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The Dream Is Dead

After spending the better part of my early morning commute discussing the hardship social media companies are enduring after their mammoth API parents are imposing, and whether that’s right or not I’ve come to the very unlikely conclusion that the whole ideation and genesis of what we call social media is dead. Before you jump the gun and call me a heretic let me clarify so that you don’t become another one of those mindless readers out there; I’m not saying social media is dead my point is the dream that powered the social media machine is dead.

Mistakes made, mistakes won

Unlike most businesses the digital renaissance after the first bubble burst made it very clear that profit for profit’s sake was not the ideal market model for a system as distributed and open as the internet was thought to be (is thought to be). Human beings, being the extremes animal we are, decided to go the exact opposite way and generate businesses that foster communities in value not only with users but with other developers who add and change platforms and systems for better by direct third party affection. But as with any corporate cycle companies who are born out of inherent good, whether it is a soft drink or a micro-blogging service, the idea is to fix something that’s broken, tap a new market or advance technology that will make users be healthier.

An incredibly complex system is put in motion once the idea becomes a profit driven business. Once the idea needs to necessarily engage in monetization all the core values that had driven development usually take heed as the whole point of the company is to make enough money to keep the dream machine running. We work, we build, we expect to make enough out of our users/consumers to get better, grow and sell more. It’s not an evil circle but a rather virtuous and collaborative effort to make the bits and pieces connect to create something. At the core of any business remains the first engaged motion that drove an idea into gestation and execution of a product or service, after that it’s an organism which can be directed but depends solely on third parties to exist. I guess you could equate this process to the actual birth of a human being if you so wanted.

The Dream

Going back to our issue, APIs are part of the intrinsic development of web based applications and other that require a cross referenced data set in order to properly function and deliver. APIs are the expression of that notion that collaboration needs to exist in order to guarantee survival and growth. A third party observer would argue that they are symbiotic relationships, very much like Twitter with developers everywhere that user their platform to build on. Both companies grow, everyone’s happy.

The only issue behind collaboration is the same basic logical defeat that releases most communist hardliners from any reason, individuals/companies are eager to own more, to grow more, be better and efficient. Nobody enjoys living by an imposed set of rules, much less if it’s your back yard and you are the one that actually built the house. Setting rules in your own house is simple because the general notion of structure is pretty straightforward, this is my property, these are my things.With my remote I change the channel so that I can see whatever I want to see. This also brings with it rules of acceptable social behavior, such as respect and value for your guest.

There’s a reason why you let your guest in.

The House Within the Dream

The Internet does not carry the same set of rules and it is widely regarded as a more despotic kingdom than the offline world. Physical rules apply to the offline world where you can react in a number of ways to a certain omission of previously agreed on rules. Twitter, as many a houses online, does not understand or sees itself as a house. It stands today as the gatekeeper to those who wish to enter their realm as guests, because that is what we are. Platforms are “free”, and “free” comes with its own set of rules, Facebook and Twitter make a habit of making this clear with changes that meet resistance whether in design, application or terms. This puts us at fault and should force us to take a deep hard look into the mirror and ask: Have we reached the lowest point, the lowest of lows, where the rules imposed blur into our own?

Quite possibly the complete disregard for an ecosystem will have some backlash, alas it will not be significant in any way. There are literally thousands of developers ready to help social media beasts make more money and willing to take their share of the profits even if they are low.

Waking up

Companies are (usually) born good, they become evil when they realize profits is what they need to get that idea to more people only to understand that any successful business needs a balance. It takes time, after experiencing witnessing the bubble from the outside looking in, being inside the bubble and attempting to poke it I can honestly say…VCs, angel investors, seed investors and users are tired of the next big thing. There will be no next Twitter, or Facebook killer. Developers are tired of fighting money.

The age of profitability where those who survive are those who have learned how to make money with what little they have is here. The conditions are set, the systems are in place for distributed funding and “monetization” is what will carry you to the tech afterlife.

Hey, by the way, how did South by Southwest go this year?

The dream is dead. It’s time to wake up and smell the markets.

Homing Devices

It’s not unusual to find a stream of endless reproductions of content (copy-past, re-tweets or reblogs, etc) which surface without additional purpose or commentary, alas explicit, to redefine the content its input. Furthermore it is my strong belief most users trust that the reproduction by itself provides with a certain sense of authority over what has been shared or even a degree of attribution that is neither honest or real. It’s a matter of context, as it relates to the full story because at some point it’s about trust, form and timing.

He who said this when.

The word culture has a Latin root which puts it alongside “cultus” that means “to cultivate”.

To aggregate, add, change and subtract for that is the basis and genesis of cultural divergence. Let’s do more of this, less of that.

Social Business is Smart Business

There’s been something on my mind as of late and it involves to a similar degree the current state of organizations, their structure and future evolution. A grossly overlooked aspect of organizations are usually employees which make up the core and strength of any given brass section.

Enough has been said about how these structures need to engage in a transverse conversion of their current disposition, meaning that all areas of any given company need to start interfacing in a way in which synergy is no longer an objective but an actual fact of daily life. This extends to most aspects of corporate life, particularly that which involved communication with the outside world and even the flow of internal information. Long gone are the days where people found out about CSO outreach programs or volunteering opportunities through banners posted around any given office. All hail the power of email which very few read and most discard.

Basically, communication has come to having the specific purpose of engaging to promote understanding. Someone who doesn’t read or acknowledge will not be able to even give themselves a chance to understand or be informed about whatever is going on around him. The basic principle of “if I don’t see it it doesn’t exist” applies to all. This is to me the most interesting aspect of fostering a distributed corporate voice where you stop thinking about a spokesperson that is functional to the company as a whole but actually tapping employees that look for opportunities in their own fields in which they are, in all honestly, usually more experienced than most communications experts.

This distributed approach, often referred to as Social Business, does not only affect the sheer reach of any given message but also ensures they go out properly in the hands of people who will do their utmost to get it out there, to get people to interact, understand and act upon said message. Engaging for engagement’s sake usually turns out very poorly as the flow of information is tampered with and usually responds to the interest of external groups that may not reflect the ones of the people crafting and curating the massive feeds. Death by information is real and having gatekeepers that control the flow, because that’s the need (or so most companies think so), creates a bottleneck that is very hard/expensive to put up with.

That’s modern social media strategy for you: “set up a limited amount of outlets to control the flow of information, respond to feedback, report on results.” Rinse and repeat.

But social media experts are still being slapped in the face with major crisis every single day that jeopardize every single one of these outlets on an individual basis but do VERY LITTLE to actually gauge the information that surrounds any organization. A distributed approach like the ones offered by horizontal organizations (I’m not talking about not having bosses or people answer to you, don’t get your panties in a twist) in which all and every employee is in charge, alas of a small part, of what the company displays, hides or wishes to promote thoroughly helps create a gigantic catch all rule and crowdsource their own work and daily life. Putting this to practice is tough, it requires a mindset battle of epic proportions as we fight with paradigms that have existed since the beginning of organized labor and fostered in part by the industrial revolution and specialization.

We’re a one trick pony, who can talk and walk at the same time. How about that?

Good friend, boss and generally awesome guy Michael Brito just finished writing a book that deals with real world examples of this and other aspects of re-organization of any business that is inclined to change for the better and put the work back into the company. Examples of how to actually enforce models in social organizations are rare and usually deal with an intense amount of theoretical analysis and speculation as results are usually…yet to be proven. “Smart Business, Social Business“ is a social business book built upon the work of Michael’s experience and will be out soon but you can sign up to win a free copy which by all means is a good idea. Free book? Great Subject? Sign me up!