Core Assets and Social Capital

by Marianne Richmond on December 19, 2005

In Forrester Research’s weekly update,  Charlene Li writes, "Yahoo! bought social bookmarking and tagging leader del.icio.us to add bookmark
tagging to its social computing portfolio. The value of tagging is that when
individuals label something online, they call it out as valuable. If enough people tag Yahoo!-stored assets as, then the collective intelligence of the masses is captured for all to use and Yahoo!’s site becomes richer, cleaner, and more satisfying-all magic words to an ad-supported business model. Other portal, search, media and retail sites should join the ranks of Yahoo! in making tagging a core asset."

Alec Saunders
writes that Yahoo! validated the value of tagging by buying
del.icio.us. He says, "Today tags might be the ultimate sticky asset.
Your tags are a reflection of your values, your thinking, your mindset.
Shared tags reflect the collective interest of a community. Tags and
profile, together could be used as contextual triggers for advertising
driving much more precisely targeted delivery than is possible today.
If, as the Web 2.0 advocates suggest, data is the new platform, then
Yahoo! just brought a core platform asset.

Well, yes, Sugar
Plum….in keeping with the spirit of the season, those visions of
assets do dance in Yahoo!’s head, or is it portfolios of assets that
dance in their visions?  Yahoo!’s tags may be "social networks" but the "it" in that beloved expression, "your it" is search….and advertising and m-o-n-e-y.  In the words of Thomas Hawk,
"Google and their non human algorithm have significantly trounced
Yahoo!
at the core service that was at one time the central technology of
Yahoo’s business, search.  And up for grabs in the search game going
forward are still billions and billions of dollars."

OK..so that’s the business model. Assets, value…sticky assets, core assets, valuable. That seems to upset some bloggers.  But let’s not forget that tagging is about users. There is a lot of really great things being written about social networks from the benefit to users
standpoint….David Pollard writes frequently on the topic of blogs, social networks, knowledge management and other inter-related topics.

And I think there is another important element in the asset play: social capital. In the year 2000, Robert Putnam published a book called Bowling Alone with the premise that Americans were suffering from a deficit in social
capital…that we had gone from belonging to bowling leagues to bowling
alone. Social capital is defined as the collective value of all "social
networks" [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these
networks to do things for each other ["norms of reciprocity"]….a wide
variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust,
reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks.  Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and – at least sometimes – for bystanders as well." It sounds a lot like the hallmarks of blogging and online social networks to me.

I think that rumors of the death of social capital
were greatly exaggerated….I think it is alive and well and has just
re-defined and in fact expanded the meaning of communities. Instead of bowling alone we are tagging together ….and blogging connects us in all kinds of amazing ways from shared knowledge and information to personal and business relationships and colloboration that would be impossible if we had to wear those nasty bowling shoes to experience.

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