Content and Connection Revisited, Again

Mashable Ben’s recent op-ed on Facebook, Twitter and The Two Branches of Social Media prompted me to ask two of my favorite questions. How does this fit in with what I’ve posted? How does WordPress fit in?

Ben’s two branches are social networks and information networks. They correspond respectively to connection and content. The correspondence isn’t exact: for example, I see connection and content as two elements of that mix in different ways in different social media tools, rather than as separate branches. I agree with Ben that the distinction between social networks (which emphasize connection) and information networks (which emphasize content) illustrates a fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter.

WordPress is more about content than about connection in that it’s more for building information networks than for building social networks. But of course, WordPress is a platform on which you can build pretty much what you want, and social networking has already been built on top of it, in the form of BuddyPress.

Guardian's Open Platform

If I had to choose just one newspaper, it would be The Guardian. That’s a rather archaic opening sentence in this age of digital plenty, including as it does the terms choose just one and newspaper.

But I remember buying the dead trees version. I particularly remember running in to the newsagents next to Edmonton (north London, UK) train station to get my Guardian before getting on the train to work.

Most of the time I lived in France, I subscribed to The Guardian Weekly, which included articles from Le Monde and the Washington Post as well as from The Guardian itself. The articles from Le Monde were translated into English, those from the Washington Post not so much.

I now live in Washington Post territory. I’ve yet to buy the Washington Post newspaper, and I doubt I ever will. I do have the Washington Post website bookmarked, and visit it often enough to get annoyed at the register/login hurdle.

I visit the Guardian online multiple times most days. I appreciate its openness, as well as its content.

So I am particularly interested in the Guardian’s open platform. I read about it in a couple of recent articles by Mathew Ingram at GigaOM. Lest it seem that Mathew and I are uncritically besotted with openness, I’ll choose this quote from the first of his articles.

The Guardian’s ownership structure — it’s owned by the Scott Trust — likely has something to do with the paper’s interest in an open API, and its willingness to provide its content to others despite the lack of any immediate return, since it can afford to think longer term rather than just focusing solely on quarterly earnings.

In other words, media owned via financial markets and other mechanisms of impatience would find it harder to do what the Guardian is doing. Here’s my favorite quote from Mathew’s second article.

Open APIs and open platforms aren’t all that new. But The Guardian is the first newspaper to offer a fully open API… We thought it was worth looking at why the paper chose to go this route, and what it might suggest for other companies contemplating a similar move… I explore the topic in depth in a new GigaOM Pro report (subscription required).

I love this quote because, even as Mathew writes in glowing terms about the openness of a 190-year-old newspaper company, he tells us that we need to provide a credit card to have full access to his coverage. This from GigaOM, cutting-edge new media property, running on open source software, etc.

See, I haven’t lost my British sense of humour. It’s that same sense of humour that allows me to smile rather than curse when I note that the Guardian’s site is misbehaving as I write this. It reminds me of the paper being formerly and fondly referred to as the Grauniad, because of frequent tpyos.

Yahoo Email Application Platform

Even though its stock has plummeted, Yahoo still has a lot going for it. For example, there’s the more than 200 million Ymail users (including me, although andrew at changingway dot org is the best address for email related to this blog). Many have remarked that Yahoo should do more with and for that userbase (again including me).

How about Ymail as an application platform? That would be obvious, and perhaps late, given what Facebook, Google, and others have been up to. But better late than never, and Om reports that Y seem to be taking the better course.

The program is expected to launch in beta relatively soon with half a dozen small applications running in a sidebar inside the Yahoo mail client (Evite is one of the services that is said to be building a nano-app for this new Yahoo Mail-as-a-platform). Users’ address books would act as a social graph, essentially turning Yahoo Mail into the basis of a whole new social networking experience.

The main problem I see is that the good ship Yahoo seems to be sinking, and so application developers may not want to move resources on to it, and users may not want to keep their stuff on it. Perhaps it needs a new captain…

Web 2.rightnow: Vertical Platforms

The term vertical platform sounds like an oxymoron, or, at the very least, like a difficult thing to stand on unless you’re a gecko lizard. But I found myself using it when posting about Pikiware yesterday to describe something that’s going on right now.

Let’s briefly revisit the “What is Web 2.0?” discussion and recall two good answers:

  • The web as platform, i.e., if you want to build software, build it for the web and the browser, rather than for any specific hardware and operating system.
  • User-generated content, or the read/write web, or the web as Sir Tim originally intended it.

One of the features of Web 2.rightnow is the web as a platform for platforms. For example, if you want to build a social network, you should consider as your platform, not the web itself, but a platform built on the web. Here’s how the folks at Ning describe their offering.

Ning offers the latest social networking features, all infinitely customizable to meet your unique needs. The Ning Platform makes this possible… your social network on Ning runs on a programmable platform.

Then there’s Bricabox, has been described as Ning for content, the above-mentioned Pikiware, more that I haven’t mentioned, and, I’m sure, more vertical platforms to come.

Thanks to Masato Ohta for making available the vertical photo of a platform at Koga station.

Platform for T-Shirt Printers

If you want to print t-shirts using designs provided by others, take a look at Pikiware. Mashable Mark describes it as a company providing a fulfillment system designed to work with digital garment printers.

Let’s broaden the appeal of this post. Following this paragraph, there will be a t-shirt para, then a Web 2.rightnow para! And Pikiware isn’t just for t-shirt printers, it’s also for people who print hoodies! and mugs! etc!

If you’re reading this because you’re interested in t-shirts, then you might be interested to know that April 28 was the (IMHO) best shirt release Monday at Threadless for a while. My favorite of the new crop is “Attack of Literacy!”

If you’re reading this because you follow web stuff, then the point of this post is that Pikiware is the latest example of the platform trend. If Web 2.0 was about user-generated content and the web as platform, then Web 2.rightnow is about vertical platforms: platforms to enable others to build particular things on the web.

Hey, that oxymoron, vertical platform, deserves its own post.