What would a VRM social network be?

The Big Bang of Social Networking 128px-Emoji_u1f4c7.svgis a piece by Jim Dwyer in The New York Times that will likely be a subject of a session today or tomorrow at IIW. So here are a few thoughts of my toward that discussion…

  1. All of us had social networks before Facebook, Diaspora and Ello existed. We still do. They’re in our heads, hearts, contact lists and address books.
  2. Facebook, Diaspora* and Ello are silo’d commercial services. They do serve many social purposes, of course, and a few very well, or they wouldn’t be so popular.
  3. If we want real social networks online, we need to start with our own genuine personal ones.
  4. To be VRM, they need to support independence and engagement. They should also be substitutable in the same way that, say, browsers and email apps and services are substitutable.

It is essential to start outside the box of thinking that says everything needs to be a service. Inside that box we risk thinking only of other calf-cow solutions to calf-cow problems.

Facebook and Ello are both cows. Even though one doesn’t advertise at us, we’re still calves in its fenced farm.

Unless, of course, we can take our social graphs away with us, to use on our own, or with some substitutable service.

VRM social network solutions to the problems of calf-cow designs need to be first person technologies. At that link, I explain,

Only a person can use the pronouns  “I,” “me,” “my” and “mine.” Likewise, only a person can use tools such as screwdrivers, eyeglasses and pencils. Those things are all first person technologies. They were invented for individual persons to use.

I suggest we start with address books and calendars. Those could not be more personal, yet more social. And, far as I know, nobody has yet done them in a way that’s useful for scaffolding the successor to Facebook on top of them. But that shouldn’t stop us.

* [Later…] This was a copy/paste/rush error.  In fact Diaspora is quite VRooMy. The Wikipedia  entry makes that clear.




  1. Pierre

    As always Doc nails some excellent points here. I believe however that we’re in a conflicted landscape between the ideas around the “Sharing Economy” in which people no longer own *stuff* and these ideas around wanting to *own* and control information in the form of data about us including our social networks. Ideally, people would understand the value of this information and resist the service model (hosted by a 3rd party) in favor of an local application on one of one’s devices and local storage (that they would be willing to pay for). As soon as we agree to entrust a 3rd party service, we submit and agree to lose control over *our* information (certainly by legal standards of ownership and protections accorded to such). My hope is that we find a way to move back to distributed models where pier-to-pier communication protocols dominate and local applications host *our* individual information. Centralized or hosted services can be used for sharing or aggregating info that helps us in ways that we desire but not as the place where our primary information and relationships are stored. Just a thought 🙂

  2. Doc Searls

    Thanks, Pierre. As I noted in my correction to the post, Diaspora actually addresses this. I would love to see it adopted and improved and for other forms of social networking to emerge. What makes them VRooMy (and interesting for ProjectVRM) is the degree to which they support personal independence and engagement. The horizons there are wide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2023 ProjectVRM

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑