The serendipity product

Mar 15, 2011

They say that ideas come dime a dozen. Here’s one that I’ve been bouncing around in my head. You should make it and become rich. When you do and get to 100M users, send me a postcard.

Sometimes, I have some time and I am bored. I know that I should do something useful, but I don't want to. Instead, I want to keep working on my network. Or, if you want to use a fancy word, maintain my weak social ties. My ties are all the people I’ve come in contact over my life. They are on the order of hundreds, or probably more like thousands.

I want to have a site where I could just go and see who else is online of my friends, and then strike a random conversation with them. Or them to do the same with me. The kind of conversation that starts with phrases like…
“How have you been?”
“Long time no see. Do you know what’s our mutual friend XYZ up to?”
“We last met at XYZ and I bought you a beer and you said you can reciprocate. It’s been two years. How about that?”
“Oh wow… you had your first child two months ago. I suck. I never had any yet. How’s that working out for you?”

It could also be less specific and work in broadcast mode. I could publish something like “I’m working on XYZ. I could use some ideas.” or “Here’s this stupid cat video.” or “I really dig this trance track.”

As for a competitive comparison, how is this thing different from…

…Facebook?
When I go to Facebook, I see a bunch of crap from applications and people. When I respond by commenting, everybody else sees it. I don’t want it. I want serendipity in the form of me and the other person, and nobody else. Fuck your “data collection” and “advertiser profile” and “analytics” and “100B$ IPO.” It’s degrading and I don’t care. I just want to talk to this other person.

…Twitter?
I have no idea who’s on Twitter right now. These people posted some shit. They might be here, or they might be gone. I have no way of knowing.

…ChatRoulette?
I mention CR because it actually captured the spirit of this product closer than any of this other social nonsense that I have seen. There was no process, Terms and Conditions to check a checkbox for, or anything like that. You just went there, and you found some action. Which may or may not have involved some naked people. So what was missing was that I care much less about random naked people than I do about the people I’ve met previously. But otherwise for the immediacy and serendipity, it was spot on.

…Skype?
I use Skype sometimes for these purposes, but it has three flaws in its current form preventing it from doing a good job.
1) Skype is focused on delivering great audio and video calls and extracting money, rather than innovating in social networks. So, it works on communicating with who you already know, rather than supporting weaker ties.
2) Skype contact list has scalability problems. I had to delete many contacts because otherwise it would crash and burn on a mobile device. So it does not support maintaining lots of weaker ties.
3) More generally, there is a hard boundary around my contact list. It does not support browsing, discovering and adding new people as easily as, say, Facebook or Twitter do.