Monday, March 28, 2011

Social network: the interaction is involuntary

We are writing now the second year of social Internet, and I am still not clear why everything is called social, but things which are social are not called social.

Please don't understand wrong. Facebook got big, Zynga is number one Game platform for online games. Angry Birds has unbelievable success. Almost every celebrity is on twitter and having not a linkedin account is fatal if you want to get to the next professional level. And don't forget Groupon the best deals ever. They are all listed when we talk about social networking or social gaming. Together they are valued $170billion, so much money can't be wrong.

I had to surf the Internet to find a definition, to see if I get it now. Wikipedias definition of social:
The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.

This is a start but I did want to know what social networking definition is:
Again Wikipedia was helpful:
A social networking service is an online service, platform, or site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Although online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service. In a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.

In a birds view Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are social networks. But diving deeper, I got the feeling they are not social or not more social than forums which exist much longer. And what is about the dating websites like or eharmony, they should be social too.

FB might has started as a social network, to get students together on a platform to meet and discuss when they can't meet in person. Not much is left since then. FB has over 500 million users and is now more a platform than a network, there are many restrictions and tons of 3rd party applications, everybody gets pressed into the same. FB went to a platform driven by commerce. More and more brands are using this platform to gain brand loyalty. The interactions are many times one sided. We post and hope others will read and interact. FB is surely closer to social than twitter.

In the highest mean of social, twitter is a social network. But it has for me the less social aspect of all. We tweet to gain followers, sometimes retweet or forward tweets. There is no real big social interaction, or otherwise how could it come that a Charlie Sheen can gain 3 million followers with not many tweets (less than hundred) and most of them useless and meaningless.

It is all about with who we are connected. But to be connected does not define to be social. I know my neighbor, but I don't socialize with him. Same with linkedin. How many contacts do we have and how many of them do we interact on a regular basis.

All three social networks are for me platforms which are pretending to be social, but 90% of interaction is given by the platform algorithm. When a system decides the social part, then it is not social anymore. The definition says "The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals)."

The platforms are software, they are not human. Imagine how less "social" these platforms would be if the user would actually need to look for somebody and Interact with this person. Sure we do this on these platforms but much less than the companies try to tell us. I get connect requests in linkedin. If I like the person profile or I think this person might be in the future helpful then i accept the invitation. This might be then the first and last interaction. However the platform let me believe we are social because I see their user profile updates. Pretty sure most of my contacts do not care, if I know what they are doing.
Look at twitter, we start following people with just one click but are we really reading their tweets all the time. If you follow 100 people, how much of their tweet do you read? But the platform let us believe we care and the people we follow do care. I don't think Mr. Sheen does even know I follow him. And I even don't know when I read the last time his tweets. He might even not tweet anymore. What is social on this?

Facebook let us see all our friends updates and wall entries, but if we are really as social as FB let us believe with all the updates posted on our page, why do we then get only feedback from few friends to some posts.

Social is intersection between at least 2 human beings and not one posting and a computer interacting by posting these infos to other pages.

A Facebook user has in average 130 friends, how can we socialize with so many?

7 out of the top 10 games on Facebook are from Zynga like Farmville. 3 of the top 5 applications on Facebook are Zynga games.

Did you ever play Mafia Wars or Farmville? I did, not much and good, but I get all the time game requests on FB. I accept or not, but where is the social aspect? Only because we send to somebody a request and if this person does accept it, we get more points? Do we really interact to each other? Asking questions, help each others? Maybe some people but not the majority.

Angry Birds:
I play Angry Birds I love the game, but this game has less social than any Zynga game. I can see how well I did in the rankings and the most social interaction with Angry Birds is the coffee break talk how to master level 4-14.

I guess most of my readers did at least get one coupon on Groupon, otherwise the company could not gave been able to generate $1 Billion in revenue and be the fastest growing Internet company ever. But I don't get the social part. Groupon is offering 50% or more discount on products and services (mostly services because it is easier to grant high discount) if enough people are willing to get a coupon. The idea is great and the concept works, but only because multiple people need to want to have a coupon does make it social?
Groupon is a platform for coupons and e-commerce. Not more or less. The most social interaction I had, was asking a friend of mine to sign up that the minimum number of requests are met, that I can get my coupon for a spa day (btw he did not, but I did still get the coupon).

Maybe I am to negative, but this is how I see it.

On the other hand we have millions of forums where people are discussing and asking questions and others are answering, full of interaction is going on and mostly around the same topic during the discussion. Why did nobody call this in the time back social network?
I guess because of the last part of the definition.
"....whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary". This let me believe that social Internet networking or gaming is based on the last part of the social definition.
"Social network: the interaction is involuntary."

I wondering who invented the social network, how we understand today the social network.

In 1995, Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant founded a company called WELL, which could be considered as the first social networking site. Or a few years later Eric Leebow, he claims he had in 1999 a college website similar to Facebook called Freezecrowd.

Finally I found something which could help me to understand why the above companies are named social networks.
The term 'social network' was first coined in 1954 by J. A. Barnes (in: Class and Committees in a Norwegian Island Parish, "Human Relations"). The maximum size of social networks tends to be around 150 people (Dunbar's number) and the average size around 124 (Hill and Dunbar, 2002).

A social network is a social structure made of nodes which are generally individuals or organizations. It indicates the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds.

Finally I get it, if you have more than 150 friends, followers or connections, then you fall outside of a social network regardless how social FB, twitter etc is.
Period. I am not a member of a social network, because I have more friends or connections than 150. But wait I have less followers. Twitter is my social network.

- Posted using BlogPress, please follow me on twitter @schlotz69

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