Social Networks Web/Tech

WWW2010 : Future of Social Networks

Notes from THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS (organized by  FRED STUTZMAN , founder of ClaimID, panelists include CHRIS DIBONA of Google, DAVE RECORDON of Facebook, HENRY COPELAND of Blogads, ZEYNEP TUFEKCI of UMBC and  WAYNE SUTTON, networks consultant) .

The future of social networks is “growth” — lots of issues (danah talked about privacy). Thinking about future, how do we manage – how do we keep them useful – how can these spaces remain useful?

  • Z : Robin Dunbar number gets thrown away a lot. Really very interesting research. Human neo-cortex might exist so that we can keep track of reciprocal social status management. Gorilla grooming: alliance display. You cannot do that efficiently all day if the group gets too large. Language developed for socializing (gossip). Sociality is essential (solitary confinement example). We need to know who is friends with who – who’s that backstabber – who stole my boyfriend – etc. It appears that 150 is the number we can hold in our head. These networks were always there — tech makes them visible. Telephone Calling — biz were upset that people wanted to use the phone to socialize. As soon as you put people anywhere they are going to socialize. There are serious implications when the laws of physics are suspended – we don’t have the social tool kit.
  • Dave (I think) – sharing photos on Facebook
  • Henry [blogads] – discovery – how do we make sense of the mess? – until 2003 – n-xyabytes ; then that amount in two years; now doubling. pre-1440 (before printing press, god-centered universe) to post-1480 (humans created in the modern sense as individuals — 1470 copyright created). moving back to community?
  • Chris – summer of code (not a social network) — how it works: we have about three people on staff, we interact with 150 orgs with 2-3K mentors to who interact with 1K students – we generate about 3M lines of code. it works because of the human element, the “social” (not tech) network. It works because of <?> activity. Dunbar number or higher functions of your neo-cortext, there’s a level of unselectivity right now … it’s not clear if someone is qualified to “like” something. “Whenever I hear someone recommend a restaurant, I think about how close the restaurant is to their house.” [context!] There are 6K applications, we pick 1K and pass about 84% of them. They are vetted. Social networks do this vetting pretty poorly right now. Popularity measure feels pretty empty to me.
  • David : I think it’s about the type of info you’re after. There are times where I want to get information — movie critics for example – but you might phone your friends. I think you have this on-line — I care more about what my friends think about Lost than a corp or a community. On average, FB folks have 130 friends.
  • Z : we have lost the fundamental ability to foster close friends. People are increasingly without close friends. The average American has less close friends than in 1985. You no longer get them from being born into a community and staying. I think what’s important is how you get strong times. The ability to find affinity-based relationships is NEW. Unless you have an affinity that ties you to close people you are left behind. We the “jabbing classes” are saying what’s wrong with those people?
  • Wayne : ability to access and filter information.
  • We blame technology for change (we blamed TV)
  • Z : there are people who are left out of that kind of sociality  — are you going to pick up phone and call someone who is not on FB. Some people become even closer to people online; others, you put them in front of a keyboard and they can’t get over the keyboard-ick factor.


  • Is this a shift in ethics? Is the net a space of “capital”? [google -> Blippy joke]
  • Z : Google Buzz; FB is like wikipedia in that it is the result of the people providing content. “we created this place” but that’s not true it is co-created. I think the companies that don’t respect that shared space are going to leave. At some point there will be options to FB and places that respect that relationship of sociality. Network externalities. CEOs of media companies should be forced to use their products at default settings!!
  • Observation about moving online friends to offline (audience) — Is there a comparative study that looks at places where people didn’t leave their birth town? Google -> 40%  don’t move beyond 25 miles away; 15% have passports. Z : Texas research – people can use libraries to access net; we found people used the internet at the library to find a job in Austin — people comfortable with this technology, socializers, move away. I’m saying the internet is changing different mapping of isolated versus super-social. Henry: giant profusion of niches. Z : the internet people look like each other than their race/gender counterparts — it looks really strong. non-internet people still have race/gender differences.

FRED – let’s push into the future — how is tech going to bring us together & impact on governance & society in general.

  • FB has had impact on elections all over the world just by making it possible to say you’ve voted —
  • Wayne : soon everyone will have their own personal social network (ning example, wordpress/buddypress). Charity water. Haiti.
  • Role of reciprocity in social networks?
  • Henry – talking about corporations and the possibility of new organizations
  • Imbalance in power relationships? Will making $ be the dominant ethic?
  • Z : network externality – now I have to ask “who’s not on FB” – they don’t really have a choice. It is true with Google to a degree. They are part of our commons.
  • Z : stuff you do – time used to erase it but no longer. “punishment”  —

Q: Next-best thing after FB, Twitter & Why?

  • Chris: we don’t need anything “next” but G&FB will still be around
  • Dave : shared social experiences all over the web
  • Z : I think FB is going to eat up the web (some sort of sharing, filtering will be
  • Henry : we belong to a bunch of different tribes — a tool that lets us experience them distinctly and that doesn’t muddy up all our other tribes
  • W : location-based – aggregation around your home-based, filtering that content (dashboard?)
  • Fred : I think it’s about the experience and the needs — critical infrastructure ….

Q: Social media marketing strategies that we can take home?

Talk to Wayne after the session

Q : looking ahead 2-3-4 generations

  • looking for a job in gov’t, FBI, or security …
  • Chris : I got my clearance after I discovered usenet … but inherent the clearance process for non-political appointees — they don’t worry about perfection but they worry about “the enemy” having something on you. In some ways, being an “over-sharer” online means less to worry about.
  • Late 20th century expectations of privacy won’t exist in 40 years – Henry – returning to a world like a small village where everyone knew everything about you
  • Chris: I think that G is in a precarious position if we violate privacy and if we screw up we fix it.
  • Henry : it’s not FB and G, it’s someone with a cell phone
  • Z : while we have gone back to the village in terms of disclosure – now there is disposability of people. consequences are different

Q – will SNs remain free-ad based?

  • Henry – it took 150 years btwn invention of Printing Press and the 1st newspaper. It’s not about technology it’s about human adaptation to the technology

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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