Tag Archives: Pulse

Putting Wings on the Car: Plaxo Pulse Rising

In response to yesterday’s announcement of integration of the Disqus smart commenting system with the Plaxo Pulse social network, influential blogger Louis Gray wrote a piece on his thoughts overall on Pulse. He likes much of what Plaxo offers, but wonders whether a service known primarily as a business tool can convince people to project their lifestreams into it. He writes:

“This isn’t to say Plaxo hasn’t considered the problem of making such a dramatic shift in the public eye without losing its existing customer base. No doubt with the issues I brought up in mind, Plaxo has enabled categories of contacts, from “Business” to “Friends” and “Family”, making it possible that I could show my personal streaming data only to Friends and not Business contacts, for instance. That’s a smart move, one I expect other lifestreaming services to borrow. But not even this granularity solves the basic problem of what the site is known for and what they’re now trying to be. Putting wings on a car doesn’t make it an airplane.”

Is Plaxo really trying to put wings on a car? [Disclosure/reminder: I head up marketing at Plaxo.] Louis is correct from a marketing/brand perspective. For many people, Plaxo is a little piece of software in their Microsoft Outlook, providing a way keep their business contacts up-to-date. But Plaxo has always had bigger aspirations; the vision has been a “people layer” for the Internet, with each person having a unified and self-updating address book, leveraging the network effect. That unified address book would sync with Outlook, the Mac, AOL, Google, Yahoo!, the mobile phone, and more. And it would be accepted at just about every website. And inside that address book? Not just your business contacts, but everyone you know and care about, including, of course, your friends and family. In a few words, a major “who-you-know” play.

When we were contemplating Pulse, which brings your address book to life, enriching your connection to the people you know and care about, we had to answer a key question:

Would many of the 20 million current Plaxo members find the new functionality interesting and useful, and would people be willing to categorize the relationships they are declaring in Pulse as family, friends, and business?

After all, the first generation of social networks had trained people to “friend” just about anybody. We were convinced that there was a BIG market opportunity to take the concepts of social networking and recast them for a more mainstream, post-college demographic. The idea? Give people control over what they share with whom. We were and are convinced that the real Social Web will be like an iceberg. The blogs and tweets and other fully public content is the shiny white ice visible above the surface of the water, but running deep and wide is the mass below the waterline: the private and semi-private conversations between family and friends.

The greatest delight I get from Pulse is the simple pleasures of sharing photos and commenting on them between members of my family. That includes three generations of family members, distributed across the country.

Anyway, enough for now. Here are two charts answering the question of whether putting wings on the car can allow it to fly:

SocialGraph0308

SocialGraphPie0308

Explanation of these two charts available in my original post on the topic.

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Who Owns This Conversation, Part Two

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Two weekends ago, the blogosphere’s latest “bitchmeme” (group dialogue on a single topic, often kicked off by one blogger’s rant) centered around this question:

“Is it okay for content aggregators to fragment a blog’s conversation by allowing comments that do not flow back to the original post? Is such a practice stealing?”

I won’t rehash the whole discussion here, but here’s a few of the central posts, in addition to mine:

Tony Hung:
Fine, I’ll Say It: Shyftr Crosses The Line

Louis Gray:
Should Fractured Feed Reader Comments Raise Blog Owners’ Ire?

Robert Scoble:
Era of Blogger’s Control is Over

The general view that emerged was that bloggers should get over it, and learn to live in a world where they are not in control of where the conversation flows. While I agree with that, if someone could figure out a way to allow comments to flow back from the various aggregators, that would be a good thing.

Enter Plaxo and Disqus, who have just launched a working solution to that very problem. In a post on the Plaxo blog, Joseph Smarr, who seems to show up wherever there’s a meaty open Social Web problem to be solved, describes the situation:

“Plaxo’s mantra is always to ‘give our users control,’ so naturally we’re in favor of letting blog authors share their feed inside Pulse and providing a way for comments generated inside Pulse to flow back to the original blog. The problem is, there’s no standard way of programmatically interacting with the comment system on an arbitrary blog. So while it’s never been our aim to “trap comments” inside Pulse, there hasn’t been a good way to set them free. Until now.”

The solution is a mechanism whereby bloggers who use the Disqus “smart comment system” can indicate that to Plaxo when they’re hooking up their blog to their lifestream in Pulse. When they do, any comments made on their posts within Pulse get posted out to their actual blog. The result is the best of both worlds: larger audience, via exposure within Pulse; but with all comments enriching the discussion on the original post.

This is a great example of evolving beyond the “walled garden” model of social networking.

Now, if we could get WordPress to allow this feature on their hosted solution (so that I could enable it here.) Please, WordPress!

UPDATE: Here’s the official post on the Disqus blog, talking about the strategic context and the enabling API.

UPDATE: A nice piece on the topic by Mashable’s Mark “Rizz’n” Hopkins.

[Reminder/disclosure: I head up marketing at Plaxo.]

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Fixing the Social Web: Aggregating “Me”

PlaxoPublicProfilesFinal

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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