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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Are Social Networking Sites Useful?
I've read several very interesting stories about social networking recently. In "From Contact to Contract" (neat title), Employee Management writes that many entrepreneurs and even professional recruiters are using services such as LinkedIn, Ryze.com, Spoke.com, or one of the two other dozen social networking sites to fill professional positions, even executive ones. Of course, human resources consulting firms are still also relying on more traditional tools, like their 'real' social networks.

But in "'Social Web' Has Far To Go, But Much Promise," the American Reporter is more skeptical about the usability of these social networking sites, saying that they are making contacts more difficult instead of easier.

And Stowe Boyd, from Corante, concurs, by unlinking from social networking applications he subscribed to in a recent past (links to part 1 and to part 2).

So what do you think about these applications? Have you ever used one? And if yes, have you seen some benefits? Please read all the above articles before answering these questions or these selected excerpts and commentsif you don't have enough time.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:07 AM Comments (1)
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At 11:22 PM, Dream4Distance said...

I've used certain "fad" social networking sites dating as far back as a short-lived seven-degrees of separation themed site that my girlfriend got me signed up for around 98-99. After that I used Friendster when everyone started signed up for it a few years back and it quickly went nowhere. A friend got me to sign up for another very similar site which I never really used again after a short while and I can't even recall the name of it. Even LiveJournal has a social networking aspect built in really.

I've never tried most of the services mentioned in those articles, but in my experience with the services I used I tend to agree they're a waste of time for people looking to waste time. I have made new friends or gotten in touch with old friends from them, but no more so than I would joining any other type of community be it for journaling, support, virtual gaming communities (like mmorpgs and such), etc.

However, this is coming from the perspective of someone who is at an age where making new connections can be very difficult regardless of method. My brother on the other hand is still in college (a point in one's life where opportunities to make new connections are around every corner) and he showed me a social networking site (http://www.thefacebook.com) specifically for college students that was based on what school you went to and I could see where that could be infinitely more useful in such a setting. I would have loved to have something to find out a little more information about the people I basically lived with for years yet whose last names I rarely ever knew let alone other things about them. My brother and his peers seem to have found the service useful.

I can only conclude that while n-degrees of seperation social networks are in fact fairly useless, I admit there could be some hope for social networking applications built around schools, and perhaps (now I'm speculating) workplaces or other small (and geographically central) communities.

As an aside, I'd much rather see some work put into building standards/tools/sites/whatever for making it easier to really keep in touch and up to date with your friends you already have (and would like to keep) that you don't get to see every day (or year) anymore. The key would be making the things accessible, efficient, and inobtrusive for friends and family to use that don't necessarily have the technical savvy or urge to use things like blogs and newsreaders as well as those friends that do. I could write a whole article on it and it's offtopic, so I'll stop right there.


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