Thursday, December 11, 2003

Social networking notes

from VentureBlog: Conserving Social Capital

The more I think about social networking products that are intended to expand and strengthen social connections in the name of business opportunity the more I think that they misunderstand the fundamental nature of social capital. Social capital is just that, "capital." If you aren't careful you can spend it all up. Sure, there are some relationships that will be more resistant to fatigue than most -- for example, I am sure that I can make a lot of introductions to my dad before he stops taking my calls. But some relationships are far more tenuous. If you have a good conversation with a potentially helpful business contact at a conference, he will probably take your call or read your email the first time you reconnect with him. But that relationship is pretty fragile and if your initial post-conference contact with him isn't at least mutually beneficial, that relationship will be spent before the second email. Even relatively strong relationships can be taxed if they are over-exercised.

If I were to bother the same person for multiple introductions serving only my interests, even a good friend is going to get sick of hearing from me pretty quickly.

I think that David Hornik hits it right on the nose. I have never gotten too involved in the six-degrees, or friendster experiments because short of letting me know that there are 15,043 people who are far removed from me, it did not do much for me. There were only two potential uses for these wide-spanning networks, up-to-date contact information and potential problem-solving contact or introduction. Lacking integration with any PIM tools and absence of controls on information dissemination noone put a lot of their personal info up on six-degrees, or would not let strangers from the 3rd circle and up look at it. Thus I really could not keep in touch with any of these 15,000+ people. Additionally, since I did not actually *know* any of these people, they could not help me with any of my questions or problems. They do not know me and I do not know that, regardless of having my 3rd grade classmate as a common acquantance.

Until these tools evolve a way to amass capital, social or financial, but making judicious introductions of people to each other I do not really see how they would be useful to me.

ps. ask me in another couple of years if I still feel this way.


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