UI is.
all networks are on some level unsustainable with care and feeding of the community – why use a network without people wanting to be on it.
“The Community is the Service” – that’s brilliant Leigh. And it springs out of the network.
I agree with @wmoug:disqus – the community quote is terrific. It is almost like the service needs to cater to the community’s needs rather than the individual’s needs – in other words, build something that will benefit the community as a whole rather than becoming an interesting personal feature.
Abt a year back you told you weren’t really interested in the portal/ platform model. What changed?
i don’t think i would ever say we aren’t interested in platformsi think that’s all we are interested in
It was a lengthy set of e-mails, at a point you said, “i think a portal is a very old approach to the internet and not a good idea at this time” (8/22/11), about the concept. I Still built it. Can I start mailing you again? 🙂
I totally agree about portals. I don’t think they are networks
That might be the reason why yahoo isn’t in the spotlight, though they make a ton of money. But, if you consider each sub-domain of yahoo being a different website altogether, permitting every1 to build a sub domain and the users can access all sub domains, wouldn’t that make sense? I stated “portal/ platform”. A community platform with the appearance of a portal. Does that make sense?
Portals are one large node with many pages.Networks are a few large nodes with many objects.Objects vs. pages. Objects are like 3D and Pages like 1D. Different ballgame.
How should we think about Tumblr? The app provides cross network utility, and features such as Reblog and Like are strong community elements that drive the creation of a network. Granted, this is not the initial utility of Tumblr, but I wonder how many of the app’s users today are creating content elsewhere and autoposting all that content to their tumblog. To what extent has cross network utility driven the creation of a network at Tumblr?
Reblogs are the vast majortity of all posts on Tumblr so its in network engagement for the most part. But you make a great point about making it easy for a user to push content into your network
According to Digital Buzz Blog – Auto-posting to Facebook decreases likes and comments by 70%. – I think this goes along with what you are saying here.
That’s certainly been my experience. I auto post a lot to FB and rarely get any engagement there
exactly. thats why I worry about twitter. I treat it like the Nile river…a place to dump stuff. I doubt I will engage there under the current product roadmap in the next 30-60 days. Over time I see verticals and expert networks getting narrower and taking engagement one by one. The Nile is a beautiful giant river, but it’s not something I would drink from.
i like the ‘twitter as a dump analogy’ :)lots of interesting stuff to root through at the dump …but dont really want to hang out there too long and chat
users come and go. you leave. my daughter arrives. her twitter feed is pretty funny. she and her friends have largely dumped FB for twitter and instagram.
I like that: vertical engagement. It’s natural and happens because the interest itself is the driver and motivator for that engagement. It’s naturally sustainable. E.g StockTwits of course.What other some other good examples?
Lol. That’s called mannequin posting.
Autoposting reveals that you’re not really “there.”If I called your home landline (back in the day) and I got a funny message that you left on your answering machine, I might smile, but I’d still know you weren’t home, and I might just not leave a message.
I would believe it, autoposting by itself seems sort of boring (though you might want to plan posts out)
yup. in my experience you really need to create compelling campaigns for each social network that leverages the unique values and culture of that social network.
Engagio seems to fall into the latter category, but also adds value.
Definitely as a starting point. And we will continue to add new value. That’s our path.
Yes, here’s how i think about it. Value is the name of the game, the challenge is educating the user on the path to value, on becoming engaged. Where am i, the user, on the value ladder? Is a metric provided ? How do much time does it take for me to move up the ladder? Where are my peers on the ladder?
The metrics of interactions are one dimension, but there’s also the Dashboard which is a stream of where your friends are engaging and it’s a great dipping point of discovery. There is something else interesting that’s coming soon 🙂
First, L’shana Tova.Second, one example I’d highlight here is what Bloomberg did for the financial markets. He structured disparate data sets that were highly volatile and made a big mountain out of many molehills. To many, his Bloomberg Terminal purely acts as an information resource about markets (data + news) but it also functions as a communications platform. You receive a Bloomberg ID and email address and many traders purely use it for communication. In addition, you can use the terminal for execution and output (if you want).Just thought I’d throw this out. @howardlindzon would be proud.
First – Have a happy and sweet new year yourself.Secondly, is it the act of filtering as a resource within linking systems the place of value? Is it unlocking long term value?
Filtering certainly creates value. It saves me lots of time and money. Is it ultimate value? Sometimes and sometimes not. But no doubt, creates long term value.
when is filtering a bad idea?
Happy new year Darren. Bloomberg is a great example of utility>network
you are so the man Darren. Thanks. Excited that you are investing and succeeding of course. I have never needed or had a Bloomberg Terminal and I think thats what helps me think we can build a terminal of our own. No legacy thinking. That said, we will need a bit of it as we scale and grow the network and services that come out of our data and community.Originally i liked to call us a social bloomberg or facebook for finance. Now I just say we are a home for people that love stocks and markets and love talking about them all day long….something that Fred coined back in 2008. Damn him!
Flipboard or Google Reader are not networks. They aggreggate content and make consumption easier. Monetization is primarily thru eyeballs.Instagram or Pinterest or Reddit allow users create / transform (existing) content. They use social for amplification. The one thing they all have in common is the ‘follow’ button. That creates the glue. Monetization is eyballs and signal.
amen on signals…exactly.
How does Pinterest allow users to “create / transform (existing) content. “
In the sense of an article linked to newscombinator – the comments add new context to the aricle. Or a picture of a chair, taken from Pottery Barn website, that my wife has tagged in her bedroom project on Pinterest, that her friends commented on. Commentors colour the context of the story, or product, or picture.
I agree that such comments do indeed add value. But my observation has been that a huge percentage of images have no comments. Do you think this is changing?
I have a survey universe of 1! My wife, and lots of her friends interactions!
Fred – The issue is simple: two prong test. its not a network if if doesnt increase in marginal value with increasing numbers of users. does the cross network’s marginal value exceed its marginal cost. Few do.
I love that framework
Stocktwits was able to live on twitter until it had enough fire power to build it’s own network.You need to be nibble in order not to get stuck like a flytrap.
That was genius
it might have been genius, but it was not the plan from the start. these things evolve from the decisions you see in front of you. It was not an easy decision but in hindsight one that had to be done. I thought Twitter would have pounced on this one early so in reality without them knowing it, they forced our hand to raise money and go for it.While twitter walls up, I am reminded of Jurassic Park..they let a few things slip out that they should not have…
what looks like a wall to you looks like a door to othersyou are negative for good reasonbut don’t let your hatred blind you
Hatred is a strong strong word. They stole from us for sure. I dont let things blind me, but i lower my reliance on it daily as no more than a great braodcast medium.Even negative is a strong word. Let’s just say I believe they are set up to be a great advertsising business around events and i guess news if news is a business, but I do believe in death by a thousand cuts without a reopening of the api and innovation.
i disagreeif i agreed, i would not be as happy to be a shareholder as i ami have great confidence in what they are doing and where they are going
House’s money :)I hear ya and the opoportunity is endless so dont get me wrong, it’s a style thing. I have just moved on for now.
i still use apple’s products and facebook’s products even though i don’t like those companiesignoring them is the worst idea
I am not ignoring, just using differently and altering how I invest a bit based on the landscape and opportunities I see from their moves. The best part of twitter is the block/ignore button 🙂
thank goodness for Disqus….That we agree on
I think this is where Twitter is headed with their Cards API: http://chrisamccoy.posterou…
i left you a comment
I am also excited for watching and participating in how all this plays out Fred. It’s fun to have a front rown seat, maybe now section b i guess.
news.yc was designed to be a community first and foremost, so I don’t think you’re correct to characterise it as a cross network utility that built a semblance of a network.
Fred, where in this mix does Yahoo! fit? Not a new name, and left for dead along the side of the road by most. Perhaps the original aggregator. They still aggregate a TON of content, but do create some of their own.They have a platform, they do have an audience, but never figured what they really wanna be when they grow up.Yahoo! had awesome potential way back (a long way back!), maybe someday they can grab some glory. What do you think? PS: LOL, and using my G+ log-in!
I think Yahoo’s most valuable property from the standpoint of future optimization is Flickr…dying, but it could be resuscitated!
And smartly seems to be Marissa’s focus.
Its not a network. It needs to be one.
obviously they can do so much to buy small and large networks and it will be fund to watch them try again. It will be key either way to keep the founders alive, connected, engaged and with the resources to act as if they were independent. thats the part that rarely works.
I think its a post for you fred to start a meme on networks (that you have not invested in) that make sense for Yahoo to own for their audiences and shots in the dark they could take. could be fun
well i think we own the best ones
what about a network of people’s locations – where they live (past and present), where they are right now, and where they are going in the futureno one owns that…yet 🙂
I think the key characteristic of Yahoo is that unlike many of its apparent competitors it is not one thing. It is certainly not a network, or a community or a marketplace. It is however, in one or other of its parts, all of these things. It is a collection of online presences of various types. Perhaps the most interesting potential of Yahoo is that it does have its finger in various interest graphs, and they monetize better than the social graph.
First thought is yesterday’s post. VOIP, SIP, and cable companies providing telephone service. They didn’t have to (re)build proprietary wired connections to every node. OK, not apps like you reference, but they are networks on top of networks.
sort of, – at some point when all phones are SIP they could be a network unto thremselves
its really hard to be good at any thing, its more than twice as hard to be good at two things
How about GroupMe? Successful, added utility (one to many), and aggregation (the name even means aggregate)
Groupme is a network
@miLIfemap we took a different approach than most. You can choose to sync and connect to your other networks if you want to backup that data, to control a copy of it in the event you want to quit one day, the product shutters, is acquired or changes, or everyone leaves. We’re playing the long game here – a lifetime of user generated content and data on various networks will become unwieldy and the user should control a copy and potentially define monetization. Search for your own content is especially important — that’s platform agnostic (did I Tweet that news 4 years ago or was it FB or App.net?)Primarily though, we allow you to connect to your other networks to allow you to integrate the tools you’re already using to build the most detailed version of your life story using the strength of each product’s core value proposition. Check into 4Sq on vaca at Disney, tweet & update FB status on the fun you’re having, and add the photos and videos privately to Lifemap, & choose to share specific ones with family who you’re vacationing with directly on Lifemap and/or through your other networks for broader dissemination. Also RT’ing current events or interests keeps a catalog of interests and events and gives you a global perspective of the times you lived through. But adding your personally meaningful memories into Lifemap directly is our core product so I definitely agree with your points.
Your presence in a network must bring you a direct value for your engagement. Thus, if a network is built on top of others it doesn’t matter as long as it brings a unique added value of its own – to you, through your engagement.
Passive or active engagement?
Active. Even if you do not engage directly you must be building something, like connection with friends.. In order to experience more content.
Agree.In a world in which there are key pieces of infrastructure which have already been built (social message bus = fb, real time media broadcasting = twitter, …) it is folly to try to replicate them. But it is equal folly to ignore them. Zynga is a classic example of your point.
It seems to me that curating and cross-network posting are features and not products that can become networks themselves unless the activity (curating and cross-network posting) creates extensible über value that motivates follow-on users to engage and to recycle the efforts of the utilities’ users.For example, we are finishing up a social endorsement workflow utility that we believe will become a network / marketplace someday. Our ‘utility’ enables cross-network posting. However the cross-network posting (the endorsements) are transparent, recyclable (linkable), verifiable, and community policeable (via comments). Users curate, they cross-post, but we enable a handful of other value inputs that users don’t (can’t) do on any of the (essential) social platforms we bolt into.
So your utility is an environment that allows users to actively participate? To become engaged in something? They don’t just passively receive information? Do they interact with others and groups of others?To me, Criagslist or Oodle (as I see it) or the classifieds are not networks.
Coming this fall… recipients (on social platforms) won’t have to remain passive, they can become users >> follow-on endorsers, commenters, and they can ask to have their ‘stuff’ endorsed also. I copied your comment to our Trello board as a constant reminder. Thanks.
Proving my point! 🙂
It’s interesting to look at Path through this lens. They started out trying to create their own network through the value-add of amazing UI and a sense of a tighter circle of visibility amongst friends.That didn’t generate enough engagement so they decided to connect to every other service and try to become your interface to Twitter, FourSquare, and a grab-bag of other networks, thereby diluting their original value prop and becoming similar to Fred’s original picture of “nice UI on top of a bunch of other services without its own core network”.
How are they doing?
A little LMGTFY reveals that they’re probably between 3-4 million users right now: http://go.bloomberg.com/tec…So, @cdixon:disqus would say that they’re 30-40% of the way to being eligible to raise a Series A :PMost of their recent additions seem to be around pulling in more data from more external sources (e.g. books / movies) .. so again, mostly relying on re-presenting external data feeds to try to drive in-network value.It’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, but you could argue that the single in-network feature of great looking filters on Instagram has been proven by the numbers to be worth more than all the combined data-feed aggregation of Path, no matter how many datasources they add.
Thanks for sharing that. Once again, less is more
Fred: Cross-network utility is a great label. Some additional failures:– Trillian never gained much traction as a service that allowed connections across incompatible IM networks.– RealNetworks Harmony was software that allowed a user to play songs in almost any music file format, including Apple’s. Harmony stalled, in part because Apple kept breaking compatibility, but probably for more fundamental reasons.– Content Bridge was an alliance of CDNs who pooled their servers to try to match Akamai’s scale. They could never agree on how to compensate each other and governance issues.– Fairmarket aggregated auction listings from MSN, Excite, Lycos etc. in an effort to match eBay’s scale. Fairmarket managed to go public but stalled and eventually sold off assets to eBaySome successes:– Cirrus and PLUS knit together networks of ATM networks, displacing proprietary networks like CItibank’s.– Every regional real estate multiple listing service might be considered a cross-network utility, since MLS connect networks of networks.I’ve done some academic work about conditions that favor efforts to connect rival networks (eg http://www.hbs.edu/research…, but i don’t think we’ve cracked the code on when cross-network utilities will succeed. It’s a great question — thanks for getting our wheels turning!
Getting academia involved in this discussion! Awesome. I will take a look at your paper Tom
@twitter-16284386:disqus ‘s paper’s going to have me thinking for a solid week… just when I thought I had time for AVC again..
thank you! And that is helpful to know there is research on the subject out there
Wow, that was an interesting read. Hadn’t realized that there was much academic attention being paid to these issues just yet. Thanks for sharing.
It’s knowledge on how you build long-term sustainable companies, and find your foothold in a market – or at least know what your foothold is.I’m not sure this type of information generally isn’t published as it’s pure gold. At least I feel lucky to have stumbled upon it today.
Is Brewster in the cross network camp?
Brewster is a cross network utility for sure.
And you invested in it, despite of it not being a native network. What exactly are you struggling with at USV?
Exactly that. We are tightening up our investment strategy based on what we are learning. Once we invest, we are 100% behind a company for the long haul. But future investments are a different.
I think we are an example of both types having started on twitter and quickly moved off when we realized the unique needs of our community and network. Now with 70 percent plus of the content created on our own platform there is no need to pull in other content like twitter and its a matter of time before we turn it off completely
Stocktwits is most certainly a network now. I would submit that it was not when it was on top of TwitterMost networks benefit when they allow some of their content to bleed out. That was mentioned in the comment in this thread about Instagram.
let it bleed! 🙂
One of the great records of all time
Does cutting the Twitter umbilical cord off have an effect on your monetization or growth? If so, how?
I doubt it, as our core user base is large enough and growing to make the experience great and Twitter just slows us down with the 140 character limit and coming rules. They can have their wall. The future is about verticals, trust, curation and depth, not just 140 characters and speed.
I meant it in a positive way, i.e. it allows you to lift off more independently.
Absolutely.LinkedIn now doing the same thing. Now their own network is in place, next logical move is for publishing tools for native content to be created. Tweets, etc. not needed.It’s the move.Cross-posting, re-discovery, etc. are nice features in a network. Ultimately, the network comes to life when users inside it start posting native content. So a network needs publishing tools (like Instagram).
Fred,in the healthcare enterprise world, this is more and more common. Under the hospital roof, there is a network of Health IT (HIT) systems that connect together, with the patient’s medical record number (MRN), being the shared identity. Call this the patient network. These patient networks are connected together internally by interface engines like Cloverleaf (Lawson), that primarily use HL7 to pipe the data back and forth across all of the siloed systems. Because each departmental system – like Lab, Radiology, Pharmacy, Admissions, Order Entry, etc. – are siloed, there are “network ID managers” or EMPI systems (electronic master patient index), like IBM’s Initiate, that ensure one unique patient MRN is used across the enterprise. This is the classic “four-walls” healthcare network, and can be seen primarily in hospitals, but also exists in a less complex form in nursing homes, surgery centers, etc. These “four-walls” networks are ruled by vendors like Epic, Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, etc.In healthcare, there are a few existing and emerging models for building networks on top of these networks. To understand this – the first issue is to look at the problem these new networks are trying to solve. There are three: a) if I am a healthcare system, like HCA, or Tenet, or Memorial Sloan Kettering, etc., I need to connect my different facilities together for billing purposes, operational oversight/management, quality/risk management, etc; b) in order to address the new government healthcare regulations, and get as much reimbursement as possible, I need to demonstrate Meaningful Use. One of the requirements for meaningful use is to share patient information with other community healthcare entities; and c) I am a healthcare executive, and I have decided to take on the insurance risk for a certain population of patients. To do this, I form an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) which is a group of wholly-owned or affiliated healthcare entities. The reason I do this is that I believe that I can have a lower cost of care than other healthcare systems, and therefore I make a deal with the payers (Blue Cross, Medicare, etc.) for them to pay me $X per patient. With this income, I believe that I can takecare of the patient for less than $X, and therefore make money. My challenge is that I need to have visibility between all the entities in my Accountable Care Organization, and therefore need a patient network connecting all the disparate entities together, with all of their siloed HIT systems. A simple ACO example is that post-discharge, many patients need avariety of caregivers to take care of them. This might be an older woman discharged from the hospital after a hip surgery who goes to a nursing home or home and needs ongoing care. These visiting care-givers – like visitng nurses, phlebotomists, doctors, etc. – have their own patient networks, and must connect to an ACO-wide network to provide visibility so that the executives can effectively manage cost.So, there are three types of networks built on existing networks, designed to solve these three business challenges. In brief, the network “solutions” are the following: a) to address the “HCA challenge,” the classic solution has simply been an extension of the four walls network – so if I’m the IT manager for HCA, my job is to cobble together the disparate IT systems across my hospitals, so that the patient network spans all of my facilities. This helps explain the term Integrated Delivery Network, or IDN, that refers to many of the large healthcare systems; b) to address Meaningful Use, there have been a number of regional networks that have started taking hold. These are typically called HIEs, (Health Information Exchange), or RHIOs, (Regional Health Information Organization). There are a number of companies (like Medicity), that address this challenge. There are also many proprietary regional networks; c) the ACO challenge is the most recent development in healthcare that requires a network on a network. Many of these patient networks are proprietary to the ACO. Examples include Kaiser and Geisinger, two of the prototype organizations for the current ACO definition. These organizations have a great competency in linking together the different entities in their region – some of which are wholly-owned, and some of which are simply affiliated. The ACO networks on networks are the most rapidly changing, and exciting developments in healthcare, and will drive a new engine of quality, safety, and efficiency in healthcare. I believe this is the greatest opportunity for new and transformative network models.
As a patient in one of the hospitals you mentioned:BS. If I have no access to that data and can’t talk about my issues with people in a similar situation, as well as my doctors in unrelated networks, then the network is failing badly. it is also failing badly because of the sheer amount of players involved to do basic care (think of all the stuff you listed for a hip surgery)That is not a network: that is a marketplace designed right now to shaft the patients into not knowing what is flying. Good networks get around this as an issue.granted, medicine is one tough nut to crack, and the culture of patient to doctor, doctor to doctor, and patient to patient has to change if value of the network is going to be unlocked
There are networks for that as well, like Patients Like Me. It’s not a marketplace designed to shaft the patients. It is a marketplace that is 20 years behind most others, and is building out the infrastructure for what you and other patients would love to have. It will come in time. Yet many of the attempts at this, like Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault, and a lot of the other “Health 2.0” attempts are not cognizant of the network that must support these patient networks. Other non-enterprise networks, like Doximity, (and Patients Like Me) are great examples of consumer networks, but until they start doing surgery in the cloud, we have to build the enterprise foundation.
Patients like me has been hacked. The support network I am in is on facebook. And I think Healthvault, Doximity ect don’t really deal with the process of decision making for healthcare by the patient (something that really needs to be hacked)And actually, I’ve seen surgery in the cloud 🙂 (well, I’ve observed surgery through a cloud performed by a human elsewhere)(just to be clear – I’m actually quite healthy)
After reading all these posts, I think differentiating between markeplaces, networks, and communities is going to be one of those fluid things much like knowing what porn versus a nude art photo (robert mapplethorpe, eg) is like.
production values and ‘point of sale’, to name but two.
if you’ve read “works of art in the age of mechanical reproduction” or “ways of seeing” sub-types of gaze is inherently tied to value: no matter what the situation, power dynamics show through: porn might just be a more extreme form.
John Berger?Have you read On Photography by Susan Sontag? I think you may have.
Yup, John Berger :)I think I read parts of Susan Sontag – I’ll stick her on my to do list 🙂
I have both on my bookshelf from years ago. I would have to reread them to get reacquainted with their ideas. To do.
Somewhat fluid, but I think there are real important differences.This is a very interesting piece:http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/201…
thank you. I’ve been trying to explain this idea in interviews, and then tie it back to transactional value. Harder than it looks!
First, let’s not simplify the value of aggregation. There isaggregation and there is aggregation. If the management of the aggregationbecomes unmanageable by other means (for the user), then there is a great valuein this aggregation.How a utility becomes a valuable network is something I havebeen thinking a lot about, since Day 1 of Engagio. But being a network is only astarting point. The starting point for a network and for a utility doesn’tguarantee their success and longevity which are more tied to how they caneventually monetize.Does increased usage of a utility by an increasing number ofusers make them a network? Even if it does, it doesn’t guarantee success.Sustainability of a monetization strategy is key, and that has to happen aroundthe value elements.The network or the utility become the means to an end. Focuson the end-goal and its sustainability. Even networks are vulnerable if theirvalue is not sustainable or sustained by its users.
Ultimately to me it comes down to whether I can fire up an app and spend 15 minutes immersed in a community, discuss an interesting story with people whose thought patterns and habits I recognize, and whose seriousness is not in question. There is a place for this, and I firmly believe you have made great strides towards achieving it.Disqus through a mobile browser is painful, I’m currently typing this in a text editor on my phone. I look forward to an app that can give me a fifeteen minute break at work with deeper engagement and consistency than Google Reader.
Ah…how about the engagio Dashboard which is a stream of engagement nuggets that you dip in and out of. Tune it to who you want to follow and it delivers.
Quite true, but it doesn’t expose the full conversation. This also happens to be my issue with every Twitter client I’ve ever used, including official ones.
I thought we expose the context around the comments & allow the user to consume in bite sizes. I find myself drawn to entering conversations that way. We can show Twitter convos better than Twitter does. Let’s talk tomorrow for sure 🙂
Utility becomes a network when native, branded content starts being produced on top of the utility.
Agreed, but then it’s about how you evolve from there. Branded content is good if you can monetize it or build upon it.
building on top of an established network: leverage the installed base, the people who are already there. tweetdeck, hootsuite; all the apps/platforms that are 3rd party to twitterbut that’s all in the category of doing something better for a useful tool than the useful tool did it for itselfcredit cards would be another example: amex vs. a store card. amex lets users buy anything anywhere; store xyz lets users shop only there, but offers rewards
danny meyer’s book talks about how he creates community/network across his restaurants: if he knows you go to place x, and you are in industry 1, he will scatter people from your industry nearby but not too close, so you will all perceive the place as very hospitable for your industry.the restaurants are marketplaces; his insight is that the more he can make his customers into a community, the more they will support his market/products
The only agregator network which is somehow usefull is Twitter. (g+ ?)Neither hacker news or any other used due agregation but due to total mix of services they provide. Its clear that currently we have trend to go for low hanging fruit in hope to hit some mix of features, without any understaning at all of underlying laws.
Reid Hoffman had some interesting thoughts on this at Disrupt SF this past week. He mentioned that he believes LinkedIn actually became better when twitter stopped working with it.
i think he is right. twitter is good for twitter. linkedin is good for linkedin.
Conversations. The atomic unit of the web (the ultimate network). Many of them still to be mapped. Many ways to map them (i.e. photos vs. text vs. emoticons vs. etc.). We’re capturing the one around sports, down to the neighborhood level.
Here’s my idea:My vision for the true social network. The actual network itself. This is something I’ve contemplated for a while, but over the last number of months it has become a little clearer; or rather I’ve been able to take it from an itch to a feeling, and now words.Facebook, amongst others, are known as ‘Social Networks’, yet when you study the term, it’s an incorrect description. Your social network is a constant that exists outside of a single branded experience. It’s your life. I’m connecting with you via this comment, but Facebook has no idea of that, of course. Yet, we are aware of it in our minds. We live our social network, we know what we do. When I do one thing I’m mindful of everything else I do. When I share a photo on Instagram, I’m aware of the tweet I posted this morning. When I check the weather on my iPhone, I’m aware of the bus times I just checked in my Dublin Bus app. I’m aware of it all. In addition, I’m aware of all the other things people are sharing, tweeting, posting, emailing, everything. I’m connected to it all. It’s brilliant. That’s my social network; it exists in the consciousness of my mind. This is the real social network, but the internet is dumb to this.Build the network. Not as an experience, but as an infrastructure. The contention is simple: There is no such thing as a one size fits all experience. It’s a non-entity. It’s insatiable. Facebook know this, and they’re caught in a mess for it, hence why they’re trying open-graph. It’s like the poor mans version of what I’m talking about.I met a couple of guys on Airtime, a few kids. They’re building this app called Wax. It’s simple. It’s basically a way of challenging friends to do tricks on skateboards etc. You record then upload a video of the trick, then the tricks are approved/rejected by the crowd. You get points for doing tricks. It’s fun, has genuine value and makes sense for the people who want to use it. Something like this wouldn’t be possible on the averageness of Facebook. There are a lot of reasons for this. The community isn’t the same, it’s average. The features aren’t there, they’re average. The noise of everything else that happens on Facebook. In fact, Facebook is does nothing really well. It’s exactly why Facebook bought Instagram. It’s a good product and there’s going to be a lot more amazing products coming that can’t all be Facebook blue.With the recent proliferation of programming (among the non-nerds, and beyond), more people from varied backgrounds are making really awesome experiences tailored for unique interests that were never even touched by the internet until now. Our ‘networks’ are becoming a lot more bespoke and richer. Skaters are making apps, not nerds in the valley. People from all walks of life are solving their own problems, you stop beat that. It’s already happening, and it’s close to hitting mainstream, another year or two and it’ll be in full affect. We all use slightly different variants of apps, we use them for different purposes, and different times, we interact with different people, it’s all different. This is your digital genome, whatever you want to call it. It’s life. It’s your real social network. Facebook is not your social network.The idea is not FriendFeed. This would be a service that allows all the apps you use talk to one another. It’s purely backend. It’s a developer tool. We need a service that ties all this together. But not an experience to tie it all together. A service. Something the user never sees, but uses. This service would act as a reservoir of all activity. Everything you do informs the reservoir. Apps can pull or push to the reservoir. A constantly evolving and respectfully private vat of knowledge about you.
maybe all you need are protocols http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…
I think you can’t be a network unless you own your atomic unit. That means you have content that can’t be found elsewhere.Flipboard doesn’t own any content. They redesign other people’s content. They won’t be a network.Hacker News and Reddit’s atomic units are not the stories they link to but the comments. They have great comments and that’s the value in those networks.Aggregation and cross-posting are good, and the large number of APIs out there for every service imaginable make it easy to populate your app with a bunch of content for the appearance of an instant community. But if you are too reliant on these tactics you won’t be able to build your own network.So if you aren’t creating unique content I don’t think you can become a network.
Great points and completely agreed.
Which is tantamount to saying Pinterest can’t be a network. Interesting.Pinterest is indeed very similar to Flipboard – it just focuses on one media type = the image.
To be pedantic – Pinterest’s terms and conditions can’t enable them to download and store other people’s content.
Really great thoughts Luke. My add-on would be: Cross-posting, re-discovery, etc. are nice features in a network. Ultimately, the network comes to life when users inside it start posting native content. So a network needs publishing tools (like Instagram).
great comment Luke, absolutely agree
it is a very interesting point. However, in some cases there could be an innovation in aggregation or cross-posting that creates a unique value for the users. If you can connect the users through your service (i.e individuals find others through your unique service) then perhaps you do have a network.
Laurie Kalmanson’s comment sent me off to look up Danny Meyer.In the following article, he says, about his restaurants, “The experience trumps the food.” When we look at “networks,” the service provided by the network or utility is the “food.” But are we considering how the user “feels” about it? Seems to me that’s what keeps people engaged and coming back.http://www.forbes.com/sites…
emotion and taste are two HUGE secrets to success these days.
Great post. It is tempting to start with aggregation features when the network isn’t built so their is “single player value.” But then as you say that removes the incentive for the user to create a network which takes away the multiplayer value. The only examples I can think of where there is both single player and multiplayer value are when the single player features are tool-like. E.g. Delicious was useful as a cloud bookmark service in single player mode and then as a social bookmark sharing site in multiplayer mode. Platforms like Github also work as tools in single player mode and networks in multiplayer mode.
github does a great job of servicing both a saas and a network model
Love the ‘single player mode’ vs. ‘multiplayer mode’ view.
Thanks. I didn’t come up with it but did blog about it here http://cdixon.org/2010/06/1…
Yep – I remember that post now that you highlighted it again – Great stuff!btw – since you don’t have search on your blog, how do you find your old posts when you want to reference them?
I just use Google search… You’re right I should add site search.
Awesome…then may I humbly suggest gawk.it to power that site search (your content and the conversations around it are already available there [and I’m about to release some major updates that I think will provide an even better search experience]).If you’re willing, I can/will email you with the simple HTML form to add to your template to get it going…
Sure, happy to try it.
Try gawk.it ChrisYou can see it in action on AVC
Exactly. That ties with my previous comment that aggregation is only a starting point,- the first pony trick. I would argue further that it isn’t easier for a network to find its monetizable business model than it is for a utility to find its own native value elements to sustain its model.
That’s how Pinterest started. A virtual pinboard has value to an individual.
Piggy-backing off existing networks to create authentic engagement is very hard, if well nigh impossible. Branchout, for all its users from Facebook, seems a hollow shell of a community.It is increasingly true, however, that new communities must pull in some existing elements of a user from other networks. I think it is important to pull in the identity and interest graph and perhaps not recommended to pull in the actual conversations. Conversations and dialogue should be authentic and contextualized, even if they are a “re-blog” or a “re-post”.At Trusted Insight, http://www.thetrustedinsight.com, with a high degree of probability we can figure out whether a user is an LP, GP and what their likely portfolio is–just by their Linkedin portfolio. But we will not pull in their tweets since even most tweets of LP’s are not related to investments.The conversation of the user must be authentic to build the engagement, even if it requires a lot of effort as in couchsurfing, stackexchange or Quora.
All of these things just mean 3 things to me: 1) For a site to have a perpetually growing fan base (let’s call it that), it has to be original; 2) Since you’re just pulling stuff from an online source, it can’t be considered networking; and 3) You will just be another flash in the pan if you don’t come up with a site that’s going to stimulate your user’s imagination and interest everyday.
Flipboard is a fantastic way to read and view content, one of my favorites, but I use it far less than anything else because there isn’t a network to pull me back in.
It’s nearly impossible to create your own network, especially these days. So much easier to piggyback.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and the one example I have is not in the social or news space. Rather, it is in the Financial space – Square. Square as an utility made it dead simple and affordable to for small businesses to accept credit cards. While you can do this before through merchant accounts or other options, you couldn’t do it in a simple or affordable way.On top of that, Square has to use the existing credit card networks such as American Express, Discover, Visa, and Mastercard. Therefore, its own cost and reach is fixed by the partner networks. However, in time, if Square is able to build a large enough network of its own, it will be able to start a payment network similar to Visa or Mastercard and control the base cost for a transaction. Imagine Square card for payments.This will not only reduce it’s transaction cost but allow it to become its own independent network. In addition, with their recent move to become a full fledged retail register and consumer data application for retailers, they have innovated around the existing network to great success.
yup. we missed that when we considered an investment in square
This question is changing as both Facebook is becoming dominant and its user are reaching proficiency. There is probably limited space left for other true networks but Facebook universality is also creating opportunity for intro-communities around behavior. These communities are not defined by a place but by a set of tools that enable behaviors. We have only seen a few simple ones with spotify or instagrams.In my mind, the next wave of innovation in the social space will be built on top and within platform (place) networks and will be tool (behavior) networks. Immagine communities of weather reporters, news curators, fashion mavens not each in their own world on their own site but contributing to the social experience through tailored tools that empower their social experience for all rather that separate it to a dedicated space.Disclaimer: I have one of those in the works…
I didn’t have time to read all of these comments, so it might be already identified, but here is one that might work:The “Music” app on iPhones and iPods could have a “Ping” capability that ran over Facebook and/or Twitter. Every user of an iPod or iPhone could add a Facebook app that tracked their listening, star ratings, etc. People could socially manage playlists together, etc. etc. Basically, it would be a lot of the stuff that other startups and companiies are trying to do, but would have immense scale almost from day one.This network would only work over existing networks (Ping failed because it sucked — tied to the iTunes Store and only worked from the iTunes Store app). Like Path does, I’ have always wanted the ability to “tweet” or “post” my currently playing tune and even a rating and a brief quip about it. But 98% of iPhone/iPod users are in the native app and can’t do that. If they could, the scale would be instant and, therefore, the value would be immense to the users.If the iTunes App on Facebook would package all of this activity and, whenver possible, include links to the store, etc., then Apple would obviously get sales and/or traffic to the store. And I guarantee that my Facebook posts would go up by about 10000%.
same could be done with Android, too, just as easily. But Google would try to run it over Google+, which sucks.
facebook tried this with spotify and others but it was badly implemented and i think it was a failure
” But it sold to Facebook for what has now turned into a lot of money, but it did not build a sustainable network of its own”Let’s see it was 50million then, not sure what the final exit value was based on IPO or current Facebook share value. Or if some of the deal was cash.
But the community does not have to be on the network, television, radio, app store.
no, the strongest networks build on communities. Back to Napster and facebook – they link people who already have common links in new ways. They are networks of what is already there
I totally agree Charlie
“…the strongest networks are also communities.”I’m not sure this is right, Charlie.A network is an environment where the scale provides benefit to all and this does not necessarily involve much community. Take Ebay as an example. The network effect is critical to its success but how much community is there? Clearly there is one important element to Ebay which is a proxy for community which is the feedback score, but does that really constitute community?However”If your service doesn’t provide more value to a user than she contributes, it will not become a network.”completely agree.
service->network->community is a great way to lay this out.You could change make service and platform synonymous in many cases.Honestly success when it happens is usually ‘network’ with smatterings of community.
So how do communities develop? Communities of interaction that are more than just a shared interest in music?I see that Fred has created a community here, which has grown as he has shared his interests, insights, and opinions over these years and the rest of us have been attracted to the site to read, and lurk, and then comment and interact.This AVC community nominally is centered around tech startups and the tech world in general, but Fun Fridays and our varied interests clearly show that this is much more than just business and tech.As Charlie put it, I put in my $1 and get $3 back.
The chicken or egg perspective.That seems like a useful mental pivot point!
Are they? Imho there are online environments where the network effects are enormous but there is little community. E.g. Paypal.
i often think its not just shared interest but an anchor personality (fred) ..and finally some randomness thrown in .this happens alot here at avc. the conversations go every which way and its awesome because of that.
I think communities are honestly cult objects, much like religions. There are habits that everyone shares here, and while they are fluid habits, they are enough to mark those in, those out, and those transitioning in. These behaviors and the creation of these behaviors are the markers of communities. The structure by which these behaviors get you involved is the glue that holds communities together. Good communities have strong powerful behavioral changes involved in the process of getting marked as part of that community. Create positive group behaviors and introduce people who are doing these behaviors who don’t know each other to each other and behold, you have a community.Every online network has aspects of these markers. (reddit has a lot of internal memes, hacker news people have a specific tone in which they write, same with facebook) Every good brand has aspects of these markers. (the sweater and the pant that marks jcrew as the thing you try on there) Every powerful religion has aspects of these markers. (mass)
I think the data they are surfacing is way more interesting than the messages they are managing
To some extent, the message management part is a good starting point, although discovery is proving to be valuable and we will push further around that space.
I don’t think that is possible – there is always this tension that disqus surfaces about network location versus persons involved. Disqus by being semi-outside the location but a service for that location (comments are something involved for the site, less the people when it comes to primary content) makes it hard to transition to a consumer first company.And it is probably smart that way, the value for the consumer as a network in a lot of ways is driven by the value the sites using it get…
keep cranking ro. had dinner with john this week. he’s a keeper for you
loving the elegance of the way you keep seeping. keep it simple.
We shall see Charlie.It’s a process of discovering behavior, layer by layer. Being very patient and careful.
I have a pet theory that people read the news, et al, because they want to discuss it socially, not because the news matters in the immediate to most people. Seeing how the news is discussed is just really interesting in surfacing all sorts of taste graphs…
Didn’t linkedin start out as the adult social network?And napster didn’t need to create a community – they built on one as a tool for communities that already existed (of music lovers). I guess the question is how much is it an online community and how much are you a facilitator to badly organized networks that already exist? Both have value; both surface value, I’m just not sure that they are one and the same.
Hmmmm. Interesting observation.So if I go to a news “utility,” I might want to be able to discuss that news in a community in cyberspace if, for example, I don’t live in NYC and the people around me in “meat space” have no interest in world news?Does anyone provide that?
Don’t necessarily agree.Just because there is a huge population of music or wine or art or whatever lovers, doesn’t mean that there is by default a community just pining for a hangout. Sometimes yes, Not always.
happy new year
So if all communities share attitudinal and behavioural marker glue.What other attributes facilitate the emergence of community as differentiated beyond its simply network undercarriage/substrate?It seem obvious that you can have networks without community at least is the human sense.But not so obvious that you can have community without a specific substrate of supporting networks attributes.Can those magic community-mojo networks-attributes be clearly distilled for reuse and nesting?
Building community is the most powerful thing you can ever know how to do.
Great observation Shana. I would add that the community happens because its members want it to happen, not because the blog owner says they want one.
We certainly have lots of data around user engagement across the networks,- who discusses what, with whom, how often, where, about what, etc.
For space or time too?
It is great watching it
The face that they are available and useful to a subset doesn’t mean that the marginal value isn’t greater as the network increases in size.
Me too 🙂
I agree that Ebay is an exchange.
and sadly most don’t have a clue how to do it. any website/brand that doesn’t understand and invest in community building from the beginning is hosed already. just my 2 cents
I know, but most people don’t want to listen- building a community means also losing some control over “users” and accepting that as fact.
there was a community – that which believes that the dollar is a good currency (and there also was an ebay community they built off of)
it had to do more than that – said individual lovers had to be talking to each other about where to find said music in the first place.Think Greatful Dead casettes. Someone has to be saying something to someone to know where to get said casette. The digital version just has a tighter lock on behavior because of ease of use
True, but for many things, there is critical mass.There are a lot of needleworkers out there (sewing, knitting, needlepoint, cross stich, crochet) – not everyone wants to work together. But there are enough people oth there who do want to hang out that there is now a federated terms for such events- Stitch and Bitch!
it really is less difficult than people make it out to be. Most people just don’t want to observe human behavior
Indeed. Most brands won’t be able to do it anyway. There’s very few ways for a brand to have a community; Really there will only be one way for a brand to win and have a community, and that’s to have a really good product that improves people’s lives.
Yes. Most of the goal of what you are doing if you are a community manager is building out implict tools to support behavior as well as encourage community behaviors
Thank you! May you be written and sealed in the ebook of life
Ravelry is a immensely powerful community in that area.Huge entrepreneurial success story actually.
essentially, disqus and engagio
A friend of mine is a knitter/hooker and author turned me on to that one.A great example of people just doing it. Making something special and creating value.
I am a youngster I admit it.And I am not sure if it is about free music in general vs free music in particular – I think it is about the particular, and that taste tends to cause things to spread
There will always be the 20% that exist, people who have their own ideas, their own needs, their own character – whether that’s rebellious or genuine disagreement, or perhaps could be perfectionism on their part; Those are all good things though, they are the yang to the ying (or ying to the yang). You need contrast in life to understand.
Most people aren’t good at observing and taking in all facets of human behaviour..
I like this order, and would add network->communities (many communities may coexist comfortable on a single network)
Agreed – wrong community for them 🙂