Thursday, March 3, 2011

Musings ... on social networks!

They’re in the news this week! The Social Network, giving us the inside scoop on the Facebook saga walks away with three Oscars. Almost in the same breath, two British schoolboys have been jailed for up to five years for running a $26 million Facebook-style website for criminals dubbed "Crimebook". The Sydney Morning Herald reports “This was a criminal enterprise offering sophisticated advice on how to hack into computers, cause them to malfunction and retrieve personal information from computers - and how to do it on a massive scale.”


But warts and all most of us love the social networks! If love is a bit strong for some it’s rare to meet someone who hasn’t been dragged into their net (pardon the pun).

I like them for personal reasons - lots of things my kids get up to are now an open book, and I mean that in the best possible way.  

As an author they’re a medium I can’t ignore. If I do, I lose my readers to the multiple lay sites that offer forums and experience-swapping to those trying to conceive, who are pregnant, breastfeeding or raising toddlers. 

As a business entrepreneur I love the access they give me to like-minded individuals and potential business associations and discussions. 

Of course rallying thousands to a cause (viz the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa) would be impossible without such channels and more power to them all!

But ... and here’s the big question ... are we all too busy getting on our soap boxes, tweeting, posting, blogging, commenting and otherwise having our say to really hear what the other guy is saying?

Sometimes it seems that we’re all just spouting off in a way that, while liberating and empowering, also ignores some fundamental rules of respectful social dialogue. For example, we might consider acknowledging a particular point of view before charging off with the bit between our teeth to develop an entirely different line of reasoning! And where’s the wisdom of inviting experts to establish a specialist online group and then limiting their referrals to other material, services or products. Of course there’s a fine line between blatant self-promotion/spamming and genuinely helpful referrals and recommendations, but expert input to these channels is what makes them so useful and so powerful ... as long as the expert voice is audible above the chatter!

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