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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In social networks as in life: it's good to experiment but eventually you have to settle down

NZ-born social networking site iYomu is trying to entice me back by offering me money, well, possible money - the chance of finding a US$100 icon in my vault, whatever that is.

It's not going to work though. It's not that I have a problem with iYomu, which bills itself as a social network for grown-ups and uses some quite nice Flash in its interface. (Although they do make it hard to quit, as I recall, which is why I haven't gotten around to it yet).

It's just that there's only so many hours in a day and I can only reasonably use so many social networking tools. I've been experimenting with networks and am still doubled up in a few areas while I make up my mind which service I like better, but my digital life works best when I have just one of each - one social network, one professional network, one photo sharing service etc.

Facebook is, by default, my primary social network, for no reason other than that I joined up along with a bunch of work colleagues and a few friends not long before I left the UK. It's thus become quite a nice way for me to drop in on them from time to time and see what they're up to. I don't have the energy to cultivate networks elsewhere, although I sometimes join to have a look around as part of my work.

I'm using both LinkedIn and Naymz as professional networks, trying out the two in a spirit of exploration. So far I use them as profiles - mini CVs - and have yet to work on the networking opportunities. I haven't decided yet which I prefer, but am unlikely to look at another.

I use Twitter for posting status updates, questions, watching news break and following people who interest me. I'm finding it really good for picking up on ideas, sentiment and links to useful tools and blogs. I've looked at others, like Jaiku and Pownce, which also have merit, but Twitter's sating my needs in this area for now.

So, my digital life boils down to: Facebook, Naymz and/or LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger (this blog), Tumblr (mini blog and aggregator of links and posts), Delicious (public bookmarks), Jumptags (private bookmarks), Flickr (for sharing pictures), Picasa (also for sharing pictures, will probably move all to Flickr), Feedburner (my RSS feeds), Bloglines (my RSS reader) and You Tube (for sharing and bookmarking video), along with text and email.

And what if friends and colleagues end up using different services to me? So far I tend to encourage people to go where I go, which works reasonably well given that a lot of my friends and colleagues, especially here in NZ, aren't connected much at all yet so are open to suggestions (or completely uninterested and would rather be at the beach). And I'm meeting new friends and colleagues on the networks that I use, so no trouble being in contact with them.

The good news is that the rise of lifestreaming applications will make it possible for us to read all our friends' feeds and updates in one place, regardless of where the feeds originated. So I'll be able to read your Facebook status updates, tweets and blog posts without having to visit any of those sites. Now that's networking.