I got a lot of great feedback on my Facebook question.
Jay Neely of the Social Strategist says I am focusing on services when I should be focusing on people. In other words, that in the blogosphere, it’s what you say that matters, whereas with Facebook and the other social networks it’s who you are that matters. That makes sense to me, though I wish the blogosphere was a little more people-centric than it is. If you read Jay’s entire post, you’ll see that the gatekeeper business, the community concept and Web 2.0 applications are all driving the evolution of, and distinction between, the blogosphere and the social networking sites. Here’s my follow up question to Jay (and everyone else): to what extent, if any, do you think this evolution is really being driven by developers who want to make money off of the content created by users on the social networking sites?
Mike Miller says the social network sites are about community, and ease of use. Community, in the sense that people want to be where their friends are. Dave Wallace agrees that the ready-made community draws people in because of the pre-existing population and the fact that making connections is technologically and socially easier. Dave then sums up the essence of a community beautifully, by quoting Adam Fields:
There’s really only one rule for community as far as I’m concerned, and it’s this – in order to call some gathering of people a “community”, it is a requirement that if you’re a member of the community, and one day you stop showing up, people will come looking for you to see where you went.
I built several large communities around message boards back in the nineties, and that definition is perfect. I have said before that I thought blogs were the new message boards. Maybe these guys are right, that the distributed nature of blogs makes it too hard. Maybe Facebook and MySpace are really the new message boards.
Richard Querin, like me a Facebook skeptic, says that Facebook and blogging are separate animals altogether. He sees Facebook as a way to connect with people you’ve lost touch with- a better version of Classmates.com (but perhaps not as good as Ethan’s Google/blog post approach). Richard says that, while blogging is a lot harder than opening a Facebook account, it also has more potential- both technologically and socially. I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for in a service, but if I ever use Facebook, it will be for the reasons Richard outlines- a way to find people I want to reconnect with and then direct them here.
Amy says we’re better off pulling content from the web onto our sites via APIs and widgets than we are “cramming more stuff into somebody else’s big hermetically sealed office building with windows you can’t open.” She says content is flowing the wrong way. While I have a greater appreciation for the benefits of Facebook after reading everyone’s responses, I still agree with Amy. I totally get Facebook for those who don’t have blogs and/or are looking for people, be they old friends or potential new ones. But if I am going to work my tail off to create content, I’m going to do it here and in comments to blogs I read.
Thanks to everyone for responding. I’m still in learning mode, so if you have thoughts or other perspectives, please keep ’em coming.