Know your place in the Social Software hierarchy

I scribbled this diagram in a notebook while on the train sometime ago and have been waiting to find the time to install a drawing package to make it prettier (I found dia – it just works!).  It's a gross simplification, but sometimes you have to take things up a level to see what's really going on and to start talking about things that matter.  And it's all been said before in other forms, nothing spectacularly new here, just my take on what I've seen.  I also recognise that this is still news to many people.

For those of you who weren't raised as a systems analyst, you might do this kind of thing to show the "client" the logic of what you've observed happening.  They always say "Yes, but that's not how it really works" or "I think that's an oversimplification".  That's good, it means you're going to learn something new about how they see the system.

About the Product/Hamster/Bait thing – people like to say in conversations about this "Wake up dude! You're the product!"*.  And.  I don't think it goes far enough.  We're not just the product, we're a product that drives the engines, like hamsters in a wheel that puts electricity back into the grid, and (especially if we're particularly creative/interesting/hyperactive) we're the bait for more product/hamster/bait to come along and join in.

Anyway. Here's what I think when I show it to my internal client-side:

1. What about freemium services like Flickr?  Am I not still P/H/B if I pay for a pro account?
2. There are overlaps, of course.  Some owners, employees and customers will be P/H/B in their own time.
3. How does this map onto offline social "platforms" like meetups, coworking spaces and members clubs?
4. Might want to further distinguish between Owner and Investor.
5. Another interesting (but more complex) dimension is lock-in – how easy is it for you to get your data out, archive it, re-use or re-mix it/

*I know.  I should stop taking part in conversations where people call each other "dude".

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous