connecting, developing, integrating, internet, social networking

Ping vs. Fabulis: what Steve Jobs can learn from Jason Goldberg about Social Networks

Ping Steve Jobs launching Ping earlier this week

last week Apple continued their ascendancy with the unveiling of a revamped iPod range, but also with Ping; a social network, housed within iTunes, based – not surprisingly – in and around music.  so a small step for iTunes but a giant leap for Apple into the social networking space.

they're not the first.  back in July 2008 I wrote a post in response to news that MTV was launching a social networking initiative called House.  I expressed concern then, that brands sailing into social waters did so at significant risk…  there's simply only so many networks people can and will be part of…

at the time I ranked a very un-statistically robust sample of social network membership and (unsurprisingly) a long tail emerged…  whilst a small minority of sites (Facebook, MySpace) account for the vast majority of social networkers, there is the potential for a network to aggregate a strong and viable community around a niche topic or area.  but therein lies the rub…  if you're stuck in the tail then running a social network could be an expensive way to aggregate and entertain a niche audience.

but back to Ping, and as niche's go, it got to be said that if you're going to go after a vertical then music seems to be a fair vertical to choose; especially when you have one of the biggest and most significant music ecommerce platforms in existence, and MySpace – you're most significant rival with specific music credibility – is struggling to demonstrate a place for itself in the world.

but Ping is a somewhat limited experience.  on first use it feels like a twitter engine (you follow and are followed) with a Facebook framework.  but that's where the similarity ends and the problems start; the only way to connect with people is to invite them by email, and once you are connected there's no inter-network connectivity.  what goes on Ping, stays on Ping.

contrast this with Fabulis, the social network set up for gay men and the friends of gay men set up by Jason Goldberg (below) earlier this year. aims to help gay men and their friends discover where to go, what to do, and who to meet.

Jason_goldberg fabulis founder Jason Goldberg

two things struck me about fabulis.  one is how the site has an explicit 'currency' in the form of bits – points that you earn or win by interacting and engaging with the site and other social networkers.  for the record my meager 815 points currently rank me at 4,181st, so I've a bit of engaging to do (but then that's very much the point of points isn't it).

Fabulis fabulis tackling the onerous task of helping gay men and their friends stay in touch – it's a tough job but some networks got to do it

but the second and most interesting aspect of fabulis is how I never actually joined the social network.  I never registered a username or created a password.  nor did I upload a profile picture or suggest friends.  Facebook Connect did all of that, and moreover, fabulis was more than happy for Facebook to do it.  my sign-in, profile, and network were all ported happily and seamlessly across from Facebook.  Compare and contrast this with Ping's approach.

the fundamental difference between the networks is that Ping is insular and closed (and that's very much Apple's prerogative and indeed modus operandi) whereas fabulis is not only open in it's approach, but dependent on another network – namely Facebook – for a key element of its infrastructure.  if Facebook went down one day (run with this!) then fabulis would go down with it; it's a network built on a network, and its very much the better for it.

all of which makes Jobs' position on why Ping isn't connected into Facebook's (or another social network's) content very revealing…  in a post on cnet news, Kara Swisher describes how when she asked Jobs about the lack of connectivity on Ping, "he said Apple had indeed held talks with Facebook about a variety of unspecified partnerships related to Ping, but the discussions had gone nowhere … the reason, according to Jobs: Facebook wanted "onerous terms that we could not agree to""

Ping was a pretty unique opportunity for Apple to open it's doors and integrate part of its product into the wider web in a way that would ultimately have made Ping better for its users.  the fact that Jobs didn't says more about Apple than it does about Facebook's apparent 'onerous' terms.  it seems that Facebook's terms weren't too onerous for Goldberg, and fabulis is, well, pretty fabulis as a result.

applicationing, creating, developing, evidencing

Walking the World Cup Talk: How is holding it’s own in the Age of Evidence by adding value to it’s World Cup-following readers

brilliant World Cup interactive infographic courtesy of Littlewood (or more specifically Littlewood's mate) hosted here…  I'm not going to pretend that I'm massively into the World Cup (I'll get excited when we play).  I am however going to pretend that I'm massively into infographics and how they can add value to how we absorb and engage with the world…

you can track the entire competition…


or just focus on the upcoming fixtures for your country…  etc etc etc…

the point, is that the site – – really takes it's football seriously…  and the investment in this little number is a great example of walking the talk, or as I like to put it, evidence-based marketing…

because whilst the application is a great way of navigating your way through the World Cup, its also a brilliant way of marketing…  marketing by the best, oldest, and arguably most effective method of communication…  yup, word of mouth (or in it's modern guise) word of mouse.

those of you paying attention will also notice that it's very social-friendly too…  the Like and Tweet buttons in the top right of the application currently show it having 32k and 5,414 advocacies (couldn't think of another word to go there) across Facebook and Twitter…

and that's a lot of connections and click throughs sparked, not by an ad saying 'Marca likes / does / loves football' but rather through the provision of a bit of evidence that proves it, whilst at the same time making the World Cup just that little bit better for its fans.  not a bad day's work for a media brand living in the age of evidence – and not a Rooney ad in sight.

applicationing, developing, praising

Build it [well] and they will come: three things to appluad about Stella Artois’ iPhone app

picked this up via a TrendCentral article describing how brands are leveraging the power of AR in the mobile space.  there's nothing massively groundbreaking about the above application; we've been talking about this kind of technology for a good while now.  but there are however three important things to observe…

it is done very well.  its comprehensive, simple to download and seemingly easy to use.  its one thing to develop the strategy of having a bar-finder app…  its quite another to make one happen.  and to make one happen that has clearly been developed with user-centricity (rather than brand-centricity) at its heart is to be applauded.

it was developed outside of an established silo of expertise.  specialist iPhone app building agency arossair (not an existing ad, media, or digital agency) built the application for Stella.  this is an agency build on the basis of being a specialist not a generalist; of being totally focused on doing one thing well and being famous for it.  I can't help but think that all of us in more generalist agencies will have to decide just how generalist we want to be in the future…

…the obvious model that emerges is that the generalists will evolve into central hubs of thinking and coordination, pulling in the capabilities of specialists on behalf of brands and projects as they go.  but an evolution to this role brings with it lower margins and potential revenues – especially and specifically in the area of production and execution.

finally, they did it.  enough of the talk and the thinking and the chart writing and justification and exploration and debating; and more of the doing.  as the early 21st Century witnesses an exponential increase in the things that brands could do, there is a pleasure in seeing a brand actually doing something.  'build it [well] and they will come' could well become a mantra for our times.