Does Color hint at Payment Social Graphs?

I read daily (and fanatically) Fred Wilson’s blog AVC. How he can manage to publish a daily post and of this level of quality is a mystery for me. On top of that, he has created an incredible community of commenters, which one up each post with their own insights. Thursday’s post The Implicit Social Graph, mused on Color and the underlying assumptions on social networks future.

To summarize, contrary to what Facebook is trying to achieve, Fred’s point of view is that there cannot be a single social graph and that multiple ad-hoc graphs, especially implicit graphs will develop. Implicit graphs are social graphs based on an underlying common activity but moving in terms of members and relationships. They are especially important since maintaining social graphs is difficult and a struggle for users. To quote Fred Wilson:

I believe we will have at least dozens of social graphs in our lives. But even more, I believe that we will have social graphs that come and go and that are formed implicitly not explicitly.

In the following comments, Paul Roales mentioned:

I really want a implicit social graph that flows around my credit card transactions.
When I walk into Starbucks and swipe my card, for the next day or so, I can see the barista who rang me up and give feedback to Starbucks on how pleasant they were, or for the next few hours I can see the people who were chilling in the coffee shop and reconnect with them after a short conversation.
I think the customer service monitoring implications here could be transformative for retail…
Just hoping someone builds it.

I think this is a powerful idea, that has just been touched upon with services such as Blippy or new partnerships such as the Foursquare/AMEX demo at SXSW. As I have mentioned before, the transaction sits at the core of the merchant/consumers relationship, in the sense that it is the event during which information on parties, product, location, time is registered. Right now, it is buried under a confusing, inefficient ceremonial but companies such as Square are showing that payment can be designed into an experience for both the consumer and the merchant

Additionally, social networks such as Twitter have provided a powerful platform for dialog between merchants and customers, but may reach a limit in scaling for managing ad hoc conversations. By creating conversational spaces around payments, companies would be able to provide ad-hoc environment for support, feedback. When regrouping owners of the same device based on their payments, conversation on products, self support could further develop, something like gdgt on steroids.

For small sellers, such as Etsy merchants, with one time pieces and a niche offering, a community of passionate customers would provide something akin to the community of buyers in small shops. In buildings with renters, a community based around payments would shift and adapt automatically to the current residents.

All these graphs cannot exist on the Facebook platforms, because the “Friend” relationship just does not work for everything.

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  • http://www.parkparadigm.com parkparadigm

    Interesting take Yann. I have been very influenced by Steven Johnson’s great book Emergence and would agree with you and Fred that many of the most valuable and important systems and networks in our lives are implicit or “emergent”. And indeed the networks that emerge from economic transactions are some of the most interesting. I get the Starbucks example, but quite frankly I’m not sure it’s all that exciting. But. But, there is a kernel of an idea here and I hope to be struck by inspiration over the coming weeks and months (or to bump into an awesome entrepreneur who’s beaten me to the punch!)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Sean. Another reading recommendation to add to my list (waiting for an Ipad 2 and stuck with the walled Sony ereader ecosystem).

    You are right, it is a flicker of an idea in a B2C world. it may make more sense in a B2B perspective used as a basis for reputation of providers (time to pay, price, etc.) or maybe with enough scale an automated receivable exchange … something that http://www.bill.com combined with http://www.receivablesxchange.com/ could do, reducing the hassle of posting receivables and making this market more “liquid”.

  • Nicolas Guillaume

    Bank Account is not the only example of an available data source for an implicit social graph (analytics) application : mail is also a good case