I am sometimes bemused by life. Confused even.
Over the last few months it has become ever more fashionable to bash social networks in general, and Facebook in particular; the king is dead, long live the new king, blah blah. Just a few months ago, you couldn’t walk around without bumping into a Facebook conference, you couldn’t read around without bumping into a Facebook article, you couldn’t talk around without bumping into a Facebook conversation.
Such is life. I haven’t stopped using Facebook during all that; I haven’t stopped wanting to build a Facebook for the Enterprise, creating a Behind-The-Firewall set of functions and utilities that can extend Facebook functionality while coexisting with Facebook. And, as far as I can see, there are 60 million other people who haven’t stopped using it. People who largely don’t know any of the critics, people who have been using Facebook since it began. People like my daughter. She doesn’t know about much of the kerfuffle, and doesn’t care.
I can understand her.
You see, I didn’t use Facebook to be cool, to have something to say, to have something to blog about. I went into Facebook because I saw a set of utilities that would help me in my quest for Four Pillars in the Enterprise: Search, Syndication, Fulfilment and Conversation.
So when I saw the wave of pushback against Facebook, I had to ask myself why I continued to use it. And think hard about my answer. And it taught me something about how I felt about social networks. Which is this:
The information that flows through a social network exists in three dimensions. One dimension is time, past, present and future. A second dimension is number, one to many. A third is movement, static to dynamic. When I share my contact details with another person, I am providing static, present, one-to-one information.Â When I share what I am intending to do with a whole community, I am providing dynamic, future, one-to-many information.
The motivation to provide information is, at least in part, driven by an expected value of the information coming out of Facebook. And one other thing: the comfort level of providing, to a community, what is essentially private information.
Generation M and their successors are comfortable with sharing their past actions, current state and their future intentions with the community they belong to; they’re comfortable with sharing changes to states and intentions as well. They do this because they believe new value will emerge from that sharing. Collaborative, communal value, shared value.
So why do I use continue to use Facebook?
It’s simple. Because it continues to give me more than the value I used to get from it. Because it continues to give me more than the value I expected when I started using it. Because I can see a way of deriving even more value from it. Particularly as I learn to use tools that augment the Facebook experience, tools like Twitter and Dopplr and even WordPress.
Nothing changed for me. Or my daughter. Or her friends.