This is my first post using Qumana, an impressive looking blogging client. I’ve left the “powered by” signature on this post so you can try it if you like. I’m always amused that the spell checkers in blogging clients never have the words “blog”, “blogging” or “bloggers” in their dictionaries. But I digress…
So, I saw this post over on Techcrunch on a new networking service. In the article they give an overview – it’s pretty much like LinkedIn. I like LinkedIn. I find it very useful, and it’s growing to be big enough to be really, really useful. Still, this new service seemed intriguing and the part of my brain that doesn’t want to be left behind almost jumped at the chance to send an email to get an invitation.
Then I stopped myself. While I understand the desire to have exclusive clubs, and the desire of head hunters to have a service that makes their jobs less challenging, the world doesn’t need more than a few networking systems. I’m not sure it needs more than one. Zoli thinks we should separate business and social networking, and I agree. Ok, two networking systems.
The problem is that the usefulness of a system is proportional to the size of the population using it. In order to really leverage the power of 2nd and 3rd degree connections, there have to be enough to actually find what you’re looking for. That comes with a very large number of users. There are X number of people in the world who are going to sign up with a system. Divide that number by the number of social networking systems and you see the relationship that stayed my hand – signing up for this new service is just going to dilute the effectiveness of LinkedIn, and double the amount of networking site related maintenance I have to keep up with.
Since folks seem concerned that existing systems are getting polluted, and the “trust network” is getting corrupted, here’s some advice, both for LinkedIn and the people who use it:
First, accept the fact that not everyone sees people the same way. Just as one man’s junk is another’s treasure at the dump, one man’s jerk is another man’s genius in networking. We’re not going to automate human judgment of character.
Second, we need to urge LinkedIn to create a blind rating feature – 2 or perhaps 3 levels, such as “acquaintance”, “associate”, and “trusted friend.” When you have a connection, you would rank it. That ranking would be visible to everyone but the person being ranked – this must be inviolable, as in order to keep it reasonably honest the ranker must be assured of some privacy. The reason this feature is so necessary is that all of us need more people in our networks than just a few highly trusted individuals. We meet people at trade shows, at other places that may very well become trusted friends, but start as acquaintances. Besides, they say it’s the weak ties that are the most productive anyway. On the other hand, for some purposes trust is really important.
Lastly, these systems are new. This is uncharted territory. Before we dismiss a system because it’s polluted or corrupted, let’s make sure we’ve really learned how to use all of the strength it has gained.