I admit it, I sent out an email message to about 1500 people on Orkut to see what would happen. To explain why, let me start by saying that the more I think about social networks, the more I find that the concept hasn’t been thought out by anyone yet, whether it’s the Ryze network event in Denver next week or whether it’s the Orkut “friends of friends” communication capability.
But on to my experiment…
On Orkut I have about 60 friends on my list now, including some folk that have really come out of the woodwork, including a woman with whom I went out on one date about, oh, 18 years ago? Each of them has friends, and my overall network of friends of friends is about 1500 people (which means that each of my Orkut friends has an average of 25 friends. Multiplication is a wonderful thing).
Here’s the message I sent out:
Alright, Orkutters (Orkutees? Orkutathons?), how about a few links to
my new 404 error page site? If you could find some excuse to blog me
or otherwise point some folk at:
It’d be an interesting experiment AND I’d appreciate it too.
The responses were quite interesting, starting with the inevitable “you’re spamming me”, though when I engaged that writer and asked what wouldn’t be construed as spam in his book, he wrote back “It’s true that it’s hard to think of things which would interest all the friends of your friends which can number in the hundreds, but I’m more tolerant of the ones which 1) are of somewhat general interest and 2) offer something of possible value, either information or an opportunity, instead of asking for something.” So that’s one data point: offering is better than asking. Maybe.
The next response was a bit more uplifting:
Please say this is the Dave Taylor from a hundred years ago working on shopping malls? I still have your book, if so, with ‘tune in, turn on, burn out’ inside. It has followed me from the InterNIC, to Level 3, to ONYX, to Carrier1 to SBCIS <G>
If not, then lucky you to have the name of an internet rockstar. Cheers, -ren
I’ve never thought of myself as a rockstar, but, well, that is me.
Then another positive response:
This reminds me of a story from my XOOM.com days. My favorite question to ask new people working there was what’s the most important page @ xoom.com. Everyone would say the front page. WRONG. The correct answer was the 404 page… Since the vast majority of their traffic was to their web hosted sites, there would be tons of 404 traffic from them. All their highest priced ads were on the 404 page. When the needed some cash, all they had to do was tell them pr0n checkers to kill some sites.
I’ll help. How about a link back to my
http://www.affordablesearchengineranking.com/resources.htm page (PR3)?
but in order for google to get it to work properly
you need the text in the anchor to be something no?
BTW.. Iinked it on my home page which google sees a bit
There were more in this vein, but if you’re keeping track, that’s three people who linked out of five who responded.
More challenging to figure out is that at almost exactly the same second, I got the following two messages. First, one that said:
This is terrific – made me laugh out loud at 6.00 am in the morning (sad soul that I am). I’ll do a short news piece on this in my Linking Matters newsletter which will go out next Wed. I’ll also link to you from our site.
That was a real bit of value from Orkut – thanks a lot.
and then another, the most blunt and crude of the lot:
Lovely. Spam here already.
You truly must be the author of
one of the Dummies guides if you
can possibly think it’s ok to spam
random people with your drivel. With
any luck at all, you will never be
presented with the chance to
reproduce, so we can at least
hope that subsequent generations
will be spared from any repeats
of this insanely inane behaviour.
Quite disappointingly, this person has not responded to a polite message I sent him asking for a clarification of what he felt would be appropriate friends of friends communication. I can only hope that he will respond so we can engage in a dialog. But I haven’t had the heart to tell him that, yes, I have reproduced! 🙂
Meanwhile, another message arrived while I was contemplating that last one:
I just noticed my mail messages on Orkut; I don’t get here often but they may have to change. Anyway, I like your effort and it makes me realize that a sociologist type of thinker could look at absolutely anything and find a topic worthy of research. I don’t have plans to blog this particular sociology-of-the-Web topic now, but I’ll keep it in mind; often I find novel ways to work in topics.
I added a link, at http://atoms.net/blog. But don’t expect a torrent of traffic all of a sudden or anything from my humble blog.
But of all the messages I’ve seen, perhaps the most amusing is that someone else has also sent out a “friends of friends message”:
In the spirit of Dave Taylor’s recent request for links and visits to his site, http://www.404-error-page.com/, I’m taking this chance to point you — all of you — to my web log, http://www.chrisnolan.com
What I find the most interesting about this entire experiment is that in a new social venue there aren’t any established norms for behavior so any behavior at all is quickly judged as acceptable or not acceptable by the community. But here we see a complete lack of consensus. Also worth noting is that not one of these messages came from a “friend” — they all came from “friends of friends” — and that about a half-dozen long-lost friends have shown up and requested a connection subsequent to my original message being sent.
And yes, I know spam. My inbox overflows with spam from fictitious people and bogus companies. Hundreds of messages a day pour in. But I have a pretty typical sense of what is and isn’t unsolicited commercial email and while a chance to increase my anatomy or opportunity to refinance my house clearly crosses the line when it’s in my inbox, does the same offer from someone I know, or a friend of one of my pals similarly violate behavorial mores?
For that matter – and thanks to my pal Jodie – another question arises: if you don’t want to expand your horizons to receive communications of whatever sort from your “friends of friends”, why would you join a network like Orkut in the first place?
I’d be very interested in your reaction, dear reader, to this entire experiment and the resultant communications!