My-oh-my: $100 million miomi web 2.0 frenzy?

June 29, 2007

Is this just another of those turning points that we will look back on in time as the culmination of irrational exuberance around the latest buzz-word like the sale of business.com for the domain market or the bankruptcy of boo.com for the dot-com bubble have been before or am I just totally missing the potential of an amazing idea?

miomi wants to provide a tool that enables everybody to map their personal experiences on a timeline. You will then be able to browse through time, discovering what your friends did while you went shopping for toilet paper or to discover new friends because they had the same need at the same time. Microsoft is heralding it as the next YouTube or Skype.

The problems I have with this concept are the following:

  1. Will I really be mapping all the details of my life as I am busy enough living it? There might be a certain degree of automation that is possible through cameras supporting geocoding and date-tagging, which will make mapping and sharing straighforward. The ubiquity of those devices in the near future and broadband access from everywhere will make this process pretty seamless. But what is miomi’s added value over a flickr map mashup which is already available today?
  2. Will the community of mappers find the right level of abstraction for mapping their activities that will actually provide some interesting insights for others? As there is probably a positive correlation of events I want to remember and events that I take a picture of the positive impact of the ubiquity of camera functionality as described above comes into play here as well – but so do the limitations if I want to differentiate miomi. If I want to go beyond what I am already doing through flickr map mashups and map additional events and experiences that are less well documented, how do I really create relevance for others? This leads me to the third problem:
  3. Am I really interested in what everybody else is doing? As the newsfeeds on Facebook demonstrate it might be very interesting to stalk my friends and have a topic for starting a conversation – but do I really care that someone I don’t know was shopping at the shop around the corner at the same time that I shopped there? Does this create a level of affinity that I want to build a friendship on – even if it is just virtual one?
  4. How can $100 million be needed to build a platform like miomi? We are in the post-dot-com bubble web 2.0 era and not in web 1.0, after all. Although strategic reasons of scaring away competitors and creating free coverage in the media might have played a role in inflating the number communicated beyond the real numbers, it sounds a little far fetched.

Looking at the press coverage so far it seems like the strategy of creating a splash without much reflection by the journalists covering the story has worked quite well. Or I’m just not getting how brilliant this idea really is? I’d love to hear what you think!

More articles on miomi:

Update (July 5th, 2007):
Interesting insight on my doubts about the $100 million: apparently the check only read ‘Whatever it takes’. The size of the fund is 50 million pounds = $100 million -> perfect line for the media frenzy: they are investing $100 million… maybe some of these journalists should be checking their sources.

Here is where I got this update from – comment #5:
Visualblog: Der neue Web 2.0 Wahnsinn: Miomi (German)

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Facebook or MySpace – the Aristocrats…

June 26, 2007

Interesting article by Danah Boyd on class divisions through Facebook and MySpace. Not totally surprising, though, that a platform like Facebook, which grew out of the ivy league space seems to cater more to the tastes of the university crowd than a more messy, anarchic network like MySpace, that grew bottom up out of the alternative music space, and seems to be the favorite of the ‘working class’ kids.

As choices by my peers do effect my desision making, even a slight preference for a certain network by my friends can have a dramatical impact on the overall affinity of the entire group:

“To see how freedom of choice could create such unequal distributions, consider a hypothetical population of a thousand people, each picking their 10 favorite blogs. One way to model such a system is simply to assume that each person has an equal chance of liking each blog. This distribution would be basically flat – most blogs will have the same number of people listing it as a favorite. A few blogs will be more popular than average and a few less, of course, but that will be statistical noise. The bulk of the blogs will be of average popularity, and the highs and lows will not be too far different from this average. In this model, neither the quality of the writing nor other people’s choices have any effect; there are no shared tastes, no preferred genres, no effects from marketing or recommendations from friends.

But people’s choices do affect one another. If we assume that any blog chosen by one user is more likely, by even a fractional amount, to be chosen by another user, the system changes dramatically. Alice, the first user, chooses her blogs unaffected by anyone else, but Bob has a slightly higher chance of liking Alice’s blogs than the others. When Bob is done, any blog that both he and Alice like has a higher chance of being picked by Carmen, and so on, with a small number of blogs becoming increasingly likely to be chosen in the future because they were chosen in the past.

Think of this positive feedback as a preference premium. The system assumes that later users come into an environment shaped by earlier users; the thousand-and-first user will not be selecting blogs at random, but will rather be affected, even if unconsciously, by the preference premiums built up in the system previously.” 

It’s therefore only natural that members of different sociodemographic groups making choices in dependence of the choices of their peers are a perfect example for power laws at play, resulting in the divide witnessed. Even a minor skew of the early adopters within each network towards a certain sociodemographic (which clearly existed between Facebook and MySpace from the get go) is therefore very likely to result in a permanent skew in the sociodemographic affiliation.