Archives for February 2004

Map of all Orkut users

Here’s a cool Map showing where Orkut users cluster.

If you came to this page looking for our map of major social software/Web 2.0 companies, see this map.

Yahoo and RSS (and Yahoo Groups)

Yahoo is using RSS more and more across its services. Most interestingly, you can now access Yahoo Groups via RSS. For example, is the RSS feed for a mailing list that I run, and is accessible via BlogLines. This is a further blurring of the lines between blogs and mailing lists.

Always On is joining the bandwagon

[As you can see below in a pseudo-personal email from Tony Perkins, Always-On has decided to create, yes, another online social network. I’m eagerly looking forward to the widespread use of FOAF [Friend of a Friend] technology so that none of us have to manually configure our profiles and relationships on more than one site!]

Hi David Teten,

Well, it looks like I may have two babies in one week!

Nicole and I have been expecting Tara Kathryn (due this Friday) for almost 9
months now. But it took only 2 months for our team of geeks to give birth to
our own online social network.

Check it out:

Yes indeed, late on Valentine’s Day, AlwaysOn joined the social networking
craze and turned on our professional networking service we call the AlwaysOn
Zaibatsu (Japanese for “money clique”).

We created the Zaibatsu so that our global membership can learn about and
connect with each other in a more entertaining and easy environment. The
Zaibatsu also serves as your own mini-blog site.

As a loyal AO member, you get all this new power an access to our global
membership at no cost. We have also already rolled your original profile
into the new format.

You will not be disappointed:

One baby down, one more to come. I’ll keep you posted on Tara (a.k.a. TP,

Yours cordially,

Tony Perkins

P.S. Members can still get 50% off on their tickets to AO2004: The
Innovation Summit, to be held at Stanford University on July 13th through
the 15th, by going to:

danah boyd on boundaries, hang-ups and professional decorum

(NOTE: This is a discussion about appropriate boundaries in a professional context, and while not discussed at length, some of the things that are mentioned as inappropriate, some readers may find even the mention offensive. There is nothing explicit or anything like that—I’m just being sensitive to the very boundaries being discussed and letting you know up front.)

danah boyd (yes, for those of you who don’t know here, she chooses not to capitalize her name, so I respect that) is one of the most thoughtful and prolific researchers and writers on faceted identity in the digital world, or the idea that we have different identities in different contexts—professional, social, and romantic—and that we need to be able to maintain boundaries between those contexts.

Recently, danah stated her offense at an invitation to a party organized at the Etech conference in San Diego. Her issue was not so much with the photograph itself, but with its inappropriateness in a professional context:

I believe in social mores and social decorum. It is outright inappropriate to advertise a professional party in the way that one would advertise a play party. Different social contexts require different social norms. Images set expectations, intentions. Certainly, people have the right to offend, just as i have the right to be offended and state that offense. The point of my frustration is that offensive adverts are not the way to build community or encourage proper decorum that is inclusive.
The roles that i play in my personal life are different than those that i play in my professional life. At a professional activity, i want to go to a professional event, not one that is advertising itself as a sex party, offering up images of the expected roles of men and women. As professionals, we’re working towards gender equality; sexualizing a professional event does not continue that commitment.

I couldn’t agree more. I suppose that’s one of the thing that I find awkward about Orkut and Tribe—the lack of good boundaries between social, professional, and romantic.

It’s not that I’m a prude or anything. I just don’t even like being asked if I think a business colleague is “sexy” (Orkut), or seeing that people I’m interested in doing business with are in the “Open Marriage”, “Booty Call”, or “Bad Boys Are HOT” Tribe (—and those aren’t even in the “Mature” category).

Bottom line: unless you deliberately want to alienate a substantial portion of your audience, maintain a professional decorum, both online and off.

New Spoke features – professional profiles, enhanced user search, and more

[Spoke’s new functionality, below in a letter to all Spoke users, shows that they plan to compete with just about every company in the social network space.]

For the past two months we have been working hard on a series of improvements to Spoke Network. There are more features coming soon, but I am pleased to announce the first of these improvements with the upgrade of Spoke Network to version 1.7. Included among the many changes is the ability to:

Manage your own profile on Spoke with the Professional Profile
Further control who can send you referral and information requests using Minimum Relationship Strength for Referrals
Instantly create contacts in Outlook through InTouch with InstantContact

The Professional Profile was our most requested feature, and I invite you to help shape the Spoke community by adding information to your profile that you would like to share with others. Your Professional Profile allows you to provide an overview (or bio), list and annotate experience and education, and enumerate interests and affiliations. You can also attach a photograph to make it easier for others to recognize you, and you can associate web links and your recent blog entries with your profile.

In adding the profile we also created a user search capability. From the dashboard or a profile you can pivot on matches to company, school or interest.

Connect with other corporate alumni
Keep in touch with old classmates
Find others with the same affiliations, expertise and interests

You can have everyone in your workgroup or company use the Professional Profile to provide a “face-with-a-name” directory. It’s free, it helps inform associates about each other’s history and interests, and it improves familiarity among members of a workgroup.

Create your profile from this link:

Using Minimum Relationship Strength for Referrals you can set a threshold on how well you must know another user before you receive a referral request. You can also set the level of how well you know others before receiving any requests about them. This is an easy way to prevent you from getting referrals from people you don’t know or being asked to forward requests to people you don’t know well.

We have set initial thresholds for incoming and outgoing requests, and you can further adjust these on the Preferences page:

Finally, InstantContact is one of 9 new extensions to Spoke InTouch. With InstantContact, you can select text in an email message such as a signature block and, with one click, create a complete record in your contacts. Within your email client, InTouch reads text you highlight and updates your Outlook Contacts appropriately.

I hope that you find these and the other new features of Spoke Network helpful in your endeavors. I thank you for your support of Spoke and encourage you to continue to provide us with feedback.


Andy Halliday
Vice President, Spoke Software

Social network analysis

Here’s a useful link: a detailed on-line textbook supporting an undergraduate introductory course on social network analysis . This is great background for people.

Quantity vs. Quality, or why everyone really shouldn't be your friend

Following his musings on Quality or Quantity?, Palo Alto VC Jeffrey Nolan ran an experiment on LinkedIn, in which he created a fake account and invited some people who, by definition, could not possibly know this “person”. Never mind that this is probably a violation of their User Agreement (LinkedIn’s offline for upgrades today), it’s still good information that supports a point I’ve been really trying to make in several circles recently: If “friend” or “contact” is the only designation you have for people, then everyone who asks is not your friend.

For his experiment, Nolan sent out over 1,500 invitations from this fake account. As of Day 1, this fake person already had 16 connections! Only 4 people replied back that they did not know this person well enough to accept the connection. There were a couple of more people who asked for more information first. Now, certainly some large number of people have opted to just use LinkedIn’s new “Ignore” feature, but still, 16 people accepting a connection not only from someone they don’t know, but someone who they don’t validate through other channels (a little web research would have easily demonstrated this person to be fictitious), is pretty horrendous.

This problem, of course, is not exclusive to LinkedIn. And the problem is not so much of people being total fakes, like this, but of simply misrepresenting themselves, or having a poor reputation, and you connect with them anyway just on the basis of what you see in their profile page. I have at least three people who have requested to be my friend on Ryze who, after observing their behavior, I would have been horribly embarassed to ever have been associated with.

This should NOT scare anyone away from social networking sites—the dozens of success stories we’ve collected far outweigh risks like this. It DOES mean, though, that you really need to be selective about who your “friends” are, even online. People will use you for referrals, whether they involve you or not, and the quality of the people that you connect to WILL reflect on you. Choose your friends carefully, not indiscriminately.

Lies, damn lies, and telephone calls

Via Heath Row at Fast Company

In general, I don’t like talking on the telephone for business. If it’s extremely focused on what I’m working on, like the three hours I spent on the phone last night with Konstantin Guerecke, then it can be really stimulating. Or, if it’s just short messages for clarification, and there’s some sort of urgency, like I do with my co-author frequently, that’s fine, too. But in general, I’m not a big fan of the telephone. I don’t like to do “exploratory” phone calls — send me an email.


For one thing, the phone is extraordinarily time-consuming. Phone calls usually take 20-30 minutes, whereas an email read/respond usually only takes 5-10. I can read faster than you can talk.

Two other big reasons that I have long preferred email, though, are accountability and thoughtfulness. If we make a written record, we are both accountable to that record. There’s no, “But I thought you said…”, or, “You didn’t tell me that.” Also, on the telephone, or in face-to-face conversation, there’s an implied expectation of an immediate response, so we tend to answer off the top of our head, rather than taking some time to reflect on what we want to say. In conversation, I frequently find myself saying things that are not, in retrospect, reflective of my true feelings.

Well, a new study at Cornell University supports this. Volunteers were asked to keep track of their emails, instant messages, telephone calls, and face-to-face contact. The results will shock you:

Lies were told in 14 percent of emails, 21 percent of instant messages, 27 percent of face-to-face contact – and a whopping 37 percent of telephone calls.

The findings are a surprise, because emailers would normally be considered to be the most persistent liars, given the detachment of the Internet.

The researchers believe that two factors contribute to this: the immediacy of the communication and whether or not it’s being recorded.
– Telephone: immediate, and not recorded
– Face-to-face: immediate, “recorded” by the other person’s observation of your face (higher risk of getting caught)
– IM: immediate, potentially recorded completely (the person may or may not save the IM session)
– Email: not immediate, recorded completely

According to the research, people tend to lie in face-to-face conversation to cover themselves when they get caught off-guard. The classic example is the old, “Do I look fat in this?”

Needless to say, this has implications for business:

The telephone might be the best medium for sales employees who are encouraged to stretch the truth, but emails would be better for workers where honesty is a priority.

I feel SO vindicated… this is going in the book today.

Ecademy raises the social networking bar with announcement of BT partnership

Earlier this week, Ecademy and BT announced the launch of Broadband Central, – a new online broadband community aimed at bringing broadband users together to share why and how they are using broadband. While this may not seem particularly exciting to those of us who’ve been running on cable modems for 5 years already, residential and small business broadband is relatively new in the UK, where Ecademy and BT are based.

Built on Ecademy’s “Trusted Network” architecture, Broadband Central is particularly intriguing in that it is not an entirely self-contained, but integrated with the main Ecademy site. It has its own distinctive branding, and has its own discussion forums and content areas, so that it is not cluttered with content not relevant to the community. At the same time, Broadband Central content is visible to the Ecademy community at large, encouraging members of the broader community to join and participate in Broadband Central.

Between invitations to Ecademy’s current 23,000 members, BT’s 100,000 employees, and 200,000 BT Broadband customers, Broadband Central is expected to have over 200,000 users within a few months.

What’s most remarkable about this, though, is what it means for the online social networking industry. BT is a huge (#130 on the BusinessWeek Global 1000) company with ample resources to purchase whatever software they want, or even to develop their own. The selection of the Ecademy platform is a testament not only to the strength of Ecademy’s platform, but also to the power of their business networking efforts (several BT executives are active members of Ecademy).

This kind of corporate sponsorship of branded communities is a significant sign of a maturing industry, as it demonstrates the potential for high-end revenue streams, as opposed to inexpensive monthly membership fees. To date, Meetup is the only other social networking site I know of that has done anything like this. Meetup provides enhanced services to several political campaigns, Investor’s Business Daily, Fox news personality Bill O’Reilly, and others, for a monthly fee of several thousand dollars.

While the financial arrangements of the deal have not been disclosed, it’s undoubtedly a major coups for Ecademy.

Read the press release

Fred Wilson's thoughts

Fred Wilson’s thoughts on the panel last night