Social Networking

I’m not a user of social networking services. I’ve checked them out, sure, but I haven’t been interested in sharing my personal life online (just the opposite, in fact). This is fine because my friends, who are mostly the same vintage as me, don’t use them either. I felt a little behind the times at the Amsterdam Sakai Conference, where everybody seemed to be discussing Myspace/Facebook, posting pictures to Flickr or sharing links on del.icio.us (and this last one particularly stings, as I remember using the word, completely earnestly, in it’s traditional sense and got back a snicker and a reference to links…sigh :-)).

Anyways, the one exception is LinkedIn, where I seem to be somewhat more networked than the average Sakai community member. This is because I’ve been a user from the early days of LinkedIn, have been in the computer-based learning field for 20 years, and have moved organizations a few times. I am fairly discriminating about who I accept connections with. Most of my connections are people I’ve actually worked with directly at some point or another and, if someone asks, I would have something substantive to say about them.

In some ways LinkedIn isn’t really an exception because it is professional, not personal, networking. I started using it because a good friend of mine from college (who I don’t see as often as I’d like…Reid!) is the founder. I kept using it because it is any easy way to keep my resume on-line and to keep track of former colleagues. But I never really used it in an active. I viewed it as a good site for recruiters and contractors but not much value to me unless I was hiring (sorry, Reid).

Awhile back, though, the site added a “Question and Answer” feature. It’s dead simple…you ask a question, categorize it and send it out to your network. Your network (3 degrees removed, I think) sees the question and responds. I gave it a try last week to see if it generated any interesting ideas for a keynote speaker for this December’s 8th Sakai Conference in Newport Beach. In the first 2 days I have 10 replies with about 15 different name…many of which had not been suggested before and all of whom are appropriate suggestions (no spam!). I consider this a good result from a group of people who clearly know something about the field but who aren’t following the Sakai lists.

I know there are other Q&A services out there so this is not really an endorsement of LinkedIn as compared to [insert your favorite here]. But I do see, now, how I can make use of my professional network on a more regular basis with relative ease. And I do think there something about LinkedIn that might produce particularly high quality information…if you are discriminating about who you are connected to.

And I can also see that if I were attending college now I would certainly have a Facebook account and use it.

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