The other day I updated my website with the details of my new employer and decided to give a second live to my del.icio.us account by using one of the widgets to include my reading list on my blog. I also had to decide, which of my social networks I reference on my site.
Currently I am using ...
- Social-Networking: Linked-In, Facebook, Xing, Plaxo
- Micro-Blogging: Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo
- Bookmarks: Del.icio.us, Facebook
- IM: AOL, Skype
... and there are probably a couple that I forgot/missed. For social-networking I decided to make Facebook, Xing and Plaxo point to my Linked-In presence, for micro-blogging I decided to make Facebook and Plaxo point to my Twitter account, for Bookmarks I will use Del.icio.us (because it is nicely integrated with NetNewsWire) and for IM I will use Skype.
The exercise made me thing about social networking. The power of social networking is to bring people together, but right now there is not one social network, there are probably hundred big ones (including mega-networks like youtube) and thousands of small ones. Each social network documents another shade of your personality/interests: What do you do? What do you like? What do you watch? What do you read? What do you publish (e.g. blogs and pictures)?
Initially I felt that having multiple implementations for the same shade of social networking was actually counter-productive, because it fragments the communities and increases the maintenance overhead (updating multiple sites with the same information).
In the meantime I changed my mind. I am a big fan of evolution and darwinism (mutation and selection, survival of the fittest). Therefore I believe for the time being having multiple implementations is actually beneficial, because this way innovative implementations have a chance to put a variation on a shade (e.g. using Facebook to create a private/personal presence and Linked-In to create a professional presence/identity).
But how do we deal with the fragmentation of the communities/networks and what do we do about maintaining these, at least partially, overlapping networks? Can we eat the cake and have it too?
Yes, we can. This is where the Open Social API can (and hopefully will) add value. This API will allow us to build meta-social-networks. With this API we will be able to update and maintain all of our social networks with one API and will also be able to learn more about our social networks (e.g. who is on all of my social networks). It is my expectation that this API will create new, innovative social-networking applications, which will turn the diversity of the networks into value.
A bookmark to a very nice Google Tech Talk about the Open Social API is on my Del.icio.us page. Check it out.