#social networking

The Age Of The Social Network Is Ending

For his story about Secret, a Google Ventures porfolio company that launched today, Mike Isaac asked me the following question:

Just basically curious as to why you’re interested in Secret — why this after we have so many “social” apps — how different, etc.

This seems to be a common question both amongst journalists and investors. And it’s certainly a fair one. If there is indeed an “App Wall”, many of us hit it long ago. But it seems to me that things are shifting once again.

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I find myself largely in a similar boat with Justin Williams in terms of how he uses the various social networks out there. 

His thoughts on Path strike me as something I’m hearing a lot now amongst the people I know and/or follow:

Path: I never used the original version of Path, but I love using the new version as a way to give my closest friends and family members an inside look into my daily life.2 More than just sharing my own content, I enjoy seeing what my friends are sharing on it. Path is what I enjoyed most about Facebook before it turned into the Internet platform: a social network for your private, personal network.

Sadly, so do his thoughts on Flickr:

Flickr: Flickr is my least used service right now, which is sad. The personal photos I used to share on Flickr now go to Facebook and I reserve Flickr for any “real” photography I may do. As I rarely get out with my camera these days, that usage is becoming less and less. Their lack of a great mobile experience also limits its glance-ability when I am on the go.

I’m still paying for Flickr and I basically never use it anymore. Instagram has long since become my go-to photo service (as it is for Williams).

His use of Stamped to replace Yelp is interesting. I like that idea, I just don’t think they’re quite there in terms of content volume just yet.

While Williams calls Google+ the “nerdier variant of Facebook”, I still haven’t really figured out how that social network fits into my routine yet. I share most of my links there, but I see very, very few click backs as a result (more on that in a post yet to come). The conversation is usually lively, but it delves into trolling way too quickly. Essentially, it’s like FriendFeed on steroids. 

Williams’ usage of Twitter may be the most interesting:

I also obsessively delete replies after I am sure the person it is directed to has read it. When someone visits my Twitter profile for the first time I want them to decide whether to follow or not based on the content I produce, not the conversions I have with other users.

I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before. It’s intriguing, but it seems like it would be a huge pain in the ass and I’m not sure I agree with removing content after you put it out there for all to see (though @replies aren’t seen by all, to be fair). 

Williams broader point about social network overlap is a good one. Most of us are at the point now where if a new social network comes into our lives, it means getting rid of an old one — Flickr -> Instagram, for example. That’s a pretty big problem for new social networks going forward. They can’t just be good, they have to be really, really good to make up for a switching cost. Or they have to be totally different — but even something totally different means time spent there instead of elsewhere. Something will probably be cut.

Your service now can’t just be a time-waster, it has to be good enough to make the cut.

Some smart thoughts on the new Path by Hunter Walk (full disclosure: a good enough friend of mine to be a Path friend).

A great point on the “seen” numbers:

Lots of the P2 design choices are wonderful and detailed. The one I totally disagree with is making “view by #” a default piece of metadata. Seeing high #s on my friends’ posts (because they’ve accepted more friend requests) is subtle pressure for me to friend more people as well to establish my credibility within the ecosystem. Path has focused on creating value in its feature, not via game mechanics and this is the one inconsistent decision. My solution would be to record that data and make it visible only to the post’s author in their own view. That way i can see which of my posts had the most interaction relative to the size of my own graph.

That’s one element of Path that seems to go against its core strength as a tighter network. Walk’s solution is a good one, I think. 

Related: a week ago, Josh Constine also wrote about Path’s unique social dynamic:

The maximum sharing volume likely comes with a friend count of between 3 and 5. As you hit 15, 40, or 100, you’ll censor yourself more, and find less reason to use Path in addition to other services.

That means you have to undertake the socially awkward experience of rejecting requests from your co-workers, acquaintances, and fellow early adopters, and make sure not to put them in the same position. You may have already let some loose acquaintances into your inner circle or have outstanding requests from Path 1, and will need to go in and remove them.

I was coming dangerously close to the 150 limit when I went in yesterday and removed some people. I don’t mean this to be an insult, of course, but rather a reality check. Am I really that close with you? Should we actually be connected here?

I cut about 15 connections. I plan to do more. But it’s hard. It really does go against everything we’ve been taught about social networks the past 5 years. That’s not a bad thing by any means. It’s just different.