The New York Times finally gets it– the largest social network? The Open Web….sorry, Facebook.
Some of you might recall a post I wrote for ReadWriteWeb not too long ago on the Pragmatic Web. The term “pragmatic” is specifically used due to its definition within semiotics:
“Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. It studies how the transmission of meaning depends not only on the linguistic knowledge (e.g. grammar, lexicon etc.) of the speaker and listener, but also on the context of the utterance, knowledge about the status of those involved, the inferred intent of the speaker, and so on”
Essentially, the Pragmatic Web theory states that the web will become increasingly more useful, usable and dynamically relevant to users based on their identities and the context of their social graph. To clarify, “identity” in this context refers specifically to three kinds of social identity data: explicit (what I say about myself), behavioral (what I do, my activities) and relationship (who I am connected to and what those connections say about me).
The Synaptic Web, a theory constructed by my brilliant friend Chris Saad, expands upon the “simplicity” of the Pragmatic Web theory by abstracting what this contextual relevance is based on. Instead of merely looking at people and their connections, Synaptic Web looks at the totality of data objects, their connections, the meaning which can be derived from these connections, and how these meanings may be applied to create a more “useful, usable and dynamically relevant” web:
“We believe that this evolving view of neural science provides an increasingly apt metaphor for what we call the ‘Synaptic Web’ in that the connections between objects are more important than the objects themselves. The question is; how are these connections changing to create new experiences? In other words, there is an opportunity to stop looking at the nodes and start looking at the space between them.
The exploding variety, speed and flexibility of electronic connections – those between people, data sets, applications, the real world and the online world, gestures and meaning and content and communication – is at the root of what some have called an evolving “collective intelligence.” Thus, the Synaptic Web is about the evolution of the Internet from document delivery platform, to a platform for communication (“2.0″) and now towards something much more profound: a dynamic web of adaptive “organic” and implicit connections whereby real-time information flows give structure and meaning to previously unconnected sets of data. The Internet is a sea of conversations streaming through connections, and these patterns have meaning.”
In many ways the idea of the Pragmatic Web is merely one result of the larger, more encompassing goal of a Synaptic Web. I mentioned to Chris via Twitter that perhaps it may be said that the Synaptic Web begets a Pragmatic Web.
During SXSWi, Intel sponsored a summit in conjunction with the Social Media Club for a discussion about the Synaptic Web:
The semantic Web has long been heralded as the future of the Web. Proponents have said that Web experiences will some day become more meaningful and relevant based on the AI-esque computational power of natural-language processing (NLP) and structured data that is understandable by machines for interpretation.
However, with the rise of the social Web, we see that what truly makes our online experiences meaningful is not necessarily the Web’s ability to approximate human language or to return search results with syntactical exactness. The value of the semantic Web will take time because the intelligent personal agents that are able to process this structured data still have a long way to go before becoming fully actualized.
Rather, meaningful and relevant experiences now are born out of the context of our identities and social graph: the pragmatics, or contextual meaning, of our online identities. My Web experience becomes more meaningful and relevant to me when it is layered with contextual social data based on my identity. This is the pragmatic Web.
Read the rest at ReadWriteWeb
So as a “social media strategist” (I know, I know) who was not born out of the practices of SEO, but rather from a research background in emerging Web technologies, I have long cringed at the “search and social synergy” promises touted by search engine types (that is to say that social activity increases visibility in search engines). Why you ask? Certainly activity in social media produces benefits of creating visibility in search engines, and you will find many an article and blog post on just how to use Twitter or blogging or YouTubing to increase visibility in search. And that’s all very well indeed…but I take issue with the notion that visibility in search engines = visibility period.
While we know search engines are vital touch points (indeed, usually the first touch point of the majority of online sessions), we would be remiss to assume that this is the only place where visibility matters. Indeed, it is in social spaces that people “live” online…endlessly traversing an ecosystem of social spaces– an ecosystem in which content and links are exchanged as currency.
So what of visibility in social spaces? Building visibility in these spaces is developed through active, ongoing participation (that is relevant and useful)– and not simply through the oft-SEO driven tactic of simply pushing content and seeking to link build.
So let’s re-think our notion of visibility….visibility in engines and in social spaces. The first of course, being visible when and where there is specific intention to find information and the second, being visible for unintentional, or passive discovery. Certainly the two work in tandem, but the approach to building visibility in these two core areas are very different. Visibility in social spaces comes through building real social equity, or network influence, as gained through timely, useful (real value exchange) and relevant engagement over the long haul.
Lets think about being Visible in these two ways:
Discovery with intent = visibility in engines
Discovery without intent = visibility in social spaces
Both are key.
Am I sounding like the echo chamber? Perhaps…but hey, I think its worth it for us to keep discussing…
Edmund Lee recently wrote a post on The Big Money entitled “Why Facebook Can’t Succeed: Letting readers call all the shots is great for community but bad for business” in which he supposes that Facebook’s lack of revenue is somehow tied to their “habit” of bending to the will of their users, to quote:
Facebook, the world’s largest social network, suffered under the tyranny of its own users in early February after the company rewrote its long-standing terms of service. Many members interpreted the revised rules to mean that the company would own every bit of uploaded ephemera, resulting in closed accounts and a rash of anti-Facebook groups—on Facebook. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg clarified the company’s position, but users wouldn’t budge, many commenting with the same four words: “Delete my account, please.” After three days, Facebook reinstated the original terms.
What does this signify other than the usual digital shriek so often found on Web sites everywhere? Just this: Social networks are doomed to fail. At least Facebook is, so long as it continues on its current path. By heeding to the objections of its grumbling users, Facebook has essentially painted itself into a revenue corner.
Dear Mr. Lee, I respectfully disagree.
First, we need to forget “social networks”….Facebook is a DATABASE. Pure and simple. Facebook Connect? Merely an attempt (none too disguised) to remix their database data into a revenue stream (hence, my speculation about a FBC ad network). Secondly, I continue to be appalled at journalist’s inability to know the difference between, and the significance of, Facebook’s perpetual LICENSE to do WHATEVER they want with user data vs. ownership of said data (OWNERSHIP IS A RED HERRING).
So, “why Facebook can’t succeed”? Well, it has little to do with advertising….if they don’t succeed it will be because they fail to 1) admit to themselves (which I know they have) and publicly that they are in fact a database (they use lots of fancy rhetoric around bridging consumers and marketers and really, they are selling “data” but through the interstitial layer of advertising) and 2) monetize like a database…ie: sell data.
He also makes the claim that Facebook won’t succeed due to bending to the will of Facebook users. Not so. Again, they really didn’t change ANYTHING about the TOS after the outcry. They simply were effective at misdirection. They made the issue about OWNERSHIP (which its not) and therefore they still retain that all-encompassing license! And everyone thinks its all fixed. ALSO…people hate the new redesign. Zuck’s response? “Get over it.” Not exactly bending to the will of the masses. Facebook has never actually bent to their community’s will….they simply have been very good at making it seem as if they have. And what else would you expect from a company’s who’s board members are ex-DARPA directors?
I recently had the opportunity to interview Facebook’s Product Marketing Manager, Kasey Galang. Kasey was conducting a workshop, “Harnassing the Social Graph,” at SES New York a few weeks ago and obliged me with some insight into Facebook’s marketing products. While I appreciated the interview, I did not get the chance to ask the questions I REALLY wanted to….so for the genericized, Facebook-approved interview, read here. The questions I really wish Facebook would answer?
1) Facebook has made a lot of shifts over the past year, most notably the latest move towards a more streams-based application. Do you believe “streams” are the future of the social Web?
2) Facebook announced Facebook Connect for iPhone apps at SXSW. There seem to be a lot of game-based applications utilizing FBC, can you comment on some other exciting, non-game based implementations of FBC for iPhone coming up?
3) It seems that an Facebook Connect Ad Network is a logical step for the platform, and I noticed that FBC is listed under the “Advertising” options page. Can we expect such and ad network to roll out?
4) I’m not going to ask about the TOS hubbub, but what does Facebook think about creating an environment that provides value exchange between end users and vendors with Facebook providing that platform and brokering the data from which they could derive revenue?
5) We have heard that Facebook is committed to supporting open standards, is there a plan for Facebook to support OpenID login in the near future?
So, just bouncing some thoughts out there after a healthy discussion with colleagues about the impetus for, and value in the Facebook re-design. Popular opinion is that the re-design was based on 1) “competing” with Twitter and/or 2) to make Facebook’s Business Page offering more desirable as it now functions more like a “profile” and allows activity updates to be fed to Fan feeds.
These may both be secondary and tertiary reasons, but I think the re-design was largely based on the need to better structure and render Facebook data, to prep it for portability and interoperability. While standardized markup for identity, activity and relationships, and universal adoption of those standards, are still major works in progress, there seems to be a move toward how identity and graph data are rendered and consumed within applications. That Facebook’s re-design looks like an attempt to”Twitterize” is not so much an issue of “competition” as it is Facebook recognizing that “activity streams” seem to be becoming a standard for rendering social context. If Facebook is going to be participatory in the open social Web where data portability becomes a norm, the social context that data portability ostensibly will provide will, I think, begin to appear in a standardized way. Think how email now appears in a standardize format…while different email providers may vary slightly in how email data appears (folders, filing systems), the overall appearance is mostly similar– there is a standardized format for “inbox.” Similarly, we are seeing a standardized format for activity streams, or more broadly, just what “social context” actually looks like. The future = a paradigm of “streams.”