What makes things cool?

Alfred Thompson talks about what makes things cool.

Lots of PR people buy into his hype. That I alone can make things “cool” just by saying so.

This simply is not so.

What you don’t see behind the scenes is the cultural pressure that builds up through tons of people who are telling me things are cool.

Here’s a question: if I said “Quechup is cool” would you believe it?

Absolutely not.

Why? Because it wouldn’t match what you’re hearing in the conversation space.

Facebook became cool over three years.

I remember a conversation I had with Jeff Sandquist who told me that Facebook was being used by everyone at his daughter’s college.

I remember getting tons of requests from tons of you to join up.

I remember having dinner with Kevin Rose and having him begging me to join Facebook.

Aside: if Kevin Rose says something is cool it probably is simply because HE is cool.

It really bugs me when PR people assume that if I write about them or put their product on my show that it’ll “make them.”

This is NOT true.

What would I do if I wanted to make something cool?

I’d document the 10,000 news sites and blogs that get onto TechMeme.

Then I’d figure out how to get at least 100 of them to use my product and become crazy evangelists for it.

You only need 100.

Talk to Guy Kawasaki for how to turn people into evangelists. Or talk to the Church of the Customer folks.

Start at the bottom of the stack. Getting someone with five readers to use your product will be a LOT easier than trying to get through to Mike Arrington (he has 700 companies who tried to get his attention for the soon to happen TechCrunch Conference).

I watch about 880 feeds, almost all of whom have been on TechCrunch at some point or another.

So, if you have 100 people who are rabid fans of your product believe me I’ll hear about it, read about it, and be forced to share their thoughts on my link blog. Speaking of which, the video at Google of the graphing calculator story is, indeed, cool.

Anyway, it’s amazing to me how few PR people really understand how things do get to be cool.

MySpace got cool musicians in Los Angeles to use it. That’s why I heard about MySpace.

Anyway, Alfred is a lot cooler than he thinks he is. He was a teacher and helps teachers use technology. That makes him, in my book, a lot cooler than me.


Getting a “Canter taser”

I was at the iLike party table that Marc Canter was at. Where Kara Swisher commented about needing a Marc Canter “taser” which was in response to Marc’s interruption of a little presentation at the iLike party. Here’s Marc’s recollection.

Marc asked an interesting question, but I remember feeling weird because of the timing.

To understand the tension I’m avoiding, go read Tantek’s post on “the importance of being nice.”

The question of the moment: to be nice or to ask the question?

Not to mention that Marc’s question (about whether iLike was going to be on platforms other than Facebook) got to strategy and was awkward because there were Facebook co-founders and employees in the audience. Strategic alliances are made and lost during events like these. I remember the times when my boss got yelled at by Microsoft because he started a Java magazine.

Cringe, cringe, cringe.

As to the journalists at the table. Getting access to things is their lifeblood. It isn’t lost on me that I don’t get invited to certain things because I don’t play by certain PR rules either (one guy told me he stopped inviting me because I recorded other guests who complained to him). It does make one very careful about when and where to break the unwritten rules.

To ask the question or to be nice?

Which one would you do?

Oh, and if you haven’t seen my hour-long interview with Marc, you get to see his personality up close and personal.

Me? If I ever do plan an event I’ll get back at Marc. I’ll put him on stage where you all can ask him tough questions.

danah continues the “precious,” er, Facebook conversation…

danah boyd continues the conversation. danah (she doesn’t capitalize her name) is one of our industry’s top researchers about social software.

Actually now that Milan (our new son) is coming I’m finding myself a lot more in her camp than previously.


Maryam doesn’t want Milan to become a public object. She doesn’t want to see his photo taken onto some gossip or hater site and turned into a Kathy Sierra-style caricature. She keeps telling me to keep his photo only on sites where we can lock out anyone but our close personal friends and family.

It’s why I want per-item privacy that’s easy to figure out and easy to set. Facebook doesn’t have it. That’s one of the reasons why I am getting so much heat from around the blogosphere for “letting anyone in.”

Another case study? One of my friends caught his teenage son having a party because his son posted some pictures of that party to his Facebook page. Let’s just say that “dad” isn’t allowed into his Facebook profile anymore. This is yet another example of the problems that Facebook users are facing. Forget the fact that many of you believe that parents should have transparency into their kids lives. This was a case where a kid put some content up that he didn’t want someone else to find yet they did. Same thing as an employer finding a photo of you doing something that they would find to be a fireable offense.

There is going to be a lot of tension about Facebook until it adds much better privacy controls. Some things deserve to be open to the public (and to Google). Glad to see Facebook is recognizing that. But other things should only be kept for close personal friends. I wish I could set Facebook stuff to be shared with the audience I want to share that media with (whether or not I usually want to make my stuff totally public).

Personally, Facebook would do a lot better to listen to danah than to listen to the tech geeks like me who want more publicly-available features on Facebook.

There are a lot more people in the world who are like my wife and who want to keep things hidden than there are like me who want to have publicly-available resources.

I really wish there were a service that serves both our needs, though.

I look at the new Moveable Type and it does just this. So does Flickr.

But we don’t have a social graph that lets us really control it.

Until we have a really controllable social graph, we have “precious.” (danah’s new moniker for Facebook).

One other thing that bugs me about Facebook? The messaging (Facebook’s answer for email). I can’t forward messages. I can’t add people to a conversation there. I can’t BCC anyone. And there’s a LOT more that’s missing there. More and more people are going to get mad about the messaging system built into Facebook. But that’s a separate conversation from the privacy controls that danah and I are talking about here.

Thanks danah, I’d love to continue this on a stage at one of those Facebook conferences.