Recently I was given beta tester access for a new service called Gist, but unfortunately for a number of reasons I never actually got into the password protected part of the site. This is a pity, as I really believe that understanding email interactions is a huge untapped area for a true social network, especially in a corporate environment; from what limited information I have it seems Gist are thinking in exactly the same way.

Gist NDAMain reason why I didn’t get past the joining screen was the onerous terms and conditions. There is no way I can agree to an NDA in exchange for being a beta tester. I am occassionally talking to airlines about social networking and whilst I have no intention of ripping off other people’s ideas, I can’t afford to have someone come back to me years down the track making these accusations because of some perceived commonality. As unlikely as I’m sure this scenario is, it reminds me a little of Nolan Bushnell from Atari, and I definintely don’t need a Ralph Baer coming after me in future years.

Maybe not the best example above, as Atari actually paid up, but there were a number of other reasons I didn’t end up using the service, even though it sounds very interesting.

  1. The screenshot says my browser is too old, but the problem is I am waiting for a corporate wide upgrade so am stuck with an old version for now.
  2. Corporate policy does not permit me to set up an auto-forward on my email, and without this I suspect I won’t get the full value from Gist.
  3. Real market for a product like this is I suspect at the company level, and not sure how much value an individual user would get without all company emails from all employees being fed through the system.

So how is this relevant to travel? As I’ve hinted numerous times before, user generated content is not the primary strategy a new entrant (eg. airline) should be relying upon, and instead, better use of existing data and mapping this data to the behaviour of passengers and then people with whom your passengers have something in common is key – data is the airline’s best friend in this case. 

And whilst on the topic of social networks, take a look at this excellent article from Wired on the Facebook vs Google battle and a great four step theory on the Facebook strategy for owning your internet experience, or at least something very close to owning it. And for a great quote on Facebook, it is hard to beat Andrew Keen’s recent answer when asked  “Why do you think Facebook is doomed?” 

“It is a narcissistic product that devalues the notion of friendship. The fact that Facebook is run by a 20-something with no business experience is a hint that it is a hubristic product that will end in tears. The only people willing to conform to their shady valuation is a Russian group. They’re rolling the dice on a public offering in the future at some point. But it’s still not clear what Facebook’s business model is. We’re not in the 1990s. You can’t do that anymore.”