The Fractured Web

Even observ­ing the social network­ing phenom­e­non these days is enough to make you sea sick. The ground is shift­ing at an amaz­ing rate. If computer time is faster than normal time and inter­net time is faster than computer time, then social network­ing time is faster again. It seems there’s a new site to inves­ti­gate every other day.

And like the addicts we are, we all go scur­ry­ing off to the latest and great­est in the social web. Marveling at the new features as we once again try to find all the contacts we had on the last 5 plat­forms. But I’m becom­ing increas­ingly conscious of how frac­tured a commu­nity we are becom­ing as the number of plat­forms increases expo­nen­tially.

Face­book is the largest of the social network­ing sites (though the new func­tion­al­ity in Google Reader could cata­pult it up the list rapidly) and number two is MySpace. But we don’t talk about MySpace because “no one” uses that. You have the cool kids over on Twit­ter and the geeks on Friend­Feed. And on it goes.

Despite consid­er­able efforts to cross-polli­nate the conver­sa­tion between sites there’s no doubt that each of these is still a single flower in the garden and the result is a series of over­lap­ping but largely inde­pen­dent discus­sions.

Now of course this isn’t radi­cally differ­ent to the real world. We create partially over­lap­ping circles of friends based around geog­ra­phy, inter­ests, social back­grounds etc. But isn’t the social web supposed to be better than that? To extend our range of knowl­edge and widen the conver­sa­tion?

How can we do that if we’re being broken down into progres­sively smaller and smaller groups, many of which only the most net obsessed geeks have even heard of?

Or perhaps more to the point, how can we reverse this trend with­out stifling the creativ­ity that is gener­at­ing these new services?

Recently I’ve been trying to create a self-hosted lifestream so I can center all of my online conver­sa­tions around my blog. People would still be able to inter­act with me on their service of choice (Friend­Feed, Twit­ter) etc. I’m using the open source soft­ware Sweet­cron to do this. But while it is funda­men­tally sound, it’s not user friendly. It takes quite a bit of tweak­ing to get the output I was look­ing for. And even then despite it’s open plugin system there are a number of services that I can’t seem to import into it. And how to account for comments I post on old school message boards or other blogs?

I think what the social web needs is a proto­col in the same way that we have HTTP, email and RSS. We need a discus­sion proto­col. A stan­dard that would allow easy move­ment of discus­sion from one service to another and the colla­tion of all my comments regard­less of where I made them.

So… who’s going to write that then?

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About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?

Comments

  • I think what the social web needs is a proto­col in the same way that we have HTTP, email and RSS. We need a discus­sion proto­col. A stan­dard that would allow easy move­ment of discus­sion from one service to another and the colla­tion of all my comments regard­less of where I made them.”

    What you described is actu­ally being devel­oped right now by none other than Google 🙂
    Just do a search for Google Wave and you will see what I mean.

    • Google Wave does have the poten­tial to bring together many differ­ent aspects of the social web. But there are barri­ers.

      I have a Google Wave account, but it doesn’t get used much for a couple of reasons. 1) The inter­face is buggy and slow still (they’re work­ing on it I know). 2) Most of the people I want to inter­act with aren’t on it.

      The second one is really the major issue. In order to do what I’m look­ing for we would need widescale adop­tion. Beyond even the level that Disqus is giving me with these comments. It could happen, partic­u­larly if Wave makes inroads in the busi­ness market (that’s really what drives email after all), but we’re still a long way from it currently.

  • I think what the social web needs is a proto­col in the same way that we have HTTP, email and RSS. We need a discus­sion proto­col. A stan­dard that would allow easy move­ment of discus­sion from one service to another and the colla­tion of all my comments regard­less of where I made them.”

    What you described is actu­ally being devel­oped right now by none other than Google 🙂
    Just do a search for Google Wave and you will see what I mean.

  • Google Wave does have the poten­tial to bring together many differ­ent aspects of the social web. But there are barri­ers.

    I have a Google Wave account, but it doesn’t get used much for a couple of reasons. 1) The inter­face is buggy and slow still (they’re work­ing on it I know). 2) Most of the people I want to inter­act with aren’t on it.

    The second one is really the major issue. In order to do what I’m look­ing for we would need widescale adop­tion. Beyond even the level that Disqus is giving me with these comments. It could happen, partic­u­larly if Wave makes inroads in the busi­ness market (that’s really what drives email after all), but we’re still a long way from it currently.

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