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Aardvark is Aawesome

aardvarklogo

I wrote about Aardvark when I first read about it on Read/WriteWeb. I recently received an invitation to join, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. I still am questioning the use of vark.com, and I’m not even really sure why it’s called Aardvark instead of something they could have gotten the full URL for. But, that matters very little in the face of having questions answered in minutes (if not seconds).

Example: I just got an iPhone (I know, I couldn’t bring myself to take a risk with an Android phone even though it sounded really nice), and I accidentally hit the mute button which I didn’t realize existed. I pinged Aardvark real quick and asked what the problem could be and got two replies very quickly that informed me of the mute button and therefore solved my problem. No more bothering my brother-in-law for tech support on my new toy.

If you’d like an invite to Aardvark, I’ve got 10. You’ll have to leave your email address (so Facebook Connect probably won’t work), and at least 3 things that you want to get questions about.

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Is Google using the I Will Teach You To Be Rich approach with Social Networking?

Ramit Sethi says on I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Set smaller goals: impress friends, get girls, lose weight. This  basically means, take incremental steps towards attaining a goal. I guess you could also call it Iterative Development since it relates to the world of software/webware development, but since I read that article on IWTYTBR just before setting off on a search to figure out why Jaiku wasn’t letting me import/add feeds, I felt it was one of those The Secret moments where something happens for a reason.

The Secret (2006 film)
Image via Wikipedia

In looking through comments on the Jaiku support channelt, I found this post from Jyri Engstrom where he mentions other posts including this one about Google addition of default Contact Groups, and this one from the Google Reader blog about using groups to manage your shared items.

And just now Google is letting you share updated contact information with the groups you’ve created in addition to those shared items. Does anyone else see a social network slowly emerging from the Magic Eye Puzzle? Of course you do – I know I’m not the only one.

Magic Eye 3d cubes

Of course, the most interesting part will be to see what the actual unification strategy will be – or if there will be one at all. What I mean is: Will there be a defined “home page” / “starting point” for the Google social network like there is for MySpace and Facebook? Or will they just make your friends activities accessible wherever you use whatever Google Apps you use? If I’m in my Gmail, will my friends activities show up there? If I use iGoogle as my home page, will the activity stream be there? What if I only use Google Reader? (Not a truly likely scenario, since I think anyone using Reader would also be using Gmail) Will I get more than just my friends’ Shared Items?

In a similar vein, it looks like Yahoo is starting to some slow churn development on their social network as well, and they may also be pursuing the distributed activity stream home page idea, since you can now import your activity into your Yahoo Profile, but if you’re a member of MyBlogLog, you can do it there as well. The thing is, the two of those are separate (even though it seems like they could sync the settings fairly easily), which means you’ll have a harder time managing those activity streams that you will if the Google activity is all managed from one place and pushed from there.

Is Pownce not just e-mail for elitists?

From Pownce’s home page:

Pownce is brought to you by a bunch of geeks who were frustrated trying to send stuff from one cube to another.

Funny… when my wife wants to send me something across the room to print for her (printer isn’t networked), she just uses e-mail. Gmail is pretty good at letting her attach files and send them.

I send links and event “invites” to friends for things like playing basketball or video games on the weekends. Sometimes I invite people to movies. I use e-mail for that, too.

Realistically (I guess), a lot of it comes down to what your friends are like. I’ve had a hard enough time getting my friends to join Flickr so I can share non-public-type photos with them. I don’t want to try to get them on another social site (especially not one that only “allows” me to send messages, files, and links to them). So, I guess Pownce is really meant for those early-adopter types (I’m with them) who have lots of early-adopter type friends (there’s where it falls apart for me). But, even for those early-adopters with lots of early-adopter friends, what does Pownce do that e-mail doesn’t? Can’t you just make an e-mail group with your early-adopter friends and use that to send links, files, and messages to them?

My guess is that part of it is the Twitter-style psychology. If I Twitter something, it takes at most, say, 5 seconds to read it. The character limit makes it that way. If I write an e-mail, it’s probably going to be more than 140 characters. So, it will probably take more than 5 seconds to read. So by posting a message on Twitter (or Pownce), you’re telling the people who receive that message: this is lightweight, won’t take too much of your time (and probably isn’t that important).

Another part – guessing again – is probably the ability to send stuff to a bunch of people really easily. That’s basically saying, though, “I’m not picking people to send this to, so it may or may not apply to you.” If it’s not important enough to type three letters (or less) and use Gmail(or Yahoo or Hotmail)’s address book to pick out people to send it to, how important is it, really? Isn’t that just contributing to information overload?

I know it probably sounds somewhat hypocritical since I’m an information junkie, and I have been known to post stuff to Facebook in the same way that people probably post stuff to Pownce… but recently I’ve become much more conscious regarding the efficiency of handling all that information, as well as who has access to that information. The combo of Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, and their various privacy controls set me on my current path. To me, Twitter is valuable because it does one thing, and does it well. And since I have fairly few Twitter “followers”, I know who is going to be reading my Twitters, and I can sort of cater to that audience. Jaiku adds value as an aggregator (and a source of “private” Twitter-style messages). Facebook adds value because Twitter and Jaiku both have hooks into it. It also has the advantage of having a bunch of my friends already on it, so I don’t have to re-establish my “social graph.”

circle-of-trust.gif

I could use the Pownce application in Facebook to add the same sort of value as Twitter or Jaiku, and maybe even a little more because of the special link formatting and file attachment. But when I consider that value add, I ask myself: what files do I want to post on there?

The one case I can see where Pownce is useful is the events. Kevin Rose put up this invitation to a party and got 87 responses to the post. Of course, the majority of those RSVPed “Wishing I Could Come” or “Not Attending.” And that’s Kevin Rose. How many people are going to have enough friends and/or followers that posting an event is going to have a better response than (once again) sending an e-mail?