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

4/26/12Follow @gthuang

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A lot of that comes down to elements of design—about how you design a network, how you design communication, how you design the shape of the problems that go out to the network and the shape of the answers that come back.”

(Moderator John Hockenberry asked Hoffman whether he has passed on the “FlushedIn” concept. Hoffman said that, thankfully, no one has pitched him that one yet.)

5. How to think about the future design of social tech? “Madness is when we diverge from the pack, but of course madness is also when we agree with the pack too much, e.g., ‘the world is flat,’” he said. “How do we evolve as a society so that the level of information and connectivity in terms of how we solve problems evolves, and helps us evolve from madness to sanity? When you’re looking at what is the right design of these social architectures, they help us be better humans… There’s ways that you enhance it that helps us be, both individually and socially, better than we were before. That’s the design goal.”

Drilling down on this point: “Social products only work when they are very deep in human experience. One of the things I said when I try to wake up MBAs to thinking about how to deal with social is, ‘I invest in one or more of the seven deadly sins.’ What’s deep in the nature of human experience and human psychology? Family is an important area where there’s a social platform; work is an important area; media is an important area. But there’s a limited set of areas where we fundamentally have a very broad set of social experience.” (Compare that to investor Dave McClure’s startup advice here.)

Finally, on where social fits in with individual work: “There’s a whole set of activities that we do that, even though they could be social, they’re essentially done solo,” he said. “You’re sitting in front of a computer or you’re building a piece of art, and you’re doing that by yourself. That interplays with, you collaborate with other people, you show it to them, you get ideas. So you move between an individual activity and a social activity kind of in a loop… I think the value actually comes in in things that we do, and in things that we share with other people. I think it’s a combination.”

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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