It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of stuff involving social networks recently.
Most of the fun activity in Flickr revolves around finding people that inspire me or who share some common interest. Sometimes that is even extending into the real world, as it did during last week’s SFlickr meetup.
Also last week was the first time that I really used Upcoming.org in any major way. I got an account when I went to the SFlickr meetup last May, but besides that use, I hadn’t done anything – no friends, no nothing. Since Macworld turned out to be the same week, I ended up following a number of the events at Macworld using Upcoming. I took the trouble to add friends, and subscribe to a few Upcoming RSS feeds, and this gave me no shortage of options for activities during the week. The combination of friends and locations seems to be a good fit for the way that I’d like to find out about events, especially while I am travelling.
Guy Kawasaki has written a pair of great posts on how to use LinkedIn more effectively. Of all the job or professional social networks, LinkedIn is the only one that has actually been any good for me. I’ve had several solicitations for contract work (even though I am not consulting any more) and I’ve seen some reasonable jobs go by (not that I am looking). I definitely feel that it is worthwhile to maintain my LinkedIn information, and to add people to my network. I’ve been much more stringent about letting people into the network, particularly since I’ve been asked to recommend people to each other, and I want to feel comfortable about doing that.
The most recent of the social applications is Twitter. Twitter is an app for letting you put your status out into the cloud. Your status will be recorded on a web page that people can see, and it will also be pushed to people via IM (I was having terrible luck getting IM notifications until I switched to the Jabber IM bot) or SMS (I turned this off early on before I exceeded my text message limit). You can also post status updates via the web, IM, or SMS.
It might seem like IM status messages would be enough, but they turn out not to be. At OSAF, we have a decently distributed staff using a number of communications media: IM (on multiple networks), IRC, and Skype. When I go away from my computer for lunch or an errand, I want to let people in the community know. Today, I have to go update the status of all those media. Also, in some of those media, your status information could turn into a message that scrolls off screen and gets missed. The fact that Twitter archives your updates on a web page is a great thing. For distributed working groups it provides a kind of status glue that makes up for some of the lost in person interactions. Up to a point — I’ve noticed that some people are using Twitter as if it were IM, having entire conversations through it. If you are using some kind of realtime monitoring, like IM, then this turns annoying very quickly, as you are privy to all kinds of conversations that don’t affect you, complete with IM notification sounds. If Twitter had the ability to send Tweets to groups of people, that would really help a lot. I also wish that it was easier to find people. The little pictures of people are cute but hard to read, and having to mouse over them individually to get more detail is RSI inducing.
There’s a small ecosystem springing up around Twitter. There are Ruby command line tools (sadly, I couldn’t get them to work because Ruby Gems is messed up on OS 10.4), Python/Growl notifiers (works, but high maintenance), and shiny Mac tools like twitterific. Someone has even written an Applescript Quicksilver action, Tweet, for posting. There are still a few things on my wishlist: 1) for Twitterific to both have it’s little history window and to deliver changes via Growl, and 2) to be able to set my status in Adium, Snak, and Skype based on Tweets.
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