correlate Rotating Header Image

January, 2008:

. Social Fatigue .

At first I thought it was just me. Then I asked a couple of colleagues at Dow Jones and several echoed my sentiment. I believe I am experiencing what I was calling ‘social fatigue’. I simply reached a point of personal saturation for social software. How many social applications can one user use at one time? I’m sure Jeremiah Owyang is developing a Forrester study on the topic. And today, I came across the article ‘Facebook fatigue’ kicks in as people tire of social networks in The Register. ‘Facebook fatigue?’, so it isn’t just me.

Facebook continues to impress me as it is still sets the standard as the complete social platform. The news feed is a great feature. And the power of the platform itself, often the topic of discussion and a place where numerous developers have already built into its frameworks. And the group functionality (sometimes) and events calendars have also proven helpful. However, for me, it simply isn’t scoring enough on utility. I only find myself using it once a week, not once an hour. The passing-along karma, the beers with wings, the happy hour invites, the groups for “everything under the sun” has me thinking about the topic of ‘social spam’. And even the amazing pace at which I can consume Scrabulous games has simply starting caused me social software fatigue.

And more social software enters the picture like Tumblr and Seesmic. Each with their unique take and value proposition, a multi-content type micro-blogging service and video email/conversation respectively. It will be interesting to see how each develops traction with their user base. And there are many others which is really incredible. So as these new ventures enter the picture, I ask: Is and should consolidation in this space begin? Will we see the functionality of these ventures merge quicker in the social networking space at the same rapid pace that we saw the new offerings launch at the speed of Web 2.0. Has this consolidation already begun like WordPress launching Prologue earlier this week?

Time will tell. But if I am experience fatigue and I immerse myself in the web everyday, social fatigue must be real. So alas, I find myself back to finding the highest level of utility in LinkedIn, still in my opinion the unheralded social networking site for business use, and Twitter, the social component I had initially questioned its utility but now use throughout the day.

Opinions? Thoughts? Social Energy? Social Fatigue? Yes? No?

[Update 2/1/08:  Jeremiah Owyang commented that he is not currently doing a study on the topic of social fatigue but that it is a trend to watch.]

Semantic Web Kills Startups…well it could

Came across an article by Dan Zambonini, Is Web 2.0 killing the Semantic Web? The article points out a fundamental difference between Web 2.0 versus the Semantic Web, power of people versus the power of automation respectively. It also comments that the more Web 2.0 proves things easy, the more the semantic web seems complex and furthermore, seemingly impossibly unattainable. The interesting thing is this is precisely the opposite point than what I’ve been thinking lately. So what have I been thinking?

The emergence of the Semantic Web could prove a major disruption and potentially category killer to many of the web 2.0-like, innovative start-ups that have emerged building a bridge for us to the promise of the semantic web that many believe will never arrive. New players that enable data extraction, tight data integrations and shortcut mash-up platforms could potentially all go straight to the dead pool. Think players like Dapper, Fetch, Connotate, JackBe, Kapow and others.

Now some believe the Semantic Web will never happen, that publishers will never find a standard, embrace it and publish in formats where machines based integration can take place. I am beginning to question this view simply because in my view, the pace of work in the semantic arena seems to increasing each day with new pushes like Sparql, RDF and XBRL. In other cases, the semantic web acting as a disruption will be dismissed. And in others, some of the new players in the space will make the case that the existence of a true semantic web will make them stronger and more valuable players in the ecosystem. Any any of these could be correct.

But right now, my sense is if the semantic web takes off, people will begin to publish out their data and content sets in standard formats. And with that, the need for a number of intermediary players that scrape and extract content and then provide the platform layer to manipulate the information will no longer be there. Machines will be deployed to process information from a variety for a variety of data sources depending on their goals. The data will be there to use, manipulate, combine, mash and collate for new applications. This will already see emerging today, we are simply short on data availability but the time will come, it has to.

We used to think that XML would never happen, people liked their hand-coded HTML. Now we have RSS and Atom because people see the value in distributing their information for consumption. And how many players are there in the true RSS intermediary players are there now? Only a few. Could this space follow a similar path? Time will tell but I’m leaning in that direction.

Those Demanding Twitterers

Wow, it figures less than a week after I formally apologize to Twitter, the “cybertaurians” have come out in full force demanding 99.9% uptime, future monetization plans or else! I joined the conversation today over at Jeremiah Owyang’s blog where he asking for Twitter to take its next step towards a mature service. Shel Israel a day earlier blogged a very well-written letter to Evan Williams and Biz Stone regarding his views, that people are now talking and that Twitter must get to the next level. And this is two examples of those discussing Twitter, there are plenty.

This brings me to my point (and for the most part, most likely perceived as contrarian), where exactly is the inflection point for a service on where these consumer demands are placed on it. It isn’t because people are paying for it and demand their return on investment, Twitter is free. Shel and Jeremiah both mention the need for a disclosed monetization strategy. Why? I’m trying to think back to 1997 to remember if the public demanded similar things of Google before the nascent ad words marketplace was disclosed.

Now, to be clear, I am not taking an investor’s view here, if I was Fred Wilson and Union Square Ventures, I would want to be sure Biz and team had a plan for platform scalability and a long term monetization plan before I invested a few million. But my view is consumers do not share that same right. Can they vote with their feet and go to competing services? Of course and that is their choice.

But the bigger question is bigger than Twitter alone. As consumers, how much should we expect and demand from ‘free’ services? And what is the point in which we should expect services to take the next step in maturation, having pre-conceived notions about their evolution or even their ultimate goal as a service?

Congrats to WordPress and Raanan!

Already being well covered in both blogs and mainstream media, Automattic completed a $29.5M B round of financing.  That is fantastic news on a number of levels.  First, I personally feel it is the best blogging platform currently out in the space.  Secondly, my friend and colleague, Raanan Bar-Cohen joined WordPress last year so it is great to see the runway they now have as a business and the opportunity Ranaan has to continue to build out their media services arm.  Ranaan posted recently about the financing and also has links to the coverage.Finally what is also encouraging to see that there is still financing to be had if you can build a business around a concept and execute.  Wordpress has done so, fundamentally building a platform with some fundamentally sound development philosophies and being yet another great demonstration on how to leverage the development community to foster an even stronger model.  It is great to see that they have the ammunition to continue the vision and build out their strategic initiatives.   And to see some good finance news which is a nice respite from the last couple of days!

Too much social software?

I for one say “yes”.  They are all good and all have their use.  And even more daunting is that they each have very compelling capability sets:  WordPress is ideal for my serious blogging commentary, Twitter for quick blasts out to others (group instant messaging) and Tumblr is an easy to use micro-blogging tool where it is much easier to post quotes, video and pictures as well as random posts.

I am not a full time social software guy, I work full time.  Social software are tools I use to communicate my thoughts and collaborate with others.   And there is no way to tie them together.  Why can I not have a tool that allows me to editorially select which of my Tumbles into my WordPress blog, correlate where I have most of my serious contextual posts.  It would be great to tie them together.  My sense if I don’t find a way to merge my posting with some editorial decisions soon, I’m going to have to shut down my tumbling because I simply do not have the time to bounce around.  That would be unfortunate because the Tumblr interface does afford me an easier blogging interface than WordPress and more flexibility than Twitter.  Anyway fully move their blogging over to Tumblr completely?  Seems to be a tough proposition for those who are blogging on a particular theme on one of the standard blogging platforms.