Social Introduction software?

Niall has asked me and colleagues to look at IntroNetworks , presumably as a potential tool for use at work to network with colleagues. It’s built on Flash meeting and other technologies and looks like more Macromedia product tools are being added in. It seems to me to be a visualisation tool for social and business networking. I’ve seen the like before, attendr (?) is an example of one I’ve seen in the past and Tony Hirst mentioned KMi’s expert search in his recent blog which is one being created by buddies at work. I’ve got my reservations about buying in to InterNetworks as a solution for work because:-

a. I think people don’t know what they’re good at, some people say they’re experts at everything, others are shy to admit to anything. This has been proven by other ‘search for expert’ systems created at the OU in the past.

b. I’m not sure that it’s going to work if you open it to the whole organisation, it might work in smaller communities of practise or in areas where people want to extend knowledge through sharing with a peer group.

c. I think it may work very well for something like attending conferences but last time I went to the FOWA conference I  accidentily got put down as an academic and without any interests (my secretary filled out my application form!) and strangely I got paired up with four other people who I did know and did share an interest with (who persumable got their secretaries to fill out their forms for them too!), so despite it being completely NOT what I’d have put in for myself it found me some good buddies who I wanted ot talk to before, during and after conference (and did so). So maybe there’s a case for “chaos theory” ;^)

d. It’s seems very much based on propriety technology and whislt I like Flash meeting etc. It would be nice to have this as some very open and extensible web2.0 product that I could make fit my environment far better than someone who’s giving me a black box solution. I feel that all we need is the algorithms not the ‘gloss’.

I’m not dismissing this one yet as I’ve only played with the free demo but I’d like to see what can be done with string and glue and couple of google tools and then come back to this again to see how it compares.


Should Social Networks have a social conscience?

I’ve been having a discussion with several people following the Bebo incident. Theres an article about it here where the coroner says..

“I shall be looking at these networking sites myself to see if there is a link between them and the growing number of youngsters committing suicide.”

“But in the meantime I want to warn youngsters about the possible dangers these websites can pose.”

“I would also like to warn parents to be actively on the alert for signs of their children being influenced by others on these sites. ”

It’s a gnarly subject and my thoughts are still forming on the influence of the internet on these people. Things I have been thinking about are:-

(a) These sites allow people who share interests to come together. Teens are particularly valunerable and suseptable to influence from others, this can tak place online or in a community or at school or anywhere. Is the internet itself (and are these sites) responsible for what occurs or are they just a means of communication?

(b) Can people who wouldn’t otherwise meet be influenced in ways not possible in the past? – i.e. the potential for the sites to allow groups to form where people are of the same tendancy to self reproach or lack of self esteem, whereas in ‘real’ life you tend to meet an eclectic group of individuals with different tastes and personalities and therefore some may influence you positively rather than affirming negative thinking?

(c) Is it impossible to control how any of these things are used? – Where should the policing or control take place? – I think the parents have a strong influence here and I don’t think it’s necessarily the government or ISP’s or site providers who should come up with all the answers.

(d) Would these events have occured anyhow? – Is this actually nothing to do with the internet but a lot more to do with creating a society where we engender respect and self worth. In which case do we as a society have some collective responsibility for ensuring that people on sites like this don’t spiral into suicidal depression. Can we do anything about it?

I don’t have any answers I just have questions.