Tim O'Reilly – Graphing Social Patterns

I’m here at the Graphing Social Patterns conference live in San Jose, CA. Tim O’Reilly is speaking. I’m covering it live.

9:22 am – Tim is covering what they do at O’Reilly. According to the slide on the screen they “change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.” They also try to find interesting people in technology and amplify their voice. They also “watch the alpha geeks” to find new technologies first exploited by hackers, then entrepreneurs, then platform players. Tim is saying that web services and screen scraping have been around for a while.

Tim is discussing the new report that was published this past weekend. The methodology that they used was spidering Facebook statistics weekly from 7/29 to 9/2. Facebook overall is growing at 1.14% per day. Applications are growing at 1.9% per day. That’s the good news but there is bad news as well.

87% of the usage goes to 2% of apps. Tim is suggesting that people take this with a grain of salt given that this is so early in the history of the platform. Perhaps Facebook is so viral that it’s a winner take all early. Maybe not. Tim is also showing the graph of all 5000 applications and the graph is flat. Not as much of a nice long tail graph.

Tim is now comparing Safari browser views versus Bookscan unit sales. Not sure how this is relevant but then again I didn’t sleep much last night. For Facebook applicaitons, there are few that are taking off rapidly. There is now a graph on the screen that displays aplication count by category versus average application adoption. The highest adoption rate is dating applications according to the chart.

The most successful category on here is sports applicaitons based on the percentage of applications in that category that have the most active users. For sports applications the number is 13%.

9:33 am – Displaying a chart covering the most active categories by number of applications. If you look at the categories with the most active users by percentage, messaging is the biggest category. All of these things are illustrated in the recent report published this weekend.

Now Tim is showing even more statistics. Not surprising. I’m starting to wonder if Tim is going to show anything beyond what was revealed in the report this weekend. Tim is saying that growth has been peaking for the top applications. Tim is now picking out random applications and discussing the percentage growth for these applications.

9:34 am – Moving on. Tim wants to discuss where the application market wants to go. Tim is now going over what Web 2.0 is. It involves everything and now we are adding “peace and love.” Crowd chuckles

Tim mentions a book “Cornacopia of the commons.” (Don’t think I spelled that right). Slide on screen is about building a collective database. Tim is comparing open source and p2p file sharing. We need to architect systems so that they get smarter on their own. According to Tim, Google works this way and so does Facebook.

The key factor in Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence. “Every true Web 2.0 company is building a database whose value grows in proprotion to the number of participans — that is, a network-effect-driven data lock-in.” Tim wants to go back in histroy. He has brought up an image of Yahoo back in 1988. Was Yahoo around then? I think I got the date wrong!

Then came Google. Slide shows “the opportunity was in finding new meaning in user-generated data, and turning that meaning into real-time user-facing services.” Tim is discussing the company “wesabe,” one that he has invested in. Tim is discussing automated data gathering with Wesabe and comparing it to Facebook. According to Tim, Facebook should do more of this. According to Tim there is not a lot of intelligence for the news feed on Facebook.

“Facebook is way to manual.” Tim is now displaying friend requests on Facebook. So “why should I have to confirm this information?” Geni.com already knows that Sean is Tim’s brother and Tim’s company directory alreaky knows who works at O’Reilly. “In an ideal world Facebook could query O’Reilly” and find out who works there. (An interesting notion but not too realistic there Tim).

Tim is now discussing that the phone company knows everyone he has called but the phone only knows the last 10 dialed calls, last 10 received calls and last 10 missed calls. According to the slide “social networking has a long way to go till it’s the Web 2.0 address book.”

9:43 am – The fundamental act of social networking where it asks “are you my friend?” is still fundamentally flawed. Tim is now going over Xobni, a company that was at Techcrunch 40. Tim is discussing how Xobni mines your email and extracts your address book data from each email.

Tim has placed up a slide titled “the internet operating system.” According to Tim the subsystems are not about devices. They will be data subsystems (Location, identity, time, products, etc). “A platform beats an application every time.” Examples include netscape navigation, Microsoft Excel, Word, and Internet Explorer. “This is the era of the platform wars.” It is the era of the plaform race. Who is going to roll up those subsystems into the internet operating system of the future?

Tim asks how many people have read Lord of the Rings and people chuckle. Ha! There are two types of platforms, one ring to rule them all and small pieces loosely joined. Facebook can’t do it all and Tim is hoping that Facebook and people that are chipping away at the social graph will start chipping away at the “small pieces loosely joined.”

9:47 am – Tim is discussing XFN and saying that the Movable Type people are working on identity features. So what questions should you be asking yourself? Are yo udoing everything you can to build applications that learn from my users? Tim is saying that Google uses all the data that they are collecting. He is comparing wasted data to wasted food at a diner.

Learn everything you can and turn that into user facing services. Build user facing services against any data that you get from your users. Question from the slide: does my application get better with more users, or just more busy and more crowded? What data do you in fact own? If Facebook owns all the data and you don’t then you don’t have very much. If Facebook is feeding you data then you are a real partner.

If you have unique data resources from user activity that is a defensible asset. Does my platform give me and my users control, or take it away from us? The challenge for Facebook is to make sure to create more value then they are capturing. Microsoft was doing lots of great things and then they had to start eating companies. “Sorry my childrern.” Crowd chuckles.

So what does Tim want from the social graph? He wants it to reflect his real social relationships. Tim’s Facebook friends are mostly people that want to reach him. He hasn’t reached out to contact them. Tim ends up googling for people that have requested them as friends. He also wants a social network to help him manage his contacts. Tim is now discussing Foo camp. Tim is rambling on about “cool developers” and synthetic biology. Not sure what the point is. Next.

Tim wants to manage this information within the social networks. He wants to manage groups and not just his friends. Tim has his daughter’s flickr photos displaying on his netvibes pages. Tim wants to be able to manage groups independent of whether he knows them or not. Tim said something funny that I missed and the crowd chuckled. Ha!

Tim wants to recognize asymmetry in relationships. Tim doesn’t care what people ate for breakfast but he does want to read their blog posts. He also wants to meet interesting people. “So let’s take a look at Facebook.” There are now slides displaying the news feed settings on Facebook. He wants to be able to click on an item and say “more like this and less like that” on a per person basis.

9:56 am – Tim has put Geni.com on the screen. He is thoroughly impressed by the site. His brother is into geneology and within a week of signing up there were 31 relatives, many of which he didn’t know about. So how do we build special purpose social networks and then capture that data. Facebook should be able to check Geni.com. (Bottom line: interoperability.)

Tim has displayed friend requests again on the screen. Now he has brough up Jeff Housenbold’s profile and says he might be a good business contact. Facebook doesn’t give him the option of anything beside saying he is a friend or not a friend. Wants to be able to place them into a specific bucket. Tim is covering how there is no way to specify that he sold a company to Steve Case. Tim says they “hooked up” and the crowd laughs. Uprorious laughter (not).

10:00 am – Tim is covering the company Freebase. Freebase is a data graph of relationships. Look at some other purpose social networks. Tim has brought up another social network he invested in but I don’t know what it is. Now there is a Fowa expo page of Tony S. Tim is saying that there are too many status updates from his friends on Facebook and he doesn’t want all that information necessarily.

There are 2 things to get from social networks:
1) What does the person want to display about themself?
2) What does Tim want to consume about that person?

Tim wants their identifying information first. That information needs to be at the top of their profile because Tim doesn’t want to see their favorite music first. The point is that the information should be allocated differently based on how well you know the person. Tim has placed jaiku on the site. Jaiku has been acquired by Google apparently.

Need to think of social networking as an operating system. Slide on screen that displays smart presence on the phone. The phone ought to say that Brian is in Berlin based on the fact that the phone knows this. What Tim wants to leave us with when thinking about Facebook is that we are just at the beginning of building out this platform. This is like page rank in 1998. We are at the beginning of a revolution.

Ray Kurzweil quote: “I’m an invetor. I became interested in long term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it started.” Tim wants us to think of a world in which all social networks are interoperable. Think about taking this platform forward so that it becomes something that we look back in a few years and think “boy wasn’t that quaint.”

There is a lot of opportunity here and I hope we can get there together. Thank you. Crowd clapping. Taking questions.

Question: Tim, you studied history and Netscape built a solid developer community. How important is the role of the developer?

Tim: I think applications are still being driven by people. If you look back at Microsoft and the early days of the PC there were a lot of opportunities to become successful. The real differnetiating factor about whether or not Facebook is really “the platform” will be “are developers making money?” Tim is now addressing Tim Morin and his thoughts on the success of Facebook. Tim says that the iLikes and RockYous need to be successful businesses.

Question: Could you talk about some of the criteria for companies being successful on the platforms?

Tim: Depending on your business model, more distribution may be better. The companies that are at the top of the graph are using both the web well and other social networks well. They want as many contact points with their users as possible. What they need to do is cover as much information as possible at any of the contact points. There is not much user overlap from one social network to the next. Users are sticking with one social network as their primary mode of interaction. Tim is saying that applications need to be focused on the user and the user is an asset, the rest is a vehicle. Tim is talking about data sharing.

Last question: Tim, you are an advocate for the open social graph. Isn’t Facebook going to fight tooth and nail to prevent knowledge of their users flowing outside?

Tim: Not sure about it. There are a number of possible answers. Facebook is not in the position to have to share. Google is in an interesting position as well. A huge amount of the data that they have is shared. They are all spidering the same sites. If the large elements of the social graph become open, they would know a lot more that would make Facebook more useful (e.g. if Geni.com was more open). There is a lot of value that comes from openess. It is ultimately going to be in the applications and the services that you build against the data. Using the phone company as an example. The phone company would not open up data, they would keep it for competitive reaons.

There is way more for Facebook to gain by being open. Facebook is trying to work from the outside in to crack information about social data and tell us more about social networks. Openness is good for you. End.

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