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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Introduction to My Social Media Journey

An interesting aspect of some journeys is when you set out with no particular destination in mind. Or, to put it more accurately, only a vague concept of the destination. An idea, a belief, a conviction that the destination is out there, although it has yet to be named or defined. I suppose my "social media" journey is kind of like that, as it began long before anybody ever used the term "social media."

Hi. My name is Ken Goldstein, known on many sites by my online handle of "kenrg" and I'm here to share a bit of my social media journey...  In brief, I've been online since about 1993, first using text-only dial-up services, then AOL, then an ISP to get directly to the full colorful web. One of my first surprises was the sense of community. Even in plain text, there were pockets of like-minded people, anxious to share information and to connect.

I learned html and posted my first web site around 1995. Shortly after, I added a cgi script for basic threaded discussion and ran a board for a music-related group. Again, community being the focus.

Meanwhile, professionally, I was also a member of an online community of nonprofit and social service professionals, called HandsNet. By 1999 I was not simply a HandsNet member, but had joined the staff as Director of Online Community Development, managing discussion board related to fighting poverty, and supervising the discussion moderators.

When I first opened my account here on, nearly ten years ago, it was well before Google had purchased it from Pyra, the original developers. Likewise, I joined YouTube four-and-a-half years ago, before the Google purchase, and have been regularly tweeting away on twitter for nearly four years as well. Heck, I was even a Friendster member long before MySpace and Facebook.

From "online community" to "web 2.0" to "social media" I've been along on the journey, sometimes testing the waters ahead of the crowds, sometimes following, but always eager to learn the latest tools. For me, it's always been about the connections, and about communication. And I believe we have only begun to tap the true power and possibility of this brave new world.

I'm pleased that Andy has asked me to be a contributor to this blog. I will be sharing some recollections of my journey so far, my opinions on where we're going, and some criticisms of those who don't get it (hint: those who think Twitter is an advertising medium will be regular targets of my scorn). And I look forward to your comments on my posts.

You can find links to all my various feeds (blogs, vlogs, podcasts, photostreams, etc.) on my home portal (  Meanwhile, here are links to a couple of recent blog posts to give you an idea of where I stand:


  1. Great intro Ken & it's good to have you on board. I knew you were an early adopter. But, i don't think even i realised just how early.
    I'm looking forward to your future contributions.

  2. In 1994, Ken, you were well involved with a fledgling internet at a time when the first dot coms appeared, and you became a site developer as well!
    In that same year I was editing video tape in the news room of a local Pensacola, Florida TV station where e-mail & web services were just starting to appear on our radar screens. E.N.G. news bureau feeds were the source of our content then, and as you know from your early experiences during those times, the internet was about to change everything.
    I'm looking forward to more of your insights regarding these historic years!

  3. Hello Ken and the gang,

    I just shot over here after watching Ken's latest vlog contribution reviewing The Social Network.

    I have been a Ken and Andy fan boy for quite some time. Has it been years, now? I have also been a Youtube user since 2006 and remember the pre-google Youtube where fresh ideas and actual content reigned supreme.

    "Before the dark times. Before the Empire" -Ben Kenobi :)

    Willy is right about what the perception of the internet circa 1993-1994. We were right on the cusp of everything World Wide Web. There was a consensus that the keys to the candy store were finally being handed over to the kids that desperately wanted to get inside and devour everything. The hackers, college professors, and computer science majors were no longer the people using the internet. Business professionals in everywhere started cramming into cybercafes for broadband access they could only dream of at home. Domain names started showing up on billboards. By 1995, the genie was out of the bottle. Grandpa and Grandma wanted to see how teenage Billy was doing online.

    One question though, what part do you see hardware playing in the expansion of the internet 1993-?

  4. Hey, Brad! Welcome to the new blog!

    That's a great turning point to note: when URLs started showing up in ads and billboards! When business cards were all re-printed with a line for email addresses. Turning points!

    Yes, hardware played a huge role! Moore's law! The doubled capacity of transistors every two years, and the speed enhancements that brought to everything from modem speed to processor speed to numbers of pixels on a screen to etc.

    If somebody could have invented YouTube in 1993 they would have, but Moore's law needed a few more cycles till the hardware could handle somebody inventing YouTube.

  5. Social Media has been a big failure for me on both personal and creative levels. The sites we use have been designed by the socially inept to create the kinds of opportunities that interest geeks and nerds. Facebook is a network of disasters. Youtube is slowly being neutered. MySpace remains a mess. Ning shows promise, but the gated and separated multi-community design frustrates me. Anyone can have a network, but what then?

  6. Peri, in a way, it's the failure of the Ning model of fragmented do-it-yourself niche communities that has brought me back to appreciating YouTube and Facebook. They're not at all what *we* would have designed, but there's still community to be found there if you look for it and nurture it (and block all the stupid farm- and -ville games).

  7. I personally agree with both of you.

    It's true that with success both examples (Youtube and facebook) have become unwieldy behemoths that no longer have the heart and goals of the creators of the site.

    Mark Z. wanted Facebook to essentially be an online clubhouse with it's secret handshakes and exclusivity, but giving it's users the ability to bring in the people they wanted while excluding those they didn't. Youtube was founded around the idea of social video sharing amongst it's users. Mostly personal content that mattered to few other individuals.

  8. But as we know for history, the reality of these concepts was not grasped by the masses. People had other ideas and these ideas changed these web sites considerably.

    In the case of facebook, more and more people didn't treat facebook the same way the first users had. Where facebook started a revolution as a semi-exclusive professional social networking site (the kids hadn't quite jumped off the myspace yet) it slowly caught on with the masses because people liked the functionality and services better than other social networking sites. More and more people starting telling their friends about how much better it was and started allowing more and more people onto their facebook, and the die was cast. facebook now has a huge user base with the advertising and money to be gained. facebook panders to the individual and conglomerate alike. It's a cash cow.

  9. Youtube is the same in many respects. It's a small video sharing site, but some of it's users start posting videos that others are searching for. Is this user generated content? Oh no, this is copy-written broadcasts from the night before all the way to that rare gem archived on VHS collecting dust on the shelf. These videos are bringing more and more people to the site. Some decided to join but most do not. Those that join the site are making content and responding to others content. The Youtube community is born, but just when community starts to get going, some of the members get "Youtube famous" and where there is fame there is the potential for fortune. People start making the featured lists, those featured lists become more and more competitive, and the major corporations want to be featured. Now Youtube has a way to make money, and they do. Lot's of it. More money that they could ever lose in lawsuits. They are riding high, the users want to be a part of it, the corporations need to be a part of it. Google sees the overall potential for more of the same and makes the purchase.

    But with the money and personnel flowing into these sites many of the major issues that plagued these sites earlier on were fixed, and the sites were enhanced to keep up with the vastly changing content and the site user base.