Daily Archives: December 4, 2008

Addiction, and choosing the right networks

It seems to be social networking, video, and Home Camp week here on my blog :-)

Is it addictive?

Mehmet Yildiz asks:

how did you find Twitter so far? Do you agree Twitter may be addictive? Is Twitter a time consuming social networking activity; more than others i.e Ecademy?

I’m going to respond with some thoughts here, as I don’t like the idea of having to sign up on Ecademy in order to comment there.

It won’t surprise any reader of my blog, anyone who follows my social network trails, or anyone who has heard me speak on the subject in the past 12 months, to know that I find Twitter amazingly useful.

Do I agree that it may be addictive? Well, I found Flickr addictive for a time when I started, joining lots of groups and eagerly waiting for the next comment on one of my images. I found Facebook addictive for a while, adding apps and bouncing around writing on other people’s walls. Essentially I think anything has the potential to be addictive or time consuming… it depends on how you use it. I happily go for a week unplugged and without Twitter and other networks when I’m on vacation, and I do try to dip in and out… I certainly don’t read everything that ever gets posted.

Utility outweighs that. Twitter is an awesome medium for status broadcast, location awareness, lightweight chat, serendipitous discovery, breaking news, sharing links, extending networks, consuming interesting feeds, monitoring self-aware houses, and aggregating attention data.

What networks should I use?

I guess the flipside of being drawn into a single network is that there’s such a range available – so instead we might be spread too thinly.

On Monday, I gave a talk to an internal group at work, and that seemed to generate a lot of interest. One of the questions I was asked afterwards was a pretty common one:

with the wealth of social collaboration tools available it is sometimes difficult for me as a user to select those which are really relevant to me (and my daily business)… is there any tip you can give in order not to “drown” in social networks?

My advice on this is fairly simple:

  • Use the tools you find most useful.
  • Use the tools where your network is clustered. Generally speaking I find the tools I use most are the ones where my network is – so I have a lot of people on Twitter, some on Facebook and some on LinkedIn (looking at external tools) but I don’t use e.g MySpace or Jaiku or other networks so much, even though I have accounts on them and tried them out.
  • Don’t feel that you “have to” use every new thing that comes along. Try things, if you find them compelling then use them.
  • Do actually try things – don’t ignore them and hope they will go away – be open-minded – don’t just try things for 5 minutes, give them a week or two and build up a network if you can (this is somewhat ironic given how I was called out about my use of identi.ca a couple of days ago).

One network to rule them all?

Related to the question of how to choose and which tools to use, my friend Maria Langer commented today:

Oh no, not ANOTHER topic-specific social networking site. When will it end? Doesn’t ANYONE have a real life they want to spend time on?

We had a short conversation on this through Twitter. I noted that The Long Tail suggests that ultra-specialised niches are the way to go to be successful… but of course a wide-ranging network like Twitter enables far greater opportunities to make more interesting connections (like, for example, me knowing a helicopter-piloting author halfway around the globe!). I completely agree with that. I don’t see specialised networks, or any other social networks, being a sign that people don’t want to have real lives, though… I can stay in touch with friends and make new connections with people I want to get to know, and still meet up with them in person. In fact if I look at the range of my social activities in the past 2 years, I’d have to say that they have been enriched precisely because of my engagement in social software.

So: where does it all end?

The point I like to make is that you need to accept that new tools are going to emerge. If we all decided that one tool was “best”, evolution and innovation would stop. New ideas will always come around and should be explored. How much of an early adopter you choose to be, is up to you.

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