I wanted to follow up briefly on the mention I made yesterday about using social networking as the platform for a new Mercury News website. It’s such a fad right now, it’s easy to think that we’re just throwing the term around to sound hip. Hopefully not. But let me elaborate.
In my group, we have focused a lot on the print product as a starting point. And we’re looking at the idea of building a paper around three parts of people’s lives: Live (or Learn), Work, Play. The online version of that would include three tabs, plus a fourth: Share. This would be the social networking part.
Right now, to use much of MercuryNews.com, you need to register and provide us with just the barest of information. With “Share,” we’d be inviting (though not requiring) you to provide as much detail as you wish to share. As you then navigate the other parts of the site, you can save links back to your profile. When you comment or contribute somewhere, that also gets added to your profile. Over time, you also can share things like restaurants you visited, bands you like, info on your community, church, school, etc. You can elect to make any of this as transparent as possible and invite anyone you wish in the Mercury News.com network to visit your profile.
Everything a person enters would be clickable. So if they enter their zip code, or street, and click, they see everyone who is registered (and chose to be visible). If you had a baby, and you listed the birth date, you can click the birth date and see every other birth date in the site. And if you list a restaurant, you can click on that, and see anyone else who liked it, and then whatever else they liked.
This idea tries to build on the concept that people told us their most valuable source of information was other people. But beyond that, it also aims to be local. This is about a place, not just building virtual networks. And hopefully this would allow people to connect with folks who live in their neighborhood, send their kids to the same school, or both like some local band. While the ability to connect online has advanced tremendously, people still live their lives in the real world and we think this may help to do that.
Beyond this basic social networking concept, we’d like “Share” to include the basic community tools like blogs, photos, video sharing, etc. We are big Facebook fans. But I also feel there is a flaw to Facebook. While it gives you a snapshot into someone’s life, it’s really only a brief glimpse. You can look at someone’s Facebook profile and get a sense of their life over the past few days. All those items disappear eventually.
Our thought is to continually archive everything you do, along with allowing you to blog and upload other media to “Share.” Hopefully, this will allow someone to tell the story of their lives and their community. And by keeping these all together, forever, we hope it will build the timeline and narrative of your life, rather than the past week.
Anyway, as noted before, these ideas are purely conceptual right now. But we’d love to hear your feedback.