Tag Archives: social Web

Facebook Alternatives Are Fighting A Losing Battle

The “big 3” social networks have it made.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ have firmly planted their roots, effectively garnering the lion’s share of people’s social media attention span—if there is such a thing. The trick, as it were, is all about being first.
First in establishing a strong digital presence, first in building up a large loyal audience, and most importantly, first in mind when people decide where to go to get their social media fix.

The big 3 have, in effect, become the “default” social choice for most people. They’ve galvanized their audience and built up substantial mind share many of the smaller social start-ups can only dream of replicating.

In fact the biggest challenge facing emerging social platforms like AppleseedOneSocialWeb, Elgg, and Diaspora continues to be fostering community growth. Luring people away from Facebook will only get harder as time goes on. It’s not enough for these competitors to tout a decentralized model, better privacy filtering, or a superior overall user experience.

The issue from my perspective is time, or rather lack of time, among people. Most of us have a finite block of time we spend each day engaging on social platforms. There are simply too many choices and too many smaller niche-oriented social communities cropping up and vying for our time. The response I routinely hear among people I connect with on Facebook and Twitter is, “really, who has time for yet another social platform —all my connections are already here.”

Personally speaking, I divide up my time between Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and the occasional visit over to Quora. But I’m not so sure there’s room on my plate for any more networks. The thought of memorizing yet another set of username/password credentials is enough to spontaneously induce a migraine.

According to a recent Neilson study, Facebook users average 7 hours 45 minutes on Zuckerberg’s magnificent creation each month. Factoring in the overall time spent online is 30 hours 4 minutes each month, time largely divided up between Google (1 hour 47 minutes), Youtube (1 hour 41 minutes) and a 1/2 dozen or so other prominent networks; it becomes rather obvious the emerging social networks have their work cut out.

The Blogosphere: Penny For Your Thoughts?

The blogosphere, the way I see it today, thrives to a large extent on active participation and the open sharing of ideas. During the last decade, and perhaps culminating in 2006, these intrinsic human behaviors served as the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 culture (remember that popular catch-all label?). And now, with the emergent social/semantic Web (yet another convenient label or paradigm shift?), these fundamental principles endure as the Web invariably reaches a more ubiquitous state and, dare I say, sophisticated level of techno-consciousness with regard to the human condition.

If the ideal framework is a more open and authentic human experience on the Web, one closer to the physical realm, for example, conversational in nature and designed with immediacy in mind, then it seems rather odd to note the blogosphere experiencing a relative deficit of comments of late.
Call it lack of time or an unwillingness to read anything beyond 140-characters, thoughtful comments appear to be on the decline. But why? Have our attention spans shortened to the point we feel more comfortable skimming text and jumping around from one blog to another, absorbing bits and fragments of information as opposed to reading and commenting at length? Is critical thinking on the decline? (Are you watching tv this evening or contributing to the cognitive surplus?)
This is an intriguing theory and one of the central themes explored in Nicholas Carr’s recent book, The Shallows, which examines what the Internet is doing to our brains.

While the lack of comments phenomenon certainly doesn’t appear to be plaguing many of the larger high-traffic/aggregator news sites, the more obscure variety of independent blogs on the other hand (this blog included) struggle to garner even a minuscule proportion of the comments seen by pro bloggers and the digerati elite.
Perhaps I’m not ‘meta’ enough or scientifically minded (Yes, apparently there is an emerging science to the pursuit of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’). to hang with the über-klout-minded. In any case, people generally seem too busy or distracted with their own personal lives to read blogs, let alone comment on one. Still, if we were all as passionate about contributing to the blogosphere as John Jantsch, this post would be completely irrelevant.

In fact, anyone who’s ever blogged seriously for any length of time knows comments are hard to come by these days. Unless you’re Robert Scoble or Roger Ebert, comments can be down right elusive —unless that is, you’re someone like Andy Rutledge and you really don’t seem interested in the notion of a blog as a platform for inviting participation and critical debate.

But imagine for a moment Facebook devoid of status updates or wall comments; picture TripAdvisor or Yelp without the user reviews. Where would these sites be without a vibrant community of people engaged in discussion voicing their opinions. For these and other socially oriented sites, the crux of their existence is based almost entirely on a model of community engagement and audience empowerment. That is, giving people a voice as opposed to offering a static one-sided façade of a platform. Circa Web 1.0 anyone?

In a way, the social Web—if to be truly regarded as social—needs to reconcile, for example, technical obstacles, and ideally invite us all to participate, experiment, reshape and influence the places we frequent. This is crucial if open dialogue is to persist as an integral part of the Web experience.

Now, penny for your thoughts?