Mark Zuckerberg already admitted that lack of context is the biggest problem Facebook sees in the future of Social Networking. The real solution will probably have to be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. There’s a huge opportunity, one more likely to be filled by a new startup than by existing players.
It’s not just me who thinks so, I’ve been seeing a crop of smart posts the last few days that all seem to be contemplating related issues.
Robert Scoble suggests that noise control is our number one problem and that the problem solvers may even need to be under the influence of a wierd drug. Well, duh.
Dave McClure’s How to Take Down Facebook is another take on the lack of understanding of Intimacy, Context, Connection, and Closeness in social networks. Social is Noise and opportunity is lost unless without filtering what I see (and what others see about me) based on what shared interests we have, the context in which we’re reading, and when and where we’re reading.
In case the connection isn’t immediately obvious, how we relate to web content and to companies and marketers online is an essentially similar problem to how we relation to people online, and all are converging around Social. Doc Searls also discusses the related issue of identity and profiling used to present customized content and ads. I might add that in addition to giving me some transparency into and control over my identity profile (I’m not sure that it’s something I always want to be conscious of or have manual control over), that I don’t have just one (or that I have one with many aspects that encompass my interests in varied contexts).
I ran into Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare at the Shuttle Discovery launch NASATweetup yesterday. Promised I’d send him a note about this. A few weeks ago, I wrote my breakup note with Foursquare (well, technically, we’re on a temporary break). I think Location services run into these troubles even more quickly and harder than general social networks. At least they did for me. And though I got huge benefits from Foursquare early on, now I’ve managed just fine without. I had mild withdrawals from impulsively checking in, and did mourn the loss of a few coveted mayorships (like The Pork Store). But I haven’t noticed anything meaningful I gave up in terms of communication, friendship or inside information vs. what I’d been experiencing in the past months. For me, at least, Foursquare quickly lost its utility as the number of users (and my “friends” in it) grew without distinction for what people and locations (or kinds of people and locations) I was interested in at different times.
These are key emerging problems in all of Social Networking that will continue to grow and impede the real potential of all these services. Big rewards (and great drugs) await those who find solutions.