Reid Hoffman: Not All Tech Is Social (Think Toilets); Being Better Humans Is the Key

4/26/12Follow @gthuang

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in our social life. Most people forget all the controversy when Facebook introduced News Feed—it was like, ‘Wait, this is entirely different,’” he said. The evolution of social tech is “not just sharing of information, but of connection, of emotion, of shared experience. The ways that that can be deepened with relatively even simple technologies, I think we’re just beginning to scratch the surfaces of these.”

(I’m all for making experiences deeper, but I’m not sure humans’ addictive and narcissistic nature will allow for that when there are so many quicker options for gratification.)

3. Do we have one or many identities? “It’s a false dichotomy. On the one hand, we clearly have one identity,” Hoffman said. “On the other hand, we actually have different ways of expressing that identity in a different context… My identity as a student or teacher is different from my identity at home with my family, is different from my identity with my colleagues at work… There’s this whole nature of the different shape of how these social technologies work in each of these different spaces.”

(That’s all well and good, but online privacy is an increasingly important issue that many people overlook. As companies like Facebook and Google try to maximize ad revenues by combining user data in new ways, consumers need to be on the alert.)

4. Does every company need a social strategy? “We’re all working and living in a networked world. So there’s a whole set of ways in which the world around you is amplified by increasing the transparency and openness of these networks. That means you have to adjust to them in your strategies—everything from how you do innovation through open networks to the notion of how do you interface with your employees, to how do you look at the supply chains in your business, how is your brand, how do you talk with your customers,” he said. “But when you get to thinking about whether or not every product needs to be social or not, you have to think about the primitives of what is social—identity, relationships, the social space—and does that apply to your product? Is it something intrinsic in the genetics of your product?”

“As much as the Japanese are known for amazing technological toilets, the likelihood that there will be social toilets is very low. That might be a vaguely scary idea,” he joked. “You have to distinguish between when do you have wisdom of the crowd, and when do you have the madness of masses. … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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