August 20, 2004
Social No Dead
And that my friends is of course the surest is sign that something interesting is brewing in the world of social networking websites.
The problem lies not with the experts themselves, all of the ones linked above I have a great deal of respect for. No, it lies with experts in general.
The value of an expert? It comes not from an ability to predict, but from an ability to identify and bring insight to the near past. Prediction? That's a suckers game. The odds are heavily in the house's favor, and no one even knows who the house is... Plenty of religions, and not a few philosophers, will be happy to sell you a theory though. Me? Well there is only one type of prediction with good odds, the overly broad and vague one.
In the world of music Simon Reynolds has argued that innovation tends to occur in those genres most ignored by critics, while the critical spotlight does nothing but generate stagnation. Or perhaps its just that the critics are perpetually a little late to the party.. Social software just had its little hyped up media year, and the result was close to zero innovation. And now the critics are bored, looking for a new trend to "predict" a couple minutes before their colleagues find out what's up. And like an ignored musical scene, nothing could be riper for innovation.
MySpace, Friendster and company are far from gone. In fact new online softwares like Flickr and Dodgeball have actually been tossing in friendster clones into their systems as secondary, behind the scenes options. Social software is getting boring not because its dying, but because its becoming omnipresent. And millions of kids are now playing around with the dozens of systems out there. In other words the party's just beginning.
Unlike almost any software before it, social networking involves the complex interactions between thousands to millions of users. It works not on the level of the enterprise or the user, but on the levels of community and culture. So while the software might run in the global hyperspeeds of internet time, the effects I suspect will be far slower. What innovations will emerge out of the massive Brazilian population on Orkut? Or the from globalized social networks visualized and materialized on Friendster? The real test of social software is not the opinions of the experts, but the fact that there are still millions of users. I'm not predicting much then that something will emerge, something always does when the new tech hits the streets, hits the teens. And odds are its going to take a lot longer to materialize then the experts (and me) have patience for. So hurry on toward that next obsession y'all, but don't forget to check back from time to time...Posted by Abe at August 20, 2004 12:38 PM