Tag Archives: Social network

Remember chat rooms? Omegle.com does

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

My friend Blake recently stumbled upon a company called Omegle.com that lets you anonymously chat with strangers.  Another buddy of mine had previously suggested this service in video form, so I thought i would give it a spin.

All in all, the experience (below) reminded me of sneaking up to my room to cruise the AOL chatrooms as a pre-teen.  How exciting it was for a kid living in a town of 8,000 residents to be able to talk to 13 or eve, gasp,  14/fs.  I can still remember when I told my mom that sometimes I prenteded to be 13 or 14 because the older “girls” wouldn’t talk to me- She said not to be dishonest.

In a world of facebook and now google latitude (google’s location based social network), it’s crazy even for people of my generation  (X) to look back and remember living in the pre-cell phone world.

Here’s my Omegle convo:

Omegle.com: Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!

Stranger: oi

You: howdy

Stranger: oh hai
You: where are you from?
Stranger: brasil
Stranger: how bout u
You: USA
You: new york city
Stranger: awesome
You: where in brasil?
You: i hear great things
Stranger: tahiba
You: is that in the north?
Stranger: no
Stranger: west
You: check
You: this is such an old school idea
Stranger: that will be $40
Stranger: what is
You: reminds me of chat rooms in the late 90s
Stranger: i no isnt it terrible
You: i wonder why we came here?
You: my buddy just sent me the link
Stranger: if u get an answer give it to me
Stranger: i’m looking for answers to dull questions from a large sample of losers
You: well, im researching new technology companies while preparing for a job interviews.
You: which makes me a dull loser im pretty sure.
Stranger: no just a loser
Stranger: my questions are dull
You: actually, im thinking, fck, maybe i dont want to work for someone else anyway.
Stranger: moving my adjectives around
Stranger: lulz
Stranger: y
You: maybe i want to go to fcking spain and start a tour company
You: what’s lulzy?
Stranger: do u believe in god?
You: havent proven that he doesnt exist yet so sure.
Stranger: lulz is a corruption of the acronym lol
Stranger: it means laugh out loud
Stranger: y is an abreviation of why
You: ah checkk
Stranger: y do u say check?
You: im way out of the loop
You: check means “ok. i got it.”
Stranger: unicorns haven’t been proven to not exist
Stranger: same with gnomes, elves, fairies…
Stranger: dragons
Stranger: ur logic is flawed
You: i can’t say with 100% certainty that unicorns don’t exist somewhere.
You: my logic is fine.
You: look how big the universe is.
You: do i think there are unicorns on earth?
You: no
Stranger: yea u r right
Stranger: might be unicorns somewhere else
Stranger: lulz
You: jaja
Stranger: just like god
Stranger: both exist
Stranger: in peoples imagination
You: maybe but im not going to make assertive claims either way
Stranger: 4 what defines reality anyway
Stranger: u did well
Stranger: how many years did it take u to graduate college?
You: it’s whatever we want. i enjoyed sharing this moment with you stranger from brazil. tchau!

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Online Community Building: Make affiliations more valuable by making people earn them

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 26:  Boy Scouts salute th...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

What happens if you make people do something to earn their affiliation to an online community?  Clearly there is a trade off of quantity for quality but I wonder if you make up in engagement what you lose in volume. Does anyone have good examples of  where this has been done?

Most online (and offline) groups and affiliations only distinguish people by how much they give, and make no effort at accounting for what people actually do. Unfortunately, all the flag waving and fund raising in the world is useless without the people that actually implement the good works.

Take Causes.org* for example. While Causes.org is provides better accountability than most online affiliations because it measures what users donate and how many other people they recruit, they have no means of recognizing people that actually implement the good works.

It always annoys me when I go to a benefit at, say, the New York Philharmonic, and there is a gigantic list of people that have donated money, but no mention of the people that have donated their time, connections, or reputation to make things happen. Similarly, it has always annoyed me that you can just plaster your Facebook or linked-in profile with hundreds of badges of organizations and associations that you have never once lifted a finger for. Sure spreading the word has value, but I think that associations and badges would become more meaningful if one actually had to do something to acquire them.

Look at the Boy Scouts. Do we give away “fire starter” badges to kids just because they want to fill the empty space on their belt? What about black belts in karate? There is a big difference between a dojo where people earn their stripes and one where people pay for them.

Especially now that most work is digitally distributable, there is no reason that one couldn’t harness the social web to actually get actual work done. I might not have $10 at the moment, but I’d be happy to donate 10 minutes of data entry for a FB badge of a cause I believe in.

I am interested in the community building effect of making people earn their affiliation. Does anyone have good examples of  where this has been done?

*Causes.org is a non-profit Facebook application that enables users to identify and support the “cause” (charity) of their choice. Causes users can do three main things: 1) “join” a cause (place a specific charity’s badge on their profile), 2) “donate” to a cause (directly send money to the specified charity through the app), or 3) “raise” for a cause (recruit their friend’s to join and donate). Causes’ 15mm active monthly users make it the 4th most popular Facebook application and thus an incredible hit.

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Free Business Ideas: Time-based Barter Economy Targeted at Entrepreneurs (Timebanking Revamp)

Clock in Kings Cross railway station
Image via Wikipedia

The other day I stumbled across a social experiment called “time banking,” at timebanks.org. Basically, Time Banking is a community improvement movement that revolves around the principle that every person’s time is worth the same (Yes,  quasi-socialist).  Each community creates a “Time Bank” where community members can make “deposits” by lending their time to others and “withdraws”  by calling upon other community members for help.  It facilitates a barter economy with currency denominated in hourly increments of service to your fellow man.

“For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to spend on having someone do something for you.”

An example.  A lawyer helps a little old lady clean her yard  for an hour.  He ears a credit.  Then he can turn around and get an hour of guitar lessons from another guy around the corner.  The guitar player could then ask for cooking lessons, perhaps but not necessarily from the little old  lady.

During boom times, when everyone has more business than they can handle (ie. plenty of money but no time), this idea seems silly.  But in the midst of steep recession, when everyone has no money but plenty of free time, the concept might be once again applicable.  A year ago, it might have seemed crazy for a lawyer to swap services hour for hour with a plumber whose market rate is 1/5 his own.   But if the lawyer has nothing else to be doing and no way of generating business at his billable rate, is it so crazy for him to save the $50 needed to fix his sink by spending an hour helping his plumber resolve a legal dispute?

I think the concept of bartering services is particularly applicable to startups, a group that is always short on cash.  In fact, a good bootstrapping entrepreneur will  always barter services, whenever it is pragmatic, to preserve cash.   This happens all the time, albeit informally.

Time Banking started almost 30 years ago and has spread to “22 countries in six continents” according to the official website.  A  quick google search for “time bank your zip code” will almost certainly produce a small community website.  Unfortunately, the success of Time Banking appears to have been limited by the onerous setup costs.  If your community doesn’t  have an existing infrastructure, you are urged to set one up by buying a “Time Banking Start-up Kit for just $49! With the kit, you get a six month membership, access to the coordinator forum, and a 4.5 minute DVD from the founder of time banking!!!”

WTF?!? 

$49 to join a social network and get a DVD of some old dude talking about something he did three decades ago?

It sounds like a con scheme but no, this is actually a rather sizable nonprofit organization operating on a pre-internet infrastructure.

Check it out for yourselves.  Is there anyone out there that would be interested in writing a Facebook application to bring this concept into the 20th century*?  Seems like you could add a lot of value to startups that have complementary skills.

*Yes, they have a page, but I see no reason why the whole infrastructure shouldn’t  be put up on the web.

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