The following is an email that I sent out to a number of friends and collegues, some of whom I know through Bootstrap Austin’s Web Group. Given that there are a number of people that I would like input on this, (many that are not in Austin, much less not in the web group) I am posting this note here.
Bootstrap Web and a few bcc’ed friends,
As some of you know I have been working on a book over the last six weeks. I have been pretty silent during that time. I am back. (Imagine hearing Jack Nicholson say “Here’s Johnny!” when I say this). After all of the writing, I am getting prepared to set out implementing some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head…. and I have a question that I would like to pose to the community at large to get your input on this… both on choices of technology and philosophy.
In the time that I was away, I received numerous invites to a number of social networks. Eight in total, with 6 of them being from this continent, and most of them being from the Austin and Dallas areas. What I find striking about each one of these new sites is they are all walled gardens– sites that are private “toll roads”, but at least at this time, do not have any notion of being publicly connected. Even Facebook, which is a favorite of mine because of its API, is still a walled garden.
My concern is that some of these walled gardens will fail. Some of the owners of these walled gardens will eventually charge rents- or might take their networks in directions that do not align with the work that I am doing and or perhaps with my values. I too, want to have a social network, but I too, see the problem with having Kevin’s walled garden. It will be really pretty, and I am certain that great value will be afforded to the entrepreneurs that interact in this social network… but I feel that right now as a community builder that I should be talking with you guys to see what you think- what can we do together to build public thoroughfares? Is it possible with the technologies that are out there? I have looked at OpenID, and I am a fan… I do not see yet how to build the network on it…. only how to create single source logins. I have also looked briefly at Plaxo’s Pulse network. I don’t see yet it really connecting people, but it feels like it could be interesting. But doesn’t it all feel like there is something missing on these sites? Doesn’t this all feel like sites like the very limited sites like Tripod.com or Angelfire.com of 1997? Doesn’t this feel like those friends that have AOL.com addresses (back then, and especially today) that are kinda stuck- dependent on some company that might change their policies, making those addresses a servere liability?
My questions to you are this- what is the proper way to go forward building public thoroughfares, but still having “my corner” of the internet where I conduct my business, and where you and other entrepreneurs can conduct your affairs… Just like down on 2nd Street here in Austin. How do we make sure that there are not ten gazzilion freaking logins, limited connectivity to the different sites? Or should I just forget about it right now, and build out my own private Idaho (my own private social network) and connect into other sites at some point in the future when the technology is here?
What are your thoughts?
I am going to post this as well at my blog. Given that this is going to Bootstrap-Web, we can interact there, although some of you will be bcc’ed on this conversation. If you want, please come make public comment on this on my website. I intend to be out in the open on this, for this is how I think that we can together build a stronger community. Here is the url where this is being posted: (this blog post)
Thank you for your thoughts. Now let’s go build our community together.