Path, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare: Can there be more than one identity network

iden·ti·ty. noun \ī-ˈden-tə-tē, ə-, -ˈde-nə-\:  the distinguishing character or personality of an individual -Merriam-webster.com

I suggested in my previous post about identity networks that Behavior Networks have certain properties.

But what about Identity networks?

Identity networks are primarily networks of connections, not content.  Even though content rides on top, identity (friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates etc) is defined by connections between users are the primary organizing principle.

Behavior networks don't need to or even really care to store your data of this variety.  To some degree, this is about the maturity of the network itself.  Path is well-funded, and doesn't necessarily need to generate revenue - it is focusing on creating a product people love.  It is also riding the tide of people who think identity networks are too powerful.

This property of identity networks is quite interesting.  Who is the customer, from Facebook's perspective? Depending on your point of view, the customer is the one who pays (the advertiser) or the user (the person who registers an account for their identity).  What if those two groups do not want the same thing?  So identity networks are constantly seeking to grow revenue without alienating users, who produce the inventory for sale to advertisers.

The inventory is connections, and content, and the trackable data within the network, and we are now at the point where users have more control, but also less power in this equation.  They have more discrete levels of control over their information, but less aggregate power: their information remains on the site.  The business of Facebook marketing seeks endlessly to grab data from users, turn it into inventory and find willing bidders for that inventory.

LinkedIn is Facebook's strongest rival identity network.  LinkedIn has added many more content behaviors than I really thought possible, but it has proven its staying power and has  a commanding advantage in terns of data that is increasingly an opportunity for display advertising and the emerging corporate pages that employees are now connecting to. What remains under-leveraged is the extension of LinkedIn's identity network into the physical and corporate IT environments. I'll do a separate post about some strategic opportunities along those lines for LinkedIn.

The value of a network increases exponentially with the number of people (nodes) and the number of connections between them, but as users become aware of the power dynamic in which they stand, value is being drained out of the network.  This is first reputational damage done by privacy scandals and the like, and subsequently by users who defect to behavior networks or leave the social world altogether.  this is why Facebook runs aggressive re-engagement campaigns for users who have not logged in regularly.  

Path is somewhere between a behavior and identity network, and seems chastened by the address book privacy scandal from just a few months ago.  In fact, if you go back to the launch of Path's app "With" which had a very simple photo sharing mechanic for sharing who you are With, Path lets us know they are in the business of building networks:

as we continue our quest to build new types of networks which maintain their quality over time, we have been fascinated by the idea of an interaction network. Or, as we enjoy calling it, the With Graph.

Interaction networks, or behavior networks, can be discrete products, to test features and bring a feature set clearly into focus before adding it into a product.  It's clear that this ethos is infused within Path, as many have discovered.  Check out Path's About web page - which I have labeled below; the lesson: don't build when you can get all of the functionality without woorying about the infrastructure?

 

These are just some of the issues that companies struggle with.  Do we build our own networks, or extend others?  Do we have the ability to trust business partners to host our content, and critical utilities, when they are focused, precise, but not under our control?  One of the side effects of a services-oriented world, in which marketing services are delivered by a multitude of vendors and in-house solutions, is that identity and  behavior networks can be easily adopted into the marketing ecosystem - will it be you, or your competitor who gets there first?

Foursquare has a better shot at being a location-enabling platform, and it is doing a great job of expanding the behaviors - from check-in to discovery - that can be built with the network.  It could become a centralized clearinghouse of your place in physical space, enabled with your permissions and enriching digital interactions.  Foursquare's connections are transmit location information, which has different sensitivities, and it's been harder for other social networks to effectively create location-sensitive content filters.  The rich opportunity for serving deals and enriching merchant relationships arising from actual, physical visits and commerce.   Perhaps Foursquare could a platform for retail commerce, featuring payments and offering retailer CRM opportunities..but it will have to become a stronger Identity network in order to do so.

I will address ways to profit from this tension between behavior networks and identity networks, and how to effectively leverage behavior networks, in a future post.

BEWARE: Foursquare Friend Request Phishing Scam

I just received the below, purporting to be a friend approval from a name i din't recognize.  It's a phising scam, hoping you all try not to open.  Not sure if the sender knew my foursquare account was attched to a specific email address, but they had me going, for sure.  If anyone wants the full headers, I will happily share.


Don't let your SEO strategy get away from you

My dad sent me a link to a story on the SF BUsiness times site, and after logging in and seeing the story, I found myself wandering.  I saw side by side ads for Verizon and AT&T careers, and I was curious about how these ads were related to the destination content.  My, was I surprised.  The sites both linked to the homepage of the respective career pages.  I'll show AT&T and then Verizon's.  Both companies are so large, and nationwide employers, it is interesting that they approach things so differently.

With AT&T, I felt welcomed by a gallery of faces of actual humans, and there's enough happening on the site that everyone from recruiters, to college students, to experienced professionals should be able to find what they are looking for.  You have to hand it to the company for using the .jobs TLD (the site is http://att.jobs) yet the branding feels spot on for what I expect to see from the other touchpoints I regularly use as a customer.

 

By contrast, I found Verizon's careers site mystifying, wit so many links to so many things, and so many groupings.  


Remember, no matter how much your site's success depends on organic search, and regarless of the desperation of your target audience to "convert" (whether a job application, tshirt purchase, or other action)  someone will actually, eventually, with human eyes, look at your site.  

I'm seeing more and more the paradox of organic search and the site design below, which seems to put everything but the kitchen sink as a text link on the homepage.  This won't last forever, and the increasedinfluence  of social content and participation on link relevance will hopefully limit the impact of these usability-killing visual mazes.

UPDATE: In fairness to Verizon, it seems like the page I landed on wasn't the home page.  The home page, below, shows off more of the corporate identity that I saw on AT&T's page.  I'll stick to the point about the SEO contrast, but I also think the landing page choice for Verizon was not the best.  Choosing the right campaign landing page is a question for another day.  

 

Behavior Networks and Identity Networks

Instagram's acquisition by Facebook illustrates how the tension between identity networks, and behavior networks will play out in the marketplace, and how it may not benefit users directly.  This divide pits sites like Pinterest and Instagram vs. Facebook, Twitter, Path, and others.

Identity networks, like Facebook and Linkedin, focus on You and managing connections to pieces of identity, and while you may have have wide-ranging conversations within such networks around content, which are key to communicating your identity, the profile remains the anchor point to an identity you care about. Facebook deserves credit for making this idea popular and easy to understand - forcing Google and Microsoft to change in many ways.  

Facebook's Connect and Open Graph initiatives show how crucial the concept of identity is to the Facebook model- the advertising Facebook sees in the future isn't customized by cookie pools, it's customized based on the open graph. It's not limited to Less and less of the meaning that users derive from being Facebook users will come from using Facebook.com and more and more will come from experiences enabled by the Facebook Platform. Facebook, as it extends the platform, is admitting that it cannot innovate fast enough at the edge to keep every user fully engaged - what they want is to have that user identified and authenticated, pulling their behavior into the Facebook ecosystem.

Thus, the edge of the platform, powered by identity, is where new user behaviors will emerge. These emergent groups of connections, I call Behavior Networks. They have several important properties.

  1. Leverage an identity network to authenticate users - e.g. social sign in
  2. An intentionally narrow feature set, the novelty of which self-selects new users.
  3. User to user value exchange is based on behaviors - e.g. who you are on Pinterest is DEFINED by what you pin.
  4. Nonlinear growth in user base enabled by the Identity Network.
  5. Scale is the enemy of behavior networks, because they represent the end of novelty (2).

Behavior networks remain rooted in one style of behaving, and are key to a very specific context or action.  Instagram and Pinterest are in this category.  While relying to varying degrees on your identity (on Facebook, Twitter, etc)  your identity on these sites defines your behavior - if you never publish anything, you don't exist. No matter how many instgram photos you take, that's all the network says about you.

Test yourself, when was the last time you deleted an Instagram photo?  When was the last time you deleted a Facebook post?  I've done many of those things on Facebook, but I never worry about Instgram.

The real-time web is perfect for behavior networks.  All that matters is what you are doing- your behavior is your only identity but it doesn't live forever.

For these reasons, these behavior networks represent a challenge for marketers. Extending engagement beyond the behavior network - site traffic, conversions and so on - will be used to prove that the marketer's participation had some value. And this will require functionality a behavior network operator will be loathe to construct. All ROI metrics will come down to this: did the users engage further? Did they pin stuff and their friends bought it? The ROI analysis will require a channel linked to identity.  So as marketers we face the dilemma of proving the value of engagement beyond behavior networks, and these are uncertain times indeed.

My next two posts on this topic will deal with:

 

  1. Path, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare: Can there be more than one identity network
  2. How will the tension chnage the practice of marketing?

 

Why Pinterest is A Fad

Consumer attention is finite, but so is your marketing department. Pinterest reached scale quickly, and I commend it for its 10 million users, but are those users so invested that the next “thing” won't become just as hot by rising 50% faster? How much of your social media team's time are you willing to bet?

People and Culture vs. Creative genius and Money

 

In "Confessions of an Agency CEO" we find some interesting questions about the nature of client relationships and whether that "good" vs. bad dynamic is associated with good work.  I quote the passage I find most interesting below.

The Lesson is similar to the Zappos example: in a well-run company, culture often trumps strategy.

It’s often said that clients get the work they deserve. What separates
the truly good ones from the awful?
 I am big believer that, whether they want to admit it or not, agencies are defined by their clients. A client’s willingness or desire to do interesting or innovative work is what’s going to help you or hurt you in your attempt to create successful campaigns, build a portfolio, win awards and recruit new talent. The client’s culture invariably rubs off on the agency. It’s important to consider this going in to any new relationship. Good clients are secure and accountable individuals, who know what they need to do and can give clear direction. They stand behind their word and defend their position. They don’t hang the agency out to dry at the first sign of trouble. Good clients are secure enough to take risks and are not afraid of being wrong. They trust the agency and can effectively manage from a distance, which allows the agency to focus on delivering a great product, not managing an erratic client. Bad clients, conversely, are insecure, political and weak. They are afraid to stand up to their peers and bosses. They try to make everyone happy and get incremental credit along the way. Making great ads is secondary to their petty need for constant validation. Their insecurity and weakness leads to fear. And the fear leads to constantly second-guessing their decisions.

Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge?

Much of this post was orginally a comment on "Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge?" at Bulldog reporter.  I'm working on a larger post about what a universe run by Apple would look like.

The manufacture of the gadgets that have become part of our lives, and made Apple a hugely profitable company in the meantime, has transformed Apple's operations into a lightning rod for outrage over worker conditions.  Listeners to This American Life were let in on the sad story even before the Times article was released. 

What was damning about the NYT story was that it went further in context and further in exploring corruption.  In context, it was better able to show the matrix of conditions costs and imperatives that are involved with being an apple supplier and a worker at such a supplier.  But in corruption, the NYT was able to get former Apple employees to discuss the company's internal perspective on the problem, without being official mouthpieces.  Culpability seemed to be at the heart of these admissions.  What are we to say about that? Apple ruthlessly prevents outside access to its inner deliberations, and in some ways this culture of secrecy is good business practice, but in others, it allows sensational news items to define the company's story.


So now Apple is using its main currency, (thirst for details about the company), to attempt to control the story and diver the narrative away from the labor issue.  It's an authoritarian move, and we shouldn't expect Apple to change that approach overnight any more than it can change Foxconn's practices overnight; in many ways that approach might continue to work.  

Apple isn't just freezing out the NYT: it is freezing the citizens of the world and the community of its users from being stakeholders in Apple's governance.  

As the goods we purchase transition to digital rather than physical, the tangible devices and experiences we do purchase become increasingly important expressions of their lose their tangibly, the opportunity we have to participate in the industrial decisions surrounding their production is real and a true test of the world's appetite for respecting craftsmanship, effort, sacrifice, and pride.  Will it become harder to exploit citizens of other low-wage countries, or easier?  That much is up to us.

How to Get More From Your Brand's Facebook Data

I was pleased to be quoted in the Ad Age "Relationship Issue" about how brands are increasingly using enhanced strategies to cull insights and marketing intelligence from Facebook Data.  The article about marketers use of Facebook data appeared in the same issue as my colleague Gregg Hamilton who commented  very real possibility of consumers owning shares in brands.

Building an application, as I noted in the hypothetical example of an airline, is one way to go, and as long as the value is there for the consumer, the financial investment is probably sound.  But strong consumer insights are key to making sure this is about value delivered to the consumer, not just meeting your marketing goals.

Burritos, and Guacamole, and Bikram- O MY!

Foursquare has a new video on their logged out Homepage which I have embedded below (HT AboutFoursquare). The video promises that you can find great burrito places to enjoy with friends, and  "Don't forget to work off that burrito by doing an hour of bikram yoga next door."

Challenge: think of something more gross than eating a big guac-filled burrito and then doing bikram yoga.  I did a little research on the subject and even Hot Yoga of Delaware specifically recommends against:

we recommend that you do not eat a big burrito right before class. In fact, you’ll probably be better off with no large meals for 2-3 hours prior to practice.

Here's the video:

Are there, perhaps, other recommendations that would be better?  How about a great boot camp class in the park and a post-workout smoothie? 

Hi! I want to learn more about foursquare! from foursquare on Vimeo.

 

Do Trade Shows Matter?

Peter Kafka of all things D wrote The Apple in The Room  in 2006 (also re-posted it this morning on Twitter), but with the rise of social media, it’s become more and more true.  Companies have an end around CES. 

Some have lamented the departure of Microsoft from the show.   If anything, Microsoft’s departure as the anchor of CES shows its decline but also how far behind the curve MS really can be.

Since companies create their own media channels, they have much more flexibility about when and how they communicate product news- both big and small. An age of real time and more transparent corporate comms also means companies can publish and shape a message all year long, at will.

The article's points about the smart devices, really the Internet of Things trend, have changed the important players. Meaningful, differentiating innovation – the kinds of WOW I WANT THAT features consumers want – happen so frequently outside the pavilion or dates of the show.  

CES used to be an event for the journalists to carry the message to consumers.  But now consumers don't need the journalists (not exclusively, anyway) to tell them what is cool this year.  Also,  important industry announcements are increasingly coming at places like TC Disrupt and the Launch conference. So yes, CES failed to keep pace with the industry but I am not sure it had a chance against the tide.

My experience at SXSW last year was very different from the previous year.  In 2010, it felt like being at the center of the universe and the cusp of very important trends.  At SXSW 2011, we saw more or less the continuation of the same trends, but the Interactive festival has gotten so crazy, so big, so commercial, I wonder if the big brand dollars that have flocked to the event have sapped it of some of the weirdness that made it great.  

And trade shows have been replaced by Brand Shows: the biggest games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty are now so large they have their own conferences. These events are media channels, concentrated pockets of support for the product, hungry for news.  The attendees are motivated and they want to BUY STUFF.  They are powerful message multipliers.  The scale and style of these kids of gatherings will vary by brand but if you have that, why wait for CES?


A great wide warzone full of nuclear brothers?

Watched Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead a 1995 classic, and was particulalry struck by this quote (which is more or less humourous in context) and its relevance to technology. By the year 2000...I don't know.\

Rather than a racially-polarized warzone, Urban america has had a more commerically driven fate, with a transformation that made it hip to live in Bushwick or in an industrial building converted to condos.  in the last few years, with the impact of wireless communications and the destruction/revival of cities like Detroit, or the reinvestment in Downtown LA that has gentrified parts the "innner city"- all these cities represent technology consumption enabled by population density, rather than a warzone devoid of it.

Baby Sinister: The fact of the matter is by the year 2000 every city will be black. Thanks to the fax, the modem, conference call, federal-f**king express, the beast will be able to conduct his business from his home in the white suburb leaving the city a great wide warzone full of nuclear brothers.
Rooster: That's what I'm saying man, the fax, modem, FTD...
Baby Sinister: What the f**k you talking about, FTD? Rooster: You got to have flowers in the warzone, Baby.

 

Options Tax Treatment Reminds us of Broken Incentives

From today's "But NObody Pays That" post on tax treatment for corporattuibs and the wealthy, those who can afford to manage their income for strategic tax avoidance:

“These options gave executives a highly leveraged bet that stock prices would rebound from their 2008 and 2009 lows, and are now rewarding them for rising tides rather than performance,” said Robert J. Jackson Jr., an associate professor of law at Columbia who worked as an adviser to the office that oversaw compensation of executives at companies receiving federal bailout money. “The tax code does nothing to ensure that these rewards go only to executives who have created sustainable long-term value.”

Yes, a highly leveraged bet.  Yes, paid off on the rise in stock prices  and yes rewarding execs who may or may nor have creted susainable long term value.  Thjose are all true.  I think the article unfarily targets Mel Karmazin, whose tenure with the embattled SiriusXM represents management of significant risks.  The mechanics of rising tides - which governemtns world-wide have been instrumental in rising -  do lift all boats, and it is troubling that we need the tides to rise in order to have the appearance of investor confidence.  As the markets freak out time and time again, what goal are we amanaging toward? Are we managing for value?  For whom?

The (mis)alignment of US Tax policy, compensation incentives, and the martket should not be an indictment of Karmazin or others like him.  The critique of the market and the way the few are able to profit from its gyrations remains. But let's examine our need for the apprarance of stability and confidence, for the appearance of growth?  Stroing products, made over the long term, producing customer value, are the way out, not the feckless consumption of lattes and Barbie dolls on credit.  It's a sad and despareate fact that we all need the market to appear to rise- and bailed out the global financial system to ensure it.

According to the Senate Joint Committee on Taxation there is $25 billion in revenue for the treasury at stake with these deductions - and the implicit subsidy from US Taxapayers to employers who use options for compensation is no fun at all. Balancing the budget probably won't happen a nickel here, a dime there - let's face it, $25 billion over 10 years is a drop in the bucket of trillions - but aligning the tax code in more productive ways could certainly help.


 http://nyti.ms/vx14m7

Does Using HootSuite Kill Your EdgeRank?

There are so many myths about what fans like, but we're strarting to understand that what one person sees on Facebook or Twitter reallys isn't predictable- their graph will determine what they see, and Facebook now gives brands more headachess than ever for getting into the newsfeed.  

A possible answer to this is the rising numebr of studies which use the facebook API, and largwe scale data collection, to break news about what may be happening to page content (with the implicit point that most of thye a brand's fans will engage via tyhe newsfeed rather than coming to the page).

Solid analytcis, have been published on this topic, such as Facebook Engagement analysis from Visibli or L2's Facebook IQ.  A new study by EdgeRank Checker -suggests that using Third-party applicationsto post to facebook results in the creation of content that gets lowerr engangent than native Facebooks posts.

There are a variety of reasons for pages to want a managed publishing solution, including regulatory, workflow, manpower, and moderation, in additon to those you'll also hear in the sales pitches from Buddy Media, Vitrue, Involver, and the others named below.  

So what is the enterprise digital social strategist to do?   Never, ever, take the top line conclusion from the vendor and appluy it to your bsuiness.  Ask for data about your client specifically.  Dig into which pages were used.  

For example, there are so many tiny fan pages doing a terrible job with mediocre nontent, I bet the amouint of objects created by those pages dwarfs the major brand pages.  We've all seen those pages.  I'll be digging in, let's see what else EdgeRank can tell us.

 

 

Apple Finances Start-up Costs to Manufactire the Future

Nice wrap up on SAI, from a Quora post about how apple uses its massive cash resources:

When new component technologies (touchscreens, chips, LED displays) first come out, they are very expensive to produce, and building a factory that can produce them in mass quantities is even more expensive. Oftentimes, the upfront capital expenditure can be so huge and the margins are small enough (and shrink over time as the component is rapidly commoditized) that the companies who would build these factories cannot raise sufficient investment capital to cover the costs.

...

Apple is not just crushing its rivals through superiority in design, Steve Jobs's deep experience in hardware mass production (early Apple, NeXT) has been brought to bear in creating an unrivaled exclusive supply chain of advanced technology literally years ahead of anyone else on the planet. If it feels like new Apple products appear futuristic, it is because Apple really is sending back technology from the future.

Reminds me of the Clarke's Third Law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -[Wikipedia]

Do Consumers want to Keep Ads?

I'm glad that brand sare on borad with the idea that there can be a "not right now" relationship with a consumer- many marketers may only care about their explicit conversion metrcis.  That's encouraging.  But our real task is this: identifying the entertainment and information consumers want, and instead of standing in the way, creating the opportuntuiy for dialogue about what they might need, on their schedule.

AdKeeper Button Lets Viewers Keep, Share Ads 03/04/2011:

Volvo plans to become one of the first brands to launch an online display ad campaign with an AdKeeper button. Clicking on the "K" in the ad will allow consumers to keep the ad for future viewing when convenient, as well as share with others through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, or email.

 

Every Business is Different, even if you're selling Unicorns

I enjoyed reading Dan Zarella's post “New Data: 'Engage in the Conversation' May Not Actually Work"  very much.   It made me think- would such a recommendation ever be enough to run an ongoing  social media effort for YOUR business?

What ultimately makes "enagaging in the conversation" actually work is the ability to drive action from followers/fans.  What are those actions?  Why are they important to your brand or product?

Communities are powerful, but unicorns and rainbows are equally powerful myths among many in social media.  What separates great social crm is a firm understanding of the consumer, and what they need.  
If you posted 100 tweets about the industry/your firm and then saved one sale with 10 @replies, that's only 10% reply percentage, whcih Zarella's charts imply is low.  Is it?  If it moves your business, you can't argue it's not working.
Agreed, in my example we don't have any data about operational costs or incremental revenue, but every business is different, even if you're selling unicorns.  Concentrate opn what your customers want, and track whether you're delivering it.

 

 

Fascinating - Apple is the new IBM?

By painting Apple as a new untouchable in the CE industry, has Dave Morgan taken the liberty to show us that the consumer experience trumps just about everything else?   After a decade of losing Apple vs. IBM comparisons (in which I,  as a boy, defended Apple to the ends of the earth, aided by my weekly infusion of MacWEEK) can Apple have a further decade of dominance? Eerily familiar to descriptions of IBM in the 1960s or 70s.

Apple: The First Trillion-Dollar Company? 01/13/2011:

Apple is out-innovating and out-executing the entire market. No other company is delivering better consumer electronics products with better content and communications experiences to the market, and iterating them constantly, than Apple.? Not only that, but no one else is delivering consumer electronic products and related software and content at the scale, and with the degree of customer service, that Apple is today. Not Sony. Not Samsung. Not LG. Not Google. No one.

 

The business of video on demand was possible and eminently doable in 1994-95.  Most of the cable companies buried their heads in the sand.   IBM was content selling servers, having lost the DOS vs. Windows battle (or even OS2/Warp!)  Yet we didn't see it for more than a decade in most US Cable households.  

Great products and ideas die, all the time.  I personally never owned a mac clone, but some of those machines were really insipiring piecves of machinery.  Gil Amelio couldn;t save Apple, but Jobs did.  He rebooted the company.

And that's why the powerhouse that Apple has become, can't last forever.  What IBM has build doesn't rely on one person, ditto to GE, Comcast, Verizon.  Apple has a lockup on the fringe, but it can't take the mass.  The mass just won't tolerate it.

David Pogue suggests this morning that CES was a sideshow of Apple copycats.  His money quote from an industry insider:

“These companies are like 6-year-olds on a soccer team,” one company representative told me. “The ball goes over here, and they all run after it in a blob. ‘Tablet!’ ‘Tablet!’ ‘Tablet!’ ”

The innovation, however, is moving to the cloud- the services on top of the devices.  That will keep shiny, new things on our TVs for now.  See InsideFacebook's The Best Facebook-Integrated Devices from CES 2011.

But it can't last longer than Steve Jobs.  Even as Steve keeps the fanboys cheering (and even some day clicking the "like" button) he hasn't build anything that can outlive him.

Well, maybe, just maybe, it's fixing the news business! (via Fake Steve Jobs)

The news business has descended into the gutter in a pathetic attempt to stay alive. It’s been a horrible race to the bottom. This is turn has polluted our politics, and now we’re seeing the result of it.

Fortunately for the world, we’re going to change all that, with iPad and the apps model. But that’s a story for another day.

Welcome Rachel!

I'm sitting next to my fiancée Rachel Rothman, on our couch, and she's just finished writing her first blog post. A blog can be a helpful tool for personal branding during a transition period, and this was an important motivation for me to begin blogging in 2006. I also know that The world, and the Columbia community, have much to learn from Rachel, and I hope her blog is a means for her to express her wisdom and identify new peers, as she transitions to the life of a full time graduate student at Teacher's College.

She'll be blogging her thoughts on nutrition, the food industry, diet and exercise, and the journey to her MS in nutrition education and RD certification, over at rachelrothman.wordpress.com.

I encourage you to take a look and perhaps even leave a comment for her ;)

Wikileaks and the Dissent Tax - Social Business in 2011

How much does it cost to buck the system?  The Wikileaks drama exposes these costs, as Zeynep Tufekci argues in the Atlantic (Wikileaks Exposes Internet's Dissent Tax, not Nerd Supremacy).  In a public sphere, the state is accountable for our claims to free speech rights.  But in the public sphere of the internet, which is really "quasi-public" to the extent that it is hosted on privately owned computers and networks, enforcing free speech claims is a matter iof power and influence, rather than rights.  

This money, power, and influence, required in order to maintain speech outside the approval of the mainstream, is a tax on dissent.  

My favorite part:

What the Wikileaks furor shows us is that a dissent tax is emerging on the Internet. As a dissident content provider, you might have to fight your DNS provider. You might need to fund large-scale hosting resources while others can use similar capacity on commercial servers for a few hundred dollars a year. Fund-raising infrastructure that is open to pretty much everyone else, including the KKK, may not be available. This does not mean that Wikileaks cannot get hosted, as it is already well-known and big, but what about smaller, less-famous, less established, less well-off efforts? Will they even get off the ground?

We obey both private "terms of service" and public "laws" with very different schemes for collecting and acting upon the will of the "governed."  This is as troubling as it is intractable- if we're not going to stop using Facebook (as the failed "opt-out day showed) what is our recourse for a transgression?  What is our mechanism for governing?

The dilemma facing any private organization operating in the quasi-public sphere is this: When in conflict, should the company choose its own self interest over the claims of its customers or other constituents?  The libertairian view would be that the customer's relationship with a firm is expressed through contracts, and thus the terms of service become all the more important, regardless of the perfuctory acceptance and incomprehensible language usually involved.

Participatory mass media have consequences. The increasing share of our private lives that are mediated by privately owned platforms, threatens our freedom.  This is not merely because these communications are usually trivial to rather than substantive.  We treat Facebook as though it is replaceable, and on the mean, we have conversations of relatively low value.  However, the outlier dioscussions, where the value of any given conversation rises (say, a Wikileaks fan page on Facebook), that run counter to the requests of the state or the operator of the quasi-public, yet wish to take advantage of the same frictionless communications, are ultimately at the whim of the operator.  

So we should be interested in the ability of the masses to force change in largely private institutions governing the public sphere.  Do these organizations conduct themselves in transparent ways?  Do they see themselves through the eves of the constituent?  Do they fear illegitimacy and crave the affirmative consent of the community?

The institutions which consciously choose to live by such a combination of rules and maxims, without the coersion of the state, form the businesses most likely to attract the copnsumers of the future.  

We must admit that the conduct of many of our institutions, who do not live by such principles, often find themselves subject repeatedly to regulation and in the absence of effective oversight, to public outcry that results in significant value destruction.  BP.  Enron.  WorldCom.  Lehman Brothers.  The revelation that wikileaks is holding a trwasure trove of documents that reveal the executive operations and attitudes of Bank of America, and the idea that BofA holds little interest in seeing such information released, is not about the power of Anonymous, or WikiLeaks, or any Nerd Hacker Politics.  The simple fact remains that it is no longer easy to keep secrets, but it is harder still to operate a financial institution that exploits the masses a nickel and a dime at a time and transforms that exploitation into "wealth" for the few, because it is clear that transparent discussion of such a scheme would prompt outrage.  We shall see what WuikiLeaks can provoke.

More than an advertising and marketing technology, the social channels which comprise this "quasi-public" sphere present the opportunity to encourage private entities to change their business, change their governance, and otherwise comport themselves in with decency in public.  This is the frontier of social business design, and it's going to be a compelling trend in 2011.