|This article originally appeared in 24hrs Vancouver on July 2, 2008.|
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube are all sites where the user is the star. These sites don’t create content for us to consume, we create it and use the sites as hosts to spread our message to our contacts. We’re just using the internet in the same way we’ve used the post office, the telephone, and cave walls; to meet people and tell our stories.
Social networking isn’t the shiny new toy in the box; it’s just a reincarnation of one the oldest human desires – the desire to connect.
Michael Fergusson is the Founder and Leader at Kinzin.com, a Vancouver based website that helps families securely share photos of their kids and stay in touch.
“We think social networking is ancient, it’s a million year old behaviour,” says Michael from Kinzin’s downtown Vancouver office. “We’re building applications to that behaviour, not to the current existing technology.”
Facebook works to find friends that are already on Facebook, but it’s not an accurate reflection of the real world. Kinzin was built with what Michael refers to as the “multi modality” of a real family in mind.
“If you’re in Facebook you can make Facebook your front end. Say you’re not a member of any social network that exists; you can use Kinzin.com as your front end. Or if you’re not online at all, you can use the postal mail as your interface to the social network.”
Most of those engaging in social networking on the web are younger, early adopters. They’re on the cusp of all that is new and engaging, but they’re conservative when it comes to things like family so Kinzin is all about security.
As a content creator you have total control over every piece of your account. You control who accesses it, you control who can comment, you control who can forward links.
But it’s the postal angle that truly makes Kinzin special. Grandparents love photos of their grandchildren, but not all grandparents are net savvy, and not all net savvy children have the presence of mind to regularly send photos of the kids – that’s where Kinzin helps.
“I have an Uncle Don who has dial-up and will exchange email, but if your message has any attachments, he’ll kill it,” says Fergusson. “You can’t send him anything, but he wants pictures of the kids. So I subscribe him through the postal mail. In the same way Kinzin pushes content to my mother, or my brother, it also pushes content to Don.”
Every month, for about the cost of a cup of coffee, Kinzin can send ten photos to the people you love, like Uncle Don.
Fergusson is most proud that Kinzin is taking the current idea that social networking is just for teens and turning it into a myth.
“I mean, we’re talking about building a social networking application that’s good for your grandma,” he beams. “Parents care. Families care and they want to be together, and this social networking technology is just another modality of a fundamental human behaviour; we want to gather together into tribes and families.”
Earlier this month Kinzin was singled out for 2 nominations in the Canadian New Media Awards. The site is nominated for Excellence in Social Media Applications while Fergusson has been recognized in the category of Producer of the Year.
“Typically technology awards like this go to who has the geekiest tool,” remarks Fergusson. “This particular set of judges doesn’t care about the technology; they care about the end result; that it makes people’s lives better. For that reason we thought this award in particular, was an important one.”
The Canadian New Media Awards will be handed out in Toronto in November.
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