Impromptu Social Networks

Social, local, mobile…Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest — get all the buzzwords in you can about social networks. But what characteristic are we losing in the hype over the relatively basic concept of people connecting with each other?

I’d argue serendipity, which I’ll come back to later.

The modern craze in the field of social networks is the “interest graph” — the magical underlying qualities that we all distill down into. So if we target all people who love mango smoothies (I love mango smoothies), we believe there’s a 40% greater chance they’ll buy our mango lip balm if we color it orange! But social networks don’t have to be this forced capitalist-infused frenzy. [Disclaimer – I’m an ardent free-market capitalist, just not in this distorted freemium sense]

One issue with these social networking services being free is that the providers have to find creative ways to turn a profit. So since you don’t pay for the product, companies pay for you (really your information). This is why I’m not in favor of the freemium model. If there is market demand, price is the most efficient way to allocate resources.

You pay for the product one way or another — whether that is the increased price of the products you buy because companies have higher advertising overhead, or you increase your overall consumption due to the increase in advertisement. So why not pay directly for the product you use and cut out some of the externality.  (For a pro-freemium perspective, read Fred Wilson)

This personal identity problem of commoditized social networks is why I’d argue that the best social network is one that doesn’t attempt to be a social network at all. A network that serendipitously connects people together—people with diverse backgrounds, inspiring stories, and artificially-enhanced close-quarters.


I’ve met numerous people through AirBnB beyond the gracious hosts I’ve stayed with. By virtue of being on AirBnB in the first place, these individuals are generous, curious, and overall kind people. Doesn’t that sound like the company you want to keep?

Peg, my current AirBnB host, is quite possibly the most genuine person I’ve ever come across. She is always offering to help in anyway she can, and LOVES to meet new people and experience new things. [And almost all the techies who go through her house end up in 500]. Best of all, there is no way I would have ever met her given my “interest graph.”

So thank you, AirBnB, for being the best social network out there.


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