Regardless of where any of these informational breadcrumbs may originate, each of us needs to think of ourselves as the center of our respective social map universes. In other words, the social map — in order for it to be considered a map – needs to systematically connect the dots between me, my content and my network. A map-lication of sorts. Continue Reading.

Written by Mark Sigal, a digital media and Internet platform entrepreneur who has done eight startups, four of them as a co-founder.

Call me a cynic, but there has to be more to the Web 2.0 story than accessorizing my Facebook page with one-dimensional pseudo applications. Sure, muscle memory may lead us to congregate, but I believe that the future is about satisfying our need to aggregate.

Isn’t this the moral of the story regarding iTunes, iPhoto and the iPod/iPhone? Namely, that whether blogging, YouTube’ing, Flickr’ing, Digg’ing or tweet’ing, the “forever” bucket is the bucket consisting of my content, my contacts, my contexts and my conversations.

This suggests that regardless of where any of these informational breadcrumbs may originate, each of us needs to think of ourselves as the center of our respective social map universes. In other words, the social map — in order for it to be considered a map – needs to systematically connect the dots between me, my content and my network. A map-lication of sorts.

But it suggests something else as well. 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. While this position seems to raise a virtual middle finger to almost every service provider’s terms of service, it should not be viewed as heretical.

After all, was it heretical that Google became Microsoft 2.0 by spidering the web of third-party web sites, and selling advertising on top of search returns generated using someone else’s data? I certainly remember wondering if Google was crossing an imaginary line between search/organize and monetize, but the market rightfully saw it as a democratizing force. Not only did Google-ification disrupt entire industries (like media and packaged software), but it operated like a tornado on business models, distribution, marketing and product lifecycles across many segments. History suggests, however, that it created a rising tide that lifted a lot of boats.

I bring Google into this equation for two reasons. One, to cite a tangible example of how the market goes about defining propriety and property rights in the information age. Two, because I believe that Google, as a benefactor of these rights, will need to share with consumers more of its social map of user clickstreams, engagement metrics and their correlates if it is to maintain the public trust. Akin to a credit report, I think consumers have a right to this data.

Therefore, what I envision is a consumer-friendly dashboard and analytics application that allows me to visualize the bigger picture by seeing the same contextual relationships that Google sees. Think zeitgeist-type reports that provide answers to the Top 10 questions relevant to MY universe (e.g., who read, commented, shared, how many) packaged in such a way that I can ask what-if questions to my heart’s content. To me, the social map is all about enabling applications that allow consumers to take back control of their data, help them to connect the dots between their various interests, orchestrate their brand and systematically engage their audience. This is the promise of the information age.

Given that, if information is the electricity of this era and information ABOUT information is the richest energy source of all (just ask Google), then shouldn’t we have universal access to this type of data? Heck, if Google wants my heart and soul vis-à-vis their AppEngine initiative, they need to give me a unified way to call upon and interact with all of the global data functions that they have cataloged (web pages, blogs, images, news, video, email, maps, calendars, etc.).

Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft: Couldn’t you disrupt the disrupter by doing the same? Is there any reason that you wouldn’t — or shouldn’t?

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  1. SCOGOSTOLOGY.COM On Social Map! Sunday, April 20, 2008

    This concept of “social map” sounds interesting and hopeful even though it has not sunk in very. May be, a follow up article will elucidate it better…

  2. Last week a new book about Web 2.0 was published in the Netherlands. It is called Me the Media. This book deals exactly what Mark is talking about. You should check out their website: http://www.methemedia.com.

    And you must certainly check out the accompanieing movie: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6239994315754370354&hl=nl

  3. Cloudy Thinking » Blog Archive » Mark Sigal: The Social Map Is All About Me Sunday, April 20, 2008

    [...] Sigal writes “The Social Map Is All About Me.” WIt’s well worth some noodling [...]

  4. Thanks for the suggested links, FritzTheCat. Will check out.

    To SCOGOSTOLOGY.COM: Part of the concept of the social map is that we inherently create an online snail trail of content, conversations and connections across a multitude of sites (eMarketer predicts that the number of people who create “user-generated” content will rise from 77 million in 2007 to 108 million in 2012).

    Thus, it seems logical that applications will emerge that help us take a more unified approach to organizing, managing and publishing our profusion of posts, pictures, videos, comments, tracked discussion threads, playlists and profiles.

    In this piece, I am trying to envision the functional parts and user rights that make such an application MAP-like and manageable while reconciling the decentralized nature of such elements.



  5. Fixing the Social Web: Aggregated “Me” « The Real McCrea Sunday, April 20, 2008

    [...] a guest column today on GigaOm, Mark Sigal lays out a case for the importance of the third one of these, “the need [...]

  6. therealmccrea Sunday, April 20, 2008

    I couldn’t agree more! Your post helped me think about the various functions that social media aggregators can perform. I wrote up my thoughts about where this fits in the open Social Web ecosystem: http://therealmccrea.com/2008/04/20/fixing-the-social-web-aggregated-me/

  7. Ben Werdmuller Sunday, April 20, 2008

    I’m certain you’ll be aware of the efforts to promote “data portability”, which in some ways is a take on these ideas, although I don’t think most of them go far enough.

    A Yahoo representative at the first Data Sharing Summit noted that they prefer not to talk about data ownership, but are tentatively able to discuss data control – giving users control of their data. That should tell you all you need to know: full ownership of this data is fundamental to the free business model we’ve come to know and love on the web. As a result, it’s locked up tight; it’s not as easy as all that for another tool to come along and give you access to your data, whether it’s the directly stored stuff or tertiary social map data.

    The only way to enact a change to this is to make releasing the data more lucrative than not – in other words, to turn openness into a selling point. I think it already is for a lot of the tech early adopter crowd, but how on earth do we sell this to the mass market?

  8. Ben Werdmuller Sunday, April 20, 2008

    I should add that we’ve developed a format, the Open Data Definition, which can be used to easily enable import/export and synchronisation of both entities (eg blog posts) and social metadata (relationships, metadata, annotations). We’re very excited about it, but recognise that we have to widen the conversation; we will release a draft spec for discussion asap.

  9. Social graphs and too much San Francisco Kool-Aid « Internet Marketing Observations Sunday, April 20, 2008

    [...] was reminded of my manager’s comments when reading a story this morning on GigaOm. The piece, entitled “The Social Graph Is All About Me.” The writer meanders his way [...]

  10. If I understand correctly, essentially the Web should migrate to a form where you can easily find any piece of content; easily publish and distribute any piece of content; and do it all from the user interface of your choice.

    Sounds cool to me. Some people would argue that this can be done today, but quite frankly the methods to do so aren’t that intuitive and take time and effort to accomplish.

    Of course, a true standard UI, platform, transportation method, etc. would easily accomplish that, but it could like squeeze out a lot of standardization or innovation, couldn’t it?

    On the other hand, hundreds or thousands of dial-up sites and services perished as a result of widespread high speed Internet access, so maybe it’s not that scary to conform, as long as there is flexibility on the new platform.

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