Recreating serendipity in social networks

Social networks started on the past (classmates), moved to the present (Facebook), then the future (dopplr). Social networks used to be on people you knew (classmates), people you know more or less (Facebook), people you do not know (dating websites), they will soon also be about people you do not necessarily want to know.

At Lift Asia 09 we welcomed Jin-Ho Hur, CEO of Neowiz, a social network/gaming platform whose fundamental concept is that everybody can hide behind an avatar. Why? Because not knowing who the other users are is a feature! If you spend hours playing online games from the office, do you really want to share that with your network? And what about meeting people randomly like what happens at bars? This is not really covered by existing networks, hence the success of something like chatroulette that “generates one-on-one Webcam connections between you and another randomly chosen user” (NYT link).

I believe this is a trend, not only because it corresponds to a need, but because it is the only place where social networks can innovate under the current framework, where each positions itself along the past/present/future and friends/acquaintances/strangers dimensions.

Framework small

The red bubble is where we have the less players at the moment. I expect to see many new services in the coming months, reproducing a phenomena that is omnipresent in our lives but mostly absent of online life: serendipity.

The fact these services are used & created by teenagers is also not very surprising. After all this generation seems to have lost many of the opportunities we had to connect randomly: the arcades have been replaced by Playstations, the rave parties have been forbidden, dating happens online rather than in bars, etc etc.

“The light at the end of the tunnel”

The discussion on Publicy continues: I posted a second round of thoughts, Stowe Boyd explores the decade of Publicy, and twitter and blogsearch will soon have to stop asking “did you mean publicly?”

Brian Solis (who seems to belong to the endangered specie of people who actually read articles before linking to them) is adding up to my argument, and seems to agree with me that the attitude you can build towards social media (the “plausible me”) could be a good news to a massive problem:

In describing publicy, Laurent Haug paints a picture of what he refers to as the “plausible you,” but it is his idea around new privacy and intention that serves as the light at the end of the tunnel:

Now that you are back in the driver seat, you have your privacy back. Just of a different kind. You have built a space that could be called “publicy”, or “the plausible me”. It is a credible space where people expect to see information about you. Whatever credible information you say in there will be taken as true by the world. That is your new privacy. A space that is public but that you control, where you can say anything you want and have it taken as true.

In Social Media, it is our responsibility to define who we are and why we are significant. Who we are online is formed by an assemblage of everything we contribute – whether intended or not. Regardless of medium, we save ourselves from ourselves through the practice of restraint and the recognition that we are what we share. The socialization of media distributes pieces of us across the Web and without our knowledge, they are reassembled at will, without our ability to directly shape perception. Thus, our digital shadow is a reflection of our persona and reputation and therefore requires dedication to the active, thoughtful shaping and feeding of the “brand you” through everything you share.  In doing so, we dictate who we are today as well as who we become tomorrow and over time. The doors between public, private, and secret must remain discrete and preserved. While we embrace an era of publicy, we do not relinquish privacy, for without it, we fulfill the prediction of becoming servants of the Web instead of its engineers and conductors.


Sorry for pasting somebody quoting me, but receiving coverage on this post for what it is (a reflection on how we can navigate the current public/private equation) and not for what it is not (an apology of the end of privacy) feels good.