Start Up Blog

The Interest Graph

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 31, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg has promoted the idea of the Social Graph for sometime. And it is true that Social Networking has changed the way we use the web. The only problem for me is that sometimes the people in my social life are there not by choice:

Family members

people I work with

Neighbours in my my street

People who drink coffee where I do

People I went to school with

Friends of friends

You get the picture. These people are in my life by geographic default. Whether or not we are interested in the same things is another question. In fact our values and interests may be entirely juxtaposed. This is starting to make me think much more about finding people who are interested in the same things as me. The social space is such a deluge of opinions and data, it is hard to sift through the noise to find what I care about.  I am not necessarily interested in people just because they are in my close geographic space. It needs to be much more. We must share an an interest as well –  we must intersect on the ‘Interests Graph‘, not just the social or geographic one.

In fact, my circle of acquaintances has never changed as quickly in my entire life as it has in the past 3 years. People are coming and going at a rapid pace. Sure, close friends and family are bonded by forces much deeper than digital technology, but we need another layer added to the social graph to make more meaningful connections.

It’s already happened on a business and career level already – coders, entrepreneurs, advertisers, bloggers, lawyers, artists, photographers etc all have connection potential in existing digital forums. But what about the marathon runners, surfers, cyclists, and basket weavers? (Insert personal passion here) They need to be able to find each other too.

I really feel like this is a massive opportunity space for startup entrepreneurs. Connecting interests, socially and geographically to using temporal mobile devices to create deeper meaning. The question for all of us, is how can we do it in the things we are involved in which don’t yet have a commercial context?

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5 Responses

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  1. Jason Schoolmeester said, on November 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    The opportunity is there given sites like Facebook already collect the interests of its members. It is just a matter of mining that data.

  2. Adam Tait (@adamtait) said, on November 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I’d say the data is actually pretty limited right now, or at least not easily accessible. Google would be the only company that might have a decent set of interest information. They do already publish an aggregated view in Google Trends.

    Interest sharing and communication happens in the otaku communities that spread around the web. If you’re into marathon running, there are several community forums for discussing it. Same for just about any other hobby or interest you can think of. They usually run PhpBB and often rely on the relevancy of content and level of activity.
    These forums may inaccessible to many – probably those how aren’t that serious about the interest. Casual interest comes and goes, and often just wants to quick answer to question online rather than engaging with the community. Google solves that problem well.

    Another note is that interests are fleeting. I become interested in something and may drop it unexpectedly at any time. Very few interests stick around more than 6 months. I actually re-opened my delicious account (which had been dormant for 2+ years) a few weeks ago. I looked at the things I was interested in then, and quickly noticed that very few continued to be in my life. I have changed.

    There might be an opportunity for a business to build a better forum platform, which I would give to either http://teethie.com, http://disqus.com or http://tumblr.com – all trying to tackle this space. The biggest challenge I see them facing is that people associate the community with a name/domain. It’s hard to build a site for all communities – just look at http://ning.com (considered a failure in this space).

    Great post, Steve!

  3. Ross Hill said, on November 2, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Hunch.com have been exploring this space a lot. It’s a big challenge!

  4. Ryan Cumley said, on November 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve found a couple good connections towards this end with several Meetup groups around things I’m interested in (iPhone Developers, barefoot runners, paleo diet people). But the scheduling demands and geographic demands of meeting in person cause this interaction to be really infrequent.

    I know there is a certain quality of relationship / interaction from in person meets that can’t be replicated digitally, but I do share your desire to more easily connect with similarly interested people in some capacity that goes beyond occasionally trolling the same blogs.

    But you’re right about the paradox of commercializing the non-comercial interests in our lives. You can’t build an ad-supported business around that one. Perhaps someone will figure out a non-intrusive Freemium model for this one. Maybe a compelling platform where you get your non-commercial connections for free, but pay extra for the professional ones. Tough problem.

    • Steve Sammartino said, on November 3, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      I agree with the challenges you mention. But i reckon certain platforms can be monetized by advertising. Although the eyeballs may be infrequent… than can have targeting potential of 100% – Eg a surfing app for connecting surfers….


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