I get asked quite frequently what makes OleOle different from a 'social network'. The concept of tracking your online or offline network of friends, family and colleagues was never the driver for the OleOle site design, even though 'networking' features are available. It was the ability for amateur or professional writers to instantly find an instant audience of people interested in the topic they were writing about. Publishing and immediate delivery of relevant content, from multiple sources, personalized for each individual, delivered in the way they want it.
Publishing through social media, or Social Publishing, is really that ever elusive "New Media". Everything a newspaper does offline leveraging everything possible online in a true crowd-driven, automated fashion. New Media still in relative infancy and continues to undergo transformation as technology and understanding of crowd behaviour and the social network matures. The idea that blogging is dead - don't beleive the hype- is related. We're seeing a change, and blogging as we know it is evolving as rapidly as it's appeared. We're seeing far fewer independent blogs and more commercialized blogs and blog networks. Not only that, but the standard web-based blog post is changing shape - into iPhone app snippets, Twitter tweets and - get this - ListServes. There are still millions upon millions of blogs, but there are fewer independent blogs making it out of obscurity. Not because it's any harder to setup and write a blog - that's getting easier every day. Rather, it's much more difficult to get an individual blog (like this one) read. Bloggers are now finding that the laws of big numbers work, and blog networks are able to pass along Pagerank, a captive audience, and 'recommended reading' to visitors in a way that a stand-alone blog cannot. Not to mention the ex-old media writers, left to wither on the street in the past two years, are bringing their organizational maturity and editorial skillsets to the web.
So we're seeing a professionalization (not sure that's a word but we'll go with it) of blogging; networks are better able to monetize their readers in aggregate, and able to pay the blogger a bit of that. Blogs and 'collectives' are still working at generating any significant ad revenues, but lumped together with an audience around a single theme, it gets a lot better. Writers are banding together, and we're seeing publications that are challenging 'old media' sites as they grown in prominence, reliability and even scope - even without that offline "doorstep" delivery.
OleOle takes the social media concept to this new level of Social Publishing. Where it's possible to have enough content on a site about dogs or cats or maybe even cars created by a team of 5-20 bloggers, it is impossible to have enough content about a topic as big as soccer / football with a paid writing staff. Covering 6,000 professional soccer teams - around the world - would be far too cost prohibitive. Big media companies haven't done it, and will never do it - TV, radio, newspaper, magazines - nobody. But, find one (or more) passionate fans per team who are basically literate, and you've got a global publication that covers the entire sport. Fans are out there, otherwise the teams wouldn't exist - it's a matter of time before they stop relying on the AP for their news.
But how do you organize posts from 6,000++ independent blogs? Throw in millions of photos, videos and other user-generated content - how do you find it all? Its not reasonable to be 'friends' with all 16 mllion fans who follow Manchester United. Social networks aren't geared for this for sure.
Social publishing takes the concept that everyone in social network (MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc) can publish things to their profile and pushes that to the public arena. Social network blogs are only available at the profile level - so you've got to know the person or have access to their profile to read the content. With organized blog publishing (TechCrunch, Huffington Post) everything is public but there's a high standard of editorial - someone manually arranges content, features it on the right page, and even commissions it in the first place. Again, impossible to do at reasonable cost for 6,000+ bloggers speaking 20 languages in 200 countries. Social publishing enables individual bloggers to self-organize their user-generated content for public consumption leveraging an underlying publishing framework. Social publishing relies on the concept of "Topic Centers" that visitors can easily find and access, and individual contributors can push their content to. Topic centers can be built around any topic the site anticipates - in the case of football it's players, competitions, teams, leagues, WAGS, etc. Finding a topic center must be easy for the user (accessible directly from their homepage) and it must be easy to navigate to, and find new ones. This requires something big - a reversion to what web 2.o brought to the world - the sidelining of those uber-cool things called 'tags'.
Tags, by their very nature, are personal. They are used on blogs to group and classify content around a specific keyword, and that keyword is completely variable based on the author's preferences. A topic center requires centralization and sharing of keywords, so that every author has equal access to publish to where their best audience is visiting. A Topic system is at the heart of the OleOle publishing platform - providing a way for authors to publish and visitors to find the right content - outside of profiles, outside of user idiosyncrasies. The topic system also drives site navigation, page generation, menus and SEO - it's the fabric of the platform matching publisher and visitor together invisibly. However, just because topics are site-wide doesn't mean they need to be static, although in the case of football they are hierarchical to some degree due to the complexity of the sport. So, you're not really giving up the personalization of tags (which can still be employed to filter submissions made by a single user) - but tags are now "personalized" for the collective editorial team, and evolve as needed.
Social publishing is the organization of social media. It's the next step in Web 3.0, social aggregation and smart filtering. Social publishing means leveraging the power of the crowd and the individual writers to publish. The organization is automated, not human, and visitors and volunteers stand in for a managing editor to both rate content and correct things published to the wrong topic centers. Where social networking is useful for keeping tabs on people you know, social publishing is the maturation of social media and user-generated content enbling groups rather than individuals.