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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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John Galt’s Law (of social networks)

Comments (11)

Niel Robertson made a brilliant discovery today that he has named “John Galt’s Law.”  The brilliant discovery was the Atlas Shrugged Dating Site – the law that emerged is “The value of a social network is propotional to the square of the number of users of the system multiplied by the inverse of the social networks rank amongst similarly themed social networks.”

I went ahead and created an account on the Atlas Shrugged Dating Site to play around with it.  However, since I’ve found my own version of Dagny Taggart I didn’t feel compelled to fork over $7 / month to join the site as a subscriber.  After fooling around (with the site) a little, I’m surprised that there isn’t a “meta-dating site” that is an aggregation of all of these sites (maybe there is and I just haven’t played the field enough.)  While I’m not that interested in joining a bunch of different dating sites (or any – for that matter), if I was, it seems like I’d be pretty interested in the multitude of “sub-sites” (or networks) that would be available. 

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with several companies that are working on networks, communities, and user identity.  Note that I didn’t say “social networks” – these networks aren’t limited to social (think people networks vs. publisher networks vs. networks of things you do).  When you toss in identity across multiple networks, you quickly start thinking about things like reputation (e.g. my reputation in one network should theoretically impact my reputation in another network.)  I’m surprised by the current state of the art (or lack thereof) of many of the larger social network providers – it seems like they are lost in feature land rather than “core value land.”  Many of these networks are closed, so it’s hard to deal with some of the interesting issues across networks, but some are completely open (and more APIs and open data models are coming), which creates an opportunity for interesting stuff across networks.

I’ve also recently invested in several companies that are working on what has been broadly defined as the “attention data” problem.  There’s a different phenomenon going on here generally – deep “core value” is being created, but the application (“feature land”) layer is missing.  It’s starting to spring up in some places, and a few companies I’m involved in or close to are feverishly working on rolling out stuff real people can use, but so far what’s available is surprisingly light weight.

The combination of the two is fascinating to ponder.  It’s a good thing I’m in my version of Galt’s Gulch for the month thinking about it.  Now – back to exploring that dating site to see if I can find some “hot” new features.  Oh – and Sand Hill Slave was hysterical today – maybe she should start a dating side titled BART.

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  • Todd

    IMO the dating site industry is DIRTY to say the least. I used to know the CEO of a very profitable one and awhile back he shared some inside info. One particular scheme was a one-time payment to an attractive woman to put different variations of her picture with a fake bio in every state. Essentially, this would entice guys to pay to join and have email conversations with a guy working in the central office posing as the aforementioned women. There are a lot more devious methods used and they have almost no legitimate filtering system whatsoever. It’s an unfortunate scam.

  • http://www.musicmobs.com Toby

    Very interesting post. You’re hinting at some pretty cutting edge stuff. Hopefully (and I REALLY hope!) we can stay away from the Web 3.0 label. Lately I’ve been calling some of these ideas (open id, network aggregation, attention, opml..) post-social networking. Sure some of it has cropped up in various places in the current generation of web services but I think we’re still seeing a lot of centralized control.

    Personally, I think the next set of useful tools will utilize your current networks (Myspace, IM, email, blogs) for communication while acting as an external control. What is the internet after all but one large social network.

  • Rick

    Does Amy think you are Francisco? or Hank?

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    When we first got together, she thought I was Hank. Now she thinks I’m Francisco. I’ve always identified / wanted to be Francisco.

  • http://www.venturegeek.com ndintenfass

    But isn’t the point of all these micro-demographic dating sites that they target specific populations? Seems a meta-site would go against the reason someone ends up at a specialized site, which is, presumably, to narrow, not broaden, the pool in which they will swim (apologies for the mixed metaphor) to just those who share some common characteristic and/or interest. Though, I suppose a good meta-search would be good at letting you slice your own micro-demographic of one in your search.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Your last sentence is the key. Why should I have to sign up for multiple sites? I’d much rather since up for one, and then have an effective meta-search across the specific categories I’m interested in.

  • Dave Jilk

    This is not rocket science, it’s just like affinity credit cards. You get the card through your college or a favorite store or bowling league, but the service is provided by an infrastructure firm like MBNA. In the case of dating sites, they can ask you whether you want to search other categories.

  • http://www.intelligrad.com squasher98

    The one thing that is being forgotten here (from the point of view of a single guy) is that the smaller the number of users in the network: 1) the more exclusive it is 2) the better one’s chances of getting a response/date and 3) the more legit the people are (in this case Atlas Die Hards)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/matti340 matti340

    Social networks are crap … to coin a phrase you used to describe Home networking …

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