Every or nearly every single new service coming out to consumer has some sort of social layer where you need to "follow" people or topics in order to get fresh content updated all the time.
That's how the web works today. It's not just about a frame and static content but a content stream of news and information coming your way: Facebook, twitter, pinterest, Flipboard, Pulse,…obviously but also all the new generation of games with social integration.
Show me who you follow and i will tell you who you are.
There is a major problem though: all the follow mechanisms in place are just dumb pipes with little intelligence. They present you a set a people (longer and longer as our graph grows) and you have to make a decision on who to follow at a moment where you don't even know yet the service
How many times after joining a service you thought to yourself "Man, i have no idea who to follow here. ok let's follow all. or let's skip for now!"
All those services actually DO NOT help you making the right decision on following the right persons.
The first reason is because they are painful to browse: you have to scroll through long lists of people (long means > 50) and wonder who you should follow. The short solution > follow everyone. And that brings usually a mess later on: not mentioning the fact you're spamming your contacts
Instead why no one has built an intelligent way to find followers by adding more context
1. Sorting: instead of presenting an alphabetic lists which make little sense why not let users sort list of who to follow by other criteria: KLOUT SCORE, recently talked with, present in other social networks, has interest in the topic of the service you are considering joining (e.g. games…) All this data is available online.
2. Contextual publishing: every time i want to follow someone i'd like a little more background of what he has done so far in the current service (show me his last twits, pictures, ranks,….) and allow me to see who is active or just a ghost. Pinteret has a hint in the right direction but it is too light and not informative enough (do we have the same tastes for e.g.?)
3.Follow as a CRM mechanism: all follow mechanisms in place happen ONLY at registration. You can always find a way to add more friends but no one will naturally think about it IF you do not push this a little. Facebook and twitter have a way to doing that by integrating some modules on their website. But on the mobile there is no space for this. What is required is a proper CRM mechanism that will push intelligently and non intrusively topics or people to follow as you use the app (using in app notification or push or email)
4. Easy unfollow: every service should have a way to easily unfollow things that do not matter. I do not mean by just adding a "unfollow button" somewhere but by creating intelligent rules to spot who should be unfollowed (the less active, the less interaction with, the most spammy,…). But it is obvious why Social services do not want to go this way. They want to keep as many connection in place as possible
5. Annotation: many times i would love to add a small note about why i decide to follow such person (met at this event, liked this status just published, has the same name as me..) So i can recall easily why i am following who i am following
6. Transparency on recommendation: some services like twitter "will recommend" you someone to follow. that's a great first step (most services don't even get there). But why not let me understand a little more why a service is recommending me someone: i mean there are rules behind it, so instead of hiding them, tell me a little more. See that example from Spotify and how poor it is to help me make a decision
Obviously this has to be wrapped up in a simple user experience and not overwhelm the user. But from my observation we are far from this level of sophistication and we will still have to deal with dumb follow mechanism for a while
This may seems like a non critical thing today. But over time, specially with the new generation of internet users having easily and rapidly thousands of people around them following each other this will become more critical.
I believe there is an opportunity to build the bricks that will make this possible. Beyond just connectors like Janrain or Gigya something smarter can and will be built. At the time i started a service called Topify which was bringing context to twitter follower but the real need is cross service and has to be built natively not a side commodity like Wefollow just "acquired" by About.me [which has some good ideas by the way]