More of a linked list of other people's thoughts ... about egos and objects. I quote some pieces below: all of the posts are suggestive and worth reading. The linking theme is that people connect and share themselves through 'social objects', pictures, books, or other shared interests, and that successful social networks are those which form around such social objects.

Here is Fred Stutzman in a post which contrasts ego-centric and object-centric social networks. Flickr or Librarything are object-centric networks, while Facebook is an ego-centric one.

In a post I wrote exploring the network effect multiplier, the value proposition of object-centric social networks is described. Object-centric social networks offer core value, which is multiplied by network value. A great photo-hosting service like Flickr stands alone without the network, making it less susceptible to migration. An ego-centic network, on the other hand, has limited core-value - it's value is largely in the network - making it highly susceptible to migration. We see this with Myspace: individuals lose little in terms of affordances when they migrate from Myspace to Facebook, making the main chore of migration network-reestablishment, a chore made ever-simpler as the migration cascade continues. [Unit Structures: Social Network Transitions]

In a much discussed post, Jyri Engestrom of Jaiku talks about the importance of objects in mediating connections between people. He talks about the "'social just means people' fallacy", suggesting that FOAF, for example, will not work because it tries to connect people to people without representing the objects around which they connect.

Russell's disappointment in LinkedIn implies that the term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it's not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine when they hear the term 'social network.' The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object. [zengestrom.com: Why some social network services work and others don't Or: the case for object-centered sociality]

Here is a report of a talk by Jyri Engestrom where he talks about five key principles involved in a successful social network built around objects.

  1. You should be able to define the social object your service is built around
  2. Define your verbs that your users perform on the objects. For instance, eBay has buy and sell buttons. It's clear what the site is for.
  3. How can people share the objects?
  4. Turn invitations into gifts
  5. Charge the publishers, not the spectators. He learned this from Joi Ito. There will be a day when people don't pay to download or consume music but the opportunity to publish their playlists online.
[NMKForum07: Jyri of Jaiku. Strange Attractor: Picking out patterns in the chaos]

These thoughts are picked up interestingly by Hugh MacLeod (of gapingvoid fame). He suggests that sometimes he will use 'sharing device' rather than 'social object' in conversation. Social networks are built around social objects, he suggests, not the other way around; the objects are nodes which appear before the network, and around which it forms.

5. Yesterday at the Darden talk I explained why geeks have become so important to marketing. My definition of a geek is, "Somebody who socializes via objects." When you think about it, we're all geeks. Because we're all enthusiastic about something outside ourselves. For me, it's marketing and cartooning. for others, it could be cellphones or Scotch Whisky or Apple computers or NASCAR or the Boston Red Sox or Bhuddism. All these act as Social Objects within a social network of people who care passionately about the stuff. Whatever industry you are in, there's somebody who is geeked out about your product category. They are using your product [or a competitor's product] as a Social Object. If you don't understand how the geeks are socializing- connecting to other people- via your product, then you don't actually have a marketing plan. Heck, you probably don't have a viable business plan. [gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": more thoughts on social objects]

John Breslin picks up the theme in practical terms and has some pictures which try to show this 'decentralized me'.

I’ve extended my previous picture showing a person being linked across communities to this idea of people (via their user profiles) being connected by the content they create together, co-annotate, or for which they use similar annotations. Bob and Carol are connected via bookmarked URLs that they both have annotated and also through events that they are both attending, and Alice and Bob are using similar tags and are subscribed to the same blogs. [T-SIOC, object-centered sociality at Cloudlands]

And a final quote from Hugh MacLeod.

14. The most important word on the internet is not "Search". The most important word on the internet is "Share". Sharing is the driver. Sharing is the DNA. We use Social Objects to share ourselves with other people. We're primates. we like to groom each other. It's in our nature. [gapingvoid: "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards": more thoughts on social objects]

Comments: 2

Jun 23, 2008
Nicole

It is an interesting point that people easily migrate from sites like MySpace, but not Flickr. I wonder if resumes are a "sticky" enough "object" to keep people tied to one site... like LinkedIn.com or www.octopuscity.com for example.

Aug 01, 2008
Fran

I'd reckon that if you have spent a long time uploading "objects" (photos to Flickr, etc.) you won't want to re-do that work, whereas creating a basic Facebook profile is quick and easy. Plus there's no point in having a profile on one network if all your friends are on a different one, so it probably only takes a few "key people" to shift and all their friends will follow - just like the way certain pubs and clubs go in and out of fashion.