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January 3, 2008

It’s the Quality of the Network, not the Quantity of Faces

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A funny thing happened while we were on break last week. Search marketer and former Longer Islander Charlie Anzman accused me of not being social enough. Can you believe it? I, who can easily be found on Facebook, Twitter, MyBlogLog and about a million other social networks, was deemed to be exclusionary? Well, knock me over with a feather!

I bring this up not because I took any real offense to Charlie’s post (we chatted later. We’re good.), but because I think it hits on an important point, something that seems even more noteworthy after the news that Robert Scoble was stealing personal information from the 5,000 people in his Facebook network. Despite how Robert wants to spin it, he took their data without their permission and then used it however he wanted. Suffice to say, Robert Scoble and I are no longer Facebook BFFs.

Am I exclusionary? No, I’m not. But I am considerably more careful than I used to be and I think you should be too.

The truth is, up until a few weeks ago most of my profiles were far more accessible than they are right now. Anyone could read my Twitter feed and I friended most everyone who added me on Facebook. But then I toned it back. I didn’t do it because I think I’m above anyone; I did it for two reasons-because my feeds were becoming too noisy to keep up with and because I wanted more control over my online identity. Now if you add me on Facebook, I won’t add you unless you tell me who you are and how you know me. I’m sorry, but if you can’t take 30 seconds to explain our relationship, I’m not going to give you access to my profile. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because I need to set the bar somewhere to weed out the excess noise.

As this whole social network thing starts to mature, it’s becoming more and more important for users to know who’s in their network. For both your own personal use, as well as for business security. It’s about creating the highest quality social network you can, not the biggest, the noisiest or the one with the most star power. Find the people that you are interested in and who are contributing to the conversation and follow them. Ignore all others.

Today we saw a classic example of why it’s important to know who’s in your network. In his post published last week, Charlie commented that Robert Scoble "gets" social networking because he’ll friend and follow anyone. Then we discover that Robert was stealing your personal information and handing it over to Plaxo. He even had the audacity to claim he was doing it for your benefit.

No, Robert, you were doing it for you. You were stealing from the 5,000 Facebook users who gave you keys to their online home because you think the laws of the Internet don’t apply to you. We saw it with your policy on linking and we’re getting another glimpse of it now. Despite what Charlie may think, clearly you don’t get social media. Not even a little bit.

Robert may add the entire universe on Twitter but that doesn’t mean he’s really listening. He doesn’t follow people the same way a Jeremiah Owyang does. How could he when he follows 6,960 people compared to Jeremiah’s 3,147? He’s less engaged and less tuned in to what people are saying around him. He’s just sitting in his little bubble telling himself how cool he is that he has almost 7,000 Twitter friends. Those are not the kind of contacts you need. You want the folks like Jeremiah or Chris Brogan who are going to reach out, ask for your opinion, and then participate in a dialogue with you. You want to find the thought leaders that aren’t going to sell you out to help their own agenda.

Do yourself a favor and be selective about who you allow into your network. Follow only as many people as you can keep up with. You don’t want to miss the conversation while you’re floating in noise. Engage with those that you allow into your network. Stop being a wallflower.

Social networking was supposed to open things up. Not make them more exclusionary and aid identity theft.

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5 responses to “It’s the Quality of the Network, not the Quantity of Faces”

  1. Charlie Anzman writes:

    Hey Lisa … Just noticed this. I’m wavering a bit and recently read a piece on setting up two separate profiles (Twitter, Facebook, whatever …). Weird .. I did another post on Scoble this morning because his Google Reader shared feed gives GOBS of info and I wanted to share that. Anyway, we’re not only good, but I honestly think you set a great example for writing style and sticking to it! I mean that.

    A screenshot of your Facebook profile follows … heh :)

  2. Robert Scoble writes:

    That’s bullpucky.
    First of all, I have not used ANYONE’s Facebook data outside of Facebook. I deleted all copies of the data I scraped out of Facebook with the Plaxo tool.
    Second of all, even if I had used it you gave it to me by being my friend. Of course, now you’ve decided not to be my friend and that’s cool too.
    Are you saying I couldn’t email you with the address you gave me access to?
    How about send you a birthday card?
    Or look at your profile?
    Oh, and I notice you don’t complain about Facebook. When Facebook first starts up it asks you to import all your data from GMail.
    Why is it OK for Facebook to import data from another system but it isn’t OK for me to do the exact same thing?

  3. Chris Parandian writes:

    Excellent post Lisa.

    If the action above was taken by a phone company – Congress would be hauling them in for a hearing.

    Best, Chris

  4. Lisa Barone writes:

    Robert, you did use my information. You used it when you handed it over to someone else and gave them access to it. Whether or not you’re still holding on to it, for me, is besides the point. It’s what you did with it when you had it.
    I added you on Facebook because I liked the interviews and the videos you were creating. You’re a thought leader and I respect you for that. If you wanted to contact me, send me a birthday card, leave me a message, that would have been cool and within your right. There’s an implied trust there that if I give you access to my information and you give me access to yours, that we’ll both use it in a respectful manner. There’s an implied trust that I won’t run out and hand your information over to people you haven’t approved. Just because I give you the keys to my profile doesn’t give you the right to give the keys to someone, especially without my permission. You did not have an unlimited right to that information.
    Why can Facebook upload my Gmail contacts and you can’t? Because it’s their house we’re living in. It’s not yours or mine. Also, I believe they ask your permission before they do that, don’t they? Had you asked before you used other people’s information this may be an entirely different conversation.

  5. Alex Hillman writes:

    Lisa,
    I made a post last night about how you can’t put a value on a true “social network” because the real valuable part is only valuable to you: the people inside of it.

    While I can’t hate enough on the term ‘social graph’ to describe that portion of the network that should be important to YOU, I wonder if the importance gets diluted with size. Like you described, I’ve gone through several paring-backs of my twitter follow list because of the excessive noise. “Bigger isn’t always better”, they say. There’s a sweet spot for sure, and it varies from person to person, but I agree that once you’re past a certain point, the “value” is lost to perspective.

    It’s almost like…Once you’re making BILLIONS of dollars, having another billion dollars really makes less and less of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

    If you’re interested in my post, check out http://www.dangerouslyawesome.com/2008/01/04/id-never-sell-my-peeps/

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!



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