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Waiting for the OpenSocial Hammer to drop

I did this Perspectives piece for CNet.

Enjoy

Perspective: When Google announced OpenSocial a few months ago, it was welcomed as an effort to standardize the world around the notion of open social networking. But the announcement also was viewed as an attack on Facebook’s closed platform and data silo approach–one which limited users’ ability to export their data.

As MySpace.com, Friendster, Bebo, LinkedIn, Oracle, Salesforce.com, Plaxo, and many others lined up to support OpenSocial, we all became almost giddy in our excitement. The anticipation was for a world where users could move their data anywhere they wished and vendors allowed this all to happen.

But oops, it only took one week for backroom politics to emerge.

Turns out that Google’s altruistic motives were supplemented by a desire to occlude Facebook’s ad announcements. OpenSocial got announced too soon, and many of the technical details and logistics (issues like security) had not been worked out. And worst of all, many–if not all–of the OpenSocial participants did not intend to open up their networks at all. They simply wished to bring in as many OpenSocial “gadgets” as possible in an attempt to counterstrike Facebook’s successful platform of applications.

For all its promises, OpenSocial really only appears to be “OpenGadgets.”

In December, I moderated a panel at LeWeb3 in Paris called “Bringing social to software.” Google’s Patrick Chanezon, who participated in the panel, volunteered that Google would help to provide a “testing lab” for OpenSocial gadget interoperability testing. He also acknowledged it would take until February 2008 for the development work on OpenSocial’s APIs to freeze.

But another of Patrick’s comments previewed what the battlefield in the upcoming war over open social networking might look like. He suggested it will be up to each social-network software vendor to decide whether to allow access and control over their members’ profile data. It didn’t take too long for us to get an idea of MySpace’s intentions.

The very next day, the guy representing MySpace at the conference refused to say whether his company would provide access to any member’s profile data. What this tells me is the company won’t. Despite its stated support for OpenSocial, it’s clear that MySpace sees OpenSocial as simply an OpenGadgets standard. What’s more, it will continue to prevent any MySpace member from exporting profile data or connecting to any other social network.

Now the question is how Bebo, Friendster, and Hi5 will approach this touchy subject. LinkedIn has shown a willingness to let users export their social graphs–though they don’t necessarily automatically connect to any other service. Plaxo has been leading the way in this area, but is this only a bid to dress up the company in preparation for a future sale?

As cynical or optimistic as you want to be, politics has to be considered in light of efforts by a group called DataPortability.org, as well as those carried out by some hackers, like Chris Messina’s Diso. Then there’s the private FooCamp, which takes place Super Bowl weekend up in O’Reilly-land (Sebastapol, Calif.) by invitation only. How ironic that a conference on open social networking would be held behind closed doors, preventing some (including your humble author) from attending.

The idea is that independent groups of people can exert influence on the big platforms to do the right thing. Much noise was made recently when Facebook, Google, and others joined the DataPortability effort. Still, it’s just not clear what will become of any mail list consisting of hyperbole and wiki postings.

Why all this sudden interest and concern over open social networking? Has its day come? Is it time that users will be able to freely move their data between social networks? We all hope that MySpace, Bebo, and others will open up and go beyond the original scope of OpenSocial to lay the groundwork for a truly open world of social networking.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 | Time: 8:54 pm
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Open Letter to Dave McClure: “Where are the open social networking panels at Web 2.0 & Social Graphing?”

I included Dave McClure in my post on Facebook’s close platform – and he commented back, asking me to do my research.

So I did.

I looked at the agendas of the two conferences where Dave either has founded and/or Chairs and is intimately involved in. What I was looking for was evidence of Dave ‘helping us out’- participating in the process of educating and moving the world forward towards open social networking and open standards.


Web 2.0 Expo

- Has the obligatory session by David Recordon – one of the creators of OpenID. That’s great and important. David is a concise and articulate speaker.

- That’s it. No session on OpenSocial (Oh that’s right – Google isn’t a sponsor.) Nothing on User’s rights, new EULAs, privacy concerns, interoperability or DataPortability – nothing.

- This is a conference that features – over 50 sessions. I guess letting David Recordon give his OpenID rap is enough. Huh?

- Of course they’ll have a Web2Open kind of a diversionary tactic – so they can claim that the ‘Citizens’ are involved – but I don’t buy that bullshit.

- This is a conference entirely designed to exploit and monetize the trademark that O’Reilly has over the term ‘Web 2.0′. Lots of exhibitors, 30,000 sq ft of trade show space.

- And Dave McClure is listed as one of a conference Co-Chairs.

sgraph.jpgGraphing Social Patterns

Then there’s the conference which Dave founded – Graphing Social Patterns (great name BTW!) He’s listed as the conference chair – and after close examination Ive found the ONLY panel I’d bother to go see – featuring Dan Farber – who is one of the only journalists in our industry with any integrity and experience.

Dan will hopefully blow away the smoke surrounding the DataPortability effort and find some meat to talk about. That won’t be hard, as OpenSocial ‘containers’ will be given plenty of chance to turn on their FUD machiens and ignore all the important issues.

I’m hoping Dan will bring some light to a dark scenario – where money and exploitation ring more important then user’s rights and open social networking. Oh yah, in typical fashion – the only good panel is left til the end of the day, when everyone has either gone home or is exhausted. That happens all the time.

And as far as Patrick Chanezon’s session on OpenSocial – from earlier OpenSocial sessions I’ve been to or heard about Google ignores the fact that there is no real commitment from any vendor to allow access to anything – except to perpetuate more closed ‘widget platforms’. Its amazing to me that something called ‘Open’ can be so closed. And nobody bitches about it. Certainly NOT Dave McClure!

Steve Gillmor is asking Google to give us a reason why they’re wholesale exploiting GMail contacts – before he’d ever believe them about OpenSocial and I wanna know the specific policies regarding access to social graphs from OpenSocial containers.

But do you think Google will answer these questions?

Why don’t they just call it OpenGadget – or even better ‘ClosedGadget’ – cause where’s the open? Where are the commitments from ‘containers’ to allow controlled access to these social graphs?

What I’m talking about here are the policies of MySpace, Bebo, hi5, Friendster. They have 100,000,000s of users locked up in their platforms – and what are their policies (vis a vis support for OpenSocial) in regards to letting their users export their profiles and social graphs? Yes or No?

There are plenty of opportunities to have engaging discussions at a conference such as ‘Graphing Social Patterns’ – but I don’t see any interest or desire on the side of Dave McClure to cause that to happen. He seems interested in teh topics of monetizing people, getting funded and selling out. And one thing I can tell you – I won’t be there to call him on this bullshit.

I’m also particularly interested in the EFF Awards – cause I don’t see them talking about data portability, interoperability, privacy rights, user’s rights to their data, etc. I often wondered where the EFF is in all this?

So I have little faith that anything substantive will get covered at any of these sessions at these conferences (and the same at SXSW for that matter.) It seems that fiefdoms, power games and exclusionary politics are the buzzword du jour in this space. And why not? There’s MONEY to be made – right?

Lets all go off, start a movement, trademark the term and then you can have a conference of your OWN! Youc na convince analysts to track you, VCs to start funds and maybe one day – you can retire and become a VC yourself (liek Dave McClure.) Oh Goodey.

So in repsonse to Dave asking me to do some research – I have Dave – and I’m still convinced you aren’t necessarily helping us in our fight, that you’re profiting and exploiting the situation and…..

Well that’s it – I guess.

Business as usual.

Date: Monday, January 28th, 2008 | Time: 10:32 am
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Why would a Vendor allow members to LEAVE their social networks?

peepagg-logo.jpgIn this podcast with Steve Gillmor I explain some promotions we’re working on in inter-connecting social networks together – that will enable folks to move between social networks based upon incentives, prizes, real-world objects, etc. – when importing their friends into these new networks.

The trick is how to provide benefits to end-users – at the same time – as providing benefits to Vendors.

Once we pull off this sort of promotion – between our own customers - then hopefully we’ll be able to do it with other vertical networks or meta-networks such as Ning or Flux. And others will follow and then we’ll have definitive proof that open social networking can benefit ALL!

Because as we all know – the future is about 10,000s of niche, vertical, localized networks – rather than a world of giant centralized data lock-in silos. Right?

Enjoy the show!

Part 1 of the News Gang – Jan. 25th, 2008

Part 2

BTW In this show – Steve asks me to approach Patrick Chanezon of Google and get an explanation from Google on why we should support or agree with OpenSocial – as long as Google is exploiting the GMail contacts. Patrick – please respond.

Date: Sunday, January 27th, 2008 | Time: 9:42 pm
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Facebook extends their lock-in strategy

Its great to see Mark Zuckerberg getting cozy with Robert Scoble – acting all human and such, but that doesn’t mean that their latest move – in offering up client side javascript libraries to enable developers to access their closed platform – from within external applications or services – is anything more than just an extension of the same game of lock-in.

Now instead of having to come to Facebook to interact with one’s Facebook social graph, apps or other Facebook services – developers will be able to have their users (or call them customers) stay outside of Facebook – yet access all that stuff FROM Facebook. Its a coolio move and one that continues to move the world of open, distributed computing – forward.

But it still assumes that the web is Facebook.

And it’s not.

Facebook is just ONE platform – in a world of platforms.

Folks like Henry Blodgett – an investment banker – think this is a brilliant move. To quote Henry:

For obvious reasons, Facebook wants to resist going completely “open” and allowing members to export their information and relationships at will, as Facebook might lose its control over its core asset (the billions of relationships among its millions of members, a.k.a., the social graph). This move seems another smart step toward a hybrid strategy: Allow app makers (and Facebook) to extend social-graph functionality to the web, gather more app users, and recruit more members–but retain full control over the social graph itself.

But Yo Hank! In case you haven’t been paying attention – there really ARE other platforms out there and Facebook’s continued insistence that it is the ONLY platform – kind of, well let me say this politely Hank “it’s great for capitalists to exploit users and customers and make money for themselves – but Hank I believe Facebook has already signed up their investment bankers for their IPO.”

Sorry there’s no money it it for YOU Hank – until they’re public – and then you can run up their stock, just like Google.

So Hank- there’s no reason for you to suck up to Zuckerberg et al – you’re NOT gonna get the business. The absurd valuatoon has been set and now all they have to do is generate REVENUES to justify it. You know – we’re NOT letting companies go public WITHOUT revenues – in this bubble.

So anyone else who supports Facebook or justifies this latest move clearly as something to prove in alligning themelves with Facebook – right? Everyone understands that?

We know why Dave McClure alligns himself with Facebook – right? He puts on conferences and invests in companies that benefit from Facebook. He’s one of those O’Reilly confidants that LOVE to play exclusive games and play kingmaker.

And we know why Bebo supports Facebook’s APIs – right? Cause they’re ALSO supporting OpenSocial – and will serve as aplatform to connect the two worlds together.

And LORD KNOWS we know why Scoble supports Facebook – he’s used Facebook brilliantly to extend his brand and now EVERYONE will want to watch his exclusive video interviews of ‘the shy one’.

But why would your or I support Facebook?

They actually think they’re the web – and sorry – they’re just PART of the web. So beware of platforms bearing gifts.

Date: Sunday, January 27th, 2008 | Time: 11:50 am
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End of Jan. ’08 blogging #1

HypeMeters, comments and good wishes all agree that DataPortability.org needs some meat. Now where was that nicely marbled rib-eye when we need it?

Poor Mike Arrington. Didn’t get a ride on the Google plane back from Davos. Waaaaah!

I’m really getting into TheFunded – more and more everyday. The VCs need somebody to call them on their bullshit and comparing term sheets is one way to do it. The fact that we’re starting to look for money makes this even more important to us. Do we even talk to VCs? Which ones? Just rich folks? Private equity firms? Hmmmm??? The VCs I thought I respected and I was willing to deal with have each given me more reason to believe that they think they’re ‘above us all’ and are smarter than us. Too bad.

Robert Scoble got some quality time with Mark Zuckerberg. I hope he convinced him to build in “Opt-in” into relationships which will give users control over who can export their data. That’s that’s granularity we need.

Of course Robert took the money – who else was gonna pay for it? Seagate? No wait! They WERE paying for it!

I’m now a Contra Costa County blogger. Coolio.

Apple adverse to blogging and social media apps – NO! Say it ain’t true!

United State of Pop

SpiralFrog rocking

Marten Mickos (CEO of MySQL) on being bought by Sun

B-17G Flying Fortress flights – out of OshKosh, WI

User generated Telecom, Media and Technology predictions

How to successfully launch a social network – this is actually what we’re paid to do. Allot. But most don’t listen. Oh well. At least their checks don’t bounce.

Date: Saturday, January 26th, 2008 | Time: 10:55 pm
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Microsoft reports $6.5B in profit for Q4 ’07

Take that – Google!

And they joined DataPortability.org 

Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2008 | Time: 11:24 pm
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DataPortability.org gradually eeking it’s way out of the reality distortion echo chamber

It was kind of heartening today – after reading yet another press release about some BigCo joining the DataPortability effort – to stumble upon this roadmap timeline of activities leading to a DataPortabilioty enabled web.  Kind of heartening in a cute naive way.

This timeline is a nice way of displaying blog posts spouting hyperbole ans dogma about ideals.  Chris Saad was asked “show us the beef” and his response is a timeline of blog posts about blog posts.  I really like the idea of displaying a living breathing story of the evolution of this effort.

But that’s not called beef Chris – that’s called hype.

You were asked:

    – “What is the DataPortability solution, technology stack, use case scenarios, working demos, interoperability testing labs – you know = BEEF

- You responded with a timeline of blog posts.

- These blog posts are mainly reports on BigCos joining the org.  There’s an active mail list – but that doesn’t mean anything.  Who’s doing what – specifically?

Whether you like it or not you stuck your own neck out there around this effort.  So please be aware that when you’re asked for beef, don’t start talking like a vegetarian!

What I ‘d like to know is what the DataPortability.org efforts is in relationship to the secret confab – FOOCamp – being held this weekend – up in O’Reilly land.

Isn’t that about ‘open social networking’?  Isn’t that what DataPortability.org is all about?

So lets please lighten it up on the press releases and claims of support – when its just not clear what the hell these companies are supporting or what they’re doing – at all.

Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 | Time: 3:30 pm
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You all sold all your Google stock at 740 – right?

When you get to my age – you get used to capitalists losing their shirts, gaming the stock market and making it all look like it’s really important that they’ve gone broke. This is how capitalism works.

Bottom fishers show up, reap huge rewards and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Maybe it’s time to BUY a house now? Or buy Google? Or maybe wait til next week. Or next year.

Regardless – DLAs, open social networking, paradigm shifts and disruptive technology continues to move our world forward. And they’ll actually be more rich people – it just might be a different set of rich people this time.

Woe be it for the small time day trader or individual investor who tries to play this game with the big boys. Don’t they know the whole thing is tilted for the big guys to always come out ahead? Even those idiot CEOs who got fired recently left with HUGE severance packages.

But what about the poor schmuck who bought Google at $680? Or worse – $730?

goog520.gif

Notice it lost a half a point just between screen grabs!

goog740.gif

It’s now at: 530 and dropping…..

Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 | Time: 11:34 am
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You can buy pot seeds in Vancouver

Big trial and issue for Canadians – has been resolved.

The DEA tried to try a Canadian in the US on US laws – though the ‘crime’ was committed in Canada. Pretty ballsey – huh?

Well the Canadians said “No!” Enough.

Congrats to all of Canada. Now where are my cellulose papers?

Hmmm – I’m going back to Vancouver for Northern Voice.  Hmmmmm

Date: Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 | Time: 4:02 pm
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Mid-Jan 08 blogging #2

Coolio – turn Last.fm into a video service!

Rafe Needlemen has some interesting insights into NetVibes new ‘Ginger’ upgrade. What I wish Tariq and NetVibes would do – is further embrace the notion of a public side to NetVibes – one which engages people in a distributed meshwithout having to JOIN NetVibes. If a NetVibes member subscribed to your feed – that’s the connection. Think of it as MyBlogLog – yet NOT locked into Yahoo’s silo. MyBlogLog kind of got it right – and then disappeared. NetVibes can pick up the ball and run with it. They need Groups. IMHO. Meanwhile Stacy Higginbotham only sees Ginger as a path towards monetization – which is a good thing. Right?

Speaking of which = MyBlogLog API! Coolio! Finally!

Kaliya on the Open Social Network and also – the “We” of Identity for “Our Web” (the social graph)

Congrats to David Galbraith and family!

Zynga takedown? Gee – now here I was gonna ask some of my hacker buddies to game Zynga and create some bots and scripts to sit there all day long and pound on those “give me money’ buttons. But it looks like Hasbro will get to them first. I wonder if Fred Wilson will get his money back or if – like Tribe.net – he’ll just write it off as yet another Pincus-gate? Afterall Fred makes plenty of money on his crap-shoot investing style on non-business model plays like delicious and Twitter. :-)

XMPP as the basis for interop in Twitterland? Any kind of interop is a good thing and using XMPP even better!

Congrats to my Slovenian buddy Andrej Nabergoj on the launch of Noovo

Before there was content, there was conversation

Captn Crunch is BACK!

Reddit goes white label – create you OWN Reddit.

Identity Gang and the Identity Commons are meeting in NYC Feb. 19th. I wonder if they’ve all decided upon “what is Identity” yet?:-)

Though I really like Jeremy Zawody – there are clearly a LOT of old guard folks at Yahoo that simply need to go away. They haven’t been able to keep up with the rest of us – how long has it been? For four-five years now? There simply is no excuse how badly those people have executed. Clearly its time to ‘put up a fight‘ or die and get bought. I like Kara’s line Yahoo can’t cut itself into greatness. They actually have to do something RIGHT now. I say flush the toilet and start over. Keep Jeremy, Caterina and Stewart – and Chad and Bradley. And Ian and Lucas of course. I can’t get Ash Patel to return my email.

Is there any connection between foldable computer screens and cellulose rolling papers found at the Grey Area? Inquiring minds wanna know!

DataPortability – Connect, Control, Share, Remix

Moxi failing. Oh gee that’s a suprise – that’s #4 in a row for Steve Pearlman. Sell it off before anybody realizes how full of shit he is. Anybody remember WebTV? How ’bout General Magic? Did you know that Steve got a patent on anti-aliased text for TV – in the mid-1980′s – while at Apple – and Apple did/has done nothing with it? So selling off Moxi to Paul Allen was just the latest of Pearlman scams. Go Steve go!

Social Software is the Platform of the Future = Dare Obasanjo 2004

Bye bye Barney Wragg – never did get that appointment with him.

Report on social networking panel at DLD in Munchen by Patrick Le Laive

CoverItLive, Quantcast, Mixercast, iPartee, Badoo, ActiveRain, hypertable, profy, OpenURL,

The only new ideas to show up at SXSW will be those folks who hire a PR flack to suck up to Hugh.

Loic is doing a panel with EIGHT - count them 8 panelists at Davos. Good luck Loic. I”m sure Mitch Kapor will have many intelligent thinsg to say. NOT.

Date: Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008 | Time: 3:55 pm
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