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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Tribe Lenses, perspectives on content create value

Posted by direwolff on November 28, 2005

Every now and then, I get stuck in some free thought and like to put it down on paper.  Well tonight, I decided it would be interesting to put it down in my blog.  The workplace at Tribe offers an environment with lots of thought catalysts in the people and the ideas they share, and over the past few weeks that’s helped percolate some thoughts worth sharing, IMHO.

As I watch the developments and read about all of the emerging social bookmarking and social search services, I go back to a very simple working prototype that our Chief Technologist demonstrated at Tribe recently.  Some times, it’s out of simplicity that the most powerful ideas begin to emerge.

So what was this simple idea?  Well, he created a page that showed the latest del.icio.us bookmarks that all Tribe members with a del.icio.us module in their profile had tagged.  The page he created simply showed the member’s picture and the title of the tagged item.  That’s it.  However, for some reason this seemed like the coolest thing to me.  Why?  Because if he could show me what every one with a del.icio.us module was tagging then what would stop him from showing me only what those on my friends list were tagging.  Why stop there, why not be able to show me only what people in a tribe I participate in are tagging?  Nothing could stop him of course, and that’s the beauty of it.  Not only that, these bookmarks were actually really interesting to see.

This spawned the concept of Tribe lenses in my mind.  At the lowest level we have the “me” lens, the one that lets me or any one else looking at the content I’ve compiled, be it my del.icio.us bookmarks, my Amazon wishlist, songs/movies/photos I like, recommendations I’ve made, etc.  The next level up from here is the friends lens, which represents all of this information for all of those on my friends list.  The next lens could be seen as either one layer up or sideways, it’s the tribe lens which is composed of this information for members of a specific tribe.  One could get fancy here and also allow this view across a few tribes (though the value here only comes where there are several tribes on the same subject like the two South Park tribes).  Finally, there is the most macro view, the Tribe lens which encompasses this information for all Tribe members (like the prototype created by Tribe’s Chief Technologist).

Each of these lenses offers a different type of value in being considered.  While the value of the “me” lens, that of my friends, and the “all of Tribe” lens might have clear values to you, I feel a need to expand on the one I consider the most valuable of them all, the tribe lens.

The other day while perusing Tribe, I landed on the SF Restaurants tribe and I was really taken a back by the quality of the discussion and recommendations there.  These people definitely fall into the category of people fondly known as “foodies”.  They know their stuff and it’s a pleasure to read the detail of their reviews because they obviously care a lot about this topic.  At that point I began wondering to myself, if I was going to get a restaurant recommendation who would I rather get it from, my friends or the members of the SF Restaurants tribe?  You’ve probably figured out my answer here, the latter of course.  So a tribe lens for restaurant recommendations, showing me the recommendations of the SF Restaurant tribe would actually have more value to me than the friends lens.  If I was going to get snowboarding equipment recommendations, would I rather get them from my friends, only some of which are snowboarders or would I prefer to get them from members of the Snowboard tribe or the Snowboarding FREAKS tribe?  In discussing this with another Tribester, he hit the nail on the head, he described the difference between the lenses (friends vs. tribe members) as the difference between social-based needs vs. knowledge-based needs, where friends falls into the former and tribe members into the latter.

As Tribe evolves, its use to its members will increase greatly, because while it can be difficult to build up friends lists (some times they just don’t want to join), tribes grow their member base on the basis of people who share passions wanting to get involved to discuss and engage others on these matters.  It is this value that Tribe will hopefully over time be able to open up to other services through their integration into Tribe and through the opening up of Tribe’s APIs to these services.  Tribe as the true community Web 2.0 service.

Well I can dream can’t I? :-)

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