Friday, August 1, 2008

Web 2.0 for Dummies – Part 8: Social and Professional Networks

This post is the 8th post in the "Web 2.0 for dummies" posts, based on my Web 2.0 presentation in a conference. After tasting Web 2.0 (part 2) understanding what it is (part 4) and understanding Mashups, Virtual Realities, Wikipedia we will look at the world of Social Networks.
Networks enable people to connect to other people with similar interests or history.
People gradually build their networks by connecting to other people or connecting to network content.
Networks like Linkedin or Plaxo are more professional than social. Facebook and Myspace are examples of Social networks. However, Professional networks are also used for Social purposes and Social Networks are also used for business interactions.


Networks Models

First generation: Connecting People
Linkedin is a good example of Professional Network of that type. A member may request to connect to another member. The other member may accept the invitation or reject it.
Every member builds his network gradually. He is able to view information related to his network members (e.g. their connections) and is able to connect directly with them and indirectly with other Linked in members using his network members as an intermediate. People connect to people they know or to potential business partners.
Other examples of first generation networks: Facebook, Myspace, Plaxo, Spock..
Second Generation: Content Centered
The connection is based on content and not on personal connections.
There are different submodels based on different approaches to content.
1. Connecting by content
Flicker is an example of this model.
2. Viral model
In this model content is transmitted via e-mail.
YouTube is an example of this model.
3. Social news model
Content is ranked by people. In a way each community member has a limited role of an editor. Content is ranked as a sum of individual ranks. Digg is an example of this model.

Current trends favor Content centered models. First generation networks are extending their model with content based elements e.g. Linkedin groups which may share content between interest group members. The content may include Wikies and Blogs.

Common Network attributes

1. No membership fees

2. Advertisement
3. Members Participation and Sharing
4. Content sharing

Value Proposition

Web2.0 based networks expand the capabilities beyond the capabilities of non-Web networks due to easy access and rapid information updates.
As a member in some networks, I found the following value propositions:
  • Building Business relations with other network members. The Web extends the network beyond physical boundaries.
  • An easy way to transfer relevant information to a large mailing list without sending e-mails.
For example Plaxo send a weekly update to every network member. Plaxo uses RSS for tracking
new Blog Posts, so the weekly update includes a notice about new posts in my blog.
The first page after logging in to networks contains updates list
  • Notification of status changes of all people included in my network
In a relatively short time I am notified on job change, address change, phone number change, e-mail
address change or birthday date of any people included in the network I built.
  • Rediscovering old friends, classmates and business partners.

Other possible benefits:
  • Availability of valuable content
  • Contact Lists for distributing information
  • A new Distribution Channel for marketing products and services
  • A tool for transforming information to employees
  • Some community members will identify themselves as other people or supply faked information describing themselves (Social networks are based on a Trust Model same as other Web 2.0 communities).
  • Misuse of the network for Phishing, deception and fraud.
  • Popular content is not necessarily high quality content. Many Content centered networks data patterns are based on voting i.e. popularity.

  • Communities' members face the challenge controlling their personal networks by rejecting connect requests by irrelevant or unknown members (As far as unknown members are concerned there are exceptions: those members that supply sound explanation for connecting to you).

My Take
  • There are too many Social and Professional Networks. The result is ineffective networks, because some people will participate in one network while other people will participate in other competing network.
  • The other alternative of participation in many networks is ineffective as well and time consuming
  • Some networks will not expand and could disappear. Others should find unique features which could attract people.
  • I frequently receive invitations to join new networks. I assume that I am not the only one. I rarely find new approaches, patterns or value in these new networks.
  • Probably Networks merges or coupling will take place in the future.
Standardization will enable usage of the same identity and profile beyond networks similar
to future usage of the same Avatar in multiple Virtual Worlds (for more details see my
comments on Virtual Grid in my previous post on Virtual Worlds).
  • Do not actively participate in too many Social networks. I found that the relevant communities for me are: Linkedin, Plaxo and Facebook and probably ITtoolbox.

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