Insight#2: Antidote for Babel Babble?

14 Feb 2007 (Wed)

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves…” — Genesis 11:4

“OH NO! NOT ANOTHER SOCIAL NETWORK!” Don’t you get this feeling nowadays? Social networks seem to be sprouting like wild grass every week. Perhaps you even get tired looking at the numerous icons in the GoToWeb20 website (screenshot below), or simply reading the news? Are you like me, wishing that these legions of social networks (almost like towers of Babel) would simply consolidate into a few major players? OR at the very least, open up and make it possible for users to sign-in, post to, and maintain profiles easily from just one (or if desired, just a few) source?

Web 2.0


“HOW DO WE KEEP UP?” is a question that has been bugging me over the past few years ever since I got hooked onto the fantastic potential of Web 2.0. So, this morning, was truly gratified to read Robert Scoble’s post (also entitled How do we keep up?):

“I got up early to read feeds and do email. I started at 5:45 a.m. and it’s now 7:26 a.m. and I still didn’t get through all my feeds. But, worse, is what I did find: dozens of new products, new companies, new phones… how do we keep up with this flow that is coming through the blogs? It’s much easier to build a company now than it was in the 1990s, plus access to capital is there again, so that leads to tons of new companies and a LOT of news. What does this lead to? Risk for new companies because the chances that a new company will be able to get adoption/build audience and community is very small. There’s simply too much out there to pay attention to.”

Following Scoble’s “flow”, I found that at Slashdot (in the “Typing it all again” ;-) category), kdawson wrote:

“mrspin offers the opinion of ZDNet blogger Steve O’Hear that users may soon tire of social networks — if they don’t open up and embrace standards allowing greater interoperability among the different networks. O’Hear writes: “Unless the time required to sign-in, post to, and maintain profiles across each network is reduced, it will be impossible for most users to participate in multiple sites for very long. In an earlier post he went into more detail on the same subject, with extensive opinions from four creators of social networks.”

Following O’Hear’s “flow”, I found some weariness amidst the exciting 2007 Web predictions on the Read/Write Web blog:

“While social networks dominated 2006, we wonder if the amount of time an average user spends online will start to negatively impact on their social lives in 2007 and lead to a downturn. Could social networks prove to be anti-social? At the same time, social networks will probably also become more open – and data portability will start to occur, although MySpace will hold out…”

This is the beauty (and “ugliness”) of social networks: One article leads to another, yet another and another. After an hour or so, I believe I’ve done a quick survey, especially after doing a Google search on “fatigue, social networks, tired”. Even found a comic at Blaugh entitled “I Hate Social Networks”! I can safely infer that there IS indeed widespread social network fatigue.

I Hate Social Networks

Data portability had been on my mind. So, I couldn’t agree with O’Hear more. However, I wonder: Couldn’t ZDNet and the four social network leaders interviewed have set the ball rolling and start leading by example? You see, just to cast a vote and to add my opinion at ZDNet, I had to sign up and create yet another profile. Likewise, whenever I’m invited to join a new social network. As a result, I feel less and less inclined to join new social networks nowadays.

If only someone would create an easy-to-use standard-based app or widget that would enable users to keep their profiles and content on a single-source (say, on their desktop or website)! And if only all social networks would have a simple linking feature that works according to that standard!

For example, at Elgg.net, I can reap all the benefits of being in a social network while maintaining my current blog here. Reason: I can publish publish the same posts in Elgg through a feed. I can also have different levels of access restrictions for postings within Elgg. Although Elgg has/had some teething issues (e.g. duplicate/triplicate posts and disappearing media just because I tried to edit a published post), I’m sure they could be resolved eventually.

Truly looking forward to the day when I could join as many as social networks as I want with minimal effort: owning and maintaining all my profile(s) and content in one space, and merely linking them to various networks. Of course, my comments on different networks could be different…

Speaking of this, wouldn’t it be great if one could get wiki-like overviews of original information and the associated “enrichments” (Dion Hinchcliffe’s term for tags, ranks, reviews, comments, revisions, etc.) all on the same page?

Dion Hinchcliffe's

Then, we the readers wouldn’t be wasting time reading Babel babble (rehashes, duplicates, triplicates, etcetera). And we the “publishers” wouldn’t be wasting time building towers of Babel — trying in vain to make a name for each of “us” separately. (Indeed, the proliferation of social networks has collectively and literally made us anti-social!)

Hopefully, by then, we’d be truly socializing and collaborating on a Valentine Day, and every other day!

(See also Google Drive: Cure for Social Network Fatigue.)

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Posted by J.K. in *Insights, Possibilities, Problems, Social Media, Technology | View Comments |

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