Social graphs and too much San Francisco Kool-Aid

Update: Apparently the VP of Engineering shares the sentiments of this post..

“Andy challenged us to come up with more email centric interfaces like this.”


San Francisco can be used a metaphor for “place where tech adoption and more importantly the gold rush surrounding businesses (TechCrunch, Valleyway, etc.) inhabit.”

A former boss made the following statement to me last year, “You need to move around a bit more, people lose perspective when they stay in an area for any more than 5 years.”

Nothing could be more poignant in terms of describing the relationship between technology adoption and start-up hype in San Francisco.

I won’t rehash the Slide valuation, deity status and reverence given to TechCrunch (that’s a separate dynamic actually focused on investment and jobs/occupation lead generation) and Mashable, or the countless start-ups that attempt to turn a unique feature into a business model. Nor do I begrudge any of it, by the way.

I was reminded of my manager’s comments when reading a story this morning on GigaOm. The piece, entitled “The Social Graph Is All About Me.” The writer meanders his way through a conversation on the lack of value found in Facebook, having a universal dashboard and asking Google to provide a more open API and infrastructure.

I felt the need to really challenge the “supporting material” for the piece, not necessarily where the author was driving though.

First, in terms of Facebook. Facebook is all about seeing what my friends are doing. I would imagine if you looked at the virality and engagement of the Facebook community, there is a steady dropoff by age in terms of interactivity and usage. Facebook is all about how I look to my friends, not about information utility.

I find the need to mention this because the writer is beyond the core audience age that Facebook caters to. This creates a problem. If I’m older than 35 or so, I didn’t really grow up with the Web and probably started living my post-collegiate life by relying on more offline services. The Web is not as entwined in my upbringing as it is for someone 15-20 years my junior.

Thus, he demands, a Friendfeed-esque service focusing on integration services from multiple companies, most cirtically Google, into a dashboard that is easy to use.

It is here that I wanted to exclaim, “Ok….fine yes, I want this, but let me ask my cousins in St. Louis if they’ve even heard about Twitter or Xobni or or TripIt or any other advanced Internet service.”

There answer would be “I use Facebook.”

Before you have the consumate dashboard to manage your digital life, you need to ask how many Web 2.0 (I hate that expression, it’s basically adoption and bandwidth rates have just allowed further functionality) contribute significantly to my daily life and have penetration across a wide swath of internet users. Last I checked AOL was still a top 10 Web company. Last I checked, there was no pressue on Google to increase distribution by opening up.

An axiom that I am fond of using is, “There is A (the point in time where we are) and there is G. We all see the potential and business ramification of G. That doesn’t mean that we can go directly to G. We need to figure out how quickly we sequence (or “walk users down the path of”) A to B to C to D to E to F to G.” Some of this sequencing can be done with phenomenal technology products; some of it only with time.

“G” is the social map and an elegant dashboard that improves my life with again, elegant integration into my core Internet services that I need on a daily basis.

We all see “G,” in San Francisco that is.

If we want “G” to materialize, let’s not talk about the consumate dashboard.

Let’s talk about the technologies, communications, and services that add value to that dashboard, because without those, there is no business need for Google to up and frankly there is not need for a consumer dashboard across a critical (and monetizable) part of the Web audience.


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