The Downsides And Annoyances Of Explicit Social Networking

from the popping-the-bubblet dept

Well now that Red Herring has come back to life, they’ve got some great new articles there. Let’s hope they haven’t just been saving up their best work over the past six months or so, and that this is the quality we should expect from them moving forward. First up, is a great piece by Jerry Michalski pointing out the problems with most of these social networking systems. The most basic issue is that they rely on a somewhat altruistic motivation to open up your own rolodex. The strongest amount of value in the system is for those who have the weakest rolodex. The least amount of value, then, is for those with the strongest rolodex, and thus they have little incentive to include everyone they know. He also touches on the issue that annoys me the most. These are human relationships we’re dealing with here, and that’s not a binary definition. All of these systems say “are you a friend/colleague/whatever of so-and-so”. The answer may be yes, but that says nothing about what you think of the person or how likely you’d be to introduce them to anyone else you know. By making all of your relationships explicit, you’re setting yourself up to be put in the uncomfortable position where you either have to introduce two people you don’t think should be introduced or telling one of those people no to their request. As such, these systems can actually do more harm to certain relationships by making things more explicit. Furthermore, this leaves out the simple “annoyance” factor. Sure, it’s nice to hear from friends every once in a while, but I’m really getting sick of responding (or not) to every Plaxo/Friendster/whatever request I get. What a waste of time for very little value. If people want to contact me, I don’t want to hear from some system they’ve signed up for. I want them to contact me directly.

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