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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Adams’

Is Facebook the “McDonalds” of your Personal Network?

February 22, 2011 10 comments

I’ve been listening to an excellent BBC radio series called “The Secret History of Social Networking” – and reviewed the first in the three-part series about three weeks ago. I got the chance to listen to the other two parts on a podcast the other day – and both were gems. The podcasts are available internationally – so do follow the link at the bottom of the last post to load up to your iPod or listen on-line.

There were two different quotes in the interviews by Rory Cellen-Jones that struck me. The first was from John Perry Barlow. In the 80s John was on the board of the prototypical social network, The Well, and continues to be a respected

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commentator. In answer to Rory’s question about Facebook he said:

I think that it has enough of the characteristics of group connectivity that it seems to be fulfilling that need in the same way that treacle can make your appetite go away so that you don’t go out and eat your broccoli. It’s the white sugar substitute for the brown rice nutrition that real community might be able to provide you.

Wow – that’s powerful stuff. The analogy with fast food and wholesome nutrition is particularly thought provoking – especially when I see the time spent on Facebook in my household (and by the stats available on-line)

Also, in the programme was an interview with Chris Cox, one of the “Inner Circle” at Facebook. He was asked about how Facebook had gained popularity and overtaken the likes of Beebo and MySpace. Rory placed Chris, at this time in 2006, as being “connected with every Facebook innovation – all of which were hated”. He asked Chris – “what was the worst single reaction to any change.” Chris immediately said “Newsfeed”:

Before Newsfeed your home page just said ‘you have 2 new messages – go look at your profile.’ And afterwards it was a story line, it was literally a newspaper of what people were saying and what photos they were posting. … Nobody liked it. I remember my entire inbox being full. Personal messages from friends and family ‘can you please turn this thing off – we all hate it’.

When asked why Facebook had persevered with this controversial feature, Chris said:

The usage told us people were fascinated. But getting through these first few days…. You just need to have your own vision and need to be willing to stick to it in the face of criticism.

I love the entrepreneurial drive to see changes like this through in the face of negative customer feedback. Interesting that the guys at Facebook could read the numbers – the usage – and understand the addictiveness of the Newsfeed!

One of the best commentators on the dynamics of Social Networking (and Personal Networks) is Paul Adams. He has been featured on this blog before. He was a key User Experience guy for Google – and is just about to take up a post at Facebook. On his personal blog, he’s just posted an excellent commentary called “The Problem with On-Line Reputation”. In it he states:-

As with most people problems, I feel the roots of the solution lie offline. From our ongoing face to face interactions, we learn who is knowledgeable, who to turn to for an informed opinion, who is likely to say it like it is, and who has hidden agendas. There is no substitute for that. Reputation is built conversation by conversation at the desks, halls, cafes and meeting rooms of businesses all around the world.

I’m feeling that in the long run, the “quick hit” of Facebook will backfire. Who fancies putting down that “junk food” for a minute and treating yourself to some more nutritious “brown rice” …..face-to-face??

I have created a LinkedIn Poll called “Is Facebook the ‘McDonalds’ of your Personal Network?” – my last poll “If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?” has had over 1400 votes in a week.

Please go and vote, add comments – and do tell you friends (via Facebook – or face-to-face!).

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Facebook Friends vs. Quality Connections

September 13, 2010 2 comments

While exploring the world of Personal Networks – I have spent most of my time “hanging out” at LinkedIn. It’s more business focussed (which I understand) – and probably more attuned to my age group. However, I do have a Facebook presence – which, as explained in previous blogs, is really there just to keep an eye on what the kids are up to (until they block me!!)

I do believe that future trends are more likely to be driven by a younger age group – and this last week I have been taking some time to try and understand the Facebook phenomena. I’ve come across two interesting bits

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of research – both support my gut feel that Facebook has a difficult model to sustain.

First discovery came via the chaps at the Simply Zesty. They created a very interesting blog post saying that “Facebook is trying to be too many things for too many people”.   In amongst their views, they reference the work of Paul Adams – an executive at Google who researches User Experience. I encourage you to go to Slideshare and look at Paul’s presentation on Facebook, Friends and social networking in general – or scroll through below. Paul draws great analogies with the real world – and shows how the Facebook model of “friends” just doesn’t work.

The second discovery came via a chance dinner conversation with a contact. I mentioned my new project and he explained his wife works for The Future Company – a leading consultancy on future facing-research and innovation. Amazing what this networking turns up…. I had a look at their blog this afternoon – and there’s an excellent post (supported by their research) on people losing interest in Facebook. Here’s a paragraph from the post that makes a very interesting point:-

“Curiously, this also tallies with a general trend that we have picked up with our Global Monitor survey this year – when asked, people in almost every country overwhelmingly expressed a preference for a small number of quality connections they can rely on rather than a large quantity of connections they can call on (levels of agreement are practically the same across all age groups as well – which you might not necessarily expect from those gregarious Millennials). Facebook’s business model is built on the opposite assumption – that people want to continually add as many contacts as possible (and then lump them all together in the same group as their ‘friends’).”

I’m beginning to draw the conclusion that developing your Personal Network Value is similar to growing a business. In commerce, we’ve all met (and occasionally been) the busy fools who chase Turnover (Revenue) & Activity – with no eye on Profit (Income) & Value. It seems to me that currently Social Networking is mostly about the race to get more contacts – but I believe this will soon be replaced by a more mature view of developing a small, quality network to help personal growth and value.

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