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In Kenzo

150? What metaverse are they in?

Weaving circles and groups I stay in contact with ~1000 people annually and befriend ~300+ per year through conferences, virtual worlds like Second Life and other social media. I know you understand the challenges of these communication circles more than most. It can be difficult to maintain personal friendships across such a wide net; social media helps to keep the contact focused and rich without requiring the time of personal handwritten letters and phone calls.

Time is a valuable resource and some friendships become limited to one hour a year of personal contact or a great conversation that we'd like to continue slowly over email....such is the nature of our small world. It's enjoyable when our friendships both deepen and grow over time and we're lucky to have fun tools like twitter that let us stay connected.

Marijean

I'm looking at friend requests carefully -- it's not a popularity contest -- I want to be able to actually remember and identify how I know the friend in question. I have enough trouble keeping up with my in person network, I can't complicate things further by having people in my social network that are such fringe members of my circle that I can't even recall what it is we have in common.

Judy O'Connell

The interesting thing is that I wouldn't have been drawn into this particular conversation - except for FaceBook. When I am behind in reading my RSS feeds (like I am now) by the time I catch up the point for conversation has already gone! On the other hand activities and discussions of my 'friends' in Facebook are immediately there. I don't know about the 150 magic number - but I do know that social networking tools are sometimes more effective for me than my massive list of items in my RSS feeds!!

Good stuff Beth :-)

Paul Sanchez

I know that I enjoy the small group of people I have on my facebook, but I also enjoy the big group of people I have on myspace. Great post.

Jonathon D. Colman

The thing is -- and there's no way of getting around it -- that users on social networks are rewarded by the architecture of the systems for having a lot of friends. The more connections your profile has, the greater prominence it has within the network, which leads to benefits both significant and subtle:
-> Perceived authority or credibility for that person and/or their content within the network
-> The ability to make content "popular" by leveraging positive votes from connections (think of the YouTube or Digg homepages or the MySpace Impact Awards or the Stephen Colbert Facebook group, etc.)
-> Media attention, both online and off (think of lonelygirl15 with 70MM total views, largely driven by media coverage)
-> Higher display in the network's search engine for related keywords, which can lead to even more sustained, natural growth of friends (as well as external search engines, if the network is open to spiders/bots)
-> Numerous others, depending on the network's structure, features, and modes of interaction

If we accept that these are real, tangible benefits of having lots of connections, then I think it's understandable that some folks spam everyone they meet in a network with friend requests, whether they know them or not. And since we know that companies and nonprofits are hiring permanent, full-time social network/media folks onto their marketing teams, the prospect of someone spending an entire day friending people on Facebook is not just an academic exercise.

That said, I'd love to see a network that's focused solely on relationship-building and that somehow rewards significant, real-life relationships based on trust and shared experience rather than the sheer number of connections/influence within the network...

Or is that Web 3.0? :)

Beth Kanter

@heyjude - I have tons of RSS feeds (over 500) and I never read everything. and I feel okay with that. But I agree with you - it is easier to have some quick comment exchanges in facebook. BTW, I think you got into this conversation because you're a friend of vicky? Or did you notice the note on my profile? I tagged Vicky on the note and I know that is why, in part, she responded or perhaps noticed it.

@In Kenzo. You're amazing if you can remember 1000 people. I might have in my youth, but since I turned the big 5.0 my memory fades. I have these senior networking moments when I can imagine what the person's photo looks like, where they live, what they do, and what they know about - but I can't remember their name! Thankfully, after a minute of brain freeze, it comes back. But I only have 600 or friends in my network.

@Paul Thanks for stopping by! I like both large and small groups - depending on what I want to accomplish.


@jcoleman That's an interesting observation and I think it is true. I have a lot of friends on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc. I don't do much friend outreach -- looking at friends of friends and friending. I'm mostly asked -- partly because I'm an early adopter and when more people sign up for these networks and if I'm in the address book, that's how I get the request. I remember the first wave of hype for Facebook back in March or April - I was getting dozens of friend requests everyday.

If I don't know the person, I ask them why they want to be friends. As I've written elsewhere, I'm finding that I'm meeting a lot of readers too.

Beyond the friends of being a friend collection -- if you really want an effective network - you have to develop relationships and that takes more than just friending and sending blast emails/communications.

Judy O'Connell

I picked up this conversation via the News Feed on Facebook - which shows me the ongoing activities of 'my friends' each time I log in. The thing about this SocNet is that by seeing the news feed first I can spot boring, interesting, or sensational items of news. No, I'm not much interested in what widget my friends have added - but I was interested in your Notes, and blog posts. Now it's interesting, because this is probably the first time in ages that I jumped over to your posts - because the topic was of interest to me. So a direct connection that I tapped into by choice this time...out of how many possible times? This is the strength of social networks - the ability to jump across sector and group boundaries to build conversation. This is also the weakness of social networks - unless we get a bit savvy in how we manage we are really just providing fodder for promotional types in the style of Jonathon's comment. Certainly, amongst educators, I am starting the hear more requests for building strong peer networks - isn't this what has inspired the membership development of Ning networks such as Classroom 2.0 and many others? However, I think it is only in Facebook environments that you have sustained inter-connection. Ning groups might be more interactive, but they still seem to me to be like a wiki group - you have to go there and get involved. My connections in Facebook allow me to choose when I want to get involved, and like a sleepy dog, do my 'own thing' while still having my ears pricked and my eyes half open for good conversations, important bits of information, and possibilities of new networks, groups, or friends!

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