The Conversation is Real

As I recently wrote in an earlier first technology brief, one of the key benefits to blogging is to “join the conversation”. Blogs are providing a new forum for people to communicate that consists of a much larger base of opinions and ideas. Popular bloggers are engaging and learning from their readers. They are participating in the larger conversation that is the blogosphere and weighing in on the subjects that the public and their readers want to know about.

A conversation is a two way street – at least a good conversation is. In blogging terms, that means that a successful blogger will need to do more than just write, they also need to read. Blogs that consist of someone yelling from a mountain top about how good a product or service is or about how smart they are, remove the quintessential element to blogging – interaction.

The conversation is real. It is not just a selling point to get you blogging. I’ll provide two really neat examples I recently came across in my daily scouring of the web:

  1. TechCrunch is becoming the source for Web 2.0 product updates. They are “dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing every newly launched web 2.0 business, product and service.”

    Just over a month ago, they profiled a new social bookmarking tool called BlinkList. BlinkList joins a number of other similar services including (the leading social bookmarking tool to this point), Furl, and Simpy, amongst others.

    After reading through the profile, I noticed that there were a total of three comments. One was from a Simpy representative, the next was Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, and the final was by Ozzy of Blinklist. The conversation is real.

  2. As TechCrunch is the Web 2.0 product source, Richard MacManus of Read / Write Web is the de-facto Web 2.0 knowledge source. Richard is in many ways the pioneer in setting up a framework to describe and understand Web 2.0.

    In his latest Web 2.0 Weekly Wrap-up, Richard examines Web 2.0 in “the real world”, a new feature to his informative weekly summary. There he details a Web Ministry that is focusing on using the web to make “an eternal impact on the lives of individuals.”

    Of course, not long after that post went up, Rob, the author of that same Web Miinistry, commented on the Read / Write Web blog.

    David Teten commented to me: “Technologies like Pubsub make it easy for you to monitor in the blogosphere who’s talking about the subjects that most interest you (particularly your name!). One of the great advantages of online conversation is that you can have a conversation that transcends time and space limitations, while at the same time creating an instant community of people who share similiar interests, e.g., Blinklist and like technologies. That’s one of the advantages of blogs, as opposed to traditional walled vertical communities. Out of the enormous number of blogs, I can converse specifically with those people with whom I share interests, and I do not need to predefine with which people I share interests. If I only participate in a mailing list for graduates of my college, instead of using a blog, I’m much more restricted in the number of people I can build relationships with.”

These are just a couple of quick examples of showing that “the conversation is real”. There are many, many more. Feel free to share some of the examples you have seen by commenting below.

Getting a Feel for RSS

One accepted definition of RSS is “Really Simple Syndication”. While not necessarily used in everyday language, the last word of RSS – “syndication” – should not be a foreign concept to people. What exactly is RSS?

Radio talk show hosts are often syndicated. Their shows are picked up by local radio stations, so that a host based in Los Angeles has airtime on a station in Orlando. Similarly, popular newspaper columnists are often syndicated – their columns are reprinted by a variety of local newspapers, making their writing often available to readers nationwide. From these examples, follows the first important element of syndication –

to magnify the effect of a thought or idea
by making it available to a much larger audience

[Read more…]

Guest blogger Ken Yarmosh of Technosight

We are happy to report that Ken Yarmosh, the founder of Washington D.C. based TECHNOSIGHT, will be guest-blogging for the coming month on social software technology. Ken is passionate about helping less technically savvy users realize the power of social software. At TECHNOSIGHT, he assists businesses and organizations understand and utilize technology like blogs, RSS, and wikis.

During the next month, Ken will be covering some of the technical fundamentals of social software. He will attempt to clear up the confusion surrounding the web’s most commonly used buzz words – blogs, RSS, wikis, and content management systems. We hope you enjoy his contributions to The Virtual Handshake.

Online dating fights AIDS?

One of the themes of our book is that the success of online dating is a model for the ongoing success of online business matchmaking. Online dating is not only a more efficient way to find a partner, but it has significant ancillary benefits. First, more people getting married/partnered up certainly contributes to a more stable society. Second, and to my surprise, some are crediting online dating specialty sites just for HIV-positive people with combating the spread of AIDS.


Map of the Social Software Landscape

As part of our effort to track the ever-expanding social software landscape, we have launched a map of all the major social software companies. This map is very loosely based on much earlier, simpler taxonomies by Geoff Hyatt, CEO, Contact Network Corp, and Stowe Boyd, President/COO, Corante. For more information on these companies, please visit our social software directory.

Please send us your feedback on this map . What companies should be added/subtracted? Have we accurately categorized the firms?

The Significance of "Social Software"

danah boyd posts an abstract of a proposed paper on the Significance of “Social Software”. I agree with her that there’s not so much radically new about social software in terms of the technology, but that misses the point. Blogs are nothing more than web page publishing made easy, and yet they’ve clearly had a significant impact. Sometimes a modest increase in user-friendliness can create a tipping point in a technology’s penetration.

Other reasons why this current generation of social software is having far more impact than earlier iterations:
– increasing penetration of broadband
– widespread use of digital cameras
– ever-increasing familiarity with virtual communications—see Scott Allen’s blog post immediately below.

Advertisement: Her abstract sounds like the academic version of our forthcoming book on social software, “The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online”. If you’re an academic interested in seeing an evaluation copy of the book, please go to and click the button, “Request an evaluation copy”.

Seven implications of Yahoo! 360

As rumored for a long time (under the code name Mingle), Yahoo! announced the launch of Yahoo! 360, an integrated suite that includes web email, instant messaging, blogs, photo sharing, and music downloads.

David Jackson of the The Internet Stock Blog points out seven key implications of this launch (republished with permission, with my comments in italics):


1. Confirms competiton at the bundle level.

Yahoo’s launch of 360 confirms that the large Internet companies will compete to provide an integrated and personalized package of web email, instant messaging, blog publishing, personalized news reader and photo sharing. Bill Gates has already stated that this is Microsoft’s goal. DT: “embrace and extend”.

2. Convergence of communication and publishing.

Note that this package is a mixture of communication (email, IM) and publishing (blogs, photos, recommendations) tools. Publishing via blogs and photo albums is a form of personal communication, particularly if permission to access content can be restricted. And it’s two-way if readers can leave comments.

3. Stickiness rules.

Why is the package so attractive to the large Internet companies? Because it is the ultimate sticky application that generates total user loyalty. It’s much harder to move your email, photos, blog and IM address to an alternative provider than it is to move just one of those. And if your applications are networked into theirs (for example you share recommendations with your family and friends), it’s even harder to get everyone to move. (A point made by Charlene Li.) DT: In the short term, yes. However, the real future is services not dependent on a specific platform. For example, my blog alone provides a big part of the social network functionality, and I’m not dependent on any one company to maintain and extend that blog.

4. Competiton at the bundle level relieves competition at the product level.
Google’s release of Gmail and Google Maps shows that it is targetting Yahoo!’s stickiest applications with technologically superior products. What’s Yahoo! to do? Shift competition to the socially-networked bundle level and leverage its enormous installed base of Yahoo! Mail and My Yahoo! users. DT: Of course, if Yahoo! created products of comparable sophistication, they’d be in better shape. Google is emulating Microsoft’s intense focus on recruiting the best and brightest, and it pays.

5. Six Apart apart?
Does this mean that Yahoo! won’t acquire Six Apart? That depends. If Yahoo’s goal is to provide a set of integrated personal tools, it doesn’t need Six Apart. But if it wants deeper functionality and a large installed base of blogs on which to promote its upcoming contextual advertising service, then Six Apart is still highly attractive.

6. Early battle for wireless market share.
Note the emphasis in Yahoo’s press release on mobility and local services: “mobile blogging (moblogging) and other sharing tools for recommending favorite movies, restaurants…”. Competition at the bundle level will spill into the provision of wireless content and services.

7. The potential saviour for AOL.
As competition moves to the ultimately sticky personal communication and publishing bundle, AOL stands to gain most – if it gets its act together. Why? AOL mistakenly bundled dial-up access and closed content, and is therefore losing customers in droves. But AOL can survive if it can transition its customers to the correct bundle of access-agnostic sticky applications. It’s got the pieces: largest market share in instant messaging, millions of email users, blogs, lots of personal customer information. Now it needs to tie them together and unbundle access from content and communication.

History and Overview of Social Software/Social Networking

Christopher Allen is a great example of quality over quantity in a blogger. He has generously posted his very detailed notes and slides from his presentation to the FVHA (Future of Voluntary Health Associations) Conference in Atlanta, on Social Software and Social Networking. This is well worth your time to review, particularly if you are new to the social software space.

Breakdown of categories of social network software

This breakdown of categories of social network software offers food for thought for entrepreneurs.

Education — the real "next big thing" in online social networking

Now that people are starting to get over the “gee whiz” factor of online social networks and starting to actually make productive use of them in a business sense, they’re also starting to realize that there’s more to using them effectively than the simple mechanics of using the site.

As an analogy, anyone who can type and is basically computer-literate can sit down and use Microsoft Word. But if you want to create winning sales proposals, then you probably need a little more help than the manual provides. And it’s not just the tool you need to learn, it’s the business processes around the tool.

The sites are starting to understand that, too.

Tribe has the Newbies Tribe, and a full-time member services person, Walter Thompson, who acts more like a guide than like tech support.

On Ryze, users help users. The Using Ryze Effectively and the Do you knead Ryze? networks offer peer support, with a lot of participation and guidance from more experienced users.

Ecademy has put together a substantial number of guides, including an excellent multimedia tutorial.

LinkedIn gets it, too. That’s why they’ve worked with me to develop a great curriculum for the LinkedIn Unleashed teleclass I’m giving on April 28.

This is, I believe, the “next big thing” in online social networking — not any new feature, or any new player in the space, or any radical new technology, but people learning how to deal with the very human aspects of interacting online more effectively to support each other in achieving their personal and professional goals. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone in the physical world—why should we expect it to online?

We’ve seen this pattern before with every major recent software trend: ERP, CRM, enterprise portals, content management, etc. One thing that is consistently true is that no matter how easy the software is to use, there’s still more to implementing it effectively than simply installing it. Why should we expect it to be any different with social software?