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More on social networking

26 March 2007

It seems that at last Facebook is taking off among South African students. It was originally intended for use by students, and has only recently opened up to everyone.

The first social networking site of that kind that I used was one called six.degrees, which flourished about 6-7 years ago, and then died. It worked on the six degrees of relationship idea – that within six degrees of relationship you would know everyone in the whole world. It was better than most of its successors, except that it downloaded slowly. I’ve tried MySpace, and Facebook, and find them rather limiting. The groups feature on MySpace is inaccessible (to me, at any rate). One of my favourites is a more amateur effort, Tribe.net.

Facebook would be better if it provided more options to the answer to their question (when adding friends/contacts) “How do you know this person?” In every case in which I’ve tried to add a contact to Facebook, my answer had been “None of the above”.

Want something that works better than Facebook and MySpace, for keeping in touch with family, friends and acquaintances? Try Zoominfo, or Tribe.net.

You might find that you are already on Zoominfo. And Tribe.net is more amaeur, and therefore more human than the commercial sites like MySpace, as well as being much easier to navigate.

And then there are social bookmarking sites.

I recently looked at Digg, and came to the conclusion that all sorts of people were using it for the wrong things, and that there is actually not much that it can be used for. It’s supposed to rate the popularity of news articles, but how useful is that? The philosophy seems to be that one should conform to mass culture, follow the herd, and read what everyone else is reading, whether it interests you or not. Looking for news items? Try Google — it’s quicker and more likely to find what you want. Also, Digg is like Facebook in the sense that its categories are, at least in my case, most likely to be “none of the above”. It has hairsplitting categories for science and technology, but completely ignores the humanities. It has categories for videos, movies and podcasts, but none for books. Digg really is a waste of time.

Better to use one of the original (and still the best) social bookmarking sites, del.icio.us, once you’ve found it on Google. and you can share those with friends and colleagues with similar interests.

And though less social, for individual research, Diigo is pretty good too. Maybe the students at Rhodes University should spend more time on that than on Facebook.

For those who want to know more, here is a link to a very useful article on social bookmarking and academic research, and for Facebook fans, here’s an article on how to use it effectively and things to watch out for.

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