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Friday, March 23, 2012

Why I Think Interest Graph (Twitter, Pinterest And Quora) Is More Powerful And Useful Than Social Graph (Facebook and Google+)

6:35 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal , 1 comment
Social networking applications are the ones that connect one human to the other, either directly or via another entity (company, interest, cause, belief, etc.). By "social network" people generally refer to Facebook or Facebook-type applications; however, social networks include all social networking applications (fitting the above definition). There is a general consensus that all social networking applications can be divided into two major camps: social graph (Facebook, LinkedIn and Path) and interest graph (Twitter, Pinterest, Quora and StackOveflow). I have been a big believer in the power of interest graphs for quite some time now, and this belief has recently been strengthened further. 

  • Sometime back I put a requirement of a designer for my project on all my social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+). Guess which one had the maximum responses? In the decreasing order of virality and responses, Twitter led the way with a huge margin. Then came LinkedIn with a slight lead over Google+. And last was Facebook with zero virality and responses. 
  • I recently joined Pinterest and pinned a few things to find out what the hype is all about, and I must say I am super impressed by it. It is not the application actually that has impressed me, but the Pinterest community. I have never seen any non-tech community as viral as that of Pinterest. Facebook and Twitter should really be concerned! 
  • I have been exploring StackOverflow and Quora for sometime now, and the speed and quality of answers (for the questions that do get answered) is really impressive. I found StackOverflow particularly interesting with the brilliant platform that they have built to promote user engagement and content curation. 

Though the sample size is very small, these are some of the many instances that have happened which have shown me the ever increasing utility of the interest graph. I guess the social graph giant (Facebook) also realizes this, which is why it has been working on adding interest graph related features in its social network for quite some time now. 

Virality and Utility
The virality of interest graph is obvious. While one might have only 200 "friends", with different interests, on one's social graph, there might be 20,000 people listening on to the same trend/channel, with shared interest. And when you are interested in a particular topic, it is much likely that you will be more actively engaged in sharing and discovering information related to it. 

Another reason for the increased virality of the interest graph is that people want to develop their reputation in their field of interest and want to be recognized. This human need is tapped when a gamification layer is added on top of the interest graph, something that Q&A sites Quora and StackOverflow do really well. On the other hand, this integration is harder to do on social graphs as the base intrinsic motivation (shared interest) might not be there in the first place. 

Social networks have become key content creation and discovery platform. Though I do not have the data to prove it, I believe most of the information shared online nowadays is done via social networks. This is especially helpful in sharing and discovery of information, news and entertainment related items - an area where the virality and utility of interest graphs (particularly Twitter) has been proven time and again. 

Crowdsourcing is another field that can benefit a lot from the interest graph, especially where the incentives are non-monetary. Combining people's intrinsic motivations and interests with the reach and scale of internet, online applications can and have opened various channels to leverage crowdsourcing. This is particularly true for creative domains, where quantity begets quality. However, this is one area where there is scope for much better applications to come and change the game, as the existing crowdsourcing applications do not leverage the interest graph that well. 

Web One. Two. Three. 
While web 1.0 was about getting information and data to the users (uni-directional), web 2.0 is about getting the information and data both to and from the users (bi-directional). Social networking applications have propelled the speed at which we share information online and have been the highlight of web 2.0. Though both social and interest graphs have their own benefits and contribute to social networking applications in their own way, I believe it is the interest graph that is the high note of the web 2.0 revolution. It is also probably the transitionary note of the web 2.0 era taking us into web 3.0, whatever that will be.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great article. Completely agree with the value of interest graph over social graph. Google+ is increasingly becoming a stronger community, due to the shared interests. I see Facebook engagement declining, as you pointed out, since there are not enough friends with shared interests to provide the critical mass for engagement.

    With the Quora blogging platform announced recently, it'll be quite interesting to see how they combine the interest & social graph.

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