Monday, January 22, 2007

> 100.000 connections

Wow, that sounds huge, doesn't it? Those who followed my blog a little bit - and at least some of my colleagues - may have noticed I have developed a big interest in several aspects of social software. Virtual communities are established within a very short period of time. It must have been a few months ago since I started my profile on Hyves and on In both cases I was invited first. Hyves by a guy I didn't know at all, but he wanted to start a Hyves group for all people carrying the last name of Portier. Well, why not I thought and I joined the group. I joined Linkedin because of an old contact I used to work with - although in separate companies. There is an interesting difference between the two: Hyves is much more on social contacts, sharing media (pictures, video, building your own page (some of those are really ugly ...)) whereas LinkedIn has a professional background: it's about sharing professional networks, finding career opportunities or possibilities to cooperate with one another. Hyves defines your contacts as 'Friends', LinkedIn as 'Connections'. Personally I believe you only have a few real friends. It's hard to consider someone a friend, you sometimes haven't even met personally. Talking about 'connections' is on the other end of the continuum. It has a sort of clinical, business-like approach of looking at how people connect. I get associations with semantic networking.
Looking at the contacts I have gathered so far there is only little overlap between my contacts on LinkedIn (42 at the moment) and on Hyves (31). My Hyves contacts are much more in terms of people I personally know or have a personal connection to, on LinkedIn I have contacts with people I only met one time, but that meeting was enought to discover the mutual benefit of linking our networks to each other. It's sometimes surprising to discover shared connections: you find out that you know the same person, but you didn't know that from each other. LinkedIn may be helpful to get introduced to persons you don't have direct connections with. It's easy to find out who is in your 2nd level network in LinkedIn. Well, in that case I have more than 1500 useful connections right now. I have a little problem with the 3rd level network (> 100.000 connections in my case!) : you know someone who can introduce you to a person in his/her network, but that person needs to introduce you further to someone else in his network. I wonder why he would do that? The 2nd level person doesn't know me, so why introduce me to one of his contacts? I my opinion it's just a nice figure to see, but it has no real meaning to me. I don't want to know the 4th or even 5th level (I'm sure LinkedIn is able to calculate this for you). Before you know, you 'know' all people on the planet (or at least the ones who have a LinkedIn profile).
Despite this critical reflection it's a very interesting and valuable experience to find out how these social software applications work and what the benefit is or could be. Personally I believe you should not only read about it, but work with it for yourself and see what's going on. You might also want to try, Second Life or create an account in online games such as Habbo, Runescape or World of Warcraft. There you can also meet friends (real ones and just virtual friends). Runescape and Habbo support Wim Veen's statement (see my previous posting) of the gift economy. Kids have no problem to give away a set of armour to a new kid on the block, although they did a lot of effort to get it themselves. In a more extreme sense I know examples of kids who just give away their account (level 74) and start all over again. Analogous to Hyves or LinkedIn you have a list of friends, with whom you share things. In this case it doesn't matter if it's a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or whatever level connection. There seems to be a basic willingness to collaborate and share.

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