It's hard to over hype the significance of the interest graph, once you really understand its magnitude. On the flipside, it can be confusing to hear people talk about the interest graph without knowing what all the fuss is about. (As background to this blog post, you can learn about the origins of the interest graph in this slideshare document and this Quora Q&A post).
I'm going to lay out an argument for the interest graph and its significance on the very fabric of our lives. And make no mistake -- I am indeed saying that the interest graph is a really, really big deal -- one that sits right beside other life-changing inventions and discoveries such as fire, language, the printing press, human powered flight, antibiotics, cellphones, and of course, microwaves.
Let's start by really defining what I mean by 'interests' and how they apply here.
Interests aren't something we really think about, they just are. We naturally have interests in various things. Our interests define us as individuals. Some people are interested in making lots of money, some are interested in changing the world, some are interested in Cabernet wines, some are interested in collecting stamps. Interests span from the very broad to the very niche. The language you speak, the nationality you are, the age and gender you are all play a role in defining you and influencing your interests. A woman who speaks Korean will -- just by the fact that she speaks that language instead of English -- be much more likely to have a certain set of interests that's different from a woman who speaks English. And by the same token, since both are women, they will also likely share a set of interests that are different than a woman may have as compared to a man.
As you can see, the interests we all have form a fabric through which we lead our lives. They interconnect as individuals, and with each other. People who love photography are more likely to spend hours researching various cameras, shooting techniques and locations than those who don't. We apply our most precious asset-- time-- on what has captured each of our interests. Many times, we also spend money in those areas as well.
So by 'interest graph' what I and others mean is that this web of interests between a person and the world around him or her, as well as between two or more people, forms a 'graph,' or a series of connections that could theoretically be mapped. And if it can be mapped, it can be understood, and leveraged to do really, really powerful things. Mapping and understanding the interest graph of humans and the world they live in is one of the most exciting things I can imagine. It would allow us to better understand ourselves, where we choose to spend our time, the ways we interact with the world around us, and the ways we interact with each other.
Now, here's the funny thing about mapping the interest graph: We all intuitively know pieces of it, because we live it each day. We lead our lives by interacting with the world through our interests. We choose to spend time (and money) on things that interest us. We know what interests us -- we don't need anyone to map it to explain it to us. We know what connections we share with others around us -- in fact, we often call people with whom we share one or more interests "friends" because we've chosen to invest a lot of time with them and we have a strong connection with them. (It's outside the scope of this blog post, but a related thought I believe to be true is that friendships are always based on at least one shared interest. See my other blog post on friend vs. interest connections)
Because our bodies have senses that can detect the interest graph -- hearing, sight, etc. -- many of us have never realized that we walk through the world only perceiving portions of the interest graph. It's like the days before having the Internet, or before having cellphones -- we didn't exactly understand what we were missing, because we'd never experienced the "after" moment before. That's where we are today with the interest graph. Since we can get along pretty well as analog human beings, seeing & hearing our way through the world around us, we don't perceive the vastness of the interest graph that connects us. Or to put it another way, we don't know what we don't know, so we don't miss it.
Oh but there's so much more.
The reality of our world is that we're all interconnected in really deep, meaningful ways by the interests we share. Since we only have our analog senses, we have to work hard (and dedicate a lot of time) to uncover those shared interests. For example, if you love sailing, you have to join a sailing club to meet others that share your interest. The Internet has made that process much more efficient -- you can now join a group online that shares some of the passions you do. And social media has made that connection even more available -- you can follow those who tweet about sailing topics, or become their friends on Facebook.
But there's still a huge piece missing: the connection of the digital world to the analog world.
And that's where mobile devices come in. The explosion of smartphones has enabled us to carry a digital "doorway" with us to this online world. We can email, call, tweet, browse the web, and use apps, all actions which connect us to others who share interests with us.
But replicating what we can do on the desktop with a mobile device is just the beginning. Imagine some of these scenarios:
The examples of leveraging the interest graph are endless. Literally any interaction you have today could be better if you had a more thorough understanding of that person's interests, or a deeper understanding and connection to things you're interested in. And by 'better' I mean more meaningful to you, more satisfying, and more useful.
And imagine the time you'd save over the course of your life just knowing who to connect with. How much time do we as human beings spend trying to find people we share interests with? Revealing even just a bit of the interest graph we all live within would literally change the way we interact with everyone around us.
Having a better insight into the interest graph can help in other ways, too. Understanding the current interest graph could let you discover other things you didn't know you would be interested in. For example, if 76% of people who love sailing also love to travel, understanding the interest graph can also help predict human behavior, and add value to people's lives through discovery. It can also help people make better decisions in their lives.
It's because of my and my co-founder's passion in the interest graph that we've created Socialize. The first big task for us and our amazing group of employees is to map the interest graph -- to ferret out as many of the connections that bind us together as possible. This isn't a new problem -- people have been trying to identify connections between people and interests since the beginning of time. The problem is that since people are analog, it's very difficult to track interests and their connections. It's impossible to record every conversation, to know where someone goes all the time and what they're doing when they get there.
But we realized something: People use smartphones, and since a person's phone is such an intimate device, they typically have it with them all the time. And furthermore, we're making a bet that apps on the smartphone approximate a person's interests. Or to put it another way, if I love sailing, I might have the sailing app. And if I love baseball, I might have the San Francisco Giants app. When taken together, as an aggregate, all of these apps comprise a genome of sorts -- something we call the Socialize Genome. Each app almost acts as a DNA marker for my interests. When you look at all the apps I have on my phone, they define me and my interests -- I can guarantee you that the apps I have installed on my phone are different than the apps you have installed on your phone.
Obviously, while apps may approximate a person's interests, they're a poor proxy of interest because oftentimes, people will download an app but then never use the app, or only use it for a short period of time. How many apps do you have on your phone that you never use?
But actually, we think these two problems are related, and we've figured out a way to solve them both. We've created an SDK for Android and iOS (iPhone, iPad) devices that is dropped into an app on the phone. This bundle of code, called the Socialize SDK, creates a mini social platform within each app, unleashing the app's community so they can socialize with each other. App developers love having access to these drop-in social features like commenting, sharing, liking and content popularity because it means they don't have to create all this functionality in the app themselves, and exposing the app's install base to each other means people use the app more, because they can now socialize with each other, in addition to just interacting with the app itself.
So suddenly, with Socialize running in, say, the sailing app, the app's users can share tips with each other about sailing. We've found that putting Socialize into an app will raise its engagement level by an average of 21.8%. That also means the developer can make almost 22% more revenue from his app, if she's monetizing it with ads or in-app purchasing.
But in the larger picture, we also believe that by increasing engagement within apps, and knowing what users are doing in those apps, we can map the interest graph across billions of downloads of hundreds of thousands of apps, installed by hundreds of millions of users.
And if we can pull this off, Socialize will be able to do some very magical things. Imagine, for example, being able to 'bump' your phone with a random stranger and knowing what the top 5 interests you both shared. Imagine knowing which ten people you should really connect with at a cocktail party based on interests you both share. Imagine a brand you trust -- say BMW -- being able to offer you an exclusive test drive of a new vehicle you're interested in.
By merging the interest graph with mobile devices and a technology like Socialize, we start to begin to unlock some of the incredible value hiding in the interest graph, while providing immediate value to app developers by increasing engagement within their apps.
There's no question about it, Facebook is cleaning up with its Social Graph. Representing your real-life friendships in a digital manner, and helping you find new friends by trusting those you know makes a lot of sense.
But something interesting has happened along the way: Facebook has blinded many of us to a plain truth: The Social Graph is just one component of the Interest Graph. Or to put it another way, Facebook has created a $70+ Billion company by connecting us through friendships. But incredibly, there's a much larger opportunity lurking under the surface -- the Interest Graph.
Let me tell you about what the Interest Graph is, why this is true, and how many people have missed it.
First, let's talk about interests. Each of us as human beings can be defined as a collection of our interests. Let's just peg the number at 3,000 interests. Let's say that each of us has around 3,000 interests. Those interests may include our gender, race, nationality, place of employment, language, favorite wine, favorite city, favorite designer brand, and the list goes on. For example, everyone who works at the same company shares an interest. Never will everyone who works together be friends. Friendship is just a proxy representing some number of shared interests (enough to want to be "friends") in this long list of interests that binds us together. Some of these interests may be very temporal: For example, this week, I might love a certain type of music or band. Next week, I might have moved on to a different interest. Some interests may only last minutes, or even seconds: When the sun hits my eyes, I have an interest in sunglasses.
And at any moment in time, there are probably many thousands of people around the world who are interested in sunglasses at the same time. Human interests ebb and flow together: When there's a moment of national unity, like after a natural disaster, the interests of many of us align more greatly than would otherwise be the case.
There's no question about it, Facebook is cleaning up with its Social Graph. Representing your real-life friendships in a digital manner, and helping you find new friends by trusting those you know makes a lot of sense. Facebook Connect is familiar to many of us -- but this connection misses a key point. But something interesting has happened along the way: Facebook has blinded many of us to a plain truth: The Social Graph is just one component of the Interest Graph. Or to put it another way, Facebook has created a $70+ Billion company by connecting us through friendships. But incredibly, there's a much larger opportunity lurking under the surface -- the Interest Graph. Let me tell you about what the Interest Graph is, why this is true, and how many people have missed it. First, let's talk about interests. Each of us as human beings can be defined as a collection of our interests. Let's just peg the number at 3,000 interests. Let's say that each of us has around 3,000 interests. Those interests may include our gender, race, nationality, place of employment, language, favorite wine, favorite city, favorite designer brand, and the list goes on. For example, everyone who works at the same company shares an interest. Never will everyone who works together be friends. Friendship is just a proxy representing some number of shared interests (enough to want to be "friends") in this long list of interests that binds us together. Some of these interests may be very temporal: For example, this week, I might love a certain type of music or band. Next week, I might have moved on to a different interest. Some interests may only last minutes, or even seconds: When the sun hits my eyes, I have an interest in sunglasses. Stadium fans share an interest, at least for a couple of hours, but aren't all friends on Facebook And at any moment in time, there are probably many thousands of people around the world who are interested in sunglasses at the same time. Human interests ebb and flow together: When there's a moment of national unity, like after a natural disaster, the interests of many of us align more greatly than would otherwise be the case. And the funny thing is, we're all intimately familiar with the Interest Graph. If you've ever been to a stadium, rooting for a team, the Interest Graph is obvious to you: Not everyone in that stadium is a friend, but many share a deep passion for the same team for a few hours. Then everyone leaves the stadium and goes on with their lives. And therein lies the problem: Whether we're talking about long-term interests, like nationality, race or gender, or short-term temporal interests, like wanting sunglasses or rooting for a team, although we all intuitively know and understand the Interest Graph, we've never been able to efficiently quantify, measure and leverage the Interest Graph. Facebook has done the best job, because friendship is a type of proxy for the Interest Graph: When you friend someone on Facebook, you're basically saying "this person shares enough interests with me that I'm willing to consider them a friend." We interact on a regular basis with people who aren't our friends, though, and for anyone who's really a power user on Facebook, you know the awkward feeling when someone 'friends' you who isn't really your friend. You only have two options: Accept their not-so-real friendship, or ignore them completely. Google+ Circles lets you segment your friends into groups Google+ has taken a more segmented approach to the friend problem with Circles. You can define different levels of friendship around interest-based groups by creating various circles. But still, this is like threading a needle using thick gloves: All of these approaches are clumsy, because they require the user to take action to define their interest-based groups. And most of us are not likely to spend copious amounts of time defining circles for all of our interests, and obviously there's no way that 100,000 people at a stadium are ever going to create a circle with each other for a 3 hour game. The net result has actually been a very lonely experience. For example, if you were on a mountain biking website or in a mountain biking mobile app, you'd share an interest with everyone else who's also on the site or has downloaded the app, but today there's no way to talk to those people. It's like you're all in a big room together, but the lights are off. Although there may be 1,000 people on the same website as you at the same time you are, or there may be 1,000,000 people who have downloaded the same app as you have, you don't know who any of them are, and you're not interacting with any of them. And to be clear, these aren't your friends on Facebook, these are just people that share one specific interest with you -- mountain biking. Fixing what Facebook is Missing: Uncovering the Interest Graph And even more significantly, brands that are trying to 'connect' with users using tools like Facebook Connect are missing a huge, key point: While they are getting all of their users to connect with their 'friends,' the brand is missing out on the opportunity to connect all their users with each other, i.e., the people who all actually share an interest in the brand. When you zoom out and look at this problem from a macro perspective, you end up with a graphic like the one at the right. Everyone is connecting with their social graph, while there is no way to connect users with a shared passion together. And it's incredible that 1) this is happening, and 2) this is not obvious to brands. Once I show brands how they are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with everyone who shares an interest in their brand, regardless of 'friendship,' a light bulb typically goes off. An easy way to illustrate this is by using mobile apps as an example: "If a million people download your mobile app, they will never all be friends on Facebook. But they all care about your brand, because they downloaded the app. How do they talk to each other today?" (Typical answer: they can't.) Focusing more deeply on mobile apps for a second, this also makes empirical sense to most people: How many apps have you downloaded to your smartphone, used once, and never used again? And no wonder -- it's a very lonely experience right now. When you open an app, you can interact with the content of the brand, but you can't really interact with the other million people who also are interested in the brand. So if the app's content doesn't grab your attention every time you open the app, you don't have a reason to stay in the app. But humans are social creatures! We enjoy engaging with others who share an interest with us. We enjoy being around people that share a language, or a culture, or an interest in the same types of wine. We like to hear tips about the best mountain biking trails, or learn a new skill. Humans use shared interests to connect. Downloading an app where you can't do that is like walking through life without ever talking to anyone. It's simply not natural. My co-founders and I started Socialize to solve just this problem. How do we quantify, measure and leverage the Interest Graph in a way that will allow brands to connect with users who share an interest, sometimes a very temporal one, but aren't necessarily friends? We've created a social, cloud-based API service that connects users with shared interests. Unless you're super geeky, that probably won't make a lot of sense to you -- but the effect will be obvious: When you're in a mobile app, you should be able to share your opinions about the content of that app with everyone else who has also downloaded the app. We make that happen through a set of social features, including comments, sharing and likes. We allow a user to make a comment on a story in an app, and every other user who has that app can read and respond to that comment, regardless of their Facebook status. The beauty of this approach, starting with mobile apps, is that mobile is very intimate. People pretty much always carry their phones with them, and they download apps that represent their interests. Think of the apps you have on your phone as a digital representation of who you are as an individual (we call this your 'Socialize Genome.') Learn more about Socialize by watching this winning Disruptathon presentation Furthermore, we can leverage best-in-class social networks like Facebook and Twitter, by allowing a user to authenticate with those systems. So if you're in a mountain biking app, for example, and you make a comment, not only can we let everyone else who has the app see that comment, but we can use Facebook to export that comment out to your circle of friends -- your social graph -- many of whom probably don't have the app. In this way, Facebook fulfills more of a marketing role, while Socialize is the glue that binds users together and increases engagement within the app by connecting the existing community. In this way, via our social API service and the iOS and Android SDKs we're creating, Socialize is creating an Interest Graph across thousands of mobile apps. Unleashing a community of users within one specific app is great for that app's developer and that group of users. But even better, the net effect at a macro level is that Socialize is creating a brand new type of interest-based network across thousands of apps. And we can start to do some really amazing things with that network. One simple example is what we call Interest Gravity. While as an analog human being, I might not know what interests I share with someone I'm riding in the subway with, or I'm walking past, if I have Socialize running in enough apps on my phone, Socialize can form a pretty complete profile of my interests as a user. And if Socialize is doing that on enough phones, we can use that network to calculate the number of shared interests between two phones (well really, between the two people carrying those phones). That's the Interest Gravity between those two people. If they have many identical or similar apps, we know they have a number of shared passions. We've created algorithms to go pretty far down the rabbit hole based on this concept. At this point a light bulb may be going off in your head, and you may be thinking, 'can Socialize know too much about me?!' And you're right -- like SpiderMan says, "with great power, comes great responsibility." One of the main tenants of this Interest Graph approach is that we build it in a very responsible way, keeping the user in control. If you'd like to learn more about Socialize, or the Interest Graph in general, I'd suggest you read the braindump on Socialize. We're also hiring, and offering a $10,000 referral fee for senior hires. Socialize is based in San Francisco, CA. If you really want to dig in, watch my 45 minute screencast on why I believe that mobile is way bigger than most people realize. And I invite you to post your comments below -- whether you agree or disagree with anything I've written here. Specifically, I'd like to know if you believe that quantifying the Interest Graph is as big a deal as I do.inter
Is having multiple interests and blogging possible?
This is a question that I've been trying to answer for a long time. The immediate answer is yes but let me elaborate.
Conventional wisdom says that you must have a blog that has a niche and you only blog about your niche. There are a ridiculous amount of courses based on this simple model. This type of thinking produces drones, people who specialize in one thing really well and become absolutely consumed by this one subject. It becomes their life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if this type of behaviour fits your personality. My problem is that this mode of thinking is being forced on the majority of new bloggers who might not know what type of blogger they are.
I tried this approach several times, and each time I have failed. I simply can’t make one thing the centre of all my activities. On Monday and Tuesday I might be excited about personal productivity but on Wednesday and Thursday I might be immersed in Toltec philosophy and on Friday I might be interested in vegan cooking. I have several interests that I like to pursue and enjoy. Having a blog focused on one niche is impossible for me and I couldn’t accept this fact for a long time.
The idea that I had to have a blog dedicated to one subject made me think that I simply wasn’t cut out for blogging. This left me with no outlet to share my ideas and knowledge with the world. I’m slowly coming to understand that having multiple interests is actually an asset.