I was fortunate to attend TEDxCamdrige last week and hear from a number of excellent speakers but the one that gave me the biggest pause for thought was Bruce Schneier, an online security expert.
I have been watching with dismay at how there is almost an inverse relationship between online social platform's popularity and its value to their users. This is fundamentally caused by the advertising business model upon which they are all sitting - requiring them to optimize the experience not for the good of the user (and often not even for the good of their advertising clients) but for the ability to generate cash - effectively squeezing users and blackmailing advertisers in a subtle dance so the balance is never so obvious that either objects entirely. As these services (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, etc) gain scale they have also attracted the government, and thanks to Edward Snowden we know exactly how much we are being watched.
Bruce Schneier articulated quite effectively how the balance of power has shifted away from individuals and their emerging conversations to traditional power structures that can now spy, optimize and take advantage of everything we do online - giving them powers unimaginable in the offline world.
This make me sad but it also gives me ammunition for my opinion that we - as both individuals and organizations - need to host our own parties so-to-speak. Use the large public networks for access to the stream but have the interesting, value-producing conversations on your own blog and your own community. If you don't, you will not be in control of your own destiny and your business model will be at the mercy of these huge online power brokers. Facebook and Twitter will allow people to see what is financially lucrative for them to see - not what creates and distributes real value to individuals or organizations.