The Social Media Starfish

by francine Hardaway on November 3, 2007

I listened last night to the entire hour of Marc Canter and Robert Scoble talking about Open Social and the social media starfish. I have been listening to Robert incubate this idea since August, and I am going to take another stab at what I think is wrong with–not the the metaphor — but the proliferation of tools.

I don’t want to sit at the center of the starfish emanating out to various different places like Flickr, Twitter, music, and Facebook,, Ning, Plaxo. Canter is correct; it’s too time-consuming to go to all those places. I am constantly re-following people like Connie Reece And I notice that many people on social networks post things, but don’t really participate in a conversation. Twitter is notorious for this. All morning I have been trying to get a message to the people at PodcampAZ wishing them well because I’m in Boston and was supposed to be there. They are Twittering OUT madly, but they’re not reading the Twitters. Only Robert really understands it’s a conversation, and you have to do more than just spew stuff out onto the social graph. When Robert twittered the Google press conference, he actually started a two-way conversation.

For me to consider it a conversation, if I’m taking the trouble to post, someone should be taking the trouble to listen. And under the present system, to be a good “listener” I have to go to Twitter, Pownce, Utterz, Plaxo, Facebook, my four blogs, and every other social network I’m participating in.

Even I, who live alone and have the luxury of spending most of the day on line, can’t do this. Not even with Jott. Not even with Utterz.

I want the information to flow into ME. That’s why I like Facebook. I can go to one place, and all the media are there waiting for me. It’s the social network supermarket. That’s why networks like Facebook, which are really platforms, will succeed, while more niched offerings will fail. If I want to know something for Boomers, I won’t go to Eons, I will go to Facebook and look in a group for Boomers. Or a Boomer-specific application.

So the platform or application that will win my business is the one that flows all the information in to me, as well as the one that I can flow all my updates out to. Right now, it’s Facebook, Twitter, and Utterz that appear to be most useful to me.

And, goddammit, I don’t want my social graph scattered all over cyberspace any more than I want all my clothing scattered all over the living room floor. That’s for you, Buppy the Puppy.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Connie Reece November 3, 2007 at 10:51 am

I haven’t had a chance to listen to Scoble & Canter yet but I had to jump in here and agree with you about the proliferation of tools. It’s getting difficult to even keep up with the names of new services, let alone think about trying to reaggregate my social network there. Like you, I’m able to be online almost 24/7 if I want to be, so it’s not strictly a matter of time.

Kudos to Robert (@scobleizer) who really does understand how to make Twitter a two-way conversation. Because of him, I started increasing the number of people I’m following; now over 400. I didn’t think I would be able to keep up, but Robert has set an example of how to use it as a conversational tool even with huge numbers.

BTW, PodcampBoston had a cool workaround where you could speak TO the participants as well as receive their tweets. Don’t know how they programmed it, but you could start any tweet w/ the word pod and it would route it through the PodcampBoston Twitter account that all the participants were following.

And Francine — thanks for re-adding me to all those social networks. I like staying in touch with you. :)

rob November 4, 2007 at 4:43 am

I agree that all these communication tools are great and scattered, so what we need is a hub to pull it all in. Yes, Facebook can do it but I’ve found it’s too busy with distractions. What I do now is use Google Reader to pull in all my RSS and it’s my hub. I could spend all day there (and gMail). If I need tweets from someone faster than RSS, i set it up on gTalk. I see it as my content collector and notifier. If I need to leave it and go interact in the conversation, I can do so easily (like to join this conversation).

Chris - Soundorhan November 4, 2007 at 6:51 am

I’m almost completely new to all of this. I have a facebook account, started 1 month ago, have had a myspace account for a couple of years, but the rest are totally new to me. I have a unique problem in that as a teacher I can’t be wired for 8-9 hours a day in the classroom, and I have many other creative distractions/pursuits. So I’m wondering if there is one tool also, that could make it easier. I have tons of content that I’m doing, I’m a musician, photographer, filmmaker and my problem is getting any of it noticed in the sea that is youtube or myspace or itunes. I have joined twitter ( @soundorphan ) and I’m starting to follow, and I will be working on my facebook, but I’m open to these other things just sorta wondering about mileage. Hell, I don’t even know if there is some sort of etiquette on twitter.

Prokofy Neva November 4, 2007 at 11:56 am

I don’t have all day to be online, or at least if online, I can’t be doing the social media but have work to do, so I’m simply forced to be selective. I looked at all the thingies out there and just picked Twitter as having the most signal to noise and the best information *and* conversations. I’ve simply screened out the rest — the most interesting people on those other platforms are likely to be on Twitter anyway. I never even looked at Plaxo, because it came simply as one more thing after I reached the saturation with, Twitter, Jaiku, Ning. At this point I will not bother with Ning expect insofar as it is used with — it’s just because at a certain point as a consumer, you reach saturation, you settle, and even if the next big thing truly is the next big thing, you can’t care.

I didn’t like Facebook for a long time because unless you have an edu email from your college if you went to college at a time when email existed (I went before there was an Internet) or unless you have a work network email (I’m an independent contractor so I don’t have the company emails) you can’t get any value out of it. I sat for the longest time with only like 2 friends because the other networks were closed.

It wasn’t until I could add Robert Scoble with his 5,000 friends and join Silicon Valley network, which I have nothing to do with, really, that I could find other people I know, and interesting people. Also Scoble said that Facebook wasn’t just for all those dumb games which I don’t play but as a micronews feed for links and ideas that I and the friends are having — then it became worth it.

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