Experimenting with social networks

by Volker Weber

Apart from many invitations to openBC I have also received invitations for LinkedIn, and I have now created a profile.

So far I have to side with Ed:

To be brutally honest, I haven't yet seen the value in these services...they seem like big time-sinks and/or ego boosters to me. Perhaps, one day, I'll need to know if anyone knows anyone at Foo Incorporated. In the meantime, we can play "my network is bigger than your network".

One thing I have found to be valuable is to reconnect to people you may have lost. My usual pattern was to sit on my mountain and wait for others to find me, but those tools let me better reach out to people I have not seen in a while.

If you ask yourself, if I am not a little bit late to game: It is actually much nicer to join a party that is already going on. :-) Since most people on openBC link to their business mail address and all contacts need to be confirmed there is only a small uptick in contacts over the weekend. If you come in through this link you are already acknowledged.


I can see Ed's point, but in my case it really is keeping in contact with people I know. I have bumped into many people that I hadn't seen in many years, sometimes 10-15 years.


Mitch Wolfson, 2004-11-27

I totally agree with Ed but was too cowardly to write it down here (you sounded quite enthusiastic). But I think it is a fantastic business idea and the system looks and works quite nice.

Henning Heinz, 2004-11-27

Mitch, I'm not old enough to have not bumped into people in 15 years. :-)

Ed Brill, 2004-11-27

but seriously, I do see some names from my past on linkedin (and perhaps will on OpenBC). The question is, are they people that I really would derive value from re-establishing contact with? Other than a walk down memory lane, I'm not sure.

Besides, my memories of the other network engineer at one job who kept reading my e-mail and trying to use it against me are still fresh enough. I don't need to know how many kids he's got, why his ex-wife ultimately left him, and what company he convinced to hire him after all the lies on his CV 8-)

Ed Brill, 2004-11-27

Ed, that is a good point. Half the old contacts seem to be looking for a new job ;-)

But you never know really if it is just for memories, or if the contact could bring you value. I would prefer to let all "contact" me and weed them out afterwards if need be.

Mitch Wolfson, 2004-11-28

Mitch, that brings up an interesting point. I get contacted quite frequently through openBC by what you and Ed are calling "old contacts". Most of the times, as soon as I tell them that I'm working as a freelance consultant and author, communication abruptly comes to a halt. Twice I even was told that "sorry, they don't have a job for me".

Now, heck, I wasn't looking for one. I just told them my current occupation. It was them who contacted me in the first place and they could have looked up my profile, too. So maybe it's also got something to do with the perception or even with the expectations on the other side of the communication. On the other hand, I don't know what requests you are receiving, just telling my side of the "looking for a job story" here.

On second thought, it's also possible that most of the folks who contacted me were looking for a job. So they considered me as being not a helpful contact for their task at hand. Never felt the urge to follow up, so I really don't know.

For me, openBC mostly is a convenient way to check for updated contact details in case someone has vanished from his former occupation without a trace.

Stefan Rubner, 2004-11-28

I believe that people looking for a new job are more interested in this network than those on the treadmill. In that respect you will find lots of people who are indeed looking.

The same applies to people who are looking for new ways to sell their products or services. They also will be quick to add new connections to this web. You will find that many networks in the same ecosystem have a high degree of overlap. In the Lotus community everybody on the network knows the same other people on the network.

Whenever a node in the network fails, because a company went belly up, or because somebody desperately needs a new job, the network is able to help. In that respect this is very good thing. Everybody wins.

As with any network, the number of nodes and the number of edges are important. The more you get on the more valuable it gets. When it is not large enough to provide any of the services mentioned above, it is at least valuable as a "people tracker". Which in itself solves a problem we all face.

In terms of technology this site needs a good replication service to update your local address book. It currently lets you upload Outlook contacts and match against the database (which renders loads of false positives). One needs to make this work with a more standard format like vCard. The value proposition here is that you can quickly add new edges between existing nodes. I would however also need a second thing: Update my local address book with data from the openBC database.

Volker Weber, 2004-11-28

Re: Update my local address book

Some thing like that exists too, it´s Plaxo, which is less an social networking site, but mere an application to get current vCard / contact detail data on people. It helps also a bit to keep in though with some people, since that application, NOT you yourself, sends out hundreds of eMails to all the people in your address book, but then many people won´t join the Plaxo system, so it´s not so good.

That´s also a problem with OpenBC/LinkedIn, that many peple haven´t joined up to now, so it´s far from possible to managed the whole network with that - apart from that maybe you want to keep some connections hidden (which is possible in LinkedIn).

It seems that high-level people also don´t join these services. I didn´t find any known CEO´s from big corporations. Do they need this services at all?

Adalbert Duda, 2004-11-28

Esther Dyson is using LinkedIn.com State-side to talk about projects she is working on and basically connect interested parties to others (as she has for years in meat-space). She's the only high-level person I see seriously using it (though I can find some other CEOs in my LinkedIn network, including people I worked with many years ago at US Robotics). But they have small networks...I think it is more like what Stefan was saying, a way to find them that is more accurate than a phone book or e-mail directory.

Ed Brill, 2004-11-29

My main use is to be able to track down people whenever they change contact details. Unfortunately that automatic sync is not there (yet). I have often ranted in the OpenBC forums about how nice a combination with Plaxo would be, and have always been told that "something better is in the works".

I'd already be happy with a link to people's Plaxo records, so I could at least add those who do use Plaxo...

You may be right about job seekers, but I think that's legitimate. Networking still is the best way to find a decent job, and anyone who gets a new job from unemployment through OpenBC is good.

Btw., vowe: your invitation link kills my OpenBC login cookie, but does not get that invitation out. Go figure.

Frank Koehntopp, 2004-11-29

The invitation is for people not yet on the network. OpenBC members generally know the rules of engagement. Or they click here.

Volker Weber, 2004-11-29

Just to add to something that Adalbert Duda wrote earlier - Plaxo does help people to stay in touch by helping Plaxo members to update and manage their Address Book information. We also help member manage their Calendar, Tasks, and Notes information by making it securely available through the Web on Plaxo Online. This information is also sync'd with their local information, so they always have access to their latest information.

But I would like to correct the statement made about Plaxo, NOT you yourself, sending hundreds of email to all the people in your address book. This is incorrect and a common misperception of the Plaxo service.

Plaxo never sends any message to anyone without the action and approval of the Plaxo member. The Plaxo member controls when, to whom, and what is sent to a member's contacts when they choose to send an Update Request.

If two people are also Plaxo members, they can become "connected to each other" based on their own permission settings. Once connected, a Plaxo member can be automatically updated whenever the other Plaxo member changes his contact information (e.g. changes email address, phone#, etc...). Currently over 4M people are Plaxo members and benefit from it's functionality.

Stacy Martin
Plaxo Privacy Officer
privacy @t plaxo.com

Stacy Martin, 2004-11-29

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