Nov 3, 2007

My Social Networking Winner and Losers

It's been several of months since I denounced Social Networking and then renounced after a few days. Since then I have created accounts on many networks and thought I would categorize some of the more popular sites as winners or losers. So here are my reviews of whether the social networks are, in my opinion, winners or losers:

Facebook (Loser)

That's right, I may be the only one saying it, but after about a month of really trying to get some value out of Facebook I simply never found it. Sure, there are a lot of neat things about Facebook. I liked the video stuff and the whole idea of being able to make applications. Trouble is, most of the applications don't do much more than provide some kind of entertainment. No value there for me. I get my entertainment doing things with my family. Now days I rarely visit my Facebook site and the ironic thing is, I rarely see any of my friends doing much out there either. Overall, with all the hype, I was expecting more from Facebook and has been a huge let-down.

Plaxo (Winner)
For a long time Plaxo was just an online address book. If that's what you still think it is, you need to take another look. They have basically 2 new features I have adopted that I use all the time. First, I now have the ability to sync my calendar and contacts with Outlook, Google Calendar, & iCal (on my Mac and my wife's). This synchronization happens almost instantaneously and is reliable. Plaxo is still working out some of the glitches and occasionally I have to resync one of my sync-points, but for the most part it works really well.

The second feature I love is Plaxo Pulse. This is a fabulous way for me to see everything that my contacts are doing. It aggregates feeds from most of the social networks along with Amazon wish lists and blogs. One of my favorite features is that I can see what RSS feeds my friends are sharing from Google Reader. This allows me to see what my friends are reading and lets me quickly and easily take a look myself.

Twitter (Winner)
This one was a complete surprise to me. Never did I think that logging my life 147 characters at a time would be so fun. The best part about Twitter though is that I get to follow some amazing and interesting people. I love to see what they are doing, reading, and talking about. I have always maintained that if you want to really learn about something, you should hang out with people that are already doing it. Twitter does that for me.

Here are some other interesting things that I've observed through Twitter: I now feel like I'm friends with people I've never met. I have a resource that I wouldn't have otherwise -- for example, the other day I asked the editor of MacWorld Magazine (Jason Snell) if he thought a product was worth the price. I had an answer within an hour. That blew me away. I also find out news from Twitter. Between Dave Winer and Robert Scoble, I'm able to keep a pretty good pulse on the web world. I have also been updated on weather (snow storms), the California fires, and earthquakes. All this news came to me a lot sooner than through the news networks or even my RSS feeds.

FamilyLink (Loser -- so far)
FamilyLink is a social network for genealogy and is the brainchild of Paul Allen, one of the founders of the most successful genealogy web site ever, FamilyLink has the promise of being something really great. The idea of having a place where one can collaborate their work with others on their family tree is one that I've had for a long time and one that I think has a lot of potential. So, why the "loser" status? The site is just to young. The interface is ugly and buggy which makes it frustrating to work with. Collaboration is the idea, but the implementation feels like it was done by a bunch of beginning programmers. FamilyLink is ALMOST there. Maybe a few more rounds of development and interface upgrades and it will be on my "winner" list.

LinkedIn (Winner)
LinkedIn has become my networking go-to site. The thing that makes LinkedIn so powerful is the enormity of people that are on it. I've been able to find and "link up" with many co-workers that I would not have been able to find any other way. I am constantly surprised by the people that I find and that find me. If I ever need to contact these people, I have their contact information at my finger tips. I know the site has many other useful features, but this aspect of LinkedIn is why I use the site and why I think it is a winner.

Other Winners:
My "Other Winners" sites include sites that we don't normally view as Social Networking but we use all the time. Here they are along with a brief description of why they are winners:

  • Flickr: No better place to store, share, and organize online photos.
  • Blogger: Easiest place to have a good looking / fully featured blog for free.
  • Jango: Best web radio I've used -- will get better with time.
  • Bookmarking made simple, especially when integrated with Firefox (more on this one at another time).
Other Losers:
My "Other Losers" sites include sites that I tried to use but was not enticed to return to them nor did I understand them.
  • TokBox: Interesting idea, underwhelmed by the features
  • Digg: I tried it, didn't digg it.
  • Stumbled Upon: Too much work for too little value.
  • Jumpcut: Too much offensive material right in your face.
  • Same as Jumpcut.

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