The Rapid Multiplication of Social Software Tools and Environments

So, now you can join an online social network whose membership is restricted to extremely narrow parameters. It’s so bad that the VCs are complaining. With no observable business model and limited barriers to entry, the proliferation of social software/networking sites is reaching a screaming peak. There are stories about recruiters who have joined 90 networks.

The Silicon Valley mantra goes “build, ship, test, iterate.” The idea is to get to market quickly with new tools. Users have a unique opportunity to shape products and services when they are developed this way. Getting in first can confer extraordinary benefits if the second iteration doesn’t obliterate them. (The early adopter strategy makes a great deal of sense as a gambit.) It all depends on the vendor’s strategy for market acquisition (This Wikipedia piece on diffusion describes a number of theories.)

Version 1.0 is always buggy.

Even though personal technology has been developed this way for 30 years, many people still expect the east coast mantra…”specify, test, ship, repeat.” This approach, which works really well for hard goods and non-computerized electronics, starts with the assumption that an end user will probably only buy one. It’s a product oriented approach.

So, there’s this clash of expectations when people who expect the East Coast approach find themselves getting the west coast variation. It’s hitting some sort of peak with social software…networks, blogging tools and contact management systems. Lots of overlapping functionality and offerings, little in the way of finished goods.

Can you imagine being a member of 90 overlapping social software services? One or two is a lot. Careful specialization in three or four seems possible. More than that would completely preclude any sort of intelligent work.

You can be certain that the ultimate situation will include several hundred thousand niches. our standard internet model of a job board at every intersection of geography, industry, generation and profession would seem to be the shape it would take. In order to be useful, some level of standartdization would necessarily be the model. You can imagine Ning, after purchasing and integrating Linkedin and Facebook as one model.

Of course, the Recruiting Roadshow™ model (which implies physical presence as a part of online networking) will figure in to it somehow.

In the near term, expect a continuing explosion of online communities followed by a retrenchment. Then, version 2.0 will emerge.

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