Social Networking > Email? Let's Translate

Has social networking taken over from email as king of communication? Fred Wilson proclaims that it has, and adds: long live the king. (Fred draws on a Morgan Stanley report, available as a pdf.)

Fred focuses on one particular trend: social net overtakes email. I’d like to point out a couple of related trends. Neither is new, but each is interestingly related to the trend Fred emphasizes.

  • Facebook is the new AOL. Some people live inside Facebook, popping out onto the wider web when they have to. Sound familiar? It should to those old enough to remember when millions used AOL for email, chat, games, etc. Well, for Fred’s kids, and, I think, for millions of others, FB is the main inbox.
  • Connection trumps content. To quote Fred (although the emphasis is mine):

    Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or some other social networking service, I believe the lighter weight communication paradigm (say less, reach more) is superior to email for many things and I’m certainly moving more of my communications away from email.

I think that each of the above points is a reasonable translation of Fred’s proclamation that social networking has deposed email. Of course, there are other translations, and of course, I’d be delighted if you would provide more in comments. I’m not delighted with the points I make, in that neither is a particularly good thing: again, that seems like a good place to stop posting and start hoping for comments.

The Geek According to Facebook Quiz

geek7I’ve been taking too many Facebook quizzes of late. Much of the time, I’ve been following in the Facebooksteps of my usually-more-serious wife. I usually do better than her.

She was disgusted that she scored only 2/10 on the Geek Level quiz. I took it and got 7/10: studious. I rather like the sketch of the result.

Other quiz outcomes include my being Yale (among the Ivy League, strange since wife went to Yale and ended up as a “lesser ivy” on the quiz), being McCoy (among the characters from Star Trek classic, whereas my wife, the medic in the family, was some other crew member), and being the Dude (among cult movie characters). In the unlikely event that you want more, I’ll link to my Facebook profile.

Five By Five For Facebook: 2

I started on this about a month ago, so it’s time I posted items 6-10 on my list of 25 random things.

  1. Astral Weeks is my favorite album…
  2. … but I intend to avoid Hollywood remake.
  3. I subscribe to the open source/creative commons notion that it’s good for people to use other people’s words, pictures, etc., provided they engage in attribution and other forms of goodness. That leads neatly into the next item, which is a quote from Campbell‘s 25.
  4. “I’m absolutely terrible at keeping in touch with people. Really terrible. And it’s only gotten worse since my daughter was born.”
  5. I expect to post items 11-15 of my list of 25 some time this month.

Five By Five For Facebook: 1

I hereby sort of cave to the Facebook “25 Random Things About Me” meme/chain letter. Sort of, because I’m not going to tag anyone else with it, because I intend to blog five things on five consecutive days, and because I might not carry through with that intention. Here goes…

  1. I was born in a year of the dog, as was my son.
  2. I am a Capricorn, as is my daughter; but of course, we Capricorns don’t believe in this astrology nonsense.
  3. One of my favorite recipes is Thai fried rice, adapted from a book by a Brit TV chef in his book on Australia.
  4. I am very forgetful.
  5. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP; hence my prayer is “God, help me to finish everything I sta…”

Federal Facebook

So Facebook Connect is expanding, as a whole raft of articles and posts reported. The news becomes rather more interesting when put in context. Om uses the Federate or Aggregate? context. Facebook Connect is an attempt to make Facebook the capital of the federation.

Facebook Connect, which was announced in May and is being rolled out this week, allows you to use your Facebook login to access Facebook’s partner web sites, then broadcast what you are doing on those sites to everyone on Facebook.

Other federal capital candidates include Google Friend Connect. Taking another approach is the “small army of startups, such as FriendFeed… that want to act as a dashboard for your entire social-web infrastructure.”

Another context for the Facebook Connect ambitions is provided by the story of Facebook’s having to tell some of its users that their email notification settings had been lost. Erick at TechCrunch advises: Don’t put anything on Facebook you’d hate to lose (or reveal to the world, for that matter).

That second context is one of the things making me reluctant to make Facebook the capital of my sprawling social network territory.

Week in Review

It’s midweek, time to look back over the last seven or so days in social media. Perhaps the biggest story was the birth of the Cuil, that is, the prominent launch of the search engine of that name.

Less prominent, but more interesting to me personally, was the rebirth of BricaBox as an open source project. For context, see my earlier posts on BricaBox, and Nate’s post on the closing of BricaBox, the .com startup.

A weekly review of social media should probably include something on Facebook, iPhone, or both. I’ll go with an opinion piece from Mashable Don on why it’s time for Facebook to sell. I concur, although I might have put it less mildly: sell that Facebubble before it bursts!

This is the first of my weekly-on-Wednesday reviews. Some of its successors may actually appear on Wednesdays. Most of them will be more comprehensive, since I’ll get more systematic about noting things as I see them, rather than going back over the last week.

Scrabble: A Few Points

Scrabble is a couples’ game. By this, I don’t just mean that it’s best as a 2-player game. I mean the sort of thing that 7-how-7 / steve was getting at when he made these scrabble magnets for Valentines day.

It was silly of me to be surprised when I read about how Scrabble games can go on Facebook. I got the tile-trembling truth from an article by Will Doig. It was shared with me by Matthew Gray, who I know from other, more innocent, board-gaming experiences.

Scrabulous, the Facebook application that allows users to play Scrabble against each other online, has turned Hasbro’s slow, stodgy board game for vocabulary enthusiasts into one of the internet’s sleazier pickup joints

It reminded me to nudge my wife to tell her that it’s her turn on the Scrabulous game we started recently. It is so far my only Scrabulous game. But if you would like some good clean scrabbly fun, let me know.

Finally, here’s a scrabbly quote from Kelly Link’s wonderful story, The Faery Handbag.

Zofia and I played Scrabble all the time. Zofia always won, even though her English wasn’t all that great, because we’d decided that she was allowed to use Baldeziwurleki vocabulary. Baldeziwurlekistan is where Zofia was born, over two hundred years ago… Baldeziwurlekistan is also an incredibly valuable word in Scrabble points, even though it doesn’t exactly fit on the board. Zofia put it down the first time we played…

Zofia kept rearranging her letters on her tray. Then she looked over at me, as if daring me to stop her, and put down “eziwurlekistan”, after “bald.” She used “delicious,” “zippery,” “wishes,” “kismet”, and “needle,” and made “to” into “toe”. “Baldeziwurlekistan” went all the way across the board and then trailed off down the righthand side…

“I used up all my letters,” Zofia said. She licked her pencil and started adding up points.

“That’s not a word,” I said. “Baldeziwurlekistan is not a word. Besides, you can’t do that. You can’t put an eighteen letter word on a board that’s fifteen squares across.”

“Why not? It’s a country,” Zofia said. “It’s where I was born, little darling.”

“Challenge,” I said. I went and got the dictionary and looked it up. “There’s no such place”…

“They call it something else now,” Zofia said. “But I think it’s important to remember where we come from. I think it’s only fair that I get to use Baldeziwurleki words. Your English is so much better than me. Promise me something, mouthful of dumpling, a small, small thing. You’ll remember its real name. Baldeziwurlekistan. Now when I add it up, I get three hundred and sixty-eight points. Could that be right?”

Difference Between WordPress and Facebook

Fred Wilson puts the difference at $14.8B – if we take “the publicly available information about the most recent financings of the two companies ($15bn for Facebook and $200mm for Automattic)” to provide good measures of the respective company’s values. But Fred isn’t any more impressed with that measurement that I am.

I think that some aspects of Fred’s post could use clarification. I’ll continue the job of clarification started in a comment by Jeff Jarvis. I’ll also plug some of my own writing about WordPress.

After quoting the funny money numbers, Fred moves on to a chart of unique visitors to Facebook and to “WordPress.” Jeff’s clarification is that the WordPress line in that chart almost certainly refers to the site, and that many WordPress blogs are hosted elsewhere. Jeff also remarks that WordPress is a platform, not a social network.

We need to be clear about three different but related entities.

Comparing unique visitors at and at is comparing an apple with an orange. Automattic has other oranges in its bag, and hence has other revenue streams. If we want to compare the $ values of Facebook and Automattic, we should look at all the oranges in Automattic’s bag, and not just at

Having noted the clarification in Jeff’s comment, I’d like to follow up on another statement from the same comment: “WordPress is not a network. WordPress is a platform.” That’s mostly true, but it ignores a couple of important points.

First, WordPress has several of the ingredients of a social network. Consider, for example, Diso: “an umbrella project for a group of open source implementations of… social networking concepts… first target is WordPress, bootstrapping on existing work and building out from there.” I’ve added emphasis to show that Chris Messina and his buddies consider WordPress a good starting point for an open, standards-based social network.

Second, has several network-like features. Once signed on to, you can leave comments on other blogs hosted there (including this one) without having to provide further identity. There are tag and category pages; as an example, here’s the page for the tag automattic.

One of the things that makes Automattic interesting is that it’s in the business of making money from free software. If you share my interest in this aspect of Automattic, you might want to check out my series of posts on it. It starts with this introduction. The most successful post in the series (indeed, on this blog) is the one on making money from

I don’t attempt to put a $ value on Automattic. I am convinced that its $ value does not lag that of Facebook by many billions of dollars. I think that Fred Wilson shares my conviction. I wonder if he attempted to get his VC firm, Union Square Ventures, a piece of the Automattic action. Earlier this year, Automattic got a $29.5M round of funding.

BlogIt From Facebook: But Why?

I'm posting this from Facebook using BlogIt, an application written by Six Apart. You might know Six Apart from such blogging tools as Movable Type, TypePad, and Vox. BlogIt allows you to post, from Facebook, to a blog at any one of those three – or at Blogger, or at WordPress (self-hosted or .com), and so on.

BlogIt allows you to send the same post to a combination of such places, as well as to your Facebook mini-feed. This post is just going to Changing Way and to my mini-feed. That would be a good thing if I had friends for whom Facebook is the web (just as AOL was the pseudo-web of their parents), and I wanted to make sure that they saw my blog posts. I already do that, and do it rather better, using the FB app, but of course that's

Even so, I don't see why or how BlogIt could be the start of something big. And now I have to go to to fix this post, since BlogIt doesn't let me categorize or tag it, and I'd rather use the post editor there to put in links than have to type in the html here.

Facebook Apps to Infest Web

From allfacebook (via TechCrunch): Facebook just released their JavaScript client library than enables developers to extend their applications to their own websites.

At around the same time, I saw this article about a rampant strain of seaweed (via Reddit):

By repeatedly subjecting specimens to harsh aquarium conditions and selecting the ones that survived the best, researchers developed Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C. Agandh, a new-and-improved, genetically distinct strain which was particularly hardy and fast-growing. This variety was ideal for their purposes and it was shared with other museums and aquariums. For a time, all was well and good in the world of marine botany. In 1984, however, a square meter patch of this new variety of Caulerpa was found in the Mediterranean off the shore of Monaco, right outside the Oceanographic Museum.

Evidently a little piece of it was flushed down a drain… Caulerpa spread… By the time anyone got around to doing anything about it, the infestation covered several acres and was beyond anyone’s control.

Perhaps I’m having a nightmare, from which I need to wake up. But don’t poke me awake…