The streets of San Francisco: all agog about verbs

Last night I was hanging out at http://sfnewtech.com/

About 300 people from many SF startups were crammed into a little bar.

It's the kind of event I like. Wall to wall geeks. :-)

But I didn't take a seat after doing my opening remarks to the crowd where I helped kick off a developer contest by Viadeo (a new business social network that's popular in Europe and now is moving into US). They are handing out a $20,000 prize at http://dev.viadeo.com for new kinds of social apps.

Instead, I hung out outside where geek after geek came up and we talked about the world.

It's clear that everyone in San Francisco is watching Google+. Everyone has an opinion about whether that rocks or sucks (most SF types think it rocks).

But that's not the important thing I've been seeing lately. Instead over and over we talked about verbs.

What are verbs?

They are the part of APIs that describe our social behavior.

In other words, when you comment on this post, your comment will be seen by APIs as a "comment" verb. Click + 1 (thank you!) and you'll be hitting the "liked" verb. Reshare this (double thank you!) and you'll hit the "share" verb. If you buy that Contour camera, you hit the "buy" verb.

Every system is building its own set of verbs. Badgeville and Gigya both tell me that things are about to get really crazy in the verb space. Why?

Well, look at that red box on Google +. You know, the notifications. That is a huge trend that developers are trying to get their arms around. Right now Google+ notifications suck. Why? Because Google+ isn't yet able to study the right verbs. It shows me everyone who has "followed" (another verb, get it yet?) but it isn't adding the right context to my display. I don't care that you followed me. What do I care about? Did my best friend follow me? Did someone I really care about follow me? Did someone down the street follow me? Did a family member follow me?

So, right there, you are seeing a huge explosion in the kinds of verbs needed. "family follow" "nearby follow" "friend follow" "influencer follow" etc etc etc.

Now look at the other major trend that Instagram kicked off: activity streams. These streams are going to tell us data about what is going on. Think this isn't important? Lots of engineering time is going on at Salesforce, VMware, Twitter, Facebook, and many other places. I wouldn't be shocked to see a new kind of activity stream show up here on Google+ either.

These streams show you data ABOUT what's going on the networks you care about. "15 of your friends shared this" or "23 of your friends commented on this."

I was talking with Chomp's CEO, +Ben Keighran and he was telling me that he's studying Tweets for sentiment about apps. Yet another verb. "app sentiment."

Last night on the streets of San Francisco I saw tons of entrepreneurs who are building different kinds of verbs. All of which will soon be aggregated into these notification feeds (iOS gets notifications this fall, Android already has them) and Activity Streams (Instagram and Twitter already has those).

What are we seeing? +Steve Gillmor calls this the new real time social world. His boss, +Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce) just spent the whole week keying in on the beginnings of what is going on here by pushing the social enterprise term. I talked with Gillmor about these too, and we'll discuss more on Friday on the Gillmor Gang.

Add in the new app stores (some big news is coming next week on that topic that I can't yet talk about). App stores need all this stuff to figure out which apps to present to you and they are going to use these verbs to addict you to even new apps "we notice you use Foodspotting and Instagram, your friends on Google+ are also praising FooApp."

One thing. We don't have a good name for this new "verb world."

I remember when +Tim O'Reilly noticed a few new things developers were talking about and he called them "Web 2.0" and then pushed that term and a conference by that name. He made a lot of money doing that.

Calling this bag of topics "verb world" doesn't seem so sexy, but maybe it is.

The technology underneath certainly IS sexy.

Thanks +Myles Weissleder for putting on a great event last night. Again.

Anyway, do you have a better name for what's going on?

UPDATE: there's another part to this, which is that social companies are building what I call "addictive technologies." That's what Gigya and Badgeville are doing, but they are hardly the only ones doing it. Gamification is another thing lots of geeks are thinking about. In other words, keeping track of all the verbs we generate and rewarding us for certain ones of them. Or, heck, just displaying all of our comments, or all of our shares, or all of our buys, or all of our checkins. I'll have more to say on that as new systems roll out over the next few weeks.
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