Social networking – I recently (July 5, 2011) received an email purportedly from the CEO of friendster.com, announcing the sites new purpose in life now that others have taken over the social network business. One line states: “Friendster pioneered social networking…” I don’t know about that, really I don’t, but I doub it.
Of course my doubts may hinge on what one considers social networking to be, and how far back one wants to remember – for example – The Park (1994-2001), AOL’s conferences (I don’t know if this exists anymore, and prior to the Web (AOL was prior to the Web also), The Well, and Delphi, and others, all text only. But networking and social.
But, true, Friendster was an early entry into the mass-market world of social business, and did experience large scale success, but like Word Perfect, and Lotus, bombed out. And now has dropped out of one game in favor of another, social gaming.
Years ago, I started a craigslist-type site called (you’ve likely never heard of it) postanotice.org– a few years after craigslist hit big on the West Coast. Really big, but I hadn’t heard of it, not until I was about a year from launching my own. Which I did. To no great acclaim. However to this day, I will argue that postanotice is/was better than craigslist, even if the site name was arguably worse than Craig’s.
I’ll say why in a minute, but first a word from a good old friend of mine, who remarked after seeing the BETA postanotice site – “Well, it’s not compelling…” I, of course, felt it was, and still do, even if I can offer very good reasons why it did not become popular – not compelling would not be one of them. But it was my friend’s, and apparently others.
Here’s the lesson for me – goes like this – there are many brilliant people and groups offering clear, reasonable, and practical paths for countries to take that would: save the environment, stop wars, make us healthy and smart, eliminate disease (this perhaps being only slightly more difficult than the others). But they’re not compelling.
“Compelling” – the right place, the right stuff, simple. Both craigslist and facebook had their beginning organically, vis-a-vi community local to its origins. Both have a utility that can be adapted to many uses by many different kinds of people. They serve a purpose, and both are relatively easy to understand.
So, not that it matters, why did not postanotice fail? Other than the silly name. It had purpose – groups and organizations as well as individuals could represent themselves, not only by what their needs were (covering all the basics craiglist does), but by interests and, for organizations, functions.
postanotice provided for individuals and groups – people listing what they want and need, groups by interest category and what they want and need (they could sell and post events for example). One could find the other – groups get greater exposure, people satisfy practical needs and locate interests they have in common. All search-able by location, interest, and offerings.
It was complicated – still is – to explain. And for organizations to have benefited, they needed to participate. And, as one local coordinator put it: “I have a hard enough time getting my members to look at our website, what success do you think I will have with yours?”
Almost the last thing anyone or any organizational body (that includes governments) wants to plan for is the future, anything outside the immediate needs and crisis. Even if they perceive a future benefit can be realized. It’s like postponed gratification – abstractions don’t fair well compared with organic local grown.