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Rediscovering the Social Web

April 10, 2010

The social web is supposed to be all about controlling data. This is why so many social web services amount to nothing more than sophisticated schemes for aggregrating and distributing personal data. It’s why the most popular social networks resemble panopticons where every user is continually surveilling every other user. And it’s why all the latest and greatest social services are all oriented on increasing the quality and quantity of this digital surveillance.

One has to wonder why, exactly, all this social data is so very valuable.

To the social businesses the value of this data is obvious. Data about consumers always has been and always will be valuable to producers of all sorts.

But what’s in it for the users? Why are so many so eager to share so much personal data on the web?

There’s a lot of answers to that question. But some of these answers are more interesting than others. Social Discovery is one of the more interesting ones. Much of the value people derive from these services is the discovery of new things that are interesting and important to them. This also seems to be what really differentiates social networks like Facebook from the many, many communities, virtual worlds, games and marketplaces that exist on the web.

But does Social Discovery require the intense surveillance that seems to define the current social web paradigm? Probably not. People want to discover cool new stuff and share it with their friends and family but this doesn’t require listing all of their hobbies or letting themselves be tracked via GPS. Perhaps there’s an opportunity here to re-imagine the social web in a way that’s oriented on discovery instead of surveillance?

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From → social

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