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Ross Mayfield: Social Networks

The Social Networks category of Ross Mayfield's Weblog

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Digital Polity

Fri, 25 Jul 2003 23:40:43 GMT

Attended a networking luncheon this week where Reed Hundt gave a speech quite different than two weeks prior at Supernova.  Perhaps he drank the superjuice -- it was very emergent democratic and second superpowery. The first speech centered on his proposal to provide Universal Broadband Access to over 90% of US homes by 2013.  Americans take the Net for granted more than anyone, while other enlightened countries (Korea being the poster child) make it a mission.  This year's Supernova had a greater focus on policy and Reed's was the one specific policy proposal I heared -- invest an amount less than the subsidy to analog TV for digital ($75b) to maintain economic competitiveness.  Unless there is a plausible path for ILEC demise, this is the best proposal on the table.  Reed also gets open spectrum, so sing a hallelujah and hope something happens. One thing is for sure.  When Dean showed he could raise money on the Net, politics changed forever. Previously the Net had demonstrated its ability to influence decision makers through individualize pluralism, beginning when Kevin Werbach set up the first citizen feedback email address.  Over 2 million emails were sent by citizens on the issue of media ownership, at last count according to Reed.  Blogs have also demonstrated the ability of an influential deliberative network to force the media to play their role as the 4th estate, Lott being the poster child. But now the Net has become a constituency.  Decision makers like to say they are accountable even the poorest residents of their districts, but money is the source of their power and the group they serve is the group that elects them with it.  Dean has shown the Net as means to money.  And now every politician is finally paying attention. Reed's talk last week was on the digital polity vs. the analog polity.  He spoke eloquently about the rising constituency and how its "not just that things reoccur, its that they get better."  There are core ideals, parties are means towards those ideals, but are largely ineffective.  A new party of a digital polity is emerging that holds certain core beliefs: We know more than our leaders We pay nobody to say what we want to hear Information is percipient and wants to be free We are build on systems and networks, not organizations We synthesize the whole instead of constructing barriers and silos We believe in truth and civil debate Now I may not have everything word for word (thumbed it into my Palm).  He also stated digital polity principles of privacy, representation, honesty and equity.   He implies that leaders still have utility and a role to play, but they need to engage the digital constituency and build trust.  We don't depend upon the media because we are skeptics and experts, we are global and can engage in collective action without government.  That said, digital needs to negotiate with analog.  But these are powerful and re-occuring themes. What is encouraging, if not remarkable, is that Reed is a civil servant, nay, politician, who undertands his new constituency and its reasonable demands. At the end he did casually remark that we should abolish the US Senate, as they are a distortion of representation, serving only 15% of citizens.  The point he is making, though, is that leaders fall behind their citizens (especially in times like these).  Perhaps because they are not engaged with their constituents.  Perhaps because their interests are conflicted.  But the difference is our representatives need to recognize our new found powers to deliberate and represent ourselves at a pace they need to understand. Which brings me back to Dean.  If a candidate and causes can raise money on the Net, they can engage in institutional pluralism.  Direct participation within the social network of decision makers.  This scares most policy makers, as the game has changed.  Its a grass roots game [...]


Thu, 24 Jul 2003 04:17:01 GMT

Article in the NY Times on back-channels of IM and Chat in universities, meetings and conferences.  Misses recent events.  Attention-shifting for early social software experiences will be meme for a while because its also a frame of reference shift. Cory Doctorow, a science fiction writer and blogger who has experienced this back-channeling at several international technology meetings, likens the chatter to what happens in the corridor just after people leave a conference session. "We're just moving the corridor into the room and time-shifting it by 30 minutes," said Mr. Doctorow, who takes notes and posts them to his Weblog, or blog, during conferences, enabling people to follow the speaker and Mr. Doctorow's take on the speaker at the same time. Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in New York University's interactive telecommunications program, has run experiments using messaging software to supplement face-to-face meetings of 30 people. Many participants find the experience highly stimulating, he said, explaining, "The intellectual quality of a two-track meeting is extraordinarily high, if it is run right and you have smart people involved." But many speakers at the front of room are less enamored of the practice. "To me, it's a little irritating, frankly," said Stewart Butterfield, chief executive of Ludicorp, a company that is developing Neverending, a multiplayer online game [and happens to provide Confab, what gives Stu?]. In April, Mr. Butterfield addressed a conference on emerging technologies as listeners experimented with messaging software, including a program called Confab offered by his own company. The next week, when he spoke at a conference without any Internet access, "people were a lot more attentive," he said. (He added, however, that many of them kept opening their laptops during the speeches in the vain hope that somehow the Internet might have magically become available.) Good account of the PC Forum 2002/Gillmor story I referenced yesterday: Some people who have experienced the phenomenon cite a speech given last year at a computer industry conference by Joe Nacchio, former chief executive of the telecommunications company Qwest. As he gave his presentation, two bloggers - Dan Gillmor, a columnist for The San Jose Mercury News, and Doc Searls, senior editor for The Linux Journal - were posting notes about him to their Weblogs, which were simultaneously being read by many people in the audience. Both included a link forwarded by a reader in Florida to a stock filing report indicating that Mr. Nacchio had recently made millions of dollars from selling his company's stock, although he complained in his speech about the tough economy. "No sympathy here," Mr. Gillmor wrote. "When Dan blogged that, the tenor of the room changed," Mr. Doctorow said. Mr. Nacchio, he said, "stopped getting softball questions and he started getting hardball questions." Clay on meetings and conferences Some people are hoping that conferences will evolve to allow the undercurrent of conversation to be projected on a big screen in the front of the room. They say that such public disclosure will enable speakers and unconnected audience members to feel less isolated. Mr. Shirky, the adjunct N.Y.U. professor, considers openness to be critical to productive discussions and conducts his messaging-software experiments so that all speakers can see what is being posted. At the University of Maryland, where the use of IM became a matter of a heated debate, several students said they were perturbed by the back channeling not because it seemed rude (although some argued that point, too), but because they felt left out. The split focus of two-track meetings and back-channeled conversations have other drawbacks, not the least of which is that they can be utterly distracting. "There were times when I'd follow a thread and come back to the lecture and feel a little disoriented," Mr. Aral acknowledged. Hecklebot Joichi Ito, a venture capitalist and former chief executiv[...]

Trade Winds

Tue, 22 Jul 2003 18:51:45 GMT

The community that was fostered at AO2003 is now providing more pensive analysis.  This is a great time to reflect on how social software is changing the events business and the "trades" in general.  An excerpt from Conferenza, which provides a tad more traditional paid research coverage of trade shows, contains this golden nugget of controversy: Still, there were interesting insights, some intended and some not... ·   As a demonstration of the power of interconnection, a panel on Web services featuring CEO Mark Benioff provoked the most talked-about moment of the conference – at Benioff’s expense. Asserting that the largest e-commerce software supplier is, Benioff pointed toward co-panelists from IBM and Sun Microsystems and said, “None of these companies has any position in [that] market at all. Even Apple’s iTunes music store was built on Amazon,” and asserted that Amazon has 300 people working on its proprietary software. We thought this was news, until Ross Mayfield, CEO of one of the Web’s leading blogging software providers, Socialtext, led an online chat charge showing that most of this was apparently untrue: Amazon uses standard XML out-of-the-box stuff, and Apple’s iTunes doesn’t use Amazon’s software at all, the chatters charged. As Benioff continued, the audience watched as a group of online contributors disputed fact after fact, input Benioff apparently did not see. “It was sort of like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” said one attendee. “As Mark spoke, we could see his nose growing longer, like Pinocchio.” How it played out in the Chat (Archive) was Kevin Marks did the fact checking, which was simultaneously projected on to the big screen: [11:51] KevinMarks: no he didn't [11:51] adina: bthey /are/ mentioning public web serivces [11:51] KevinMarks: he licensed the patent [11:51] KevinMarks: iTunes backend is not Amazon [11:51] toughcrowd: this panel is showing lots of promise - but I love that cynical suspicion "lovefest" [11:51] Ross: Amazon's real smart move was an API for developers [11:52] adina: tross [11:52] Ross: but they dont get decentralization. witness [11:52] adina: ross again [11:52] Ross: Kevin, did he say it was? [11:52] KevinMarks: Apple had ahuge online store already selling Macs [11:52] KevinMarks: they built on that for iTunes [11:53] Ross: real-time fact checking Kevin, I love it [11:54] DariusD: Do you know that the Apple onnline store was not built on Amazon technology? [11:54] KevinMarks: It is built on Webobjects Here's Apple's story of how iTunes was built and how they licensed the one-click form from Amazon.  Before we get carried away with the event of a fact check, rather than dynamic itself, its important to understand the context.  I doubt Marc had negative intent, he had little to gain if so, and he was just plain conversing. This parallel channel, a second superpower on a finite scale, first emerged at PC Forum 2002 when Dan Gillmor blogged a fact check on Joe Nacchio.  Clay fostered the first experiments with social software as an in-room chat tool.  Supernova I was the first to formalize a group weblog.  PC Forum 2003 was the first to incorporate a conference wiki.  The O'Rielly Emerging Technology conference renewed interest in IRC and Hydra in parallel to the wiki.  Supernova II was the first to incorporate chat and wiki.  AlwaysOn was the first to add video streaming (Archive), creating a richer remote participation experience. For some, the choice of modes is overwhelming at first, something we are tuning.  But Social Software and its practices for events has a reached a level of maturity where it is solving fundamental tensions of event structure.  Take Bob Frankston's experience with remote participation after in-person attendance the first day: While it's not the sam[...]

Making Friendsters in High Places

Fri, 18 Jul 2003 23:05:06 GMT

Good article by Leander Kahney in Wired News on Social Networking.  And I'm not just saying that because danah and I are in it. 

Friendster has hit viral level of exponental growth which is drawing new interest into the space. 

And as danah points out, people are starting to sell their networks on eBay.  One measure of value to users, where connections are the virtual economy.

What we haven't seen yet, but see in virtual worlds, is exodus.  As users become invested in social ties, if the software doesn't continue to evolve to meet their needs, the colony will seek a new hive.  Perhaps that's because we still see the value of these social networks in ties alone, rather than the flow they support.


AO Reflections

Fri, 18 Jul 2003 22:45:56 GMT

Settling in after some very intense days at the Always On Innovation Summit.  It was a great experience, excellent networking and a different use of Social Software for events.  Socialtext provided an integrated video/chat/wiki conference support system.  During the first day, wifi was frustratingly spotty, so the bulk of its use was from remote participants.  High quality video streaming allowed people to listen, the BackChat allowed people to interact and the wiki to annotate.  Unfortunately the lack of in-room connectivity led to less wiki collaboration and public blog posting right at the time when it usually engenders wider participation. But the real dynamic took hold on the second day, wifi enabled, where it became part of the program.  The Remote Posse and the people Blogging Always On really had an impact.  The BackChat was particularly vibrant, with in-room and remote participants (from as far away as Tokyo and the Netherlands) exchanging commentary.  A big font version of the chat program was projected on to the big screen, the feedback loop was complete:  BackChat participants kept the discussion relatively high brow.  They fact checked, posed questions, had side discussions that were pertainent and in general participate without denegrating into vulgarities or Moderators fielded questions from the chat, particularly with the open source panel Panel members interjected requests to respond to things on the chat and in general were kept in check from being to commercial, not revealing bias or ducking questions. One member of a panel noticed that people were paying more attention to the BackChat screen than the panel itself. The golden moment was at the end of the show, when I had them project JoiTV.  We caught Joi in his underwear and the heckler became the hecklee.  Joi waved, we all waved back.  Some folks told me that was when something clicked with them about how large the room really was.  And many of the remote posse enjoyed a richer participation experience than they have had before. You have to hand it to Tony for having the vision to run with an untested mix of video with our conference system.  You also have to hand it to him for having the grace to extend blogging passes.  I hope he has set a precedent for other events. A bit on some of the folks there.   Chris took great photos.  Scott posted beyond the limits of connectivity. Jason had his camera phone (took a nice snapshot of me, Pete & Adina).  Ev wore a blogger shirt.  Dave left shortly to do other things.  Adina kept it real.  Esther is community.   Ramana gets information flow.  Richard gets biology.  Zack was fully on.  Edward is still settling in.  Keith is into real-time people.  Eric, Larry & Sergey still don't have a blog but that's okay.  Dan is our hero.   Chat with Google Founders (photo by Chris Gulker) And remote posse awards go to Greg, Ed, Kevin & Joi.[...]

Second Coming of AOL

Sun, 06 Jul 2003 21:04:20 GMT

So now we know that the September that Never Ended is coming to the blogosphere.  AOL Journals enters Beta this summer and launches in the Fall. I blogged before on the business opportunity this presents for AOL.

Thursday, AOL invited Meg Hourihan, Nick Denton, Anil Dash, Jeff Jarvis, and Clay Shirky to critique its upcoming weblog product, AOL Journals. 

Jeff: AOL blogs!

Clay: AOL, Weblogs, and Community.


Clay frames the big questions for AOL.  Will AOL Journals be a set of blogging tools or a community platform?  Walled garden or open?  

AOL Journals will let users blog from IM, a leverage on par with Google's Toolbar push-button publishing and a further reduction in the transaction cost-to-post.  IM is more than messaging however, its a base of strong social clusters.  When you think of what AOL has to leverage, its more than 40 million users, its existing groups -- which if measured by Reed's Law is of greater value.  When buddy lists become blogrolls adoption will be driven by existing strong ties.

They are smart enough to speak RSS, our language and foundation for openness.  Jeff also makes a strong case for opening up AOL/T-W content assets.  But the backend is where new forms fourish.   Blogspace is more than individuals contributing content, we contribute code (and for the most part, get along doing so)

Jeff frames the big question for us.  Will blogspace be inclusive or attempt to redicule and reject new entrants?  We have a history of doing so.  Heck, Jeff did with AO.  LiveJournal is its own world because blogspace didn't build bridges and derides it as kiddy blogging.  If we do not embrace new entrants, the culture that makes blogging work will die.

The very fact that AOL held an A-list focus group is strong sign that they are listening.  Openness on the front-end and back-end, coupled with access to AOL assets, will provide AOL access to a wider market of opportunities.

Personality, Tools and Getting Things Done

Tue, 01 Jul 2003 15:05:16 GMT

A must read by Clay on how blogs and wikis differ as tools for getting things done, using the Echo wiki as an example:

RSS, Echo, Wikis, and Personality Wars. The weblog world has taken the 4 elements of organization from mailing lists and usenet -- overall topic, time of post, post title, author -- and rearranged them in order of importance as author, time, and title, dispensing with topics altogether. (Choosing a formal topic, as Many-to-Many does, is both optional and rare.) This "author-first" organization gives the weblog world a huge boost, as the "Who said what" reputation system we all carry around in our head is a fantastic tool for organizing what we read, as well as acting as a kind of latent bozo filter.

...Most wikis that matter don't operate on a public scale, being used for coordination of small and focussed groups. ( is about the largest I've seen.) Most wikis that operate on a public scale don't have much impact -- the social facts of the wikipedia are far more interesting than the content itself. The Echo wiki, though, is an interesting experiment in when, why and how to use a wiki to convene a large and heterogenous group to deal with a thorny and contentious problem, as well as possibly providing an antidote to personality as an organizing principle. [Corante: Social Software]

Is the Web Democratic?

Tue, 01 Jul 2003 14:57:39 GMT

David Hornik at VentureBlog takes on a question from the Internet Law Program: Is The Web Inherently Democratic? ...In an interesting exchange this afternoon, professor Charles Nesson led a discussion on the Internet and emergent democracy. The discussion was principally focused on the question of whether the Internet aids democracy (or perhaps is a democracy in and of itself). In typical lawyer fashion, the discussion stalled almost immediately while everyone debated the definition of "democracy." But once Professor Terry Fisher had created a definition framework, the conversation was back on track -- Fisher made the distinction between political democracy (the ability of the people to have a say in political process), economic democracy (the ability of the people to have a say in their ways and means of making money) and semiotic democracy (the ability of the people to influence mass culture). ... And, as a tool, the Internet can be used to empower each of Professor Fisher's democratic forms: individual political voices (e.g. MoveOn and the MoveOn Primary), individual economic voices (e.g. GetActive as an organizing tool for the AFL-CIO), and individual cultural voices (e.g., HotOrNot and Are You Hot?, the awful TV show spawned from HotOrNot). ... My strong opinion is that blogging is indeed an excellent example of the democratization of information. ... The efficiency with which blogs are now spreading points to a discussion earlier in the day led by Professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig argues that one of the primary forms of regulation in cyberspace is architecture. ... The difference between bulletin boards and blogs is simple: RSS. The architecture of RSS feeds and modern publishing platforms make the dissemination of information created on an individual level potentially massive. It makes it possible for someone like me to became a source of news that is cited in the mainstream media. Thus, to Lessig's point, by virtue of the architecture of modern blog tools, the limitations of bulletin boards are removed and the information can flow freely. Despite the potentially democratizing nature of the Web, I think one of the important lessons learned from the Internet and this afternoon's discussion is that the Internet and blogging are indeed just tools. They can be tuned to better promote a point of view or better disseminate information, but they are only as good as the "content" they are spreading. VentureBlog is cited by other blogs when we have something interesting to say. And the more interesting the things we say, the more referrers and traffic we get. But it is not the inherent nature of blogs or of the inherent nature of the Internet that causes that dissemination of information. Similarly, while MoveOn may be able to give Howard Dean a better platform from which to disseminate information about his campaign for the presidency, MoveOn can not make Dean a better candidate. Howard Dean using MoveOn will never have the impact that Bill Clinton would have had using MoveOn. So I think that the democratizing nature of the internet is one of access -- the Internet empowers a vast array of participants to produce and share their own content, the most successful of which will rise to the top and become a mass phenomenon by virtue of the power of that content and the robustness of the tools that allow the virus to spread. [...]

On_Line the Movie

Sun, 29 Jun 2003 15:12:54 GMT

(image) Online the Movie opened Friday night and I have 25 free passes for bloggers to hand out for its SF showing

The Indie, produced by some friends of mine, made the rounds of film festivals like Sundance, won some awards and made it to commercial release.

Its the first movie about social culture online and the complicated tension of on and off-line relationships.  Since it is a movie, social interaction centers around very visual webcam activity.  And Im told that the main character runs a site much like a video weblog.  I haven't seen it yet, so I shouldn't say anything more.

Here's a more official review:

Set in Manhattan's cybersex industry, On Line at first appears to be about people getting off without ever touching, but it's much more. Built around revealing and often funny streaming video sessions with net-izens like ''man-on-man'' host Al Fleming (John Fleck), Internet fantasy girl Jordan Nash (Vanessa Ferlito), self-destructive artist Moira Ingalls (Isabel Gillies) and Ohio innocent Ed Simone (Eric Millegan), On Line uses a mix of new technology and romantic narrative to tell a classic New York story.

Great excuse to have a little blogging get together: this Tuesday at the 7:40 showing at 1285 Sutter St.  I am giving the passes away on a first-come first-served basis.  Email me if you want one and let me know if you can make it Tuesday.  Happy to mail a few to those who can't make it that night.  Looking for suggestions for a place to go after the movie.


Tue, 24 Jun 2003 16:03:14 GMT

Adina on the JavaBlogs and communities:

...The discussion on the and JavaBlogs shows some classic tensions between a commercial software vendor, which wants to support a community of developers, and developer community, who self-organize, and want support from the commercial vendors.

It will be interesting to see how the communities evolve. Will there be syndication and federation techniques that bridge communities in different locations, or will developers choose affiliations?

Meanwhile, this is a strong sign of commercial interest in the value of weblog and wiki tools in supporting developer communities.

As with the hybrids between independent blogging and traditional journalism, the interesting question isn't the "purity" of any model. It's the process of evolution at work creating new variants. The most compelling new variants will survive.

[via BookBlog]

Community bridging already occurs through RSS and Federation. RSS feeds are easily added to JavaBlogs.  Sure, more can be done.  But that's the beauty of these simple blog protocols, they open communities.  You wouldn't have this level of discussion and interchange between communities on a Bulletin Board based community.

Socialtext Raises Angel Round

Mon, 23 Jun 2003 14:10:56 GMT

Great news. Socialtext closed an Angel round of funding with some really great people, including:

  • Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn and former EVP of Paypal
  • Joi Ito, Venture Capitalist with Neoteny
  • Mark Pincus, former co-founder, CEO and Chairman of SupportSoft
  • Erik Josowitz, former VP of Product Strategy of Vignette
  • Oakstone Ventures
  • Freedom Technology Ventures

This new funding provides resources to accelerate the development of enterprise social software, improve how we serve our customers, and give customers greater confidence that we will be there for them.

But it's more than that -- it's a network of exceptional people. A little while back, Pete, Adina, Ed and I talked about who we wanted to work with and who we thought "got it." Raising money these days is a challenge, and it says a great deal that were able to do so with the people we wanted. I don't think we could have picked a better group. Here's what Ed Niehaus, general partner of Freedom Technology Ventures LLC said:

"We're proud to back Socialtext's experienced founding team. The company's customers tell us that Socialtext made it simple for them to discover this new flexible communication form, the Wiki, and use it to create, discuss and decide. Such early customer satisfaction is rare for a new business medium, and it makes us confident that the company will have an impact."

Since the end of last year we have accomplished a great deal with relatively few resources. We developed a tremendous advisory board and I must credit Clay, David, Doc, Jerry, Kevin, Mitch, Ward & Zack with keeping us on the wiser track. We now have over 20 enthusiastic customers. Our product is moving beyond being the the first of its kind to one that has had real success advancing teams.

So what's to come? We have a new release of our product soon, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Mostly its continuing to spend time with customers and focusing on their needs. It sounds a little cliche, but that's what its really all about. Great products develop in social context.

Socialtext in Business 2.0

Fri, 20 Jun 2003 20:54:15 GMT

Small Socialtext mention by Jimmy Guterman's Media Notes (I really miss his Media Grok) in Business 2.0: The Net's Killer App Keeps Connecting People

Now that even businesspeople have caught on that the Net is more about connecting people than delivering pop-under ads, there's been an explosion in social software, from modest blogging services like Blogger and LiveJournal to elaborate systems like SocialText and Groove.

Most of the article is on Social Networking Models, with this very good point:

One day, perhaps, you'll respond to an ad that reads, "I'm a Virgo. My turnoffs include liars and salespeople who don't meet their monthly quotas. I'm at the next table at Starbucks (SBUX). Turn around." The next step in social software may be way more intrusive -- but that may be what people want.

Dave Snowden

Thu, 19 Jun 2003 17:46:02 GMT

Matt Mower has posted some great notes from a talk by KM guru Dave Snowden: Cynicism and Serendipity.

...For 20-30 years we've operated a model of the human brain closer to cybernetics than neuroscience.  The assumption is that thought is a logical, rational, linear process.  This is wrong.  So is Myers-Briggs and all these other attempts to put people into boxes.  It is reminiscent of Brave New World...

The human brain is adaptive.  The way we see the world changes according to context.  Disruption changes brain patterns and the key thing in human intelligence is patterns.  We match stimulus against patterns to know how to act.   The brain creates patterns.  Hence KM has a problem: We cannot codify patterns for use in text books...

3rd generation approach to KM (Post-SETI - Nonaka) separate knowledge into:

  • context
  • narrative
  • content management...

Trust is not a property.  It's an emergent property.  You can't make people trust each other.   You can't train people to have qualities.  It doesn't work...

Many other gems in this long post, good frameworks, worth a full read.

Wikis & Weblogs in the Developer Community

Wed, 18 Jun 2003 16:29:24 GMT

Last week Sun launched, the first large scale developer community to incorporate wikis and weblogs (disclosure: Socialtext consulted on its design).  Serving up to 3 million users, it will expose new users to these powerful communication and collaboration tools.  But it is no accident that the largest business case of weblog use is a developer community, developers have been using these tools since they were invented. The community also leverages editorial content from O'Reilly and CollabNet developer tools.  Any developer, particularly open source projects, should consider taking advantage of the free resources provided.  Smaller companies should consider hosting their own developer communities there as well. Aside from the community-wide weblogs (Daniel Steinberg, James "the Java guy" Gosling) and a wiki, each wiki and weblogs are tools within sub-community projects.  You can even view weblogs by community.  One evangelist blogged JavaOne using his phone cam.  This community is bringing some great new voices into the fold (all RSS enabled), like Richard Gabriel who lays out the vision of ...We think of creativity as an individual talent, but communities can be creative, too. And the sorts of things a community can build are considerably larger than those an individual can. There are many examples. Cathedrals in the Middle Ages were built by a long-lived community of builders, artisans, carpenters, sculptors, stone cutters, woodcutters, ceramics makers, glass makers, painters, and ordinary people working as laborers, based on a model created by an architect perhaps decades earlier, but inspired by a common vision of what that cathedral will be. Programming languages have been defined by widely dispersed communities using email and similar tools. Linux -- itself a cathedral-like project -- has spawned tens of thousands of other projects, some adding well-known pieces to Linux and others stretching the imagination or bringing to Linux functionality once found only elsewhere. The software patterns community was self-created without any support whatsoever from funding agencies or corporations; similar stories are true of the Agile and eXtreme Programming communities. These are all highly influential and widespread communities now. The vision of is to build a self-creating and self-governed web place where communities can join together -- either loosely through federation or tightly by living on -- to build something like a diverse city of diverse communities, individuals, and companies who are engaged in using the Java language and technology in both routine and innovative ways. The purpose is to bring people together to increase the density of triggers so that new markets and resources are created... Now its only a week old, there are more projects than you can count, and some really active communities like Java Desktop and Java Games.  The community isn't all Sun and Java, other communities are either hosted, federated or linked.  By design, communities can easily cross-polinate to spark new projects. Other open developer communities leverage wikis, like OSAF's Chandler project, Technorati and the Social Software Alliance.  Its a natural fit because the tools work for more than talk, but getting things done.  What's different about is the corporate initiative, scale of participation and breadth tools made openly available.  Sun, to its credit, provided this in an open ethic to create new opportunties for new people and stands to gain the just reward of loyalty in return.  Its a rather simple equation, give people to[...]

Hiawatha Bray on Blogs

Mon, 16 Jun 2003 15:13:33 GMT

The Globe on Blogs. The Boston Globe today runs an article by Hiawatha Bray in the Business Section on the Weblogs Business Strategy conference last week:

Consider: Every business needs to know what its employees know. Companies are crammed with experts on various topics whose knowledge goes to waste -- because nobody knows what they know. Now give these workers an internal corporate blog, and encourage them to use it. Let them natter away on every topic that intrigues them. Harvest and index the results. You've mapped your workers' brains. With a few keystrokes, a manager can find out who's been blogging about skiing or bowling or restoring classic cars -- just the thing when you're trying to sell something to an avid collector of '64 Mustangs. The company's hidden experts will cheerfully reveal themselves, and the firm's institutional memory gets an upgrade.

[via Joho the Blog]

Social Web

Tue, 10 Jun 2003 17:14:41 GMT

Business Week has a special report on the Social Web.  It rightly identifies the big change -- the web as a social fabric -- but does little aside from stiching together a few threads.

Call it the Social Web. Through the dot-com bubble and bust, one trend has never wavered. Every year, millions more people around the world are using the Internet to interact in more ways than ever before -- to date, find old classmates, check on medical ailments and cures, to read and express alternative views of the news, and even to get live sales help online. It's happening at work as well: Want to check your 401(k), pay stub, or file an expense account? Increasingly, that's all on the Web.

Alex Salkever's piece is on next generation social networking, highlighting Friendster and others:

 "The late adopters want solutions. They'are the Consumer Reports people, and they want to read such and such dating site has a 70% success rate before they pay to join," claims Thompson.

"We believe there's a correlation between opportunity and optimism. Never before in the history of dating has it been so easy to get to so many eligible qualified dates and use the technology to help you do this," gushes Trish McDermott, vice-president for romance at

In Jane Black's piece, the latest in the blogging as open source media meme, includes Nick Denton's publisher perspective, some great press for Dave Sifry and Clay gushes with this gem of deflation:

"It's a new kind of communication," says Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program. To say that blogs will harm traditional media, he adds, "is like saying that instant messenger will kill e-mail."

Pete at Planetwork

Sat, 07 Jun 2003 18:11:12 GMT

Pete Kaminski is speaking this afternoon at the Planetwork Conference

There is a topic exchange to follow along, Jay Fienberg is providing the best coverage.

UPDATE: Pete presented in wiki, of course.

Lies, Damn Lies and Maps

Thu, 05 Jun 2003 21:05:54 GMT

There's a controversial social network map of a portion of blogspace that attempts to distiguish the left and the right political bloggers.  A debunker points out that layout using touchgraph can be arbitrary, usually for clarity sake.  But subjective (word of the day?) cartography has its place.

Socialtext at Weblog Business Strategies

Thu, 05 Jun 2003 16:13:32 GMT

Adina Levin, Socialtext co-founder and VP of Products, is on the Managing a Business Blog panel at the Jupiter Weblog Business Strategies conference next Monday in Boston.

Boston Blogs, hosted by Shannon Oakley, which regularly hosts social events for bloggers, is hosting a party that night. 

Harvester Ants and Networking

Thu, 05 Jun 2003 14:07:32 GMT

Rafe Needleman at Business 2.0 is raves about  LinkedIn.  He sees it as something of value to him (analysis of social networking inevitably subjective anthropology), the beginnings of a good model and business networking as something he will pay for.

Mike at Techdirt offers some more subjective analysis from his experience in a networking ventures.  His take is that people hesitate to contribute their network to an open one and what they really want to do is initiate introductions within their own network.

The LinkedIn wiki has a few calls for an Intro feature.  But a larger question is if businesspeople will allow their network to converge with others through social networking models.  My sense is yes, because of both the efficiencies created by the models and networking is dynamic.  Rafe points out that, "even former presidents go to real-world parties and conferences to talk with people and further their own agendas, so there may just be an online analog to throwing these parties.

No matter how connected you are, you seek new connections.  Models like LinkedIn allow new connections to come to you, filtered by real people.  And if you bring someone new into the larger network, you play the role of the gatekeeper for the trust you have built in your own network.  Earlier models failed because of filtration, but this also creates costs that impede the growth of the network.

Valdis Krebs' work on online network growth highlights the need for balance between the need for strong ties at the core and continuing expansion at the periphery through weaker ties.   Without new ties bringing diverse value the network dies.  Without a strong core to distribute value the network dies.  

A sustainable structure is almost like the bucket brigades of harvester ants.  Stronger ants at the core do the heavy lifting and weaker ants at the periphery forage for new food.

Mike also thinks people will circumvent paying for referral routing.  Key point here is transaction costs have to be low compared to contacting intermediate(s) through other modes and referrals have to have positive externalities (e.g. history tracking). 

Of course, my take is quite subjective.

Socialtext in Release 1.0

Wed, 04 Jun 2003 15:51:11 GMT

Socialtext is profiled in the latest issue of Release 1.0, Social Software: A New Generation of Tools


Social software – software that supports group interaction – is one of the most profoundly important uses of the Internet. It is a category that groups together several kinds of application, from online community applications to groupware to collaborative tools, but the common thread is that it amplifies or expands our social capabilities. Because it comprises all the complexities of group behavior, from collaboration to one-upmanship to backstabbing, designing social software is a problem that can't be attacked in the same way as designing a word processor. Designers of social software have more in common with economists or political scientists than they do with designers of single-user software, and operators of communal resources have more in common with politicians or landlords than with operators of ordinary websites.

The term "social software" describes patterns of use more than technologies. It includes everything from simple group e-mail to vast 3D game worlds like EverQuest. It can be as undirected as an AOL chat room or as task-oriented as an installation of Lotus Notes. Some types of social software are highly centralized, like WebCrossing’s Web-based discussion forums, while others are decentralized and work to make the servers invisible to the users, as with Groove.

Businesses have typically invested in social software (neé groupware) that is aligned with management preferences for control over flexibility, often leading to software that is centralized, process-heavy and locked down. However, real-world collaborative patterns are better supported by software that is decentralized, flexible and extensible.

The Web actually dampened the development of social software. Users kept using mailing lists and chat, of course, but most new software was designed for a one-way conversation between writers and readers of Web pages; two-way conversations were often an afterthought, with a BBS or "Contact us!" button tucked away on the side.

Now, after years of sites and software designed to support big and largely disconnected groups, developers are working on social software again. This is in part because there are a number of interesting problems involved in helping people interact (identity, reputation management, conversational threading), and in part because the ubiquity of Web protocols means that developers can treat the Web as a platform. Rather than attempt to provide all functions to all people, the tools and services being developed can be combined easily and as needed, without having to be formally merged.

Taking their cue from people’s actual behaviors rather than some idealized projection, a number of startups are designing tools that help people get what they want from group interaction.

Being Ross Mayfield

Mon, 02 Jun 2003 22:51:04 GMT

iWire blog, by the iSociety project of the Work Foundation, has a post entitled Being Ross Mayfield.

Which is all, I think, neatly explained by the social psychology of self publishing, false consensus, and the excitement of being Ross Mayfield.

Actually, its not as exciting as you would think ;-)

Group Voice

Mon, 02 Jun 2003 21:00:39 GMT

Lots of good blog posts these days on the differences of wikis and weblogs.  Of course, since they are all blog posts a clear consensus is never reached.  A good way of explaining the differences between the two tools, as wikis drive current state consensus. Dave is right to define weblogs (there are other definitions too) as a tool that allow the unedited voice of single person to speak.  He contrasts this with content management systems, where workflow drowns out individual voices.  And wikis, where your contributions can be edited by others. At Socialtext, our product combines a wiki and a weblog (some call that a wikiblog), among other things.  I dont want to add fodder to the criticism of more talking than doing social software.   But I will impart from our doings that we have seen clear differences of use, and how we explain them: A weblog enables individual voice.  This is important as no other tool has shown the ability to gain the participation of people in a larger, dare I say, system.  Perhaps because it give so much back.  The simple format of weblogs and ease of use allows wide participation.  A post reflects a person's understanding on a given issue at a moment in time.  Individual voices exist in a social context that urges continued participation.  Post-to-post communication and feedback encourage continued use and sharing that otherwise occurs only in private.  A weblog is a great source for what's new and the narrative thread that got us there -- a simply powerful tool for communication and publishing. Wikis let the group voice emerge.  Many people participate within a given wiki, each with an equal voice in a shared space that anyone can edit.  Its a different act of sharing to contribute your words to a page that others can build upon.  Our instinct is to at first believe this would create conflict and distrust, but it actually builds trust.    Each wiki page reflects the current consensual understanding of a given concept.  A page isn't a complete or perfect understanding, information and conditions change too quickly for it to be possible  Instead, a little wabi-sabi  and trusting others allows something powerful to emerge and stay current -- a simply powerful tool for collaboration. We aren't the only one to think of the differences between weblogs and wikis as individual and group voices.  Elwin Jenkins describes it as weblogs turn individuals into webpages while wikis turn communities into webpages. There are lots of similarities between the two tools.  Both are web native, are easy to use, are link-intensive and encourage sharing.  Both are being widely adopted, wikis less visibly because of private group use and at different paces in different areas.  A customer once explained to me how he thought wikis were more popular than weblogs in Asia because group voice is valued greater than individual voice.  Regardless of popularity, different cultures and organizations will have different values that is reflected in their tool selection. Its not a choice between one or another.  The temporal structure of weblogs and logical structure of wikis are a complement for lasting effects.  One of the more powerful patterns in an organization is how an opportunity is published in blog, poss[...]

Chain Reaction

Fri, 30 May 2003 19:32:03 GMT

(image) The second coming of Supernova is upon us. 

I am joining Joi Ito and JC Herz on the first panel, entitled Making (Business) Sense of Networks.

The Internet was just the beginning. Digital devices from mobile phones to gaming consoles are tapping increasingly common broadband data connections. Bottom-up communities are doing everything from sharing photos to challenging governments. Scientists and economists alike are recognizing that networks are the basic structure of our increasingly decentralized world. Major opportunities await those who can effectively organize information, people, devices, data, and metadata in the emerging sea of networks.


See you in DC July 8-9th.