Social networks vs social tools

Honestly I dont really go for these social networks for the sake of social networking. Linked in, Friendster, etc have been some I've looked at but have not been that interested in. The one I invested the most time in is Microsoft Wallop, which is still an invite only beta. At the moment its simply reading my RSS feed from this blog and using it as a base for my own wallop blog. Weirdly enough, it also counts anything I link to as a resource of my own which it then stores. Anyhow, i've recently started using O'Reilly's connection beta which is another social network but focused around developers, net type people and designers. The ability to get FOAF data out seems really simple and I have to admit it seems quite simple and not this super elaborate affair of wallop or orkut.

I do however have to wonder once again, how long I'll stay with this one? All the social networks I use all the time tend to be more like social tools. Del.icio.us, Flickr, Audioscrobbler and even recently Yahoo's new killer/social tools, seem to take a different view of social networking. There much more intergrated into daily life that a place to hang out. If O'Reilly's connections was to open things up a litle more, so for example using other services for job listings, etc. Then maybe it would stand a better chance at staying relveant. I do have a feeling that they will base it around there books and conferences in the future but will that be enough? I mean is it a career development site? no is my gut answer but what room is there for connections in face of the other tools?

I was kinda of upset that it didnt import my current FOAF profile. I mean I would have uploaded if they liked, but I would expect it to look at my website url and read the linked FOAF file without a bother. But oh no, I need to add all the data again via multiple html forms, which really sucks. Isnt this the point of FOAF in the first place? I have no idea if there's the ability to see inside the network from outside? For example here is my profile view and the FOAF data which is created from it. Please note, although I said I was based in the UK, it still puts US in my FOAF data. Maybe this is a bug in there processing? It must be because for some reason it hasnt even got my surname – forrester! I'm also not happy about the fact it uses many redirects to make up the FOAF data. http://connection.oreilly.com/users/profile.public.php?user_id=1671/ is not my homepage sorry.

There is no way i can use this as my FOAF profile till its sorted out and reliable. Also note everyone in FOAF profile has to be registered with Connections for it to add a entry to my FOAF data. This is deeply inward looking and this is why I think Yahoo 360 will succed where others failed. I mean think about it for a quick second. Buy a social network/tool like flickr with millions of users and billions of user generated data then buy yourself on to peoples desktops through Konfabulator. The possiblities are pretty endless, now I can see where the 360 nature comes from.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.