by Brian Solis

Loic Le Meur, founder of video conversational community Seesmic, sparked a “distributed” series of online conversations. He charted his social map and made a noteworthy case to re-centralize content and conversations, in his case, back to his blog.

We used to have our social online presence very centralized, for me it was my blog. The current trend is very interesting, everything is decentralized and we only use the best services by type of media (text, photos, video, music, events etc). Everything we post is totally decentralized this is why tools like Mybloglog, Friendfeed and Socialthing start to gather all of these for us and it is a great idea.

The challenge for Friendfeed and the like is that while I really like all my services gathered in one place, I would rather that these would be centralized on my blog instead of a third party service.

It’s not an unreasonable request, and would in fact, inject a level of sanity, control, and management back into the equation of creating socialized content, but as Stowe Boyd puts it, “I think that day is done.”

Stowe continues:

Basically, conversation is moving from a very static and slow form of conversation — the comments thread on blog posts — to a more dynamic and fast form of conversation: into the flow in Twitter, Friendfeed, and others. I think this directionality may be like a law of the universe: conversation moves to where is is most social. Personally, I don’t think the genie can be put back in the bottle.

The truth is that we are embracing new tools because they’re are either intriguing and fascinating to us and/or because those within our social graph are also adopting them to stay connected and participate in online conversations.

We are responsible for the decentralization of our content and our attention.

I created a Social Map that outlines where I create, discover, collaborate, and socialize and it serves as a stark reminder that I am distributed and there’s no turning back – at least not yet

I participate in the communities where I find value and where I can in turn contribute to the value. It is distributed. It is decentralized. However, it is this way because each community sustains its own unique culture, a culture that is only partially represented through the latest crop of aggregators and activity hubs such as FriendFeed, SocialThing and

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch also introduced the notion of Data Portability into the mix and it does open up some interesting possibilities for helpful solutions.

Data Portability may turn out to be the answer that people are looking for. And it may turn out to be a sort of anti-FeedFriend. The whole point of Data Portability is to get social networks talking to each other and exchanging user data, with their explicit permission. Want to add your flickr photos, twitter messages and YouTube Videos to your blog? Data Portability is working to help make that happen through consensus driven policies and procedures. In essence, data portability embraces the Decentralized Me, but lets users re-centralize it wherever they please.

I embrace it and invest my attention in those communities that offer a return. It isn’t much more scalable as it is and I may adopt new tools to help me participate through an aggregated fashion if I can do so without losing the context of the conversation stream and the overall culture.

Related reading:

The Value of Online Conversations

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

Visit Brian's page at


    no imageAndrew Mager (Who am I?)30 March 2008 11:05 am

    Very interesting. I wonder what this map will look like one year from today?

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    no imageAmanda Chapel (Who am I?)30 March 2008 11:19 am

    Looks like a diversified social portfolio… of penny stocks.

    - Amanda

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    no imagebriansolis (Who am I?)30 March 2008 11:24 am

    Andrew, it will absolutely evolve, although many of those networks have been there for years.

    Amanda, very witty. Value is in the eye of the beholder and even penny stocks can deliver value when invested in and cultivated wisely.

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    no imageHoward Greenstein (Who am I?)30 March 2008 12:40 pm

    It’s clear to me that mere mortals won’t put up with this many networks. When I talk to companies, they have to seriously consider if they want to add another network (private) or work within the networks their employees are already on.
    For me, the ability to move some of this dialog back to my own blog is not a bad thing, as that helps you create your own reputation.
    Do we need to Utterz, AND Seesmic, AND Qik, and do we need to keep our bookmarks on AND Magnol.ia?
    I agree with your comment that each community has its culture and its value, and it’s our job as communications professionals to know the difference, and to act as translators and guides for those who don’t know the culture but wish to meet the participants.
    But what you’re describing here is more than Linda Stone’s continuous partial attention – this is personal brand dilution you’re talking about. There’s more to discuss in that area.

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    no imageDon Lafferty (Who am I?)30 March 2008 1:27 pm

    When I look at your illustrated social map I’m not sure if the feeling I get is excitement or hopelessness.

    My personal discipline forces back to the question of donuts, that is, where are the donuts in all this?

    Do the donuts reside in the listening or the messaging?

    Let’s not kid ourselves. For most of us the donuts will reside in the messaging, so for now we listen in order to get better at the messaging.

    But it’s still a finite numbers game whose limits are dictated by human abilities.

    Back in the day, did you ever expect to read every newspaper available, or just the most pertinent sections of three or four, combined with a trustworthy radio news outlet and a web site or two?

    There just ain’t no way one person is going to hear every voice out there, even if you have tools to aggregate the conversations and pipelines to deliver them to your doorstep. Tools will make the gathering part easier, but the absorption and regurgitation will always be a manual process.

    And while consumers are changing their information delivery methods, outward messaging will remain as demographically segmented as it is in traditional media.

    I don’t ever see a one button solution in either direction, but I don’t think it matters either.

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    no imageMichael Chin (Who am I?)31 March 2008 5:28 am

    Great illustration…of a super-duper-uber user! ;-)

    The big questions for me becomes: what is the destination/platform and what’s the impact to the feature/application providers if everything they offer is taken off page all the time? What is the business model?

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    no imageChristopher Herot (Who am I?)2 April 2008 9:45 am

    This is an interesting exercise and I’m glad you posted your map. I’ve put mine at

    The average user is more likely to stick with a small number of services. Facebook is trying to exploit this phenomenon and become the destination site for social communication, but as it adds features and applications that creates opportunities for simpler, more targeted services. Indeed I’ve found my own use of Facebook has dropped significantly when I started using Twitter. I still like Loic’s idea of managing everything from a place I own, like my blog. The first blog engine to allow me to do that in a painless manner will get my business.

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    no imageJay Deragon (Who am I?)12 August 2008 2:29 am

    Good article and the very issues discussed is the whole reason Doc Searls wants to level set the net with VRM (Vendor Relationship Management).

    His project at the Berkman Center is about empowering us as individuals to have the tools to manage “our network, our conversations and our media” without having to rely on other networks. It is interesting to see the chase for networks offering the latest and greatest only to try and “capture us”. Soon we will be the ones capturing.

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