Tag Archives: aggregator

Fixing the Social Web: Aggregating “Me”

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In a recent post, inspired by Robert Scoble’s “How to Fix the Web,” I laid out the framework for the ecosystem of an open Social Web. I envisioned that the user will be at the center, with clear ownership and control of their personal data and content, enjoying the freedom to take it with them wherever they go across the web.

Making that possible, will be the three core elements of the Social Web service layer:

– Identity Providers
– Social Graph Providers
– Content Aggregators

In a guest column today on GigaOm, entitled “The Social Map is All About Me,” Mark Sigal lays out a case for the importance of the third one of these, “the need to aggregate.” Mark asserts that “regardless of where my content and data originate, I have a right to pull this data into MY sandbox, a sandbox where I track my threads, organize my media, filter my views and push my content wherever and however I please.” I couldn’t agree more.

In a world in which nearly every website is socially-enabled or socially-aware, we will all desparately need a dashboard that brings order to the chaos of fragmentation. That dashboard will allow us to aggregate and manage our own “lifestream” and to make decisions about what parts to make public and what parts to share with family, with real friends, or with looser ties. (Plaxo Pulse is an example of such as aggregator today.) That aggregation dashboard will also bring together into one or more rivers of news, the lifestreams from the people you want to follow. (That function is common to all of the aggregators out there, including Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, and the new gorilla entrant, Facebook.)

There are other many other consequences of having a “dashboard for the Social Web,” which I won’t get into in this post. But one that does seem particularly relevant, is the establishment of a user-controlled profile for the public portion of the Social Web. An example of one is the image at the top of the page. Its my actual page, hosted at johnmccrea.myplaxo.com. It combines the portion of my lifestream that I have aggregated into Pulse and marked as “public.” It also shows “me” across the web (at least those identities I have chosen to assert publicly as me). Behind the scenes, Plaxo is leveraging Google’s Social Graph API to make that identity consolidation super easy. The page is maked up with microformats, which means that it is machine-readable, which makes the data usable by other services without re-keying by the user.

Now, imagine if the URL for the page were to become an OpenID…

…but that’s a topic for another post, at another time.

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Who Owns This Conversation?

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A debate is erupting in the blogosphere about whether it’s okay or not for comments on blogposts (or other user generated content) to be splintered off in various RSS readers or social media aggregators, such as Shyfter or FriendFeed or any of a number of other services that enable users to project their lifestreams into them.

This is indeed an interesting discussion, as we are just now on the cusp of the Social Web, a complex ecosystem with as-yet undefined rules. Their will be identity providers (OpenID providers, such as Yahoo!, AOL, Clickpass, and some day, Microsoft), online identity consolidators (i.e. Google Social Graph API and Plaxo public profiles), portable social graph providers (hmmmm, stay tuned), and myriad feed aggregators (seems like a new one every week; first Plaxo Pulse, last summer, and now in recent weeks: FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, etc.).

There is a real tension here: Comments out on the anonymous web tend toward the sophomoric; whereas comments inside circles with identity bring out the best in people. Right now, in the absence of the full-blown open Social Web, we see various experiments underway that try to bridge that gap. In the process, it appears that comment threads are being “stolen.” I don’t think anyone is really trying to make a big play based on hijacking the comment thread.

There’s a bunch of interesting problems to be worked on here, and I expect rapid progress.

Here’s the posts from the debate so far: Louis Gray, Matthew Ingram, and not to be missed, Deep Jive Interests.

Update: Robert Scoble has jumped into this “bitchmeme” saying the “Era of blogger’s control is over.” I agree that bloggers should embrace the organic spread of their influence through the conversation fragments across the web, but also think we tool providers can apply some smarts to the problem to stitch some of this stuff back together.

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