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[Social-discuss] Adoption dynamics (and why your intuition fails)

From: Miron Cuperman
Subject: [Social-discuss] Adoption dynamics (and why your intuition fails)
Date: Fri, 28 May 2010 13:02:07 -0700
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100423 Lightning/1.0b1 Thunderbird/3.0.4

Hi all,

We have a common goal.  We would like people to control their destiny by
moving from proprietary social networks to distributed ones (dsns).

However, social networks are like the Internet and the telephone, and
unlike, for example, Mailman or PHP.  Mailman and PHP are tools.  You
pick them up, use them, deploy them, then put them aside for awhile.  A
social network is only useful when used in collaboration with your
friends and under daily engagement.  A social network has very different
adoption dynamics from the tools that you used or helped develop.

For a new social network to succeed, its adoption cannot be
incremental.  It has to be a rapid exponential.  After you join, 10 of
your friends must join within 3 days, and 50 within 3 months.  Otherwise
it will fail, just like others have failed.  (I think the Diaspora guys
get the adoption part.  I don't know about their tech...)

Your intuition is that you can incrementally develop a system and that
it will be incrementally implemented and adopted.  This intuition is wrong.

The only way to succeed is to have a "big bang" release.  There must be
an adoption date chosen and a compelling message (like "quit FB day",
but with a positive alternative).  There has to be an easy to adopt dsn
that is not too fragmented or confusing.  Usability has to be
excellent.  There has to be virality built in.  You must be encouraged
to invite your friends and it is easy to do so.  The default message to
your friends must be compelling.  You must be able to find your friends
if they are already on.  The user experience must be on par with what
they are used to.

The only way I see to achieve this is to pick 2-3 systems (maybe Elgg
and a new one) and focus on making them interoperable and competitive
with the proprietary ones.

Adopting existing standards should be means to an end, not an end in
itself.  If adopting a standard makes for a better use experience or
saves time, then good.  Otherwise, it's a distraction from the adoption

Working with existing systems beyond 3 is definitely a distraction.  If
users are faced with 5+ choices and interoperability or user experience
are not on par with proprietary systems, then adoption will fizzle.

In order to have a compelling message, you have to provide a real
alternative.  This means that you have to provide real privacy and
control.  There has to be a future path for users to run their private
instances and interoperate with the dsn ecosystem.  There must be
transport encryption.  There have to be easy to use granular access
controls.  The social graph must be private.

StatusNet, for example, is a great microblogging platform, but it's all
out in the open with no privacy controls.  Maybe it's possible to
improve on it.

So what I think is needed is:

- Define the user experience
- Define a protocol that enables this experience and that fulfills
privacy goals
- Work with 2-3 systems to implement the protocol and bring them up to par
- Do a PR blitz with a target launch date

Re #1 (previously emailed):


Miron Cuperman

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