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The Internet

Social Networking in the Digital Age 267

An anonymous reader writes "It used to be if you wanted to win more friends, influence more people or make more money, you bought one of those self-improvement tomes and tried to pump up your personality. These days, all you have to do is go online and join a "social networking" site. The pumping will be done for you."
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Social Networking in the Digital Age

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  • Orkut? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:52PM (#8635298)
    What? No orkut link, but an MSN link instead? On Slashdot? Did hell freeze over or something? :)
    • by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:32PM (#8635757) Homepage

      While I see some great potential for these types of sites, I have to wonder about the strength or veracity of the social networks they claim to foster. For example, Orkut tells me I'm now "connected" to over 150,000 folks, even though I only have three "friends" added to my profile. Just because I joined to the Debian/Apache/PHP/EFF/Dachshund forums doesn't mean all the other members even know of my existence, or care.

      Still though, it does do wonders for the ego . . .

  • What? (Score:4, Funny)

    by ziondreams ( 760588 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:52PM (#8635302)

    I always used to look in the mirror and say "...because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dogonnit, people like me!"
  • "Pumping"? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mattintosh ( 758112 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:54PM (#8635331)
    Ummm... Social networking? Pumping? Joining a site? Making money? Am I the only one thinking about pr0n here?
  • The Next Big Thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:55PM (#8635344) Homepage Journal
    From the article: If you haven't yet heard of social networking, stay tuned because it's the Next Big Thing.

    Really? Every time some site (MSN, in this case) or article tells you that such-and-such is the "Next Big Thing," ask yourself what they might have to gain [mywallop.com]...
    • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:31PM (#8635740)
      Until one of these sites acutally validates the data people enter about themselves, they will continue to be utterly useless.

      The dating networks are filled with fake pics.

      The business networks are filled with people with inflated egos and phony credentials.

      Sure its fun to surf them but they are useless for any valid application. Just surf LinkedIn sometime to see BS artists on steriods linking to each other in a circle jerk of mutual validation for their collective hagiography.

      • Validation Needed! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vagary ( 21383 ) <jawarren@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:58PM (#8636066) Journal
        Until one of these sites acutally validates the data people enter about themselves, they will continue to be utterly useless.

        I agree completely. I'm going to be switching careers in a few months and it'd be pretty damn helpful if I could find some friends of friends already on the inside, but it's clear to me that these networks are either secret or just for dating. So why hasn't anyone created one with validation? If VCs are giving out that kind of cash, one of us really should...

    • You're right--look to see what the people who brought you the news have to gain by your getting that particular news. The same idea extends to /., which has been a social networking site from the beginning, and is trying to push the whole social networking concept. What people don't get is that while the social networking makes /. much better at what it does--the friend/fans/foes/freaks system makes it that much more fun for those of us who participate in it--it's not something to base a site on to begin wi
      • You might be onto something here, but... the biggest problem I see is that many communites cannot really co-exist; they are either totally unrelated or other times even completely at odds with each other (religious/politic messageboards). This would break your idea of a shared reputation. For example, I'm a Washington Capitals fan despite living in Detroit. In this town, people take their hockey *very* seriously. Using your system, if I posted something in a local-Detroit messageboard about liking the Caps,
  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:56PM (#8635363) Journal
    Just terminated my Orkut account : I don't like to be asked to quantify my level of friendship with people, it is only my business.
    I'd rather keep meeting people IRL, there are still much more people offline than online, after all.
    • good for you. these things are so lame. i wish more people would quit these or ignore them.
    • by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:30PM (#8635734) Journal
      You should ebay your account!
    • by Unknown Kadath ( 685094 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:47PM (#8635922)
      Orkut is still beta, so I'm willing to forgive it some hiccups. But the new friend ranking thing is just weird. The whole point of the "friend" class is to link you up to people you know...so why the hell do you need to rank those? You know them. "Oh, right! John Smith is my best friend! I totally would have forgotten that! Thank you, Orkut!"

      But, that said...if there's a use for Orkut beyond spammy friend-of-friend messages, I haven't found it yet.

      -Carolyn
      • There was a story on Slashdot a while back about a social networking mapping program. In fact, if you google for "social networking visualization software" you'll find a number of them.

        I imagine that Orkut is working to develop their own social networking mapping software and all of its users are becoming part of a vast experiment in modeling of social systems.

        You are not people. Your number is Liberty-4527. :))))
        • I imagine that Orkut is working to develop their own social networking mapping software and all of its users are becoming part of a vast experiment in modeling of social systems.

          Okay...so what's in it for me? They're not going to get a very accurate map if they can't keep people signed up. There's some potential in the forums, I think, and for business networking, but I don't sign on more than once a week anymore unless I get an alert that someone has friended me.

          You are not people. Your number is Lib
          • There is nothing in it for you. It's a business model. If they can't dazzle you with the brilliance of their service they'll get 1000 other people to sign up based upon their b_llsh_t. The end goal of these social networking services is not to work for the advancement of society. Their end goal is to make money. If they can come up with five or six poster children whose lives were advanced then so much the better for their marketing spiel.

            Pyramid schemes, pyramid schemes. All I see in America are pyr
    • I don't like to be asked to quantify my level of friendship with people, it is only my business.

      IIRC, those ratings can only be seen by you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:57PM (#8635367)
    Friendster and others seem to be falling into the same traps as Carnagie Courses and all those self-help books... They all promise so much and yet the means to do any of these things can be found inside one's own mind. Just take a bit more interesting thoughts put into a few words and a few fears excorcised, and you have a much more interesting person who others want to be friends with. This seems like the Diet Industry, where eat less and excercise more is the actual reality that everyone will pay $$$ to avoid!
  • I'm looking for work. Does that mean my social net, Slashdot, will come to my rescue?
    • You know it could if it were leveraged properly. Your posts to Developers stories (even when filtered through our tendancies to troll and vent) probably say a lot more about your abilities than most of the brain-dead interview questions that get discussed here. And your posts to socially relevant stories hopefully demonstrate some of your logical thinking abilities.

      If I were in a hiring position, I could imagine myself using Slashdot for recruiting: if I like your posts, I'm likely to check out your resume
  • by zapp ( 201236 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @12:59PM (#8635390)
    But an online social circle is a poor substitute for a real social network. I've been there, done that, and sure I see the appeal. But honestly, get some real ('f2f' as they say) friends.
    • >Want to be modded +5: Insightful, garanteed? Say this in your post: "Go ahead, mod me -1: Troll" ... works every time!

      A comment on your tagline... or rather, in addition --

      And don't dare Meta-Moderate those people down, lest you be called UnFair! (Not that I speak from personal experience or anything!)
    • Yes, is does seem appealing at the surface, but it can also be dangerous. If the idea of having only online social networks and online friends doesn't depress you at first glance, it certainly will after trying it for a while. Like you said, face to face interaction is far more healthy-- physically, mentally and emotionally.
      • I've been relying soley on online friendships for several years. For reasons beyond my control, I attend a small boarding school in Africa, and "get some face to face friends" is a lot more difficult when you only have about 50 people to choose from. While I look forward to attending university in the states where I will no longer be the only geek/nerd in a 100km radius, I haven't really had any problems stemming from my online-only social life. Well, aside from lack of fulfilling female companionship (1
        • Well, aside from lack of fulfilling female companionship (15 females my age here, chances of finding someone with interests remotely similar to mine are roughly nil), but that seems to be a problem for almost all slashdotters.

          I wouldn't say it's a problem for *all* slashdotters. As difficult as it may be, it is indeed possible for us to get girlfriends; I myself was in a year long relationship, and not long after was in a four-month long relationship just a few months back... You just have to learn how t
    • by Vagary ( 21383 ) <jawarren@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @02:01PM (#8636110) Journal
      Nothing forcing you to make friends online, you could just one one of these pieces of software to track the F2F friends of your F2F friends. And then rather than dropping by their estate with a calling card, you could use some kind of digital medium to network with them.

      Many of my F2F friends are in different parts of the world such that I haven't actually communicated with them F2F for months or years. As a result, I have no idea who their friends are anymore, and therefore without technology they are nothing more than a leaf in my network.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:00PM (#8635407)
    by your own well-lubricated fingers. (Two for the girls, all five for the boys.)

    Really, isn't what those sites are for?

  • Musicmobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tobes ( 302057 ) <tobypadillaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:01PM (#8635415) Homepage
    If you want to see the social network idea extended to music, I suggest you check out my site Musicmobs [musicmobs.com]. It links users together not only by the music they listen to, but also creating a web of "favorite users".

    My goal is to make a place where people can not only find new music, but learn more about the music that they already listen to.
    • Re:Musicmobs (Score:3, Informative)

      by deman1985 ( 684265 )
      Audioscrobbler is another site with a similar purpose. Although it doesn't directly link users together by their musical tastes, it is easy enough to find people who frequently listen to the same artists that you enjoy by looking at the rankings.
    • Re:Musicmobs (Score:3, Interesting)

      by costas ( 38724 )
      Another self-plug: my newsbot [memigo.com] extends the same ideas (peer recommendations, collaborative filtering) for news articles: it's a much more powerful way to filter the news than say, /. :-)
  • Doesn't seem likely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deman1985 ( 684265 ) <dedwards@kappast[ ].com ['one' in gap]> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:02PM (#8635426) Homepage
    I've considered joining such online social circles in the past because I, like many others, do enjoy online interaction. I spend many hours per day talking to people on AIM or some other service, I maintain a livejournal, and as I'm doing right now, I enjoy posting on sites like Slashdot. However, I've yet to actually do it. Why? Because the people I would really be interested in having join along with me are already on AIM, or they simply aren't online very often.

    Existing chat services already serve this purpose quite well. I have a number of contacts on my lists which I personally don't know very well, but they are friends of friends who I might talk to once a year. The only real difference with these sites is that the process is automated, in some sense or another. I can see the purpose to them and I would like to see a concept like this take off, but I just can't see anything like that really getting established and lasting any length of time.
    • I think you hit on the real problem with these.

      People talk to other people to learn something. The genetic "feel good" of socializing is just positive reinforcement. So if a social network is content-free or too content general, what's the point? Existing internet applications (static web-pages, chatting, etc...) are just as good if not better.

      Maybe the major advantage these things bring is in having data model rigorous enough to make them searchable which contains typical fields useful for social ne

  • No thanks... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:02PM (#8635430)

    > The pumping will be done for you.

    That hasn't been my experience. I signed up for the Monster.com networking thing, and all it does is send me periodic messages stating "other people who are like you". What am I supposed to do [monster.com] with [monster.com] this [monster.com]?

    Crap. I get far more kudos from people e-mailing me to ask about or compliment source code and articles I post on my web site, and often times they contribute code back to me.

    • Re:No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by maximilln ( 654768 )
      I agree. I've investigated several online social networking sites and have discovered the same thing about every one of them: they promise a lot, give very little, and charge money for the next opportunity. The next opportunity rarely produces any real connection. There are always a million excuses why the last opportunity didn't work out and, for an additional $20/mo., the scheme will bump you up to the next level where the next opportunity awaits. Like that pyramid scheme that keeps holding informati
    • The greatest benefit I've found out of the Monster networking service is finding people that I used to work with. As large as Monster is, I've found a good number of people I've already F2Fed with and sort of have them in my regular network now.
  • by amigoro ( 761348 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:04PM (#8635441) Homepage Journal

    1. Many still prefer human face to face (or any other body part to any other body part ;) ) contact to the virtual impersonal environment of cyberspace.
    2. Identity theft. You can register yourself as Bill Gates, with BG's photo, on Friendster. Chances are, you'll get away with it.
    3. Abuse by trolls. Need I say more?

    I keep my personal life well off the internet. I do it mainly for privacy and security reasons.

    Friendster, in my eyes, is a vast spam engine. I get dozens of emails from people I barely know as acquiantances trying to be my "friends" on Friendster. No thanks. I know who my friends are. I don't want a website to remind me.

    Moderate this comment
    Negative: Offtopic [mithuro.com] Flamebait [mithuro.com] Troll [mithuro.com] Redundant [mithuro.com]
    Positive: Insightful [mithuro.com] Interesting [mithuro.com] Informative [mithuro.com] Funny [mithuro.com]

    • Abuse by trolls. Need I say more?

      You say that like it's a bad thing.

    • I agree. I still use the internet a lot to talk to friends and stuff, especially ones who live out of state now, and people on IRC I've known for years.

      Not sure how it is with IM, but I recently joined a channel on IRC that I used to go to years back. To my suprise it was there. Then I realised it wasn't really suprising considering how seriously these people took IRC. I can understand making casual friends and whatnot through IRC, but these people just took it so seriously. What I wonder though, i
      • The way they acted on IRC, and talked about events that happened on IRC as if they happened out in the real world leads me to believe it has utterly destroyed any social skills they had before.

        Why is this? It appears you assume that people act exactly the same IRL as they do on IRC. From my experience, this is mostly wrong. What is so wrong with talking about events on IRC "as if they happened out in the real world"? Are you suggesting events that transpire on IRC did not actually occur? Or that they shou
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) * on Monday March 22, 2004 @03:00PM (#8636675) Homepage Journal
      Many still prefer human face to face (or any other body part to any other body part ;) ) contact to the virtual impersonal environment of cyberspace.
      Yes, but the virtual impersonal environment can be an icebreaker, when people are shy or otherwise don't talk as much as they should.

      There was a girl I often saw at local metal shows, but we just didn't talk much, and when we did, the conversations were pretty short. But she mentioned one of these 'social network' sites (a really cheezy and unreliable one too) and out of curiosity I checked it out, "friended" her, and started making journal entries with comments about various local metal shows. So did she. Then we started commenting on each other's journals. We got to know each other better in these "batch mode " communications, and that carried over to when we are in person.

      Not dating or anything like that (nor do I expect that to happen, we'd be pretty incompatible, I think -- though she does happen to be a pretty hot babe :-) but now we're a lot more familiar and friendly. One of these dumb sites turned a near-stranger into a friendly acquaintance. I like that! It makes me want everyone in my local metal scene to get on that cheezy website.

      Ultimately, these things are just another tool, which can be used stupidly or smartly. But having more tools for communication is better, especially given how socially disfunctional people are these days... Ok, maybe the disfunction is a consequence of all the other tools. (e.g. people using computers instead of talking face-to-face) But the computers are not going away, and the people are not getting any less fucked-up, so you might as well use and leverage the tools.

      Identity theft. You can register yourself as Bill Gates, with BG's photo, on Friendster. Chances are, you'll get away with it.
      I think you have a damned good point there. AFAIK, except for celebrities, the potential doesn't seem to be getting abused much, but it's certainly possible. Obviously these networks should be integrated with the PGP WoT. ;-)

      Actually, that would a good challenge for me: Can I explain the PGP WoT to my new non-hacker, Windows98-using, 18-year-old-metal-chick friend? Hmmm...

  • Valid? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HogGeek ( 456673 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:05PM (#8635456)
    I don't agree...

    Most "online" people like the anonominity of the online world, so that can be someone, or something that they aren't in real life. That is what makes IRC, Chat, ... so "interesting" to most individuals.

    Computers and software will never replace real world "networking" and friendships, as a lot of that is built on your real personality, and (like it or not) appearance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:10PM (#8635529)
    This is the best overblown, over reaching hyperbole since the Silicon Valley venture vultures were leading us willingly down the yellow brick road. This is a bunch of hype by new players trying to convince us their new products are SO much better at creating social networks than the BBS, slashblogs, and USENET that's been building social networks forever. This is a virtual velvet rope that creates the artificial scarcity that makes an exclusive club seem so much more exclusive than it really is.
  • by cabingirl ( 671963 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:11PM (#8635537)
    But what do you do if your friends aren't interested in joining one of these sites - or you don't have any friends? If you don't have connections, you don't get to play. That's hardly a way for an introvert to better their social standing.
  • by British ( 51765 ) <british1500@gmail.com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:12PM (#8635549) Homepage Journal
    With my experiences on orkut, friendster(before they ran out of bandwidth), myspace, and such, LJ is not very social.

    Being a "blogger" site, most of the people there post entries just to hear themselves talk. It gets very cliquey, and even though you might get added to someone's friends list, they might not be so open or receptive to your comments.

    Hell, you could post a thought-provoking, insightful journal entry and recieve zero comments, while any 19 year old grrl who posts pics of her clevage gets 20 "you're so beautiful!" comments. Don't expect intelligent discussion on LJ like you would see on here or on kuro5hin. LJ is a bit socially xenophobic.

    With myspace and friendster, the journalling functions are 99% ignored.

    With orkut, I actually see some decent activity in the communities. It's much better structured than myspace or friendster. Now as for meeting new people, that's a different story.

    Oh, and don't bother with the livejournal meetups. They are 100% sausage fests.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      With my experiences on orkut, friendster(before they ran out of bandwidth), myspace, and such, real life is not very social.

      Being about life, most of the people just want to hear themselves talk. It gets very cliquey, and even though you might get added to someone's diary, they might not be so open or receptive to your comments.

      Hell, you could say something thought-provoking, and insightful and no one listens, while any 19 year old grrl who flashes her cleavage gets 20 "you're so beautiful!" comments. Don
    • by smitty45 ( 657682 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:34PM (#8635772)
      Having to "rate" my friends could possibly be the worst concept to hit social networking.

      I'm either friends, or not, with someone, and my own classification of my friendships change so often that updating (forget about revealing it to other folks) a website is just impossible.
      • by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @02:03PM (#8636131)
        Having to "rate" my friends could possibly be the worst concept to hit social networking

        Not at all. The idea is a good one, if the social network is to have any useful value for interpersonal networking, it has to know the strength of the links. If I'm trying to chart a path to Bob, the network needs to know which are the "close-friend" links, which are more likely to hold up and be worth something.

        I won't get very far trying to use a chain of 3 barely acquainted people to get from Alice to Bob

        • Right, but that's not helping the real-world life of your connections. I want to use social networking sites to ENHANCE my real world life, not live in yet another chat room.

          While I understand your point, again, how I feel about my friends can change daily, and keeping track of that is just not feasible.

          Plus...if I am indeed friends with someone, I'll know what sort of activities I'll do with that person. I can make that judgement in real life, and leave the "finding connections" problem to the software
        • IMO, they would be better off judging closeness of friendship using clustering. Besides their direct link, how well linked are the pair? It is not the same thing, however, and it has some obvious biases.

          Clustering importantly avoids the social clumsiness of rating. Ranking people is a social faux pas in many eyes, and a social networking site might do well to avoid offense.

          Whether they have the computing power to compute the clustering measures is another question.
          • most social networking sites, friendster included, count the degrees of separation already.

            and I would guess that there is indeed a large computing requirment. :)
          • Another method, would be to rate relationships on how many messages (and sizes of said messages) people exchange.

            You naturally talk more with people who are closer to you.

            Oh, and naturally, the conversations have to be 2 way for this to work, otherwise it'd be spammed to death

      • One series of stupid comments from someone I spoke with quite often put him on my "talk to only when absolutely necessary" list for several months. I can see a lot of negative repurcussions from translating this into a rating of some kind. As it turns out, this eventually smoothed itself over, and things are getting back to the way they were. Because of the potential for these kinds of things to happen, sometimes, at least in my opinion, it's better to leave things in a state of nebulous existence rather th
    • I disagree. I use LJ, as do many of my friends (RL and otherwise). Pretty much everyone posts daily or semi-daily. It's almost a closed group of about 15 people, and I know every one of them. There's none of the "cliquey" things you describe going on. If you have these problems with LJ, maybe you should rethink who's on your friends list.

    • Don't expect intelligent discussion on LJ like you would see on here or on kuro5hin.

      Er... put down the pipe, sir! That stuff can get addictive after awhile!
  • Sorta Offtopic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <CGP.ColinGregoryPalmer@net> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:12PM (#8635553) Homepage
    Just this week I met up with some people from Orkut. I wrote about my experience for those interested. [colingregorypalmer.net]

    I know a lot of people on slashdot make fun of social networks, but trust me, if you are new to a city and don't know many people there, it's nice to join a network of (mostly) real people as opposed to some anonymous bulliten board.

    -Colin
  • by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:12PM (#8635555)
    The fundamental law of social environments is that it takes effort to be well noticed, and online social networks certainly do not violate that principle. They just change the fitness landscape a bit by allowing those who aren't equipped with f2f social graces to compete.

    But as it turns out, if you're a dork in real life, you're usually a dork online too. People that are popular in real life but not so much online generally just haven't invested the time required to build an online presence.

    In other words, the same basic laws of social interaction apply, you just get to interact with more people.

  • by thened ( 530582 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:15PM (#8635582)
    I help run a website that has social networking aspects, Mediachest.com [mediachest.com] and have looked around at all the other social networking sites, and they don't really seem to offer much. They either try to replace existing communities with a site that has fewer features than the original or they are worthless, slow lists of people who are essentially strangers. Sure, it is nice if you want to look at profiles of girls without having to pay to contact them, but are any of the sites any more useful than that? Mediachest [mediachest.com] is more about finding new people and sharing items. It is like the distributed library project but centralized so it is easier to find things. Social networking can be very valuable when trying to find a DVD to watch or a book to borrow. Social networking can be more than just dating.
  • by Don Tworry ( 739153 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:19PM (#8635631) Homepage
    ...and even though most of the postings are against the article, we are participating in an online community.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:25PM (#8635673)
    Gee, it looks like everyone on LinkedIn is a visionary paradigm-smashing thinker who strangely enough isn't remembered by anyone at their last three employers, and can't seem to land a job at all right now even though they are obviously one of the leading thinkers in their field, which of course is based on blending creativity with tech in ways no one else has thought of before.

    Folks, a club anyone can join is a club no one will see value in joining. These networks exist so the unemployed can BS themselves to high heaven and link to other people with equally fictional self-appraisals. Once it becomes obvious how high the BS meter is on these sites, they will crash.

  • Social + chat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    a "social" site without real time chat is not that social... that is why huminity [huminity.com] is the more faverable site
  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:28PM (#8635716) Journal
    the article says:

    All the fervor has skeptics talking of a social networking bubble and its inevitable collapse. While such speculation is premature, issues do have to be resolved -- functionality and privacy concerns among them -- before the sector can be judged a safe bet.

    Ummm, no. the skeptics are skeptical because we heard all the same hoo haa back around 1999. And investment is not profit something these dot-commies still don't understand.

    The article then goes on to blather:

    Perhaps the strongest arguments for social networking's success has nothing to do with the bottom-line success of the companies behind the sites. Rather it's one of those unintended consequences that's no less welcome and needed for being unexpected.

    First off, that is an atrociously written paragraph. What is IT'S? "Social networking" or the "bottom line success of the companies"? But, never mind...

    Secondly, these companies are having millions of dollars poured down their gullet by VCs. That is NOT bottom line success. That is investment on the prediction of bottom line success, but we ALL know where that little train went back around March 2001...

    The article is just another rah-rah bit of internet blather - so five minutes ago (actually five years ago) it's kind of sad, really.

    The fact is this: if you want to build a network of professional relationships, you have to get off your fat ass and go meet people. There are many organisations for just about every concievable interest. Join one. You have to go out and meet people. And if you're a loser at that, then eventually you'll be a loser online as well, because all the online thing can do is facilitate the development of f2f where the real business goes down.

    RS

    • Only way I can see for companies like this to make a profit is by advertising -- either in-page advertising or spamming their members. In-page advertising has already proven to be worthless and while spamming is apparently profitable, I doubt many of the members would appreciate getting spammed.

      You'd think after the dot-bomb implosion, VCs would be less gullable. Maybe it's time for The Daily Show to pitch transmitting cake through fiber optic cables again (If you didn't see that segment you missed out --

      • I doubt many of the members would appreciate getting spammed.

        If the companies do it right, the result might not resemble spam. It can be much more targeted, based on the heavy amount of info advertisers can see.

        The very social-network which attracts users can be even more attractive to advertisers. Who wants to bet that the best analysis of the network will be reserved for paying corporations and not individual consumers?

        Suppose a major seller like Amazon hooks up with a social-network service. They
        • Even if Amazon doesn't "spam" per se, and instead only sends to people who've already "opted in" to targeted ads, those ads will become more effective because the seller will know more about the customer's personal life.

          And is this exactly a bad thing. What is it about spam that irritates us the most? It's the fact that, as the bbc once said, spem proves once and for all that Big Brother is either blind or stupid.

          If the publicity I got in my mail box was _remotly_ linked to what I am likely to need or w

  • by rthille ( 8526 ) <(gro.tagnar) (ta) (todhsals-bew)> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:32PM (#8635754) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot was a social network site! I've even got friends [slashdot.org] here! :-)
  • by geekpuppySEA ( 724733 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:34PM (#8635778) Journal
    These days, all you have to do is go online and join a "social networking" site. The pumping will be done for you."

    I doubt that. I've seen plenty of boring Friendster profiles who I'd never contact the person behind, and I've de-Friendster-ated more than a couple of people who signed up and added me, but frankly just ended up not being interesting enough to bother. "Favorite color: OMG-Pink. Favorite Music: Britney Houston."

    Thankfully, to keep it interesting we always have the Fakesters [friendster.com].

  • ecademy.com (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gunzour ( 79584 ) <slashdot@tycoononli n e .com> on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:41PM (#8635844) Homepage Journal
    I have recently been trying out another social networking site -- ecademy.com. It started in the UK apparently, and is just now starting to get some USA folks on it.

    I've been on Orkut, Friendster, LinkedIn, and now Ecademy. One thing is for sure, there is no such thing as "if you've seen one you've seen them all". Every one of these sites has unique features and a unique atmosphere to it. LinkedIn is very polished and professional and formal. Ecademy is in many way the opposite -- people there will say hi just because they noticed you online, even though you have never met them. The openness of ecademy certainly makes it a lot friendlier.

    All of these sites are tools that can be used or abused just like anything else.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:42PM (#8635853)
    Here is a quote from the MSN article: "By bringing a real-world relationship model online -- one where individuals are identified and held accountable -- social networking has the potential to make the Internet a healthier, more civil place. "

    And there you have it, folks. That is what it is really all about. It's a false mechanism to strip the Internet of the ability to act and speak anonymously. What MSN and other VC dollars are pushing for, is a world where every TCP socket uses SSL, everything is digitially signed, where you can't even get ON the net until you are tied to a PKI infrastructure.

    Social clubs like these create the natural response to the stories of 45 year old fat guys posing as teenage girls. It smashes a key attribute of the Internet that made it alluring for many. I'm not passing judgement on this, as good or bad, just pointing out that creating exclusionary groups and networking the "good" people is a predictable response. This is what gives University campuses the feeling of safety, esp. at Ivy League schools. The sense that everyone was "chosen" to be there.

    What will happen to groups like Orkut that are founded from places like Stanford are they will come to reflect the population of Stanford. Alumnis will get pref treatment. Then what happens is a fragmentation of social networks, pretty soon you have social networks based on race, such as the Hispanic or Latino social network, and you get the Republican golf league social network, and pretty soon the system breaks down under the weight of 8 million social networks that are split up along cultural and economic lines, and there is no anonymity, and it just mirrors society, and while that may make it "accepted", it removes all the sense of wonder and finding new things that the net was about.

    I join a web board for SimRacing (www.racesimcentral.com) because that is an activity that I enjoy. Because of people I've met there, I could attend the Goodwood festival in the UK even though I'm an American. And I may only know the people from their Nom De Plume, I may never know their real names. And it doesn't matter. I think social networks really exist to destroy things like that.
  • What drivel! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spankfish ( 167192 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @01:56PM (#8636047) Homepage
    That was, bar none, the most content-free article I've read this year.
  • I have yet to find a social networking service that isn't just a bunch of crappy collaboration tools glued together in a dating site format.

    Take Orkut communities. They're just low rent versions of web based message boards that have been around for quite a while now. There are communities for just about any subject already, but technology-wise they offer nothing that other online communication tools haven't been doing better for some time now. Ditto for most of the other features orkut has. Do we really ne
  • on the other hand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @02:15PM (#8636260)
    you could forgo the "getting to know you" part and go out "toothin" as described in one of the front page articles of wired.com

    Brits Going at It Tooth and Nail By Daniel Terdiman
    Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,62687,00. html

    02:00 AM Mar. 22, 2004 PT

    The Brits sure are randy.

    First came dogging, an underground swinging scene where couples and sometimes third or fourth parties engage in public sex for an exhibitionist thrill.

    And now comes "toothing," where strangers on trains and buses and at bars and concerts hook up for clandestine sex by text messaging each other with their Bluetooth-enabled cell phones or PDAs.

    "I've always loved the idea of random sexual encounters, but have never felt brave enough to go to (sex) parties," says Steve, a toother from Hitchin, England. "The beauty of toothing is that there's no pressure. I was reluctant to send messages at first, but the standard greeting, which I found out from (an online toothing forum) is so innocuous there is no chance of offending anyone by sending a random message."

    According to the Beginner's Guide to Toothing, the online FAQ written by a man who calls himself Toothy Toothing, toothing is "a form of anonymous sex with strangers -- usually on some form of transport or enclosed area such as a conference or training seminar.... Users 'discover' other computers or phones in the vicinity and then send a speculative message. The usual greeting is: 'Toothing?'"

    Toothing takes advantage of the capabilities of Bluetooth, a wireless technology that allows two devices to communicate with each other over short distances. Many mobile phones and PDAs now have built-in Bluetooth functionality and allow users to automatically locate other such devices in their vicinity.

    "I live in a commuting town outside London," says Jon, or Toothy Toothing. "The train journey in the morning and evening is slow, tiresome and packed full of miserable people halfheartedly prodding at shiny new tech. You recognize faces within your tiny half-hour community, but you never talk to them."

    So last November, Jon remembers, he received a text message on the train from a device called "Angela." That night, he went home and figured out how to respond to incoming text messages and did so the next day.

    "Cut a long story short, the messages got more and more flirty -- and after a while I had a good idea of who she was, and I think she'd worked out who I was -- and a couple of days later she dared me to meet next to the toilets at the mainline station we were heading to. We met, we fucked and toothing was born."

    Steve's introduction to toothing was similar. He had just bought himself a new mobile phone when he was pinged by someone on his commuter line. "Bored? Talk to me," the message read.

    "I thought it was some kind of SMS spam," says Steve. "I was messing with the phone's settings, trying to work out what to do when I got the second message, 'I can see you struggling. Meet me in the toilet and I'll show you what to do.'"

    Intrigued, he says, he did as bid.

    "It was unlocked," he remembers. "A girl was ... in there with her shirt undone. 'This beats the crossword,' she said. And we took it from there."

    Steve and hundreds, if not thousands, of others have formed a loose-knit community via Jon's Toothing forum. Although the majority of them are men, there are also many women on the forum, such as "Mysterious Girl," "annie 2uesday," "CandyGrrrl" and others. Members discuss the etiquette of toothing, the best locations to hook up with a toothing partner and whom they hope will be the first celebrities to get involved.

    Sometimes they even have a little fun with language.

    Under a posting titled "3's company?" one member asked, "Anyone got any views on the statistical chance of a toothing threesome? Would it be Threething?"

    In any case, toothing seems to give its participants an exercise in figur
  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @02:30PM (#8636389)
    ...snd my XP in in Ultima Online make me one of the wisest people around. ...snd my ngWorldStats in Unreal Tournament makes me one of the worst serial killers in the world.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ever since I became a freelance contractor / consultant it has amazed me the extent to which the business world relies on informal social networks. Decisions involving huge amounts of money often turn on whether or not somebody's cousin has heard of so-and-so, or if the place where George's ex-wife works used this service, etc.

    I used to think, man, when they finally get over this crufty networking and everybody just uses google or ebay or rent-a-coder for everything, then a massive amount of friction will

  • It's bizarre to me that so many people are attacking online social networking because of its ineffectiveness, or because it's a secret ploy to make all our identities known, or whatever.

    We're still trapped in the same vortex of stupidity that caught us all in the Dot-Bomb Era. Just like the foolish VCs who are funding these companies, we're not focusing on the bottom line. How do they make money? Do they have serious business plans? Are their projections at all realistic?

    Every article, every piece of information I've come across indicates that the rise of these social networking operations is evidence of yet another case of the VC sheep following the flock. Maybe I should use the term lemmings instead.

    Follow the money on these operations and you'll see it's all headed relentlessly down the drain.

    • by maximilln ( 654768 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @02:51PM (#8636602) Homepage Journal
      -----
      the same vortex of stupidity that caught us all in the Dot-Bomb Era.
      -----
      Your viewpoint is a little too limited. Think about it as a pyramid scheme. There are a small number of people in very elevated positions that made schloads of money off of the Dot-Bomb Era. To them it wasn't a vortex of stupidity. To them it was nothing short of sheer brilliance supported by the herd mentality in society. Those top-level investors led the public into huge investments, funneled the cash to themselves, disappeared via the back route, and left the rest of the economy holding the bag full of dogpoop.

      The social networking and VC sites are operating on the same premise. Hype up the service, milk it for all it's worth, and then duck out the back door once the critical mass of incoming money has been reached. When the small controlling minority at the top leaves (rich) the rest of us will lose our investments (poor).

      It's really no different than what the banks did back in the 20s. They encouraged the government first to funnel taxpayer money into the system. This inflated the system. Because the system was inflated the private investors began contributing heavily. Once the critical mass was reached in 1929 the top investors walked off with the profits and couldn't be found. The banks closed their doors and said the gov't had the money. The gov't said the money was with the investment brokers. The investment brokers said they had loaned the money out to small businesses.

      Twelve thousand cups, three peas, and the real magician is hiding in some big mansion out in Nevada.

      Pyramid schemes, pyramid schemes. All I see in America are pyramid schemes.
  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Monday March 22, 2004 @03:18PM (#8636828)
    This article is about 7 years too late.

    IMO, the likelihood of using the Internet to find substantive connections is now analagous to the chances you have of becoming good friends with someone who dials a wrong number to your telephone.

    Yea, it still happens all the time, but there's a completely different dynamic to cyberspace now. Many years ago, I got a book deal off the newsgroups, found investors for a venture (who funded a startup to the tune of 6 figures without even meeting in person or talking on the phone), dated a bunch of women and more.

    Nowadays, the online scene is a lot different. There are still pockets of people and meet-ups happening with networking going on, but the dynamics are not the same.

    For example, an online game such as Everquest, which is a social vehicle, now seems to be mostly filled with people who use the game as an escape from reality and have no desire to communicate or get to know others outside of the game. Nobody reveals as much of themselves any more, and those that do are likely to be more on the unstable side. Cyberspace is viewed more as a medium to be vent, pretend to be someone you're not, or a distraction, rather than a catalyst for networking.

    I remember the good ol' days when you could enter a chat room and actually CHAT. Now these places are arenas where people engage in contests to see who has the most meaningless one-liner.
  • Joining a "social networking" site doesn't teach you how to deal with people. In fact, chances are very good it just gives you a lot more people to annoy.
  • Interesting Posts. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Snoobs ( 43421 )
    I just spent last night trying to add friends to my friendster account. The main reason?

    Its interesting to see who your friends know. This girl that I am into is on friendster and she just added me. She was talking about going to Texas to visit friends and for some reason all her friends in Texas are guys. I don't suspect anything or really care, cause we ain't even dating. This certainly does bring up some privacy concerns. . .
  • doesn't always work (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amigabill ( 146897 )
    I fileld out a thing on friendster once, but none of my friends were interested. You can't just meet people not in your existing network there, so to this day my friend network there ends with myself. You need to have friends that will sign up for these things, and they have to have other friends that will sign up, and so forth for this idea to work as it's implemented where I've seen it. Otherwise it's a total waste of time, as it was in my case. Were my buds a bunch of party poopers by not wanting to get

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