Well Steve’s experiment to use listener participation in the NewsGang daily has had it’s intended effect on me: I am more hooked now than I was before. I saw the regular ‘all-star’ gang come out last night while I was at dinner with the family and as soon as I got home, I fired up my Apple TV (yes that’s what I use to listen to podcasts at home) and sucked down parts 1 and 2.
The reason I know am helplessly addicted: For most of the conversation I went from annoyed (Marc Canter is really smart, but for all the trashing of Jason he does, he cuts people off just as much…and he’s a bit repetitive) to confused (this is how I know he is really smart…a few times I couldn’t follow what he was saying), but still I had to listen to the whole thing, never thinking of hitting the stop button.
There was one section of the conversation that did make itself plain to me: the subject of user controls for disclosure of personal information on social networks. The gang mostly seemed in favor of some sort of digital control that would enable users of social networks to decide how much information they wanted to disclose to others and how much they wanted to make portable to other systems. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable position, backed up by the idea that user’s should own their own data.
However, it struck me that those ‘digital controls’ sound and awful lot like DRM for music. A way to keep other people from doing stuff with your data that you don’t want done. In the case of DRM systems like fairplay from Apple, it’s to keep other users from copying the data or playing it on an unauthorixed device. In the case of social network controls it would be to keep people from pushing your data from one application to another without your permission. Both digital control schemes though have the some of the same fundamental elements.
Now the question is whether this push for digital controls in social networks will lead to some of the same dynamics we’ve seen in the music business? Will ‘A-listers’ in the current social network sphere act like Bono and Metallica do in the music market and restrict access to their information, specifically their social graph, as a way of preserving their unique relationship capital? Will that then drive ‘newbies’ to seek connections and friends elsewhere with other ‘newbies’ that are more open with their data or even worse will it resort to the hacking of the ‘A-listers’ data? This is what has happened in the music market where most music on college campuses is either from an emerging artist and is distributed DRM free or is from the torrent networks. Then the most interesting question: over time will this cause the current crop of A-listers to fall out of touch with the really interesting conversations because they make it too hard to become connected to them?
Perhaps this is a case of being careful what you ask for…