Friday, February 08, 2008

One Ring To Connect Them All...

Well it's no secret that I'm in love with social networking. It's definately no secret that I'm so addicted to the social networks and blogosphers that even my dogs have their own 'myspace-ish' page over at Dogster. (which incidentally led to Sci-Fi's new "relationship")

A friends list on any social network can be a powerful tool or a powerful waste of time depending on how it's managed. Let's look at two quick examples; MySpace and LinkedIn. Now granted these are very different social spheres but I'm keeping it simple. (I'm still only on my 2nd cup of coffee!)

On MySpace we see that the majority of people networking there are networking for personal enjoyment. Yes, there are many marketing aspects to many of the people posting there, but the large majority of the people on MySpace are 'myspacing' because it's all about personal time.
So the friend requests fly quick and accumulate and stack up and become pages and pages of faces on each persons profile. You'll even find contests to see who can have the most friends.
Of course there isn't anything wrong with this, it is 'social' networking, and it's supposed to be fun.

Then we take a look at LinkedIn and we see a different type of networking. We see a site that revolves around your career and what you're willing to share about your resume. Once again we know that there are the exceptions to the rule here but it's easy to see how this network is different by the lack of neon backgrounds and dancing animations or blaring music on every page load. (not that there is anything wrong with seeing 400 dancing squirrels singing about peanut butter and jelly as a background of a webpage - you know who you are.)

What happens when we start treating our social network sites that are created for a niche as though they all are the same network? What happens to the credibility of our LinkedIn network when we suddenly add our 400 MySpace friends? Does LinkedIn lose it's effectiveness or does it's power become extended?

I use many different blogs and network sites - and I recognize that each is created with a particular niche in mind. My LinkedIn network, for instance, is closely guarded. If I've 100 connections it's because I've met them all or am following them closely online or in the news and hope to meet with them or network with them in the future. So someone I've not heard of won't get an acceptance to me if it's generic by request and I don't recognize them.

Fast forward to a future 5 years from now where everyone has adopted 'power invites' for network sites. Perhaps a single social networking site will exist that lets us 'tag' or 'catagorize' our contacts so that we can quickly send messages along the lines of IM's to our professional circle and a 'poke' to our college buddies or even an 'announcement' about hot tickets on sale to the local garage band. Maybe each page is completely customized on both the account owner (what they show - giang background images, strobing music videos, etc.) and the visitor (what they care to see - no loud music, no customized format)
Interesting idea.... and I'm certainly undecided on if I think it's a good direction. But the pros and cons are most definately debatable.

Until then I'm left to wonder how those 'power invites' are working out for people - unless they're just using them for one-way communication or self promotion and have missed the definition of 'networking' I'm challenged to understand the benefit.
It's downright soul-less, IMHO.