Posts from Online Communities

Are Real Names Required For Real Socializing?

Over the weeekend my friend Jeff Jarvis and I had a twebate about this topic. You can see it in action on storify thanks to David Connell.

I'm all for real names if people want to use them. I use "fredwilson" on every web service I can and that is almost all of them. It's a vanity thing for me more than anything else. I want to get to the service early enough that I can grab that handle.

But not everyone wants to use a real name. There are all sorts of reasons for that. This post on the EFF blog, which kicked off the twebate between me and Jeff, lists a bunch of them.

This community is a perfect example of the value of anonymity. Kid Mercury, FAKE GRIMLOCK, Prokofy, JLM, etc, etc. They are some of the most engaged community members. We love them (at least I do), and I could care less who they are in real life. What I care about are their ideas, their voice, their participation, and their energy. If anonymity brings that out in some, then bring it on.

David Weinberger left a comment on Caterina Fake's blog that I love and reblogged on Tumblr last week:

In our culture, we’re suspicious of strangers. They’re a threat. They lurk in shadows. On the Web, however, strangers are the source of everything worthwhile. Strangers and their utterances are the stuff of the Web. They are what give the Web its matter, its shape, its value. Rather than hiding in our tents and declaring our world to exist of the other tents near us — preferably with a nice tall wall around us — the Web explicitly is a world only because of the presence of so many strangers.

The desire to clean up the web, civilize it, and sterlize it pisses me off. I hate it. The Zuckerbergs can run a sterile community on the web if they want. That's just fine. But to suggest that real names is the source of their success it to learn the wrong lessons from Facebook.

Facebook is successful because they bring structure (phototags are the best example) and order (the newsfeed) to the social web. The requirement to use real names is a weakness not a strength of the service.

But of course not everyone will agree with me on this. Jeff doesn't. We ended our twebate with an agreement to take this debate to the stage. I hope we can do that this fall somewhere in NYC. I'm hoping for some sketchy dicey neighborhood to be honest. This is an important debate as it impacts the way social services are designed and executed. So let's have it.


Things That Tweet

I was at breakfast with a friend yesterday who told me about a project he did with some Twitter data around weather. He said as he was pouring through the data, he saw that there were bursts of tweets at certain times. He dug into the data and saw that it was weather vanes and thermometers that were tweeting out their data.

It got me thinking about things that tweet (like weather vanes, refridgerators, traffic lights, etc) and their role in the land of social media. I believe that devices and sensors that broadcast their data via social media channels are an important source of social data and engagement. And for some reason, they are way more common on Twitter than any other social platform.

Have you ever seen a weather vane on Facebook? I have not. If they exist I'd love to know about them. I want to understand the Internet of Things and its role in social media. I suspect that the symmetric friending model and the use of real names/real people in the Facebook system is a hindrance to devices updating Facebook pages, but I could be wrong.

Services that are too determinent in their use case are ultimately limiting in their extensability to important new uses. Machines are reliable sources of information and the social services that are friendly to them have a number of interesting opportunities in front of them.


Modern Community Building

In late May, Joel Spolsky, co-founder/CEO of our portfolio company Stack Exchange, wrote a great post called Modern Community Building.

Stack (as I like to call the company) is building out a large network of highly engaged communities (57 as of right now) all focused on knowledge sharing.

Joel described the basic problem:

There are an awful lot of technology companies, founded by programmers, who think they are building communities on the Internet, but they’re really just building software and wondering why the community doesn’t magically show up.

Joel points out an important truth. Online communities require both software and people. Sometimes the software part is the easier part. Curating communities is hard work and requires people to do it. It is an inherently social behavior. Joel describes the role of the "online community organizer":

This job will be sort of like being a community organizer at a non-profit. It combines elements of marketing, PR, and sales, but it’s really something different. I don’t expect that there are a lot of people out there who already kn0w how to do this well, so I’m going to train them, personally. Not that I know how to do this, but we’ll learn together. Every workday is going to start with a huddle at 9am and a plan for the day’s activities and an intensive six hours of work. Every workday is going to end with an hour of learning… reading Kawasaki and Godin and Ries and Trout, talking with invited experts, meeting with members of the community about what worked and what didn’t worked. Everyone who joins the program (and survives for a year) will come out with an almost supernatural ability to take a dead, lifeless site on the internet and make it into the hottest bar in town. That’s a skill worth learning for the 21st century.

Many of our companies need both community managers and community organizers. And I agree with Joel that this is a new job type that not many people have a ton of experience in. But as Joel says, those who develop these skills will be in high demand in the coming years.

If you are interested in joining Stack's community evangelist team, you can apply here. If you'd like to see all the open community manager positions in our portfolio, and there are a bunch of them all around the world, you can see them here.

Modern community building isn't easy but if there is one thing the Internet has taught me over the past 15 years, large engaged communities are incredible powerful things, both commercially and socially. Building them is important and ultimately very valuable work.


Globalization (continued)

I made a friend online today. It happens to me most every day. Tyrone lives in Cape Town South Africa.

The first time I came across Tyrone in the indie while you work room at, he was chatting up a couple Japanese DJs.

Tyrone rubin

I loved that exchange so much that I tumbld it. It speaks to the notion that music is the international language.

I saw Tyrone in the Indie While You Work room again today. We got to talking while taking turns listening and playing music. He said he loves the AVC blog. So I asked him what I should write about today:

Tyrone #2

Tyrone didn't mean "not getting into Tumblr", he actually meant "not getting into" That's because had to turn off international users last weekend due to licensing issues. Tyrone had been chatting about how big of an impact that had on him earlier in our chat.

But Tyrone is right about "the whole geography thing." I wrote a post about this over the weekend and our very own Arnold Waldstein said this:

To me the big change is that socialization is now possible on a global real-time scale. This is not a technological revolution, but a social and behavioral one.

That flattening is a ramp for cultures to meet and communicate over cross cultural, uni-behavioral drives like music or sw development or celebrity obsessions or just passion points like wine or art or even, in my work, marketing. 

The power for communities and businesses is not for cultural niches but for global populated communities around more specific points on the interest graph with huge possible memberships that span the cultural and geographical divide

Whether it is Tyrone chatting up a couple of Japanese DJs or talking to me about what to blog about, "socialization on a global real-time scale" is a big deal.

I follow @masason on Twitter. Here's one of his tweets:

Son san tweet

I don't understand all of this tweet, but I know who he is talking to/about and I can click on the picture and that tells me most of what this tweet is about. I can stay connected to @masason at some level via Twitter even though I don't understand the words in his tweets.

I followed Tyrone's Tumblr this morning. Now every time he tumbls something, it will appear in my dashboard. We stay connected even though we live half way around the world from each other. I hope turntable can get licensed internationally because Tyrone also is a great DJ and I love getting turned onto new music by him. Content licensing issues are certainly one of the few remaining hurdles in our increasingly global, social, and mobile web. I'm optimistic that we'll see these hurdles come down soon because the power of this global network is large and getting larger every day. Content owners should want to tap into it as much as individuals like me, Tyrone, and Masa Son.


The Post Frequency Rule

The frequency of posts in a service is inversely proportional to the size of the post. Said another way, the longer the post, the less frequently they will happen.

Take a look at stats from the three largest "default public" social media services:

WordPress – 430k posts per day

Tumblr – 31.8mm posts per day

Twitter – 140mm posts per day (march 2011)

Of course, these numbers are also impacted by the number of total accounts and active accounts on the system. None of the three companies post those numbers publicly. Based on the numbers I've seen, the ratio of monthly active accounts to total accounts is also highly correlated to the the size of the post. The shorter the required post in a service, the higher percent of total users will be active on it.

If you want to understand the power of Tumblr and Twitter, you need to look at how quick and how easy it is to post. There are of course many other factors at work, but brevity and ease is a big part of why these services work so well.


Disqussing Disqus

Yesterday our portfolio company Disqus announced a bunch of numbers including the fact that they had raised $10mm to fund their rapid growth. The AVC community is powered by Disqus and we are big fans of the company here. So I'm pretty sure many of you already saw the news and are happy for the Company. For those that did not see the news, click on that link above. For those who would rather get a brief summary, here's what they announced:

– Disqus is four years old this week

– Disqus communities are viewed each month by almost 500mm users worldwide.

– Over 750,000 blog communities have adopted Disqus

– 35mm commenters actively participate in these communities

– The company grew 5x across all its core metrics in the past year

– 75% of blogs that use a third party comment system use Disqus

– All of this was achieved by just 16 people, but they hope to increase that number in the coming months

If you are interested in working for a rapidly growing category leader, here is their jobs page.

In other news, Disqus released some new features, one of which I discovered in the comments to yesterday's post. If you mention other people in a Disqus comment by typing @ then his or her Disqus name, mentioned people will be notified via email or Twitter. I saw a number of people using this yesterday. Let's do this as much as we can around here. It will make the disqussions even more lively.


We Are NY Tech

Imagine if there was a blog that wrote about one person who works in NY Tech every day and over time built the seminal database (like Crunchbase) of everyone working in NY tech. How cool would that be?

Don't imagine it. Just head on over to We Are NY Tech and witness it in action. You can also follow We Are NY Tech on Twitter.

Unlike silly lists like the Business Insider "Coolest 100 People" which is bullshit and I hate it and wish they would stop putting out nonsense like that, We Are NY Tech is democratic, wonderful to look at and read, and is exactly the kind of service we need in NYC to identify who is who and who is doing what and why.

We Are NY Tech was build by the team at Simande, a creative shop that builds great websites. If We Are NY Tech is a anything, its a great example of their work. I suspect this is a labor of love by the Simande team, but if I were Silicon Valley Bank, Gunderson, Cooley, Ambrose, and a host of other service providers to NYC's startup community, I'd be trying to buy sponsorships of We Are NY Tech. No better way to show the support of the community than to support a living breathing database of the community.

Well done We Are NY Tech. I'm following you and I hope the rest of the NY Tech Community is too.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

One Graph To Rule Them All?

My partner Albert posted this on his blog yesterday:

But I see at least one flaw with this plan for domination. I simply don’t believe that there is a single social graph that makes sense. I may very well follow someone’s booksmarks on that I don’t want to have any other relationship with. Or take the group of people that I feel comfortable sharing my foursquare checkins with — these are all people I trust and would enjoy if they showed up right there and then. That group in turn is different from the people I work with on Google docs for various projects which is why I would be nervous about using the Microsoft docs connected to Facebook. Trying to shoe-horn all of these into a single graph is unlikely to work well.

He's talking about Facebook and the new services they announced this week at f8. Clearly Facebook is executing fast and well at a scale that few Internet companies have ever reached. It is very impressive to watch.

But I am with Albert on the issue of one social graph for the entire web. I don't think it will happen either. And we are putting our money where our mouths are by backing companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Disqus, GetGlue, and others (remember that are building different social graphs.

Today Facebook is the mainstream social network and where most people keep their entire social graph. The other services I mentioned, with the exception of Twitter, have not built large mainstream social graphs. But I think they will for the exact reasons Albert articulated.

I want to share some things with the widest group of people that is possible. Those things end up on this blog and/or Twitter. I want to share some things with the smallest group possible (like checkins on Foursquare and financial transactions on Blippy). That behavior requires a very tight, very private social graph. 

Facebook sits in the middle of all of this and has created the largest social graph out there. These other social graphs can and will grow in the wake of Facebook. I am not sure if Facebook's ambition is to create the one social graph to rule them all but if it is, I don't think they will succeed with that. If it is to empower the creation of many social graphs for various activities and to be in the center of that activity and driving it, I think they are already there and will continue to be there for many years to come.

I want to thank my friend Mo Koyfman and my partners Brad and Albert for helping me crystalize my thinking about this over the past few weeks. It is a very important topic for those of us who invest in the social web.

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#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

AVC People

Jerry sent me an email last night after a day of exchanging comments with the people on this blog. I replied and explained to him:

there are a couple hundred "regulars" that hang out at AVC

it's like our own little "cheers" without the beer

i get to be woody

One of those regulars, Shana Carp, has made it her objective to create a twitter list of all of the regulars. 

She calls her list AVC people

Thanks Shana.

I've added it to my twitter account. You can do the same here.

If you want to be added to the list, please leave your name and twitter handle in the comments to this post. Shana has graciously offered to keep this list up for at least a few months.

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