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General | Anti-Social Musings


Sep 09

Starting a New Chapter: On Leaving MTV Networks

Starting new chapters in life is always bittersweet, filled with excitement for the future and yet sadness for the people left behind.

When I started at MTV Networks, I was given a a difficult task; I was tasked with creating a social strategy from scratch that could connect our sites together, change our relationship with our audience by giving more control over how our media is shared and consumed, and build a platform that could increase engagement and power new experiences and programming. From those goals, FLUX was born – an innovative social networking and distribution platform. I’m proud to be able to leave MTVN with the ability to say that we accomplished all of our goals – we built and integrated a global platform that is now serving millions of unique visitors and page views, including over 12M registered users, over 7,000 publisher sites from across the web, and over 50 of Viacom’s major sites, including powering all of the social interactions on sites big and small – from MTV.com, VH1.com, ComedyCentral.com to Jokes.comJackAssWorld.com and ColbertNation.com, not to mention many others. Our vision for a social content distribution network has become a reality as users organically navigate their way through our sites, discover new content and communities, and engage more deeply than ever. And all of this we somehow accomplished in under two years. The road was definitely filled with pot holes along the way, and though FLUX hasn’t yet been able to achieve everything we set out to, I will always be proud of the accomplishments we made and the team I’m leaving behind.

What we realized when we started to build FLUX were two major facts: people weren’t really consuming content in Facebook (at least not premium content – certainly there are a lot of UGC photos consumed in-site), and people wanted to have deeper experiences directly aligned with their passions and other people who shared those passions. Our view was not of a centralized web world where major central hubs control the experiences, but of a fragmented and distributed world where you can bring your identity with you and share it across your communities and passion points, with the extra work required with something like OpenID, and without being forced to have all of your experiences in someone else’s walled garden, like Facebook. Of course, this all pre-dates Facebook Connect.

Much has changed in two years. This idea of fragmentation has taken a strong foothold, and the social networked walled gardens continue to crumble, just as the portal walled gardens crumbled before them. But the basic needs of any content creator haven’t changed – how do you get your content discovered by the most people, build a brand, and monetize? I’m sure I’ll continue working on these issues for many years to come.

I want to thank everyone who helped and supported us along the way, and most especially thank my team who showed more passion, dedication, and talent than I could have ever asked for. Without their hard work we could never have accomplished anything. I want to especially single out Jin Kang and Brian Wong – you have continually been an inspiration to me and I’m certain that in your hands Flux will be well taken care of.

And stay tuned… I’ll let everyone know soon what’s to come in my next chapter.

Jul 09

The illusion of privacy and real friends

Social networks have long focused on how to balance individual privacy concerns and controls with how to create as much value for the audience. Facebook has long been saying that two of their key distinguishing traits are that users are “real” – i.e. they use their real name and have their real friends as their social graph – and that they provide a deep level of privacy controls. I’ve long wondered whether people really used any of those privacy controls at all.

First to the “real friends”. Perhaps this was true when Facebook first started and was growing. But I receive more and more “cold calls” via Facebook; people friending me whom I’ve never met before but who are trying to network and make connections. What does this do to the sanctity of the social graph?

Another interesting trend I’ve seen is how many people come out of the woodworks from the past – people you went to elementary school with. Suddenly the new feed looks like HS all over again, except oddly enough people who were never friends in HS are suddenly buddies on FB.

On the privacy front, a brief sampling of my friend’s and relative’s FB usage indicates that most people don’t appear to go beyond the defaults. Only a few of the people I asked used even the “limited profile” list in FB, let alone created their own arbitrary lists of friends. The ones that did such things were exactly who you’d expect – digerati adapt at using technology for marketing.

So how much do those features matter to the mainstream? Perhaps they are just like a comfort blanket. You might not ever use the privacy controls yourself, but you like knowing they’re there in case you change your mind. But it’s nice to know that Facebook has finally gotten around to simplifying their piravacy settings. Maybe now I’ll be less lazy about using them…

Jun 09

On being social

I’ve finally succummoned to the demands of others that I start a blog where I can share some of my thoughts and ideas about media & technology. So, off we go…