A Dilution of Trust

web20.jpgFred Wilson at Union Square Ventures had a very interesting post yesterday (Friending). In it, Fred shares his views on the evolution of “contacts”, “connections”, “friends”, et al. A very interesting read, and timely, given what we are doing here at HiddenMarket.

The quote from Fred that keeps sticking with me is this:

Friendship has been defined on most social networks as the people who get their faces on your profile. But as these social networks start to add real applications/utility on top of the relationship maps it’s going to create issues. Friendship is not a monolithic thing. It’s a nuanced thing.

Those of you who run into me at various networking events here in Atlanta and have to suffer through my rantings and ravings on social networks can attest to this. What Fred points out is actually one of the key driving points behind what we are doing at HiddenMarket.

What we have seen from talking with literally hundreds of users of professional social networks is what we’re calling a “dilution of trust” among users. Many people only “know” a small fraction of the people in their immediate online network. If everyone had played by the rules, and only “connected” with people that they actually knew, then we would likely be having a different conversation here.

Current social networks have largely become a “numbers game.” The quality factor has been largely supplanted by one of quantity. Instead of saying “wow, look at this nice, tight collection of strong contacts that I can leverage”, it has become a “Wow, honey, look! I now have 25,000 friends, and am connected to everyone in the free world!” The dilution of trust.

And as Fred points out, when “real applications” start appearing (or trying to appear) on top of those relationships, the problems become pretty apparent. Apples and oranges. Square peg, round hole. Whoops.

The social model we’ve implemented with HiddenMarket was born out of our realization that it was time for the a new iteration in social networking (at least on the B2B or professional side, where we sit.) It is refreshing (and validating) to see someone like Fred speaking out on this issue.



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