Brad Feld

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John Galt’s Law (of social networks)

Aug 01, 2006
Category Technology

Niel Robertson made a brilliant discovery today that he has named “John Galt’s Law.”  The brilliant discovery was the Atlas Shrugged Dating Site – the law that emerged is “The value of a social network is propotional to the square of the number of users of the system multiplied by the inverse of the social networks rank amongst similarly themed social networks.”

I went ahead and created an account on the Atlas Shrugged Dating Site to play around with it.  However, since I’ve found my own version of Dagny Taggart I didn’t feel compelled to fork over $7 / month to join the site as a subscriber.  After fooling around (with the site) a little, I’m surprised that there isn’t a “meta-dating site” that is an aggregation of all of these sites (maybe there is and I just haven’t played the field enough.)  While I’m not that interested in joining a bunch of different dating sites (or any – for that matter), if I was, it seems like I’d be pretty interested in the multitude of “sub-sites” (or networks) that would be available. 

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with several companies that are working on networks, communities, and user identity.  Note that I didn’t say “social networks” – these networks aren’t limited to social (think people networks vs. publisher networks vs. networks of things you do).  When you toss in identity across multiple networks, you quickly start thinking about things like reputation (e.g. my reputation in one network should theoretically impact my reputation in another network.)  I’m surprised by the current state of the art (or lack thereof) of many of the larger social network providers – it seems like they are lost in feature land rather than “core value land.”  Many of these networks are closed, so it’s hard to deal with some of the interesting issues across networks, but some are completely open (and more APIs and open data models are coming), which creates an opportunity for interesting stuff across networks.

I’ve also recently invested in several companies that are working on what has been broadly defined as the “attention data” problem.  There’s a different phenomenon going on here generally – deep “core value” is being created, but the application (“feature land”) layer is missing.  It’s starting to spring up in some places, and a few companies I’m involved in or close to are feverishly working on rolling out stuff real people can use, but so far what’s available is surprisingly light weight.

The combination of the two is fascinating to ponder.  It’s a good thing I’m in my version of Galt’s Gulch for the month thinking about it.  Now – back to exploring that dating site to see if I can find some “hot” new features.  Oh – and Sand Hill Slave was hysterical today – maybe she should start a dating side titled BART.

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