Thursday, December 4, 2008

Becoming Micro Social

Anyone wants to go for lunch?
How would you use your social networks to find out who is around and wants to come along for lunch right now? Would you twitter or would you ask your Facebook friends?

Venus vs Mars Social Network
Someone told me a while ago that Facebook is the feminine social network and Twitter is the masculine social network. Why? Because Facebook is rather closed and personal where friends are known and trusted (hmm). Twitter is more a leader-follower platform where you can follow your micro tribe leader or become one yourself. Makes kind of sense to me - I prefer Twitter and I am male.

Address Book vs Networks
Facebook and LinkedIn are great tools to manage large networks of contacts that grow organically. One thing that really becomes more and more a problem is that the Address Book on the mobile phone does not reflect the contacts in our social network sites. It seems like most social network sites like to import our contact list (e.g. from Google).

Who controls your contacts?
I feel in total control of my contact list that lives on my mobile phone. Who is in control of my contacts on Facebook & Co? I guess it's me too. I personally feel still more comfortable with the phone list.

Power to the user!
I would like to state here that I want to use my contact list on my mobile phone as the basis for my next social network. So the contacts stay with me and I have complete control and privacy about who I know. No, I am not paranoid - I am just annoyed that more and more people give away the control over their address book. They give it to the large social network sites. I believe it belongs to the user!

Micro Social Networks based on your Address Book
Last week we had a great discussion at jTribe based around the problem "Anyone wants to go for lunch?". We would like to build a social application for iPhone and Android that can be used to help answering the question of "who is around and what are they doing". One thing was clear straight from the beginning: We don't want to create Yet Another Social Network Website like BrightKite. 

We basically have these three constraints:
  1. Not another Social Network Site
  2. Works on iPhone and Android
  3. The Social Network will only need to exist for a limited time
Sometimes it is great to work under constraints because it forces your mind to think differently and to follow avenues you would not have thought of before. The solution for our problem was so simple.

Use the Address Book on the mobile phone as the basis for a Micro Social Network. 

Some theory
Some articles define Micro Social Networks as networks with special interest. We want to use the word Micro in Micro Social Network as something that describes the limited scope of the social network that is established in an ad-hoc manner from a small subset of contacts in your address book (that's a mouth full. Nano Social Network would be another option to name this baby). So basically, I have an intention right now and would like to know which friends would react to this intention. In our case it is the intention of having lunch with friends. This intention has only a limited time span. To organise a spontaneous lunch I would only need 1 hr. Within that hour I could establish a micro social network which would cease once we meet for lunch. During that time any contact in the micro social network can invite any of their contacts. Any participant in the micro social network can add any participant to their address book. This provides an easy way to add a friend of a friend to the address book.  

What's next?
jTribe is going to develop social mobile device applications that allows a user to establish tiny social networks on the fly to address the challenges that mobile social people have right here and right now. Our first concept application is now running on Android. The iPhone version is following soon. 

Anyone who wants to get involved is welcome!

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