Social Broadcast Network

Every day I try and do the media rounds to see what’s happening. The Journal, the Times, the Techcrunch, and the Twitter. Twitter is consumed via a number of aggregators that I rotate, mostly settling for News.Me and the Media something newsletter that the guy from MySpace produces.

Techmeme gets my votes about once a day, in the following order: upper right hand corner for the latest breaking, lower right hand corner to see what’s falling off the edge, then straight to the middle clump where two or three stories reside if anything’s really jumping. I’ve usually read the top in the other venues by then.

Google+ is not on this list, yet. Mostly because I haven’t got a handle on its core value as a news trigger. If you’re Scoble, the value is obvious as he is now demonstrating by turning it into his blog. But sooner or later the service will have to decide what it wants to be when it grows up — a conversation hub with no tools for rapid synthesis of knowledge, a social graph to challenge Twitter (it’s getting there fast), or some other thing perhaps more substantial than currently appreciated, like a stalking horse for YouTube live streaming aka the social broadcast network.

SBN we’ll call it has all the earmarks of a Gmail beta operation. Launching it on top of Hangouts with their limited reach even if daisy chained will not scare the networks until google flips the bits around and couples live streams with API access to embedded comment streams like the ones we use on Gillmor Gang sessions from the Friendfeed API. 10 Hangouters is more than enough in the context of a live chat of hundreds, and the API can be broadened to allow concentric groups to nominate or be given the microphone from a joint console.

This will put pressure on Google to provide a way in for the Tweet stream, since aggregators like Seesmic and others will have the same API access and an incentive to merge the multiple social networks. Facebook will be in the odd role of having little to offer here, what with YouTube’s huge clout in video marketshare. The Skype deal is a longer term strategy for climbing into a classic 3 or 4 network clump, with Apple/Twitter bargaining access to AirPlay all the more important.

G+ project manager Bradley Horowitz buttonholed me at the TechCrunch August Capital party to say he enjoyed this week’s Gillmor Gang live cast earlier that afternoon. The team’s proactive approach to interacting with field test users is good politics, but it also underlines the need to respond to criticisms such as Scoble’s laments about a buggy and crash prone iPhone client. If SBN is a not so hidden priority for Google (especially in the wake of Google TV’s Wave/Buzz like performance) then the kinds of viral crowds live streaming will invite will make fixing the Scoble-sized instability on iOS mandatory.

The last thing G+ needs is to go directly against Twitter (and Apple) in an Android/iOS shootout. For one, it blows a huge hole in the G+ social graph while it is still forming. For another, given Facebook’s Microsoft-induced stupidity about an iPad client, what part of 90% share of the tablet market do you want to lose. The only thing G+ HTML 5 on the iPad has going for it is that it sucks less that HTML 5 on the iPhone. SBN makes iPad native more likely.

The last few weeks in Washington make it clear that both parties have decided on waging the political campaign in realtime via social. Live casting blends just as well today with party fundraising if not more so than when Obama ran the table starting early with the Iowa caucuses. The Republicans have clearly understood the need to frame their agenda in a way that promotes realtime tracking of what is now a Twitter news cycle. The cable networks may offer round the clock coverage, but even political junkies like myself tune in once Twitter alerts hit the push notification bus.

CNN jumped out ahead last week with the ability to broadcast live to the iPad if users already subscribed to Comcast or several other cable or satellite services. Once iOS 5 hits with its notification hub, we should be able to move from a push notification directly into the cooperating video stream. SBN can take advantage of the same opportunity in September, but they need to convince Horowitz and Gundotra to put some engineering cycles into pulling Twitter alerts not only from iOS but from the other platforms.

Scoble doesn’t like the idea of a Friendfeed-like aggregation of the Twitter stream, but that speaks more to the lack of filtering tools in G+ than anything more fundamental. And the firestorm over businesses not having first class citizenship would be significantly neutralized while we wait if we could push brand stories into our G+ streams to seed the live cast model. Frankly, this is going to happen sooner than later, and I vote for sooner so that the resulting feedback loop will prompt Twitter to accelerate its live streaming and Tracking to feed the push notification network. I’ll call that PNN.