What Is and Isn’t Important to Learn….. Lessons from Friendster

I’m spending the week at USC. It is a much welcomed visit to Los Angeles (where I was born and raised) and an exciting chance to see what is going on at a great journalism school.

Geneva Overholser and company have me running around to all kinds of classes to talk about Spot.Us and the Web in general. What is great about these opportunities is that it forces me to think critically about what is and is not important for a young journalist to know – and how to articulate that.

I’m often asked something akin to the following:

“Is it REALLY important for me to be on Twitter?”

My answer is unequivocally yes. But the interesting reason is why.

A journalist should sign up for Twitter, (Facebook, start a blog, Seesmic, 12seconds.tv, Slideshare.Net, etc, etc, etc) not because it is TWITTER – but rather because they need to learn the vocabluary of what Twitter is.

Lets not get caught up in the buzz that is Twitter, Seesmic, etc, etc – or the latest cool website. Lets not confuse the
medium for the message.

The Anecdote That Explains It All.

A few weeks ago while trying to make a point to a young journalist I asked:

“Do you remember Friendster?”

To which he responded:

“What is Friendster?”

I had to laugh….

“EXACTLY. What is Friendster?!?!?
(FYI: a great article about what happened to Friendster.)

In 2002/3 Friendster WAS social networking. It was the first and only major social networking site. Everyone was on it. Your parents were on Friendster.

It subsequently went the way of the Dodo bird. So the question is – do I consider my time spent on Friendster a waste?

No – and here is why.

When MySpace came out – I knew instantly what it was, how to register, how to engage with it, etc.

When I grew out of the age demographic for MySpace and joined Facebook, I knew exactly what it represented, how to play around on it, how to
engage with people, etc.

And potentially when I find something else to replae Facebook (Open Social?) I’ll know exactly how to engage.

What I absorbed was the vocabulary, best practices and potential uses.

I’m not predicting that Twitter will collapse (although it came close), but even if it did – my time on it wouldn’t be a waste. Twitter represents
a different kind of vocabulary. It is the “Friendster of lifestreaming” – which is to say; the first major player on the lifestreaming scene.

That is why it’s important to sign up on Twitter. Not because I think Twitter is the coolest website ever – but because the activities that

one can take are NOT going to disappear. As Chris Anderson said: Social networking is an activity – not a destination. Don’t get
distracted by the site – but understand what it represents. And the only way to learn is to do.

4 thoughts on “What Is and Isn’t Important to Learn….. Lessons from Friendster”

  1. I don’t see the ‘current’ open social platforms (facebook or google) as the next step of social networking. What happen to microformats and open id? Two worthy movements that just didn’t pull through.

    I have a good vison of what the next leap is, I’m just watching to see what fast and lean company will sprout and over take google and facebook in the social networking space.

    How fun it is to see giants fall. Its like the end of Kingkong.

  2. Hi, Dave. Nice hearing you speak at the lunch today at the University of Southern California.

    I agree that it’s a good idea to dive in and experiment with all these tools. I just wish I had enough time in the day and night to juggle 6+ social network sites. So I dabble when I can. Enjoy your stay at USC.

  3. Thx for great talk yesterday and today. Glad you got meet some of my APOC fellows incl Anna above. This prog rocks.
    While I think that SNS are crucial to develop new means of distribution, what worries me ultimately is the content.
    Without great content, I don’t think there is any good business…. The content is king because as you rightly pointed out yesterday, it could be mobile platforms we are looking at.. or suddenly the web becomes something completely different. The content will assure marketability irrespective of its different incarnations.
    And that’s the hardest to achieve..
    Anyways if ure around more at Annenberg let us know,

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