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Monday, November 01, 2010

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TerezaN

Dave -- good post. As I mom and starting a social net I think about this a lot and wrote about it on my blog (http://bit.ly/c2aGpB):

I call it the “bikini on the beach” phenomenon. There is an age when a gal can strut down the beach in a bikini, and everyone is pleased. If that picture lands on Facebook, no problem!

A day comes when I’m not comfortable wearing that bikini in public anymore, and certainly don’t want anyone taking a picture of it, and damn well don’t want anyone posting it on Facebook. Stretch marks, scars, natural weight gain. No thank you.

Funny how that’s pretty much exactly the same time that I have kids, whose pictures it may or may not be appropriate or safe to post in public. We are responsible for other people besides just ourselves. We may be *more* open and honest to the people in our inner circle we know and trust. But we’re more wary of strangers than when we were younger, because we know strangers can be cruel.

Health issues are a useful proxy for this discussion. I have 5 friends my age who have or have had cancer. Each handled privacy completely differently. Do they post it publicly on Facebook? On one hand, they want support of their friends….but do they need support of 1200 friends? Are they opening themselves up to workplace discrimination? Do they check into chemo on Foursquare? What if they haven’t told their young kids? When people hear the C word, they tend to treat you completely differently — like the walking dead. The women in particular have wished to keep it very private. It’s really personal, and really complex.

Speaking for women at least, there is an inner circle who we take advice from, where the real word of mouth happen. It's about 10-12 girlfriends (including mom and sisters).

That's where the gold lies if you want to seriously monetize word of mouth.

Cglode

One workaround to this problem is to have a facebook sock puppet. I have a fake dude on Facebook that is friends with the fake dudes of my friends. When I have something that I only want my superfriends to see, the sock puppet says it. It's fun.

Daniel_mathews

I think facebook understands intimacy (or is at least trying). If you scroll down the "most recent" news feed and hit the edit options button, you can choose which friends you get to see more information from (your intimate friends). And just from my experience, i think they are already using an algorithm of whose statuses i normally click on to make those people more prominent in my new feed.

Dominique De Vito

I think the rise of decentralized social networks may come from an unexpected place: set-top boxes, due to IPv6 coming and server+storage capabilities of the new coming boxes.

I have written about it:
"Two ways to challenge the Facebook leadership"
http://www.jroller.com/dmdevito/entry/two_ways_to_challenge_the

As the owner of your set-top box, you could be then able to download and install, from an appstore, the (social network) tool that matches your need, and to better control it.

CulturalEngineer

Interesting post...

I don't believe this solves all the problems you touch on (my focus in anthropology is on politics and economics)...

But I believe the following is a necessary tool for a viable web landscape (and catalyst for other tools as well!):

The Commons-dedicated Account*

*A self-supporting , Commons-owned neutral network of accounts for both political and charitable monetary contribution... which for fundamental reasons of scale must allow a viable micro-transaction (think x-box points for action in the Commons). The resultant network catalyzes additional functionality for co-ordination of other 'social energy' utilization. (If desired, It's also the most neutral and ultimately politically viable method for the public finance of elections.)

Enabling simple networked citizen lobbying... most essentially liberated by making an online political 'micro-transaction' easily feasible for the User... (without burdening it with the transaction costs which currently keep it off the table of consideration)...

This catalyzes a network of accounts that, in turn facilitates opportunities for enormously reducing the costs of campaigning while bringing candidate selection closer to the people. (The political micro-contribution, even where only occasionally useful, drives the creation of a stable universally distributed network of primary importance for scaled association and decision.

(As a struggling entrepreneur I want to mention I've just been GRANTED A PATENT by USPTO for its groundbreaking mechanism for political/charitable contribution!!!)

Empowering the Commons: The Dedicated Account (Part I)
http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/08/empowering-commons-dedicated-account.html

Political Fundraising: Act Blue, Facebook and the Missing Network Imperative
http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/08/political-fundraising-act-blue-facebook.html

Personal Democracy: Disruption as an Enlightenment Essential
http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/06/personal-democracy-disruption-as.html

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/culturalengineer

Demo & FAQ http://www.Chagora.com

I could certainly use startup help and advice if any comes to mind.

Dianaelena2

In the early days of Facebook I found some old friends and I was extremely happy, it was like I was at a coffee shop and met someone I knew long time ago. I really like facebok, but I don't want to turn in hi5. Plus I so free porn on it, I don't really get how. Twitter is something else, there only people that really knows you tweets on your profile or wall.

Peter

The best part of using Facebook in the early days was when someone friended you that you didn't actually know that well, you got to know them in a few months if they posted somewhat regularly. Now the stream is so cluttered that if you narrow it down to a list you do get a certain amount of intimacy, but no surprises! (I know a lot of people don't do the lists thing, but i categorized all of my "friends" into lists as a passtime during meetings and conference calls... only took a week!

Beth_tk

What about Skype? I have a few conversations on there that have been open for months with different groups of people.

Very simple to pull people in/out of them and we all post to the right one when we've got something relevant to that group. Not so good for photo sharing except with links, but the potential is there.

Sull

well said.
every year, i think on this issue as well. it was most noteworthy in my online life back in 2007 when some of the more intimate mailing lists/groups i was a member of started to grow too large and lost that special tight-knit vibe. i attempted to restore digital intimacy with others who sought it as well with a new, albeit short-lived, group that was named 'forthoseof.us' (http://groups.google.com/group/forthoseofus/about).

i know that email is not exciting to talk about but it seems that i fall back on mailing lists as probably the ideal way to handle digital social intimacy among friends and family. the new revamped facebook groups was a smart move and has proven to be useful. for instance, i setup a group for a segment of my neighborhood where a group of us are friends IRL. FB Groups are like using group aliases in email.

Twitter could/should incorporate private groups. It would be a big success as many people want that or would be happy to have it once it exists. It might even work as an enhancement to the DM component. Could be similar to FB Groups.

as for shiny new Social Network Services offering cutting edge privacy and friend circle management.... they sure have their work cut out. Early adopters will join the best (hyped) products but in the end, a bit of Product Development effort and focus by FB, Twitter and even Google(me) will be enough to shake the shit out any competition. Sure, you can build an impressive product and be part of a talent acquisition. but "The Next Big Social Network" would need to have a flood of user joins and i'm not sure that any feature could be stand-out enough to lure folks in and/or to abandon the familiar space they have already invested time in.

i'd like to see how the Federated/Distributed Social Web evolves so that digital intimacy can be achieved across networks as opposed to only having a few behemoth solution providers in this space. we, the users, should care more about owning/controlling our tight friend circles using open and secure standards rather than by default feeding these social machines all of our activity data for them to crunch & store & profit.
either way, simplicity wins. but decentralized social infrastructure continues to evolve.

Mark Drummond

You can view the problem from the perspective of intimacy, or you can view it from the perspective of information management.

There's a 'read' side (what I consume in terms of information that comes at me through the links of my social graph) and a 'write' side (what I create and to whom I send it, through the links of my social graph).

On the read side, people suffer from information overload -- social clutter. They need tools for cutting out the stuff they don't want to see and for receiving updates from people that they do want to see, on topics that are interesting to them.

Wowd's "custom feeds" do exactly this. You can try the Wowd social client by going to http://www.wowd.com/ .

There's an overview of the social clutter problem here:
http://searchenginewatch.com/3641447 . (This article explains how Facebook's groups relate to a custom feed.)

Cost2Drive

I've always suspected that Dave had intimacy issues ;-)

but seriously, I agree with the stated problem but see it more as an opportunity for Facebook vs threat. I think by focusing first on casting the widest net possible for capturing the social graph, and then enabling the platform for applications to be built underneath, they've prioritized appropriately.

I'm sure they recognize this problem (thus the new Groups feature) but also realize that 90% of the development effort towards solving this problem will likely be built on their platform.

Richard_SF

Dave, I haven't seen you since 3 of your 9-lives ago, back at Aslan… So, quick intimate catch-up: (Hi, how are you, good-to-see-you, monetize, good luck with 500/s/u. I actually worked in that model with idealab & 30 startups in 96-97!) …

"the asymmetric follow model and constrained, lightweight communication make it MUCH easier to engage aspirationally with celebrities & famous people on Twitter than on Facebook"…

Your real money-quote if you ask me. I would add: Twitter's usability design just improved 100%, while Facebook, to me, keeps clutterizing. Yet, twitter's communication design is still a huge big *miss* for complete mass audience due to basic failures avid users presume everyone just "gets". Well they don't. Until it's bullet-proof clear that when you REPLY @person, that person's quoted tweet is now viewable, it's a broken system that breaks the paradigm of user expectation that "when I reply, I want to quote-reference what someone said". Though i understand the character count underlying issues, twitter will never hit 500million users till their UX people fix this till its bullet-proof clear. And I don't cares what all the current users haves to say about it. It's those who DON'T use it that matter -- they don't get it. And they also don't know when someone has seen what you've written either. 2 easy problems to solve, and if they ever even realize they NEED to solve these, THEN look out. … I *way* prefer twitter to fb; personally I cant stand fb, though i get why others love it :)

Yuvalromik

Old news. But 100% correct. Since January of last year, 95% of my FB contacts only get to see my business card info. Status messages are more fun this way.

Thehumanintheloop.wordpress.com

I think this argument has some merit. But Facebook has evolved to the way it is by design - it wants to straddle the public and private conversation market with ONE user interface.

What you call private and public, I refer to as "conversation networks" versus "content networks" in http://thehumanintheloop.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/sn-king-cn-aspirant/

A content network is something like Twitter, Flickr or Yelp - geared towards public communication where the goal is to let the best content surface to the top.

A conversation network is something like email or IM which is about private, intimate conversations. This is how most people use Facebook - this is how Facebook started out.

Typically, companies fail when they try to straddle both use cases (think Google Buzz and Gmail). But Facebook seems to have found a way to straddle both words. I, for one, am impressed.

But this means it isn't good at either space - but you know what, it doesn't need to be. It needs to be "good enough" in both use cases, which it seems to be!

Coleman Foley

Please don't go back to the crazy colors and fonts, this is much better.

Rendion

your an idiot

Invisibleinkdigital

Interesting discussion you've put forward. One of the challenges going forward is gauging that intimacy from the get go and over time. For example I have some childhood friends that despite living a world away, and maybe communicating a few times a year we can just pick up where we left off.

Compare that with maybe a shallow relationship whereby you communicate often with someone but may not actually have a strong bond with e.g. a colleague a work.

Whilst no behavioural psychologist, the very nature of our social interactions are both varied, complex, and forever changing. Any social system would have to deal with those dynamics whilst also engaging the user.

Davidryal

Agree with your thesis, and find it supported by the trouble Fb has had in cultures with existing standards of online intimacy, such as Japan. People on Japanese networks such as Mixi only average a total of 27 connections, and those networks end up emphasizing relatively private info. (source: http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2010/10/29/facebook-looking-for-japanese-friends/)

I don't see this as something that poses a danger to fb -- they know this and have been working on it for a long time.

Chris Estes

Here's an idea. Don't. Use. Facebook.

It's amazingly simple to have intimate conversation. Talk to someone. Get up from your computer and off your FB app and look at someone's face in the real world, open your mouth, and use actual real-time verbalized words.

Chris

Couldn't agree more.

Someone is finaly saying what I've said for years.

The only point of facebook is to connect with people you don't want to connect with - Such as your old high school friends. There is a limit of people you can have meaningful connections with (Google Dunbars number).

If you really wanted to keep in touch then you would have made the effort.

The only thing FB is good for is some kind of weird vouyeristic look into other peoples lives.

For those reasons, I cancelled my FB account, and now use Linkedin only for connecting with business people. I couldn't care what Mary from 4th grade is doing now.

All of the people I want to "connect" with, I do via phone, email, text or whatever.

C

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500065899

Great post, and you're clearly on to something.

Lpmaynard

I understand the argument re: extremes of content. I'd also argue, however, that you're in the extreme of user types. Most people have a much more intimate group on Facebook and thus are more comfortable posting intimate details (see Lamebook for proof of that one).

I think the issue is more in data overlap amongst different groups. Paul Adams of Google did a neat preso dealing with just this: http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2. So maybe Google will try to solve that problem.

Regardless, for those of us who value certain levels of discretion, a social network may never be the place for to share types of information. Just because digital networks exist does not mean we have to use them for all aspects of info share.

Scrollinondubs

Dave,
have you played with groups & different privacy settings in FB? It's arguably not intuitive enough yet for mainstream use but you can already set up spheres of friends and share varying degree of info (ie. e.g. I have a bucket called "Business" which has photo sharing and wall commenting disabled). FB has pretty granular controls and you can selectively share content in different circles - it just takes some tinkering to get it worked out.

sean

Samirsoriano

MicroMobs -- I know someone already mentioned it earlier, but it definitely has potential to be the intimate social platform that seems to be missing.

Tomforemski

Email does a pretty good job in linking a small group of people.

Tadhg

I think this is not as big an opportunity as you think Dave. It's one of those "sounds like an opportunity" but isn't really.

Facebook tried to solve this problem 12-18 months ago with Lists (and now with Groups). They didn't really take off though, which is why they've become de-emphasised in recent updates. While lists sound great in theory, the problem is that they require maintenance and post people don't have the time to actively maintain them.

For a similar example, many apps exist within Facebook to draw family groupings together, and they have had millions of users register. But after the initial registration period, those same users fall away so those family apps all have very low engagement per day.

The fallacy is to assume that a closer group of people wants connection, basically. I think what's actually proven to work with Facebook and Twitter is that mass access to connection "activates" 1-10 users as connection nodes, and those nodes all talk to and share with each other all the time.

It's the same as why only 3% of Zynga's userbase monetise or 10% of Twitter users hang around after the first week: Social network is a circle that rewards the hyper-social people, but to activate those people it needs far more "norms" to sift through and find.

Morriss Partee

The new Facebook Groups doesn't address the intimacy issue in the slightest, since any member of the new-style group can add anyone else to the group. I have no personal control over who is in or out of the group, even if I am the creator/admin of the group.

Billshander

Check out MicroMobs - a great way to form a more intimate group, with context.

Bruce Christensen

Dave, it sounds like you are describing what happens at a private party.
At parties we tend to get or give a personal invitation, they are highly specific in purpose, have a defined time period and usually are intimate in nature. Parties are also the source of a great deal of economic activity, like gift giving, fund-raising, etc.
Just a thought...

Pkarnig

This is what I have been saying for 2 years: "you need groups or favorites to have meaningful communication with your peeps".

What's holding back the social graph is the lack of control and granularity that exists in the so called "real" world.

Grabbit has been working on this very problem.....

Alexpatriquin

Agree that Fb has more opportunity here than Twitter, especially with the new Groups and Friendship pages. I can imagine these becoming nice, private silos to selectively share photos, etc.

The real competition is not from Twitter though, it's actually from email clients. Gmail/Google doesn't get social well enough on its own, but with all the innovation happening on the email client side these days (Xobni, Rapportive, Baydin, etc.), I can imagine a startup getting this right first and then getting acquired by Fb or Google.

Also, realistically speaking, there is limited value in knowing a user's close vs. distant relationships and the activity therein. That data is just not as close to purchase intent as search.

As Chris Dixon has written, "The good news is that the things users want to keep secret are almost always the least important things to online advertisers." http://bit.ly/8ZWHLa

Sagebrennan

I agree, Dave -- facebook needs the online equivalent of AT&T's "Reach out and Touch Someone" campaign (yes, I am old, too)... either with or without the quasi pedophiliac undertones.

If they can figure out how to make chicks weepy about how close their FB relationships are, then they will be on to something, monetation-wise.

Dung Deets

Wow, you have to admit that is some pretty cool stuff. Wow.

www.web-privacy.edu.tc

CLausten

There is a solution that was recently launched and its called Bumpr (disclosure I am a co-founder). This is a problem that we are attempting to address and we continue to build out the service. At this point it is a fully functional social network that has a key feature of universal messaging. Meaning you are able to thread conversations between networks to have a cross platform conversation.

This ties in with our plan to launch in the next few weeks cross platform grouping to allow you to reach out to a subset of friends on either the Bumpr network or others at the same time.

Check it out. www.Bumpr.net

Susie W

So glad to see your post, although I admit I didn't read it in full to know what's wrong with Facebook.
Facebook is like Twitter only with some more space for detail. It is a newswire.

No way to "search" a wall.
Months, years of knowledge lost in a long stream.
Discussions that don't really encourage discussion or permanence.
Worst of breed functionality: Event invitations that most people don't see; Evite or email still rules that.

Simply it is good for real time (now, before an event, after an event) socializing and brands to put messages in front of people.

Ning and other "old school" social networks like Tribe were much better at community building and knowledge capture, and meaningful discussion. I actually have been "sad" lately at how much time people spend on Facebook knowing it's difficult to get them involved in another community where real discussions happen -- that won't immediately be buried by the "latest". Oh right, they're called forums.

I'm glad that LinkedIn is maturing in that way with groups and comments and am tempted to remove a lot of "business connections" from my friend's list on Facebook so I can make posts that I'd only want friends to see without spending a lot of time thinking about what I post.

Thanks for bringing this to light, not so much for Facebook to step up but for others to know there are people who don't find FB as the be all or substitute for full fledged online community.

PS - Email still rules and I'm sad that the younger generation who eschews email won't have a history of conversations w/friends to look back at, lost in texts and Facebook.

twitter.com/aswath

We have developed a web app (not services) that can run on a plug computer that I think takes into account some of the points you make. But driving commerce is not its objective. If interested you can take a look at EnThinnai.

Katherine Warman Kern

Cosmic Propinquity. Your argument is the premise behind Comradity where people with a passion for an existing cultural community can waste less time and money searching for each other and more sharing & discovering, teaching & learning, creating & cultivating, and enjoying the camaraderie of each other (our notion of intimacy). It all starts with a map to find others where receptivity will be good and evolves with collaborating to develop and promote community events. The foundation respects the rights of individuals to control their personal assets. http://www.comradity.com/comradity/2010/10/shoot-ready-aim.html

ConnorPM

Feck sake Dave, why didn't you write this last week! I was at the #DWS4 #Founders start-up breakfast meeting with you and @jeff on Friday (2 seats to your left). You said you were too jet lagged to hear any pitches and I stupidly listened to ya :)

@DataHug solves this very problem for private groups (i.e. companies). Our 'Hug Rank' tackles intimacy using your existing data. @PaddyCosgrave & @BrianCVC were among the judges that selected us as the winner of the start-up competition for the #dws4 in case you want to chat with them first!

Would love to have a proper chat and give you a demo! Connor (Founder - DataHug.com)

Thesuperfluid

If the intimate circles with which you wanted to communicate were at all consistent, this would be a trivial problem to solve. Because they're not, any fixed-list solution is too much work for the end user. A great example of the problem is your "fat ass" question; that group has to be a customized group of appropriately sensitive friends (understand style, aren't mean, and aren't obese), not just "closest" friends.

Hugorodgerbrown

Great post, and I totally agree. I think this is a great opportunity for a startup, possibly (probably) piggy-backing on the social graph to allow users to select groups from amongst their FB friends to start single-topic / time-limited groups.

twitter.com/hardaway

FB has tried to solve this problem in many ways and has faiied. At first it was networks (I joined when you joined using my cornell.edu alumni address), and then it was lists, and now it's groups. So it's an acknowledged problem. With Twitter, it can be solved by different Twitter accounts ( I have four -- for dog lovers, entrepreneurs, geek friends and health care policy friends -- ) but that is time consuming. So is FB time consuming.
LinkedIN also has groups for this problem.

BUT groups don't work either. People are aspirational about joining groups. (I joined the SV network on FB because I wanted to get to know more people there after I bought my house), or they are looking for sales leads, or trying to meet a certain kind of person (a girl from an Ivy). In my case, where I like a broad spectrum of opinions, I wouldn't want to belong to a group of only one political party, or one part of the liberal/conservative specrum.

Many networks have tried to tackle thiis: Ning, Meetup, Actives, etc. I love talking about the problem,and it's a killer business opp.

More important, clearly you are now the OLDEST kid on the block, because you are still on Typepad. See you soon.

Jimiray

I think as long as we are talking about individual companies trying to solve this problem, it's always going to end up as a race to have more users, just like the very old AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe days. As email standards changed how we communicate before, a Social Network or even OpenGraph standard could change how we share. For example, FOAF sort of already provides a format for Friend list that can be shared.

A second thought: Google Wave could have actually been a very good tool for this. It had most of the prerequisites. It was just incomprehensible to the average user, even technical ones.

Some sites are interesting like The Fridge, but unless a large number of the smaller social networks develop ways to interconnect I don't think they can attract users en masse. Who wants to have to check into 3 or 4 of them.

Mtlb

e) Intimacy is an illusion. The inherent nature of social networks online prevents it because there are still things you keep from friends: at work, at parties or on Facebook.

f) Someone *always* talks, that’s why even a subgroup won’t remain private for long.

g) Maybe people just don’t want to be monetized, even though brands and social networks keep trying to force the issue.

Giffconstable

I side with the folks who think this may best be solved with innovations around email. The size of your circles depends very much on the context and sensitivity of the topic at hand, but the circles do tend to repeat. I don't think people are going to set up and manage FB groups, and no one i know checks their FB messages anymore, but a smarter email client could do a lot here.

There are also interesting things like Hashable and maybe Gist, which unlike linkedIn, can capture intensity of relationship rather than treating everything the same as linkedin does. Relationships are not commodities.

And yes, I think in certain categories this could help drive quite a bit of commerce, although the power of "social" commerce for everything is a bit overblown right now.

Stevedaley

Hi Dave,

Intimacy and friendship are easily identified. Personal mobile phone numbers are possibly the single contact channel that we do not publicise. Therefore, I think that new startups like Groupme or Fast Society may be on the right track to capitalise on the power of intimate networks.

The ability to tap into mobile phonebooks to add contacts/friends to ad-hoc groups and then faciltitate temporary or private broadcasting channels via the SMS text is something that may be the next big thing. I think that if these guys get this right and can get traction, then facebook's social graph may be displaced by a more intimate network graph.

Mobile numbers offer a channel that can easily discriminate between close friendships and acquaintance/familial networks and exclude virtual friendships (that dominate your network on Facebook).

Rfawal

Yep, this is a problem quite a few startups (inc. mine) are working on. Or, rather, a set of problems. I've proposed that social networking is going to move toward "micro-networks," which are social networks formed around a specific catalyst, either for a very specific group or around a very specific event. More here: http://myjunto.com/the-next-big-thing-will-be-small

Factoetum

Agree with this 100%
We are trying to do this at maia68

Some of Maia68's features are:

Members have the ability to sell
Products
Music
Apps
Members have the ability to post classifieds
For each product that they are selling Members can share revenue with
Friends
Groups
Members can transfer revenue to
Friends
Groups
Community Product and Seller Reviews
Members can withdraw their Maia68 revenue into their Paypal accounts
Maia68 has an ad services, and shares ad revenue with members
Members have the ability to easily delete their accounts
Granular Privacy Controls
Cutting Edge Read and Write News Reader
Micro Blogging Service "Conversations" that allows for the creation of content "Channels" i.e. "technews, "worldnews" etc
Community Bank

Lou Kerner

In five years we'll look back at what what Facebook is today and laugh at its simplicity and lack of tools that we'll find essential in the future. It will never be everything to everyone, but it will be MUCH more than it is today, including more intimate when needed.

Exde601e.blogspot.com

Very good post! There is a lot I don't share on Facebook, because some of my very close friends don\t even have accounts and don't plan on signing up anytime soon. I generally use e-mail/phone calls/SMS to keep in touch with them when not face to face.

Fergushurley

Good post! Agree that the "close" group is the next frontier in social networking. The types of companies best poised to capture the opportunity (not including Facebook) are:
1. Carriers such as AT&T (if it became an awesome consumer Internet company, over night ;)...
2. Handset manufacturers such as Apple and Google...
3. (Free) Texting apps such as Pinger...

These three types of companies have access to your call and SMS logs (frequency of connection, duration, etc) which they can use to automatically determine the groupings along with leveraging Facebook Graph API (mutual friends, common likes, etc.). What would be very interesting would be if the carriers released an API that was similar to Facebook's Graph API and allowed consumers to control which applications can get access to certain data (like the Facebook apps setting page) such as call logs, persistent location, etc.

Azeem

Wait, are you investing in frid.ge or something?

Account Deleted

Guess FB has already started working towards it in the form of recently released FB groups where one can update, share stuff among a closed set of people basis common interests n preferences. Agreed its a bit of a job for the user but its a good amalgamation of being open yet discrete!

JohnnyWalker2K1

Yep, I've thought the exact same thing for about six months. It's amazing to me that FB don't seem to making moves to fix this experience issue in a major way. (Sure, they've given us tools to group our friends into categories but a) it's too time consuming and b) it's not enough.)

This is definitely pain I am feeling, so someone can get rid of it and make me happy.

Hrishimittal

I think you are dreaming up too complex a proposition.

If a social network has all these complexities, how will it grow? If FB had all these complexities, it would never grow so big. Now that it is big, it can experiment with groups, although even that is a second attempt because lists didn't work. People hate settings. FB is like an online version of a bar. People just want to hang out.

The intimate alternative you are imagining is email. People already use it and it works fine.

Before Facebook came along, was anyone writing blog posts about how nice it will be if a website let me share photos of my last holiday with my random old school buddies who I haven't spoken to in 20 years?

These things are quite random. So, in as far as something will take down Facebook, it will simply be something which is equally or more viral and fun. It does not matter what its specific form or function will be. Intimacy is not essential.

Kirkhullis

I don't get it- you want to be able to have discussions/share content with private groups on FB (like you do on email)- why not just use the Messaging platform on FB? You can attach photos/video/links- the group can reply to all.... or am I being Naive? I've used this function in this way for ages.

If Facebook really want to win- they just need to give me an emailaddress@facebook.com, allow me to forward my gmail to that inbox and I'll have most of what I want in one place....

Jlvillaraza

if you maintain lists on facebook, with the iPhone app, there's actually a way to make your status update visible only to a certain list..not sure why that feature isn't available in the web version though...

JoshNursing

Spot on on where Facebook is lacking and the reasons thereof, Dave.

However, I think it is difficult for anyone as a third party provider to really foresee where they can bring value with a new social network unless a vast user needs/market analysis is performed.

The issue is that the technology is so new, so it's not easy to know what works or what doesn't unless we use and observe what we're doing, and do what you did, which is compare and contrast Twitter and Facebook to really understand the nature of each and their shortcomings.

This said, since you have some ideas, you could be the initiator of such things. I wonder if something can be built atop of Twitter and FB. Since they both have APIs, this should be doable.

Account Deleted

Hi Dave,

What's your take on CafeBots?

http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/21/cafebots/

Cheers.

Chris Finne

I think you are looking at this backwards. Email has had a lock on this problem. Email, being a "push to these specific people", didn't solve the cases for "allow my friends to pull if they are interested" and "allow the public to pull if they are interested". In the Valley, we know email clients are crap and the platform hasn't innovated since BCC was added back in the 70's, but for most of the world, email does an adequate job.

TrendSlate

Have you tried Facebook's new group feature?

Cliff Allen

It sounds like the feature that's needed for "the very private" small group conversations is a personal discussion list server.

That should be easy to add to Outlook or Gmail.

Account Deleted

Ok, this just pumped me. I am co-founder of www.iddhis.com, trying to solve one of the problem listed. Intimacy. Iddhis is a one-to-one service, for private, intimate communication with your other half. The main idea is about having just two people per account. No friends, no groups, no communities. We hope to solve this problem in a nice way.

Addoway

What is your take on Diaspora?

Joi

My sister calls it "Full-Time Intimate Community" or FTIC. I wrote about it back in 2004 on my blog a bit. http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2004/03/27/fulltime-intima.html

But I agree with your general point. I think intimacy doesn't happen with 2000 of my friends watching.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501203508

Have had these same feelings for the past year or so, and we're putting those feelings to task with textPlus. Best social network is the one in your pocket (phones contact list)

Stephen McCurry

Completely agree that the Facebook social graph is a massive over simplification of real world social groups. Question is how to achieve dynamic groups with different levels of intimacy whilst maintaining simplicity for the user.

Gradertest

Fascinating thesis. I agree with you that Facebook is not particularly "intimate".

But, they may be able to solve this with a couple of mini-hacks. For example, one could be giving you the ability to have an "inner circle" of friends (within the 2,000 you have). This could work much like how folks use private lists on Twitter.

That way, there's the "public facing" friends list (you know, where you friended that uncle out of sheer guilt), but the internal/private/intimate list is a completely different one.

They've taken a couple of passes at this already (building lists and now the new groups), but it's never quite taken off. If I were them, I'd just call it the "inner circle" and give people one-click access to add people to that private list right from the feed. And, let you see a feed based just on that inner circle.

But, that's just me. And it's 3 am here in Boston.

Pedrossi24

Sounds like if someone made a better version of Ning and tailored it to the mainstream, it could be a very successful venture.

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