Of the many contacts I made while recently in the Netherlands, Alexander Van Elsa has stood out as someone really thinking about things. I’m always a fan of audacious titles and his post “The flaws in web 2.0 and how to correct them” rings true to my heart. (BTW, he gets two links this morning because I like his blog subtitle: “blogging about the effects of new media and technology on human behavior.)
In a recent post Alexander pointed towards the futurist by Seth Porges speculating that human laziness will burst the Web 2.0 bubble. “Web 2.0” won’t survive as the member community will become increasingly tired of creating and updating information which is essentially a “novelty”. To cap the post Seth states: “there is nothing more unreliable than human nature”, but I would tend to disagree. The very laziness that he’s pointing to is a powerful and reliable human direction. What appears as “laziness” is actually a clever self-optimizing tendency to do away with activities that bring no value to actor.
Echoing some of my postings, I particularly agree with Alexander’s solution to the situation (my emphasis added):
I don’t really believe in the yet another social network start-up in all kinds of niches. The efforts of service creators and the user should be focused on interaction, communication, not on profile building. Your profile is your communication and interaction with others.
The simple truth to the matter is that humans love to communicate. Possibly the major element that separates us from the beasts is the incredible leverage we gain by being able to transmit and digest information with other members of our species across villages, communities and eras. With our rich knowledge sharing we can adapt ourselves to an environment and optimize our interactions like a distributed hive mind.
Each step in our advancement of communication has helped us extend our “voice” through time and space. Writing and cave paintings persist information longer than the spoken word; radio erases distances through a speed-of-light transmission mechanism; internet communication combines (relative) permanence, instant reception and near-boundless audiences. In other words, it’s damn good at what it does.
So if the internet is so good, why do social networks suck? The easiest answer is money. If you give away a product for free, you have to find some other monetization scheme. Currently there are
two three ways to do this:
- build a giant, closed network and sell advertising to the captive members
- build a giant, closed network and sell access to the captive network
- pretend you are doing 1 or 2 long enough to get bought out (step 4, profit!)
None of the above incentives* encourage companies to build something other than a large, closed network. When this happens, we find oursevles just so much to be done, so many things to read and statuses (stati?) to be updated. Each private network requires its own block of your precious attention.
Reducing the waste of your time can be achieved with a large, OPEN network. And if not an open network, at least a network with published protocols and open standards that can be reviewed, improved upon and embraced by new or prospective members of that network. Dave Winer identified a similar need in March when talking about Twitter as a basic communication platform. If you don’t believe the time is right for social communication network, check out the painful steps people are going through to create these on their own at their own expense (time) by cobbling together tools to Frankenstein’ing Gmail into a social network hub.
In other news, who’s doing it right? I’ll give a shout out to SixApart who understands the concept (and business value behind) sharing the network goodness by making steps towards opening their platform. And by the way, you should also check out Noserub who has my current attention.
PS: It doesn’t surprise me that SixApart, a company with a female co-founder and president is the first major social communication platform to make the jump. Women seem understand the value of working together rather than dividing things up.