The new new year

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The year is new of course, but the new, new thing for me is the next step in my career. I’ve joined The Conversation Group. It’s a new agency in San Francisco with the people, relationships and tools to make a difference for major brands as they try to engage people online.

The rise of the digital lifestyle has bubbled up a new crop of influencers who don’t watch tv, read newspapers, or listen to the radio. They hang out online. The Conversation Group helps brands understand, listen to and communicate with consumers in new media venues. I could not be more pleased to be working with such a smart group of folks.

I enjoy the earliest stages of new ventures. It’s a clean sheet of paper unhindered by legacy and powered by new ideas. The big idea here is that old media’s share of attention has been on the decline for years. Last year was the first time that Americans spent as much time online as they spent watching tv. You don’t need a math degree to extrapolate the trendlines between old media and new media. It’s one of those immutable trends.

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Social Hacks

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Ok, I agree with Loren Feldman about Seesmic. I followed a link from Twitter to some guy’s rant about social hacks. The title was irresistible. It drove me to register on Seesmic with the key I got from Rafe. What I found was an articulate rant, but I couldn’t leave a text comment! Damn. Let me leave a text comment please! I don’t want to brush my teeth, comb my hair, or fire up the lights. I just want to comment. The need to comment on Eric’s vid is why I wrote this post.

Eric Rice caught my attention because he used two of my favorite words in sequence, social and hack. Eric suggests that profiles can be set up that are not real people. As if this does not go on right now? Come on. Still, he had an important vidpost:

There are two threads of thought I’d like to share. One is humanity’s penchant for fantasy and the other is a reminder that the Turing Test hasn’t been passed by silicon…yet.

Marc Canter advocates that social networks allow multiple personas. The profile you show from 9 to 5 may be different than the one you show from midnight to 3. The details have yet to be worked out, but Marc’s idea conforms well with human nature. We present ourselves situationally in real life. Static profiles aren’t flexible enough.

Alan Turing’s test has not been passed by any bit of code that I know about yet. Bots in chat rooms are easily spotted and fake profiles are easily discovered. If you’re spending so much time online that you can’t distinguish people from proxies, it’s time to jack out and take a vacation.

Barbie Rules!

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I have a 7 year old daughter and sometimes we take the time to surf the web together. Recently she acquired a new doll. It is a brilliant product extension from Ty…of beanie baby fame. Ty Girlz is a series of dolls that are beautifully blended with the Ty Girlz online experience. Her visceral level of engagement is produced by the combination of real world doll and virtual world experience. My daughter connected completely. The analog and digital experience merged into a new whole.

I was curious about the popularity of the Ty Girlz website so I compared it with other doll brands on Alexa. The results were interesting. The evil Bratz franchise is far ahead of Ty Girlz. American Girl is hanging on. Does anyone remember Cabbage Patch Kids? And Barbie wins Miss Popularity.

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Barbie is the market dominatrix, by a long shot… The next step is to understand the correlation between holiday sales and digital presence. A before and after holiday comparison will probably show a jump in website traffic as presents are unwrapped on the 25th and kids surf to their toy’s site. Are there any strategies than can digitally unseat an incumbent like Barbie?

Disclosure: The only contact I have with any of the companies mentioned in this post is through the goodwill of my two daughters.

Who’s on Facebook?

On a lark, I decided to compare the facebook membership numbers of my daughter’s silicon valley high school with my blue collar east coast high school. Surely, the alums of the silicon valley school would be hipper than the blue collar offspring of the steel mills.

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Pennsbury High School is roughly twice the size of Carlmont High School, but notice how closely they’re correlated. Different socio-economic regions, yet the pattern mirrors itself. The surprise to me was how quickly the number of members falls off. I wonder why. Any ideas out there?

Digital Society on BlogTalkRadio

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Join us on BlogTalkRadio today at 2pm pacific as we talk to Eleanor Wynn, Social Technology Architect at Intel Corporation. Show details are here. I hope she will dispel my gloomy view of tomorrow’s digital panopticon.

Eleanor is an articulate speaker that concretely addresses social media and organizational behavior. Her insights into the future include ways social network mapping can be used to understand where conversations were happening and where centers of competence exist. This is the next iteration in enterprise social media and she’s the only speaker I’ve heard address the topic. We’ll explore:

  • What’s the role of anthropology now that digital lifestyles are fair game for research?
  • Are you a participant observer? What does that mean?
  • How does digital society map to face to face society? What’s inhibited, what’s enabled?
  • What’s your projection for the near term, revolution in co-worker relations or a massive time sink?

Please join us for a great show. Call us between 2 and 3pm pacific and weigh in on tomorrow’s digital panopticon. The call in number is 646 478 5503

Moon’s Gloom

Bernard Moon’s post forecasts a “dark period” for social networks. He points out that the novelty of user experience wears off quickly. Even Club Penguin is suffering as 8 year olds migrate to fresher venues.

As the attention deficit economy putters along to the latest eye candy, social networks need to embrace new content strategies to remain interesting. The question is whether the current crop of social networks can innovate their way towards relevance.

There are two trends that counter Moon’s gloomy mood. The first is a boom in real time media. This research report reveals some drivers that are more, um, discreet.

“WebCam total market forecasts indicate that there is strong growth from a number of segments. The pornographic WebCam market is more hidden from analysts than the other segments, but it is a lively part of the market. The Internet revenue started with porn and continues to benefit from this aspect of use. Because of the relative anonymous aspects of viewing sites, there is usage that might not occur otherwise.”

The other immutable trend is the opening up walled gardens with APIs from Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and others. Data aggregators, data miners, and marketers love this stuff. That’s what’s propelling the next round of social media investment. Barring any unexpected results, it just may work.

People search with Spock

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Spock’s got an interesting take on people search. They troll social networks for profiles. In other words, Spock aggregates content from LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, et. al., and blends it with user generated comments, posts, pictures, etc… Anyone is free to append to someone else’s profile.

One of the public databases that Spock taps into are records of political contributors. Political affiliation is an interesting facet of some peoples lives. I find it useful to know what side of the political fence they’re on before meeting them. I’m not sure that everyone wants to show their affiliation so openly, but that’s the price we pay for transparency.

A bigger question is what will drive traffic to Spock? It’s this… in 2007, it’s up to you to police your public profile. People will visit Spock just to vet their aggregated record. You assumed that your profile was going to be shared with only classmates when you joined Facebook, but that rule melted more quickly than the polar ice cap. Now that some social networks offer APIs that expose profile data you are open to the world.

To Spock’s credit, their privacy policy summarizes social networking dos and don’ts regarding privacy:

  • Never display personally identifiable information on your profiles such as home address, phone number, birth date, social security number, or email address.
  • If you do not want your profile to be indexed by search engines, make your profile private. Most social networks allow you to make your profile private in their account settings page.
  • If other search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) are displaying web search results that are inaccurate or reveal personally identifiable information, please work with the search engine directly to remove those results from their index and work with the source website to remove your information.
  • Never give out personally identifiable information in public online discussion groups, blogs, or chat rooms.

Spock’s ambition is to index everyone on the planet. I guess social networks are a good place to start, but it begs the question. When will digital social networking reach 100% global market penetration?