The game of all games: content and context (why Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff, and Larry Page are carving up the social world)

Why is Google calling itself an identity company now?

Why is David Kirkpatrick, one of the smartest journalists I know, telling the world on Forbes that a social revolution is coming to companies?

Why have I moved almost all of my available time and blogging behavior to Google+?

I just spent 40 minutes in audio explaining why. I call it the “Game of all Games.”

It is the game to addict us, to impel us to give our identities over to Google or Facebook, and what will that do.

In the audio I talk about a few pieces of the new identity stack.

First, the things about us that they need to know:

1. Our health info. Do you have cancer, like Steve Jobs has? That’s part of your identity.
2. Your family. Who are you related to.
3. Your friends. Who do you hang out with? Who would you call to get you out of jail, or to help you move?
4. Your favorite brands (and most hated). That will tell the system a lot about you. Do you fly United? Or Jet Blue. Do you drink Pabst? Or RedBull? Etc etc.
5. The games you play. Monopoly? Blackjack? World of Warcraft?
6. Your politics? Says a lot about you and the kinds of people you would probably like to hang out with. Ronald Reagan joked with his doctors “I hope you are Republicans.” It isn’t really a joke.
7. Religion.
8. Music. If I try to take you to an Eminem concert will you like that or, will you be like my producer who threatened my life for trying that.
9. Food. Sushi? Thai? Steak? Vegetarian.
10. Questions and answers. What do you answer on Quora? Did your answer get the respect of the community there?
11. Books. Romance or O’Reilly tech book?
12. Location. If you live in New York you probably have different life expectations than someone who lives in Emigrant, Montana.
13. Interests and hobbies. Are you into pottery, like my dad, or are you into Ham radio, like Leo Laporte?
14. Movies. Star Wars or Black Swan?

Then I talked about the user interfaces of this new game of games.

1. App stores. The tools to use, the games to play.
2. Notification streams. What is happening. Things you need to know.
3. Activity streams. Metadata about what everyone did in the system and who is doing it.
4. News and media stream. Who is generating media (posts, videos, photos, audio) and who is doing it?
5. Pagination displays. Flipboard is one such UI. But there will be others before we decide on who displays our content and context.

What are the verbs that everyone is using to hook these systems together? The lowest-common denominator ones are:

1. Post.
2. Comment.
3. Share.
4. Like.
5. Buy.
6. Review.
7. Tag.
8. Circle, or list, or group.
9. Read.
10. Search.

But there will be many, many others. I’ll soon have a video up with Badgeville, who are building addiction systems for bloggers (oh, sorry, you all call them gamification systems) that are tracking hundreds of verbs.

Finally I get to the meat. I talk about what this means to:

1. People discovery (finding a doctor in San Francisco, today, is what you do on Yelp, but Yelp has a “masses is asses” problem. It doesn’t know to bias your answers based on your politics, religion, health background, family background, and other stuff talked about above.
2. Content discovery. In the pre 9/11 world we went to news brands to get our news. You know, New York Times, or CNN, or Yahoo. After 9/11 RSS brought the news to systems like Google Reader or Twitter. But in the future it will come to us via notification streams on our phones. What content will come there? Your identity system will decide for you based on your context and actions you take.

Add this all up and you can see you’re soon going to have to choose between Facebook or Google for your identity systems (or, like I am, both).

How does Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, play into this? He’s carving up the “at work” identity systems and pulling them into Salesforce Chatter. I believe that for the next 18 months most people won’t think Benioff is important in this game of games, but that sometime in 2013 it will be clear that Benioff has an identity system to play the game of games with.

It’s a game for everything we do on our phones, our tablets, and on our TVs.

It is, simply, the game of games and it’s about to get really interesting to watch and participate in.

It’s why I’ve moved most of my content development into Google+. I’m playing the game of games and want a front-row look at how it’ll work out.

Join us on Google+ discussing this.


54 thoughts on “The game of all games: content and context (why Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff, and Larry Page are carving up the social world)

  1. Listening to it here and some great thoughts already only 5 minutes in. It’s one of the most interesting takes on it. The most important question is as you say….What is Google?

    Facebook more or less have it locked up in the desktop space and I can’t see Google eating in there. The really interesting part is the mobile space. Nobody has that one locked down yet at all and it’s going to be fascinating to see who wins that one. That’s where the HUGE money is to be made.

    Google is spread to thin in my opinion. They are trying everyting under the sun at the moment from Zagat to Slide to Google + and their over aching strategy and vision might be good but they are trying to force social and will never be what Facebook and Twitter are. They might end up being some sort of useful tool and Google + will certainly affect search and SEO and there is plenty of money there so it will be relevant to some but it’s certainly not going to win big socially.

    On content we are only at the very start. Stuff like Twitter and Flipboard is great but they will be made look old and boring in 2/3 years time. The web or my TV or y phone will know everything about me then and serve me up content that I could never have found on my own.

    It’s an interesting space and certainly some great thoughts here. Those guys are much smarter than us but i’m not even sure they know where it is all headded given the pace of change


  2. But Robert, context is not just part of identity, but in the setting also… Their are some contexts that might be part of our social graph (how do we talk with our friends, vs what we share with colleagues) But their are other conversations that need to be embedded in the context to make sense … that cannot be implied by the social graph.


  3. While the post itself makes a lot of sense in terms of how the future of the web and our identities will unfold; I believe it will be a huge task to implement all the “lowest common denominator” verbs (love that phrase by the way) in a meaningful way. I call it a huge task even though all the current social networks allow us to do all those things with an evident relation to the content and the context, it is still difficult for a machine (or an algorithm) to understand the importance and the meaning of our comments and posts. For our identities to be completely understood by a machine (to be able to make suggestions and recommendations based on its understanding of “us”) there is a need for an objective way to express whatever we want to express without it being a cumbersome process. If any network, in any vertical, can manage to do that, it will be setting some standards to compete with. For example, has fundamentally changed the way we listen to music by understanding our listening habits in terms of metadata (although rather trivially). While I believe it can still be a much better service than what it is now, it has rather accurately exemplified how networks should behave (suggest similar people, more music that I might like, gigs I would like to go to etc). It will be interesting to see what other networks can do that.

    Pretty insightful post Mr. Scoble. Respect 🙂


      1. How can we get this (or there) without selling our soul to Google (or Facebook, or any single entity) That ain’t going to happen for me.


      2. You can’t. You will be locked out of the system unless you make a fake identity (which is pretty easy, actually) that fits into their rules. Just call yourself “Jeff Smith” and be done with it. No one will be able to prove that’s not your name.


      3. That is about the long and short of it. Could be a whole new business model in fake cyber identities on the go.. 🙂  Got to love Capitalism.


      4. ..yet. I can easily think of verification ways to overcome that. But then again, what users some company doesn’t want, another will welcome, so let them make all the rules they want.


      1. The issue of control is crucial. The services that provide users the most control over their identity are the ones most likely to prosper and those with more limited controls will, in the long run, fall away or be limited in scope. It’s a main reason I have been so critical of Google’s names policy – they are shooting themselves in the foot by focusing on the identifier versus maintaining a persistent identity across their service, or even across the internet. A name is, after all, simply a set of random characters serving to identify a user. If that identity is persistent such that reputation can attach to it, so that it can be tracked, so it has a history of behavior such that other users can make an informed opinion on how or whether to interact with them, then you have a positive successful outcome.


      2. This is so true! It’s why Google have certainly shot themselves in the foot! Everyone knows me as Technogran, its my ‘online persona and identity, building a reputation over the last four or five years. But because it doesn’t fit into Google’s idea of what a name should look like, I am forced to use a false name as long as it ‘looks’ right.


  4. I would like to add to the list of things you left out, that Google needs to know.

    #1 A urine sample#2 A skin and hair sample. DNA..
    #3 A retinal eye scan
    #4 Fingerprint scan
    #5 and lets not forget the RFID embedded under the skin,
    #6 whatever else your dumb enough to give them.


    1. I’m already willing to give those things over to them if I get something in return.

      RFID not needed though. I already carry around my phone and I already share my location with Google (and many people).


      1. Ya but you’re crazy Robert 🙂
        There are many like you – more out of stupidity than knowledge like you, but I’m not sure how many are willing to be pigs in an animal farm. And I’m not sure Google, Facebook, Salesforce will be the only participants. If this was the AOL era, you’d be declaring them the winner take all. Things change.


  5. Identity is not a constant. It seems like a good signal but it is not. Humans get bored quickly and then they change their identities and games they play.


  6. This is a very big WOW listen to me. The changes that are occurring today are coming faster than ever. Having been with since 1995 I have seen a lot of changes in the Internet. The aw and amazement I feel every day keeps me getting up eager to go to work. Thanks to Scoble for giving Us this it really wakes me up to even more possibilities to come.   


  7. Just to respond to a comment above and also expand on the insights in this post:  definitely NOT RFID under the skin, but active RFID and in particular DASH7 enables a
    secure form of “identity broadcasting” for most of the use cases listed above but done in ways that WiFi, bluetooth, NFC, or cellular cannot.  So discovering
    people and content locally becomes much more interesting:  for example,
    you might broadcast the song you are listening to, your relationship
    status, the book you are reading right now, etc. to people who may already be followers, but if you want, to people who are not followers.  (I know you have a ton of these already, but for the ROW that doesn’t, this is a new kind of P2P discovery opportunity.)


  8. At the end of the day nobody is providing a service that aggregates these social graphs into a concise notification stream.  DataSift has the tools and access to the data, but their pricing makes it onerous for anyone to build a service realistically.  Otherwise, there’s enough fear at all the major players such that API and core data assets are limited or not at all being exposed.  


  9. Very interesting. I find it amusing that after all our conversations, you start your post about identity systems with health information:-) And that’s because it is the part of us least likely to change — the DNA.

    I agree with the commenter who said identity was not permanent, but changes over time. I, for instance, have been married many times and have 5 legal last names:-)


  10. But couldn’t you also make algorithms to fake out the detectors? If there is a market for it, there will be a product. Say’s law and all.


  11. But couldn’t you also make algorithms to fake out the detectors? If there is a market for it, there will be a product. Say’s law and all.


  12. But couldn’t you also make algorithms to fake out the detectors? If there is a market for it, there will be a product. Say’s law and all.


  13. But couldn’t you also make algorithms to fake out the detectors? If there is a market for it, there will be a product. Say’s law and all.


  14. But couldn’t you also make algorithms to fake out the detectors? If there is a market for it, there will be a product. Say’s law and all.


  15. Absolutely agree with the agenda but never underestimate the latent power of the crowd. I think there is a majority discontent with all that detail being digitally raped from us either by stealth or outright brutishness and it wouldn’t take much of a catalyst to start a Digital Union and an all out ‘Like Strike’. Imagine Facebook’s value if it became cool to unlike every brand on your page and trade that value for your own benefit within a business that monetizes based on value creation and sale of that rather than advertising. So far I think Google has a complete lack of sex appeal in part because it is run by a few thousand people who are not really in touch with 99.9% of the rest of us but I love the fact that the brand aren’t yet engaging at crowd level and my wall isn’t muddied by cheap ads. Facebook wise I think anyone who ‘likes’ stuff on there is selling themselves cheap, especially people like you Robert. Call me strange but I’d feel more comfortable paying a modest amount for your wisdom as that’s how I know you stand out from the crowd. As to the continual abuse and ‘fail forward’ offer of a belt to hold my pants back up, I’d be far more impressed with a business that provided a motive for me to want to offer some of my personal information up for some reward and in a way I can rely on that affords my digital home the same rights as my physical one. Everything else is voyeurism at best.


  16. OK Robert, now, since you already sold your soul to the GFS Group (Google, Facebook, Salesforce) and became part of the “propaganda” or maybe even their propaganda hero, I wonder how this will pan out with the new generation – who is already on high alert: Check the demographics of G+ and Twitter and you find the majority are baby boomer or freaks.- or desperate consultants, insurance or real estate broker. Gen Y is *denying* what you suggest here and I fully support their denial.

    Maybe we are then all out of the “system”. But trust me neither me nor the next generation wants to be in *any system*.

    I wish you best of luck with that my old friend 🙂
    (loving the diversity – freedom of choice – and privacy)


    1. Gen Y may not want to be in a system or think they’re in a system but they’re all on Facebook…they’re already there.


  17. I think you’re spot on with this whole “identity” thing and there are many positives to it. I especially liked the recent videos on start-ups you posted on Google+ recently that are about trying to begin to make sense of this identity data – and the whole combination of human behavior and tech is fascinating (and what I mainly focus on in my work). But how Minority Report is all this? 

    And that’s how people are going to react to it, I think. Some people, maybe even a majority, I don’t know. Not that we can stop it from happening if the technologies are presented skillfully. People WANT to connect with relevant people. They want their tribe online and offline. They want to belong and be understood. It’s wired into the human brain. 

    And hot damn, there’s so much interesting potential here on both the sides of good and evil. 

    Lately, though, I can’t help but think about Trey Pennington’s death/suicide. How “connected” he was, and yet when it came down to it, clearly feeling so alone. That simplifies depression, I know. And I’m not even going to pretend I’m informed about what he was really thinking, but it’s just really striking to consider that he might have felt even more alone in having to project a certain image to this great wide world he was interacting with. 

    And that’s what we’re going to end up with more of. More connection, more visibility, but it’s going to drive people to be “popular”, to look a certain way, to put on their “game” face all the damn time. And that’s dangerous. It’s like all the worst things about high school that we remember, writ large across the internet in a way that is becoming our life. 

    We’re on the cusp of so many things that feel exhilarating, and the potential in the intersections and the cross-over — so much of it looking like potential, but I can’t shake the feeling there’s some danger in here too, and how do we mediate that going forward? 


  18. You can find out what I am and my ideas by searching on google: Good to meet you. Plant my ideas, grow this economy. #organic


  19. Remember that profile manager?

    It could be great if it worked to activate which identities you are using, and get control of what information you want Google to use and get more relevant content. 

    With time, an user will naturally stop using some identities and getting new ones.


  20. I have to disagree with your premise that there a finite pie(space) to carve up. It will grow bad we won’t allow one company to own our identity.

    But as usual, despite yor over hype of the current details, your trend analysis is among the best I’ve ever seen.

    Makes me wonder if you purposely throw in the wild claims to mislead the uninitiated and get the message out to us true believers 🙂


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