Flutterby™! : Dear new social networking site

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Dear new social networking site

2007-03-30 14:44:08.496301+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Dear new social networking site of the moment,

It's great that you've opened up a new venue on the web for people to search for me, and for me to publish information about myself. Really, it is. However, you might want to try out the seventeen people in Idaho who aren't already doing that, rather than targeting high profile weblog publishers via a "pay to send email to webloggers" service.

Because frankly, when I see you advertising your new site, I think "oh, joy, yet another freakin' place I have to keep up my contact information updated". You don't use OpenID, so it's also yet another freakin' user name and password I have to remember.

So, some notes to new social networking sites:

  • I already have my web presence. I'm happy to help y'all out, but I've no desire to do work without getting paid for it. If you want to include me in your directory, that's great, I'll publish a vCard or whatever file on my site, keep it updated, and you can poll it to keep your contact info updated.
  • I will not remember yet another name and password. Use OpenID, both providing an ID and using an external ID, or go home.
  • This month I've gotten 5 reminders from nearly dead social networking sites, and two requests to join a new one. You're one of the latter. At least two of the former were also focused on business users. If you're not going to give me a compelling reason to sign up, make sure that your contact to me has a friend's name associated with it so that there's at least one other person there that I'd care about connecting with. If I wanted random "wannafucks" from Brazilians, I'd keep my account on Orkut active. If I was too lazy to ask the same question of friends of friends, I'd keep Friendster active.
  • Make a decent web page. Get your character encoding right so that I don't see lots of "?"s in diamonds all over the place because your designers were too lazy to do their homework.
  • It's great that you're "the only system that enables you to be searched and found through traditional search engines (Google, Yahoo, Ask)", but your PageRank is 0. Not "lower than Dori, Tom & Sean's cat", but zero, the big old goose egg. Do I care that you'll be somewhere in page 349, down below some of even the most egregious link spammers, while searching for "Dan Lyke"?

There are all sorts of things that might make me sign up for a new social networking service. Acknowledging that I own my own data and leveraging off of things that I publish on my own site is one of them. Offering innovative new APIs that I can hack applications to talk to is another. Yet another stupid business card exchange service... well... that was old hat in the last millenium.

[ related topics: Weblogs Consumerism and advertising Net Culture Social Software ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-03-30 23:00:08.290247+00 by: Dori

Pixel (our above-mentioned cat) has a PageRank of 6 -- the same as flutterby.com. Why that's the case, I have no idea, but it makes a great data point for my opinion that PageRank is a seriously broken system.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-03-30 23:20:30.409221+00 by: Dan Lyke

Dori, yeah, that's why I used Pixel as the baseline, because it's always good for a giggle.

And apparently my pages over at Flutterby.net have a PageRank of 4. Todd got the domain for me however many years ago, but I've only started doing things with it recently, and I can think of only 3 or 4 places that I've put inbound links (and wouldn't be at all surprised if all but this site did rel="nofollow" to my links). And all outbound links from it are rel="nofollow"ed. I've no idea what's going on there.

So it seems to me that if you're a new social networking site the least you can do is have all of your employees make inbound links with their weblogs and give the site a PageRank of 1 or so.

I went and dug up contact info for those running the particular site that I wrote this about and sent them a slightly (but only just) more politic version of my criticisms and got a reply back from them. I still don't see what the need for a centralized business card site is at this time, but that they were quickly responsive makes me at least sympathetic. And, let's face it, I've been completely wrong about social networking sites so far, I think I was even dismissive about Flickr.

On the ways that PageRank is b0rk3n, yeah, just like all the previous schemes, it's been gamed into oblivion. And as I watch the big sites displace the niche useful sites in search rankings, I'm really convinced that there's some big room in search waiting to be exploited. If I weren't deep in the midst of 3d animation software I'd try to implement some of my ideas on that matter, mostly revolving around distribution and networks of reputation so that links are more relevant to my social groups.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-03-31 00:56:14.214575+00 by: Dan Lyke

And, in fact, I just debugged their character set issue: They're publishing Windows-1252, their HTTP headers are claiming 8859-1, and their HTML headers are claiming UTF-8.

Kinda hard to get too nasty about that, though, 'cause Flutterby isn't exactly perfect on that count.