Flutterby™! : Skipping out on social software

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Skipping out on social software

2004-06-18 15:18:02.497226+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

Scotch Night was small last night, I knew it was going to be, but even so I decided to hang out with Leo at the Orbit Room Cafe[Wiki] rather than head down to the Churchill Club event titled Blogging and Social Networking: Who Cares?

I have to admit that I care. While there are still some very interesting questions about the meanings of online relationships versus those that happen face-to-face, and whether the nature of online communication encourages an appearance of deeper trust and compatibility that can never occur in the real world, I think my life is richer for being able to find more people who share some of my non-mainstream perspectives of life.

But generally all of the "social networking" software or attempts to commercialize the blog space in a grander sense than "here's a tool" will fail; the more they label themselves "social software", the more they want to control the social flow, rather than enabling it.

Thus Yahoo Groups will beat Tribe's forums, and I even believe that there will be other distributed technologies which will supplant the "friend of a friend" capabilities of Friendster and Orkut. The one place they may have room is in what Manhattanites so quaintly refer to as "hooking up", but my impression is that Match.com, especially with their distributed personals, has that space pretty well sewn up.

So it was no surprise to me to run into the Venture Blog commentary on last night's event: All Social Networking Panels Are The Same:

"Welcome blah blah blah relationship capital blah blah blah social contracts blah blah blah media businesses blah blah blah identify the rabid fans of the iPod blah blah blah utility media blah blah blah this is the future of the web blah blah blah RSS blah blah blah Spam blah blah blah killer app blah blah blah business model blah blah blah advertising model blah blah blah is this a product or a feature blah blah blah a feature doesn't make a business blah blah blah leveraging relationships blah blah blah ...

[ related topics: Weblogs Sociology Consumerism and advertising Community Social Software ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-18 16:24:22.140732+00 by: other_todd

Yahoo Groups, though, is trying as hard as it can to kill itself. Not that you can entirely blame them; the problem is that the community functions are not the primary thing people go to Yahoo groups to use: It's all about the files area. People use Yahoo groups for image sharing and file drops, and (with the disclaimer that I have not interviewed Yahoo management to confirm this) Yahoo really seems to hate that this has become the compelling purpose - it eats bandwidth and storage and they're not making a lot back on advertising, even with Yahoo adding ads into the message views (every second or third message post you look at online requires you to skip past an ad). So, in the past year or two:

- Yahoo has changed their files area to make persistent linking to a file impossible, the links are dynamic and time-based;

- The images area, which thumbnails, now resizes images down automatically when uploaded unless you pay for the full-size service; this means it's useless to put some images in the image area, but if you put them in the files area, you get no thumbnail;

- and I believe they have decreased the capacities for the image area per group.

Oh, yeah, and if the site is the least bit adult, you don't show up in groups directories, are not searchable, and Yahoo will probably delete the whole group without warning the first time you give them an excuse. (Mind you, there are also a LOT of adult groups which abuse the system ... like setting up many, many numbered groups in sequence, so that when they run out of file space on one, they just open another. Yahoo's mean time until they figure it out and delete these is now a matter of days.)

Meanwhile, the people who DO want to use the groups as a community are hampered by the poor performance of Yahoo's mailing list code, the ads in the message threads, the horrid opt-out privacy policy, etc. So they're staying away. Short version: By trying to crack down on the type of user they feel is freeloading, Yahoo is driving away the type of user they theoretically want.

I monitor other online-groups systems as well and sooner or later they all struggle with this problem. The cautionary tale of the lot is the Lycos groups, of course; Lycos had been trying to kill off their groups by benign neglect (those its horrible interface didn't drive away) long before the Terra problems led them to pull the plug. A lot of Lycos users were there because they got sick of Yahoo. When Lycos burned, they went to the MSN groups or Smartgroups instead. Now I see MSN and Smartgroups beginning to wrestle with some of the same problems.

I wonder sometimes if the solution isn't to appease the image-drop people with a service designed just for them. Of course the problem would be making it pay. I confess I primarily go to these groups to get at images, so I may have hidden goals, but it strikes me that the file-sharing people and the community-seeking people will never sit entirely well together in the same software.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-19 22:15:39.740599+00 by: Shawn

I've never truly understood the appeal of things like Yahoo Groups - being a geek with access to certain resources, I've always just used an ftp server, etc. But it strikes me know that CleverCactus might be a good solution to this. (Before now, I've had trouble understanding the appeal of CleverCactus too.)