I’ve noted the parallels between grassroots internet political activity and fandom on here several times, but if you ever doubted I had a point, check out, a social networking site for supporters of his presidential bid. Launching this just days after making his candidacy official in a speech in which he called for what the bloggers like to call “fatter internet tubes*,” it just goes to show that whatever his political strengths and weaknesses, this guy gets the internet and has good insight into how to get the people who want to identify with you to rally around and start working for you. He’s been called a rock star, and he’s sure working the Net like one. Here’s the touch that really nails it: At the very bottom it reads “Powered by Obama ’08 (and supporters just like you).” Genius. Though I’d get rid of those parentheses.

* Bloggers do a lot of appropriating stupid things politicians say about the internet into their own language. First they started saying “the internets” to mock Bush who used that term in his State of the Union address last year. The “tubes” terminology comes from Sen. Stevens of the ghastly DOPA legislation in a speech where he demonstrated his ignorance of that which he was proposing to ban. Co-opting language is a good form of resistance in many ways, look at “queer” for a good example, but in this case I wonder if it ends up reinforcing the perspectives of the ignorant rather than serving as a form of challenge.

Update: Fred Stutzman has posted a thoughtful analysis of the Obama site here. Coming Soon

Not content with a mere Super Bowl victory, those Indianapolis Colts are now out to conquer the world of social networking! They are planning to launch “” (hmmm, wonder what inspired that name?) which they describe as:

a free, on-line community built by Colts fans, for Colts fans. The system will be free for registered users. Members will be able to create personal profiles, arrange their own pages, and connect with other fans anywhere, anytime, inside the Colts Fan Network.

Although they say this, they also say that the site is owned by the Colts and there’s a humongo AT&T logo on the page with this announcement so one does wonder what will happen should those fans start getting more critical than the club is comfortable with. What happens if, oh, say Baltimore decides to woo them to their city and the fans all turn?

Along with the presumably massive amounts of sports talk, and the social network site-standards of blogging, email, and groups, they also say the site will have reviews: allows you to read reviews on many products created by fellow Colts Fans like you! Browse through automobile reviews, fashion reviews, food reviews, entertainment reviews, and more. Want to review a product? The tools are all there for you to express your opinions on goods and services.

Now that promise strikes me as odd. With so many review sites out there already, what is the special expertise or shared world view that a Colts fan has that your average epinions or cnet reader doesn’t?

They also discuss that they already have a fan forum and the hoped-for implications of this network on that forum:

Our fan forum (at is already a vibrant, ongoing conversation among avid Colts fans. When the fan network launches, the forum will expand to include more topics, more people, and more interaction than ever before.

Usually you get social networks where there weren’t forums, or the forums arise out of and within the social networks, so I’m curious to see what really happens to the forums once a network launches and how the two spaces will be integrated. How do you get a bunch of people to invest in building a social network AND bring more people topics and interaction to the old space? (win the Super Bowl?)

Hunters and Peckers

The music social network/mp3 download site Amie Street is getting a lot of positive buzz for its innovative business model. Bands upload mp3s that are initially free to download. The more they’re downloaded, the more expensive they become, eventually hitting 99 cents if they’re smash hits. Users can recommend the tracks they like and if they lead to lots of downloads, those early adapters get credit to buy other downloads. It’s got the social networking element so that if people like another person’s recommendations, they can create friendships and then see the songs that their friends have recommended.

I like the idea as I think it benefits both bands and fans. I’ve said before that one of the great pleasures of music fandom is making recommendations that other people like, and the way this is done to feed back to both artists and fans is really nice. It’s an intruiging way to monetize taste making talent as well as musical talent.

One thing a quick glance at the site will reveal is how important this makes the ability to write about music. Several of the recommendations say things like “this rocks” or “I love this song” or “this is better every time I hear it.” Not very helpful. Others are cryptic: “Like a slightly annoyed robot who slowly discovers hope,” “Nice song, alternating between two Ideas. Very original.” A few actually give a hint of what it might sound like: “Swing-y with a touch of soul…yum,” “Think Beatles/McCartney/John Denver, what a mix but it works.”

I think that like many music sites, this appeals to a particular kind of music fan, a “hunter” — someone who’s willing to go out and listen to a lot of things they don’t like in order to find something they do. This has been my experience of Reverbnation as well. Being told something is “indie” or “alternative” or that it “totally rocks” is a long way from there being a good likelihood I’m going to like it.

I figure I’m more of a pecker — I want that yummy seed mixed by someone (or an algorithm) that knows a lot about the dietary habits of a bird like me already or prepared by someone with highly similar taste. I don’t like listening to lots of stuff I don’t like en route to finding the stuff I do. Either that, or I want thick description, like mp3 blog writers who spend a paragraph or two telling me about the band and the song they want me to hear. It doesn’t mean I end up liking all I hear, but the hit rate’s high enough to keep me paying attention instead of throwing up my arms in despair and hitting shuffle on the collection I’ve already amassed.

Right now, all these social network music sites are being promoted as appealing to “music fans in search of new music” without differentiating amongst the kinds of searching for that music we’re willing to do. I predict that this ever-expanding marketplace is going to break down into niches based on the different search strategies people enjoy.

Social Network for Wine Fans

I am one of those classless losers who has trouble telling the difference between fine wine and grape juice that’s gone bad (though I excel in my ability to appreciate fine champagne). But even I know enough to know that wine appreciation is best done socially. Everything I have learned about wine (and I have learned that I do in fact kind of like some of it a little bit more than I thought) I’ve learned from wine parties where smart people cultivate clever groupings and everyone stands around talking about it. My friends who host these wine parties can only be described as fans — they browse the wine aisles like I browse record stores, they wear t-shirts and baseball caps from their favorite vinyards, they plan vacations around visits to wineries, their favorite movie is that one where the two middle aged guys go on a wine-tasting tour of California before one’s wedding that everyone liked so much (typically, I thought it was overrated).

So I think the founders of Vinorati are really on to something by creating a social network site specific for wine lovers. I especially like the tag clouds.

I’m sure they don’t call it fandom, but if that ain’t fandom…

…maybe this is?

ST. CHARLES, MO—Print-shop manager and potato-chip connoisseur Nathan Sterken, 26, was surprised by the “exceptionally rich mid-palate notes of onion” and “wonderfully creamy but sour overtones” in a fresh Big Grab bag of Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion potato chips he purchased from a local deli Tuesday. “I find myself enticed by the playful salty-sweet flavors of this blend,” said Sterken, who first developed a taste for potato chips during his four years working at a St. Charles–area 7-Eleven convenience store. “The flavors are robust without overpowering the fragile potato, and they mature into a rich, truly unexpected canola-oil finish.” (from the inimitable Onion)

What makes a good web2 site?

Over at the blog A VC, Fred Wilson offers some thoughts he’s been having about how to create a great Web service based on Flickr. I won’t comment on all of it, but there were 3 points he made that I really liked:

2) Every web service needs to have a profile for every user

3) Users should be encouraged to comment on other user’s posts

8) Engagement metrics like comments, favorites, views, can and should be used to drive discovery (the most interesting algorithm)

Some of these, especially #8, are things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Too often I think websites are set up in ways that priviledge mystery algorithms or the developers’ interests over highlighting what people are into on the site. Obviously there are a number of high profile exceptions, but I like the emphasis here on creating community both through encouraging people to build individualized identities and relationships and also via algorithms smart enough to figure out where the hubs of community are happening and bring them to the attention of other users.

Connection to fandom? One thing that happens when a site does this is that individual users become hubs of fandom — they become people who have fans themselves, which makes the site sticky sticky sticky for developers, and they become taste leaders who can channel other people’s energies toward enjoying things they might not have otherwise found.