April 2005

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Many-to-Many: Yossi Vardi on Social Software

Yossi Vardi, the founding investor of the company that created ICQ (which is now up to over 400 million users) spoke at the Les Blogs conference in Paris. He made the point that there are three to four major forces on the Internet: self expression; communication; sharing; collaboration.

Notice none of these is “commerce” or “storage” or “reference.”

For a long time I’ve believed the Internet’s real power is social. What made AOL so huge was its chat rooms. And now that it’s on the ‘net — one of the few reasons anybody still uses AOL after they get broadband from another ISP is that they don’t want to give up the social milieu of the AOL domain.

People will put up with horrible usability to be a part of a community. Or to express themselves or share information or ideas or files. One of the real killer-app features of Napster that people underestimated was the ability to see what other people who liked one song you were looking for had on their hard drives, because they might have things you like that you don’t even know about yet. Or at least that’s how it worked last I used Napster, before it was shut down.

Vardi seems to agree. At least according to the paraphrase posted at Many2Many, he says that “the killer app on the Internet is people” and talks about social cues and how the most desired feature on Yahoo Instant Messenger is to see what songs their friends are listening to while online.

People say porn is the main driver of the growth of the Internet, but I wonder. I mean, the assertion does have a kind of cynical fun to it — much like the old saw that what grew VCR usage was porn rentals. But in the case of the ‘net, it may be overlooking the real nature of the beast. For one thing, porn is for broadcast and consumption. It’s not two-way, not social inherently. Of those kinds of things online, it’s likely the biggest. But of *all* kinds of content and interaction online, it has a lot more competition.

Plus, “Porn” is a pretty easy category, not very splintered — so it’s easier to track it in aggregate. But if you say “social interaction” or even “community” is a similar category, and added up the aggregate of just the money spent by users on all the various journal sites, dating sites, etc, plus the advertising dollars going into things like MySpace and Friendster, my guess is it would dwarf “porn” as a category of commerce online.

Has anybody done this kind of comparison?


For a net-head, I’m pretty slow at discovering and adopting new Internet stuff … one thing that’s taken me forever to get around to is to set up any knd of aggregator for RSS feeds of favorite blogs and such. But now I’m totally digging Bloglines.

I can’t wait to play with some of its more advanced features.

One feed that I subscribed to that I’m already completely addicted to is the Audible free programs feed here. I’ve grabbed several hours’ worth of programming just from the last month — geeky stuff like Charlie Rose interviews and Library of Congress speeches.

In fact, there’s a shortcut for adding my blog here to Bloglines … but I haven’t taken the time to add it in here yet.

De Bono and ‘Serious Creativity’: Corante

“Design” is too small a word for De Bono because he considers “design” as more than just putting together visual elements. He uses the word “design” to describe the process of deliberately putting together new ideas in order to deliver value.

I’d rather see designers of this ilk reclaim the word ‘design’ and spread the meme somehow, but it may never happen. (Thanks to the cultural hijacking of the word for things like fragrances and wallpaper.)

Interesting point, though … kind of wish I’d seen this talk.

This is grand… a contest I can do weekly without having to be smart like those Sunday NYTimes Crossword junkies.


The New Yorker is having a weekly cartoon caption contest now. Yip!!


The Crusaders
: Politics

Speaking to the group, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay — a winner of Kennedy’s Distinguished Christian Statesman Award — called Bush’s faith-based initiatives “a great opportunity to bring God back into the public institutions of our country.”

I wonder … if an omnipotent God wanted to be intimately and explicitly involved in public institutions, would anyone really be able to keep Him out??

Isn’t it sacreligious to assume that God needs our help to accomplish mere influence?

This is a creepy article. And especially creepy is how the “Dominionists” are getting support from so many prominent business people.