Social Networking – We’re missing the point.

Social networking as it stands is missing a very essential component – some type of social contract. Right now, there isn’t a good way in digital communication/interaction/networking to know whether someone got the message. Sure, you can see if they reply, ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or otherwise indicate they got it – and email has read receipts which call back in the background. Even at that, though, someone can open or glance at a message without actually reading or paying attention to it.

From real life, the allegory for Facebook is a huge dorm of people (gigantic, really). Everyone has a door into their room, and the door can have pictures, news articles, amusing comics, etc. as well as a white board where visitors can leave notes. In real life, you can tell when someone is there and generally see why. When someone looks at something and you’re there, you can comment back, open up a channel of communication, and actually interact. (“Oh yeah, that’s when I went to Costa Rica for J-term and we hiked in the Cloud Forest” or “you think that’s good, check this one out” –> pulls up xkcd for today).

Right now, our doors are all shut, and we have towels along the bottom so they’re soundproof. This means we only interact with the world when we step outside. When we do, everything happened in the past and it hits us all at once – more of a chore than fun experience. Everything’s tape delayed. We already have discovery (news feed, activity feed, messages, email notifications) but there’s no way to jump into someone’s stream as it happens.

Examples:

  • I see a few friends checking out the Spotify track I’m listening to and we start up a Turntable room
  • I see my friend’s pictures from the 5k, he notices I’m there and gloats about his time
  • I glance through a college classmate’s wedding photos and they strike up a conversation

Ultimately, there’s no way to hang a sign on your door indicating that you’re open for engagement and interested. Everyone dumps everything they can out on their door but then shuts it again without seeing what the response is. I’m not talking about a violation of privacy or anything like that – you can make it entirely optional on both sides. If you don’t want the spam of knowing when people are digesting your social timeline, that’s fine. If you’re snooping on someone’s page and don’t want to reveal yourself, you can hide your actions too. But I imagine most of the time people won’t care that so-and-so knows they’re there – and most of the time it will be a good thing.

Right now, we’re missing the point. We’re all linked up. Some of us are even talking – but the words are all surface-level and it could be so much better.

The economy’s okay, it just needs some time…

We’ve been working through our ups and downs for a few years now but I think we’re headed the right direction.

As a country, we’ve spent too much and saved too little over time and that made this situation much worse than it might’ve been. Putting our intelligence to use, we as individuals and companies have learned a lesson. Don’t spend more than you have and don’t buy things you can’t afford.

However short-lived the lesson is, it’s good for us in the long-term but really bad for getting the ball rolling. Companies put money away instead of hiring new people. People with jobs are playing it safe while those who don’t watch every dollar. With everyone being safe, there’s not enough steady volume in the stock markets to keep things consistent and this leads to huge swings and volatility any time there’s any bit of financial news. That in and of itself serves as another factor to scare people from investing in any of that garbage.

Eventually, though, a group of people is going to start stepping up. Companies that are profitable and well managed to the very core will look at the landscape and decide they want a bigger piece of the pie. They’ll start hiring and their ongoing success will prove to everyone else that it’s okay to reach for an extra few inches of growth. They’ll begin hiring again which puts money in peoples’ pockets. They’ll start spending and the whole thing starts to move.

My bet is that we’ll start to see this in third quarter earnings and it will really start to cement itself through the end of the year. International hiccups may slow it down by a few months but the general move will be upwards. General economic sentiment will take another 6 months to a year from then to really recover. I’m look for the smaller and more agile companies to drive the first moves.

Google Public Data Visualizations


I was thinking to myself this afternoon that it’d be wonderful to have a Google Maps or Google Finance  -style view of economic data.  What have unemployment numbers looked like recently and historically, for instance?  Well, boy was I happy to find that there is exactly such a thing.


Google Public Data provides an interface into some interesting statistics about the US and the world.  Zoomable graphs and animations that show how data changes over time gives you a chance to hone in on the information you need.


While the actual number of datasets available at this point are limited (just 15 at this point), it’s a cool tool that I hope will be expanded to include even more value information.