On Social Apps, Trying Again

September 28th, 2007 11 Comments

So, Billy and I had a whimsical dust-up over the differences (or lack thereof) between our approaches to the enterprise-ification of New Web. A few other voices chimed in too. Right, wrong, indifferent, it’s been a slow week.

Mr. Long Tail, Chris Anderson, posted an entry yesterday that hits the core of the differences between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Apps, as I see them anyway. His title “Social Networking is a feature not a destination” (or a bug, lulz) says it all.

Chris says:

“As I think about the current Facebook craze and the notion of it as an all-encompassing platform, sucking in functionality from other sites across the board, I find myself skeptical. With my Long Tail hat on, I think that one-size-fits-all will fail in social networking, just as it has everywhere else . . .”

Our experience with Connect has shown this to be true. The joys of pure social networking, i.e. collecting friends, adorning your profile, have a limited shelf life. Soon, people want to know what’s next, or better yet, they suggest what should be next. This is nexus of social apps. Either bring the stuff I want/need to do into the network (the Facebook platform approach), or add the network features to the stuff I want/need to do.

Whichever approach you choose, the network alone isn’t enough. I suspect the joys of social networking will map nicely to a Pareto/Long Tail distribution over time, i.e. the avid social networkers who subsist only on the core network features will decline over time as they and the technology mature. Most of us will fall into the “what have you done for me lately” group waiting on the killer app or defecting to other more applicable sites or apps that include social networking features.

This is a weird ripple affect for pure social network companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. Facebook proved the value of social apps with the F8 platform, but now, its success is threatened by companies that have apps already, e.g. Google and SixApart. Both companies have stated recently that they intend to include social networking overlay features on their existing apps, Google with its existing user base, SixApart with an OpenID approach.

Facebook relies on its popularity and extended network of interested developers to build most of its apps. Many have noted the dearth of truly useful business tools, and the same black hole exists for typical consumer apps as well, e.g. blogging tools. The vast majority of the apps have added to the network features, not brought outside apps into Facebook.

What will happen when social apps debut and users can suddenly tie together social network goodness with apps they use for productivity and communication? Oddly, Yahoo 360 attempted this years ago by joining a bunch of social apps (e.g. flickr, Yahoo Groups, blogging, and messaging) into a single network. You don’t hear much about Yahoo 360, though, do you? Poor Yahoo.

I’m very interested to see what happens. We obviously advocate social apps for enterprise people, and I think there’s good reason to believe that social apps will be more successful in the enterprise than in the consumer world, due to trust and the social nature of work. You know, people do work.

So, what does this have to do with Billy and Enterprise 2.0 vs. Social Apps? I think it proves that social networking as a feature leads to killer apps in the enterprise. Social apps put people at the center of stuff they already do at work, like process invoices or manage a warehouse. You don’t need to find the great use cases because all you’re really doing is adding another dimension to what people already do.

Enterprise 2.0 adds technology (blogs, wikis, tagging, etc.) to an already over-filled software landscape, and to make it successful, you need to find use cases, i.e. explain to people how they should/might use it. The problem with this approach is twofold: 1) people frequently find unintended utility, so your use cases may never hit the right nerve and 2) uses cases are hard to fabricate and 2.0 is still new enough in the enterprise to keep the good ones hidden.

Enterprise 2.0 assumes that technology will add value to work.

Social apps add value to work.


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11 Responses to “On Social Apps, Trying Again”

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  3. Adam Carson Says:

    Jake,

    You propose a question below…and I would like to know which road you are taking? Or maybe both?

    “Either bring the stuff I want/need to do into the network (the Facebook platform approach), or add the network features to the stuff I want/need to do.”

    I believe that a social network in the Enteprise will be the glue that pulls all of the social apps together in one place, centered around the user. However, each social app should still be able to stand on it’s own two feet without the social network.

    The social network actually adds value to the social apps by linking them together (from the perspective of the user) and also distributing their content throughout the network. You could potentially have a bunch of social apps without a social network, but they wouldn’t be as effective.

    Thoughts?

    Adam

  4. Adam Carson Says:

    Jake,

    You propose a question below…and I would like to know which road you are taking? Or maybe both?

    “Either bring the stuff I want/need to do into the network (the Facebook platform approach), or add the network features to the stuff I want/need to do.”

    I believe that a social network in the Enteprise will be the glue that pulls all of the social apps together in one place, centered around the user. However, each social app should still be able to stand on it’s own two feet without the social network.

    The social network actually adds value to the social apps by linking them together (from the perspective of the user) and also distributing their content throughout the network. You could potentially have a bunch of social apps without a social network, but they wouldn’t be as effective.

    Thoughts?

    Adam

  5. bex Says:

    meh.

    “Social Apps” are just a speed bump on the road to Identity 2.0, IMHO.

    Once there’s a coherent, simple, open, distributed way to port your identity (and contacts) between servers, the distinction of a “social app” completely disappears.

    Suddenly, EVERYTHING is a social app.

    Related rants:

    http://bexhuff.com/2007/08/open-social-networks-livejournal-leads-charge-cliff
    http://bexhuff.com/2007/08/identity-management-will-destroy-social-software

  6. bex Says:

    meh.

    “Social Apps” are just a speed bump on the road to Identity 2.0, IMHO.

    Once there’s a coherent, simple, open, distributed way to port your identity (and contacts) between servers, the distinction of a “social app” completely disappears.

    Suddenly, EVERYTHING is a social app.

    Related rants:

    http://bexhuff.com/2007/08/open-social-networks-livejournal-leads-charge-cliff
    http://bexhuff.com/2007/08/identity-management-will-destroy-social-software

  7. Jake Says:

    We (as in Oracle) could take either approach, since we have both disparate apps, suites of apps and loads of technology.

    We (as in AppsLab) have been taking the social network approach (a la Facebook) for now, since Connect is our first app. And we wanted to start with that experiment.

    I’d like to see both within an enterprise, since there are fewer pressures, no Facebook vs. Google battles. That empowers the users to stay in the interface they prefer. This won’t fly on the interwebs though, unless Google (or someone) can make everyone play nice.

    Jake

  8. Jake Says:

    We (as in Oracle) could take either approach, since we have both disparate apps, suites of apps and loads of technology.

    We (as in AppsLab) have been taking the social network approach (a la Facebook) for now, since Connect is our first app. And we wanted to start with that experiment.

    I’d like to see both within an enterprise, since there are fewer pressures, no Facebook vs. Google battles. That empowers the users to stay in the interface they prefer. This won’t fly on the interwebs though, unless Google (or someone) can make everyone play nice.

    Jake

  9. OTN TechBlog : Says:

    […] 2.0 vs Social Apps”V”Power to the People 2.0″V”People vs Data”V”Response, Reply, Reply, Response”V”On Social Apps, Trying Again”…with Oracle ACE Bex Huff chiming in here, and Paul Gallagher chiming in here. Truly one of the […]

  10. Jake Says:

    Bex,
    I like OpenID. You’re assuming the apps are there. That’s not the case. Even if MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. all supported OpenID today, where are the apps? Oh right, I can play Vampires across social networks and bite my LinkedIn contacts from Facebook.

    Sure, if they existed, the apps would be social, and yeah, there would be more incentive to develop apps if OpenID were in place, being that the demand was already there.

    So, maybe apps are the brick wall after OpenID, the “now what?” moment. OpenId is just a time-saving toy if you don’t provide useful content.

    Thanks.

  11. Jake Says:

    Bex,
    I like OpenID. You’re assuming the apps are there. That’s not the case. Even if MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. all supported OpenID today, where are the apps? Oh right, I can play Vampires across social networks and bite my LinkedIn contacts from Facebook.

    Sure, if they existed, the apps would be social, and yeah, there would be more incentive to develop apps if OpenID were in place, being that the demand was already there.

    So, maybe apps are the brick wall after OpenID, the “now what?” moment. OpenId is just a time-saving toy if you don’t provide useful content.

    Thanks.

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