It seems like every time I turn around, another social networking site pops up. First, it was MySpace (which basically sucks ass) and then it was a ton of clones (none of which I’ve ever joined). Then the nostalgic Classmates.com (which I joined, and never visit) to try and snag your personal information. Then another set of clones arose. Then the professional focused LinkedIn, which makes you think that you can have a personal connection (albeit it akin to a 3rd cousin) to the VP of Microsoft.
My conclusion? They all suck. But I join them anyway. Why? Maybe so nobody does it for me.
So what makes a good social networking site? Simplicity. For example:
del.icio.us is a great example. It hooks nicely into FireFox, I can use it to ensure all my bookmarks are in sync between work/home machines, and I can find related links just by browsing keywords from my links. Good stuff, plain and simple. Plus, I put a feed on my home page so I can always see my latest links regardless of location.
Flickr is cool because it offers a great service with great features for a great price. I even signed up for the Pro account to use it to archive my photos. Plus, you don’t have to make everything public, meaning you can put those pictures of your kids you only want the grandparents to see.
Topic-centric forums are probably my favorite of all “social” web sites. They typically have a good search engine, most questions have already been asked and answered, and good ones have better hands-on content than the creators/manufacturers/publishers original web sites. I like forums, you get solid answers, tons of worthwhile opinions, and if you recognize the noise factor you can easily weed out the whiners and post-count spammers.
The latest edition is ever popular blog. I think my favorite quote about blogs reads (paraphrased):
“I blog therefore I am”
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Sure they offer a great way to keep in touch with the masses, an outlet for wandering thoughts, or solid technical information based on experience. Sometimes they are just fun to keep track of friends and family. I use this one to point out things I find interesting to the half dozen or so readers I likely have (the rest of the hits are probably search engine robots). The more popular blogs are social in the commenters they have on the site, some more vocal than others. I follow some technical blogs and find the comments sometimes more interesting than the original post, based on the experience of another reader.
I’m not yet what I think about sites such as Twitter or Pownce, but the general aspect seems to be akin to broadcast text messages without the $0.15 per message charge. A friends list makes it easy to broadcast the mundane details of your day without a lot of overhead, and support for mobile devices makes it easy to fill up the time spent waiting in the drive thru for a quick french fry fix. So far, they seem to be fairly limited and of questionable value to the market.
Well, I’m done rambling, and if you are actually reading this, feel free to leave a comment. Or better yet, share a link on del.icio.us, post a mini-blog entry on Twitter or upload some pictures of dogs doing it to Flickr so we can all gain something more than yet another blog entry.