Monday, March 24, 2008

The Brilliance of Facebook

During my consulting gigs to start-ups (and as I consider starting one of my own), I’ve recently noticed how often I think about how Facebook (the company) addressed particular issues and how often I come to the conclusion that their approach was brilliant. Here are a few examples that I feel demonstrate the brilliance of Facebook…

  • Go-to-Market Strategy: For its initial go-to market strategy, I feel it was brilliant for Facebook to start with one very focused user segment – college students – even though their technology probably could have handled multiple user segments at the beginning. By starting with college students, Facebook was able to test out their technology with a pretty forgiving user base and build up demand as the buzz about their offering grew. Having this type of discipline is difficult for a lot of entrepreneurs, especially technologists. It is not uncommon to find technologists who like to expose all of the different capabilities of their technology platform to all types of users from the get-go. As well-documented by Geoffrey Moore in the high-tech marketing bible, “Crossing the Chasm”, this is usually not a very smart approach.
  • News Feed – I think the brilliance behind News Feed is best illustrated by the fact that it has spawned a whole new product segment, called lifestreaming. With the development of News Feed, Facebook insightfully tapped into the voyeur in all of us. I always use Facebook as an example of a solution that doesn’t necessarily address a pain point but one that fulfills a psychological need. I think many of us – especially those who come from the enterprise software space – get too obsessed with addressing a pain point. In this day and age where individuals use multiple Web services regularly, not all services need to address pain points; it is okay if some of them just fulfill psychological needs.
  • Beacon – Even though Facebook’s initial execution of Beacon was questionable and the jury is still out on its ultimate impact, I feel the concept behind the feature is brilliant. I do believe that certain recommendations made by friends carry more weight than those made by people you don’t know and Beacon attempts to make that real.

I hear from people who know him that Mark Zuckerberg is a person well beyond his years. The examples I described above demonstrate decision making that is creative and mature for a young company with such young people at its helm. I’m sure Mark has had a lot of help along the way but he needs to be given a tremendous amount of credit. Well done.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Defrag Session on Knowledge Networking and Ambient Intimacy

Eric Norlin, the founder and one of the organizers of Defrag, saw my recent blog post on "FriendFeed, Knowledge Networking, and Ambient Intimacy", and has asked me to do a session on the topic at the next Defrag (November 3-4, 2008 in Denver, CO). I attended the inaugural Defrag last November and it is one of the best conferences I have attended. I am honored to be a part of the next Defrag.

For those of you who haven't heard of Defrag, Eric describes the conference as...
the first conference focused soley on the internet-based tools that transform loads of information into layers of knowledge to accelerate the "aha" moment.
You can check out the Defrag website -- -- for more details.

If any of you have thoughts on my topic, let me know. I would appreciate people's input as I put together the content for the session.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FriendFeed, Knowledge Networking, and Ambient Intimacy

Last night, FriendFeed announced support for search. Much of the talk in the blogosphere has highlighted the notion that now you can search Twitter tweets via FriendFeed. I feel that FriendFeed’s search capabilities has far broader implications.

I have done several posts on a concept I call “knowledge networking”. As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts…
I define knowledge networking as the ability for people to connect with the purpose of leveraging each other's knowledge. This is different than social networking where people connect with the purpose of communicating with each other.
Recently, I have started to use Twitter and have become a fan of the service. The reason I like it is best summed up by a post made early last year by Leisa Reichelt called, “Ambient Intimacy”. Leisa defines “ambient intimacy” as…
…being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise? There are certainly many people who think this, but they tend to be not so noisy themselves. It seems to me that there are lots of people for who being social is very much a ‘real life’ activity and technology is about getting stuff done.

There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.

Knowing these details creates intimacy. (It also saves a lot of time when you finally do get to catchup with these people in real life!) It’s not so much about meaning, it’s just about being in touch.

I have been thinking there is a connection between “knowledge networking” and “ambient intimacy”. One of the ways you can learn about the knowledge of your friends/contacts is through Twitter tweets made by them. FriendFeed’s search capability now makes this connection very real.