Posted by: Ben | August 2, 2009

Building Out the Network

One of Geni.com‘s (a socially collaborative family tree) most compelling features is that you can add relatives to your family tree without their having to do it themselves.  This was a feature that probably came from necessity:  you’re not going to “friend” your great-great-great grandfather who’s been dead for a while.

But the upshot of this is that a few power users (since social networking always follows power laws) are empowered to build out most of the network.  People who aren’t as active in the network can verify their own details and maybe fill in a few other details that they may know.  This is more of a Wikipedia model, where a small number of people do most of the work, but anyone has the opportunity to add or just use what others have done.

I just started using Nike+ and the Gmail import function is broken.  So even though I have like 800 contacts, I can’t check against them to see if anyone else is using Nike+ that I know.  The result is that I only have 1 friend on it right now, another guy I chat with regularly about exercising.  How am I supposed to be more engaged?  How are we supposed to build a community?

So Galapag.us will let people add anyone else’s profile to the system.  I already planned to beta test the site within my Georgetown network, but I can already envision myself adding basic profiles for all my closest friends and then inviting them to claim it for their own.

People will also, I imagine, add profile pages for celebrities.  Celebrities will be somewhat forced to defend themselves by claiming their profile and either parking it or (preferably) building it out.

Another side effect might be that human rights groups could document small communities in war-torn/oppressed countries.  That is, they could keep censuses on small towns and update their info so the world can see if a lot of people are disappearing because of political violence or dying of disease/malnutrition.

While the costs of storage, bandwidth, and processing time are dropping like a rock, the human population in the world is going to be leveling out, and thus there is a finite number of people.  As population stabilizes, individuals will each become more valuable and more will be invested in each person.  In developed nations, families have fewer children because they are not as likely to lose the children to disease or war or anything else — the time and resources spent having more children is then put into giving them better educations and improved health, among other factors.

So Galapag.us will be right in the sweet spot for providing a way to document more and more of the stabilizing population…and then allowing them to create value for themselves through public reputation.  Doesn’t that sound beautiful?

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