Consumer Tech

Technology and products affecting everyday life

A Simple Reminder: Social Networking and “All Things” 2.0 are about connecting people

Social Networking and “All Things 2.0” are about more effective use of “the network” as a platform to capture knowledge, share ideas, inform and innovate. However, all networks start—and end—with people. If we do not remember this when we design, build and create these technologies we will not enable effective use of “the network.” Instead we will simply create clutter.

Social networking is not new

Social networking has been around since our ancestors combined living in groups, social hierarchy and the use of speech. In addition (as much as I hate to admit it) social networking technology is not new either: BBS systems and Usenet were social networks; Blogs, Forums, Comments use most of the same technologies we build Web 1.0 on; AOL had Community Leaders in the 1990s.

However, social networking as a business model has exploded since the high valuations of companies like Facebook. This has lead to a proliferation of companies, technologies and experts advancing the use of social networking and social networking-related concepts.

The social networking business model is now “[Your Term Here] 2.0”


Over the 12-18 months, I have been in many discussions (real and @virtual) that have advanced the point that we should not call this model “social” networking because it is about work and creating (public or business)—not about socializing. We now see more and more terms like Enterprise 2.0, Government 2.0, Mobile 2.0, Health 2.0, etc., in greater use as we move away from the “purely social” social networks.


However, it is STILL about connecting people

As we use these terms, the run the risk of moving away from focusing on core of what we were trying to do in the first place: improve how people connect, share information and collaborate so they accomplish whatever they are trying to do (from picking a baby-sitter to discovering a cure for cancer) more easily and efficiency. Rather than debate nomenclature and terminology, we should instead debate about what are the best ways to foster trust and innovation in whatever respective area (Business, Government, Health Care, etc.) we are trying to address.

People ARE the network

peopleAt the end of the day ideas, work and achievements come from people. As people realize success and failure they develop connections with other and learn who to go to for help or insight and who to avoid. This combination of knowledge, experience and connections is the network.

Social networking and 2.0 technology should be about making this easy

All of the technologies we are building and marketing around the concepts of Social Networking, Web 2.0, etc. should be focused on one thing: making it easier of people (the real network) to find each other and share knowledge, experiences and insight to “get something done” that is important to them. Everything else is noise and distraction.

My tips on how to achieve this

Here are my five tips on how to make it easy for people to use all of this stuff we are creating to make their lives and work easier:

  • Focus on Something That Matters to Us, Not Just Creating Yet-Another-Network. We already have our real networks in life. Don’t focus on making us re-create these in your product. Instead let us focus on using your product to make something we want to do as part of our everyday lives. (For more on this, see my post on Business Services).
  • Let Us Drive Before We Buy. Don’t make us log in as soon as we get to your product. First, we want to see if there is something there that helps us. Wait until we need to do something that requires me to identify oursevles (like add an idea) before you make us log in.
  • Don’t Make Us Create Yet-Another-ID (YAID). All of us already have our existing email accounts and user names for AIM, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let us use these rather than creating yet another account we have to remember.
  • Fit How We Work, Don’t Make Us Fit How You Work. We are busy and do not have time to manage yet another technology. Enable your technology to integrate with or fit on top of what we use today – from our systems at work to our mobile phones. (For the techies among us, see my series on architecture principles to achieve this).
  • Protect Us. Most of us were brought up on the model of not talking to strangers. This is even truer on the Internet. Let us control the privacy of our information. Provide moderation to protect us from Internet harassment. These two items are key to creating trust—which in turn is key to fostering collaboration and sharing.