Friends – who loves ya baby?

I have been thinking a lot about friends lately and the real value of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo etc. I came across an excellent (if long) presentation on slideshare by Paul Adams of the User Experience team at Google. It looks at relationships (friendships) and the differences between the way your online social networks (such as facebook) work and your real life social relationships and how they influence each other.kojak

Online, people are either your friends or they are not. There is some filtering at a very high level, Plaxo and LinkedIn for example are typically limited to business acquaintances not personal friends, but beyond that everyone is treated the same, from your best buddy to the guy you met yesterday. To paraphrase that wise TV philosopher Theo Kojak, “(online) Who love’s ya baby?” the answer is all your online friends. He uses the analogy of the time and trouble folks take on planning the seating at a wedding in real life and yet how on a social network they are all just lumped together.

Paul provides a view of your offline relationships that can be segmented by groups of people (family, college, neighbours, activities etc. (most people have 4 to 6 major groups)) and the strength of the relationship (strong (4 to 5 relationships), weak (up to 150 relationships) and temporary) and how they influence your decisions. As he points out,

Social Networking is a means to an end.

You need to understand what the end is.

So what does this mean? I think there really is a need to be able to segment friends on social networks to better reflect how life really works. Until then, I for one will continue to be just a casual user of facebook (social networks). As always comments welcome.

Understanding the GoogleJuice

I came across this very thorough presentation on slideshare that analyses Google’s strategy in detail.

There are many insights in the presentation. Some of the most profound are the identification of six key success factors for Google (or for that matter any web based business).

1. Scalability 4. Openness
2. Network Effects 5. Co-creation
3. Data Mining 6. Business Model

For example, for Google advertising is not a market but a business model. In support of this approach, Google buys a significant amount of traffic from providers all along the content delivery value chain. Google is doing a significant amount of work to disrupt the ‘closed mobile industry value chain’.

If one considers recent Google moves since the date of this presentation, I think this presentation is still spot on. For example, Google Voice, which recently became generally available, can be summarized as a disruption of the mobile value chain. (from my signup email for Google Voice, my comments in maroon)

  • A personal phone number that rings all of your existing phones when people call (breaking the tie to a specific provider)
  • All of your voicemail in one inbox with unlimited online storage and free voicemail transcripts sent to your phone and email (network effect with Google at the center)
  • Low-priced international calling to over 200 countries and free SMS (direct attack in the most profitable components of a typical Telecom Service Provider)
  • Other powerful features like the first phone spam filter to protect you from unwanted callers, the ability to ListenInTM on your voicemail messages while they are being left, conference calling and more  (breaking down the walled garden)

This presentation provides a useful template to examine web-based businesses and for the Telecom Service Providers to develop initiatives that while not guaranteed of success would at least be on the same playing field as Google.