Social networks on the net
The turning point for the Internet version 2.0
From Alain Lefebvre, illustrations by Fix
210 pages, 20 euros
Format: 15 x 21
Web site: lesreseauxsociaux.com
Getting to know them and using them professionally
During the past few years, scores of these new social network sites have attracted over ten million registered users. As the old proverb says: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Today, with so much specialization in careers, in companies and in products, even professional people with large personal networks can’t afford not to use these online networking tools. They can help you increase your sphere of knowledge and promote your career. This book gives practical advice on using network sites to best advantage, and also predicts future developments.
This is the first book about social networking on the Internet.
Author and illustrator
Alain Lefebvre has published four previous books on data processing. He was cofounder of SQLI (a software company that grew from four to 700 people in ten years).. Today he writes and consults in the field of IT and management, he recently created 6nergies, one of these new social networks, which gave him inside look at this emergent social phenomenon. He also organizes conferences.
Table of contents
1. The premise of social networking software
2. How the software works
3. Using the Internet v. 2.0
4. What comes with the changes
5. Building a super address book
6. The paradox of the digital identity...
7. The new frontier: an economy of reputation
8. What they think: Implied recommendations
9. What networking may become
A new category of software is emerging: social software. These applications are generally available as Web services, and their success is growing. Their users now number in the tens of millions. The expansion of these services is an inherent part of a Web renaissance that we might call “Internet v. 2.0” . How did all this begin? In 2002, the situation in Silicon Valley was pretty depressing. The Internet bubble had imploded for two years straight without signs of recovery. The morale of data processing specialists was at an all-time low compared to the period from 1997 and 2000 when they were in such high demand.
However, three developers were about to help restart the machine: Marc Pincus, Reid Hoffman and Jonathan Abrams.
Each of the three was working on a development project in the field of “social software.” These were Tribe.net (Marc Pincus), LinkedIn (Reid Hoffman) and Friendster (Jonathan Abrams). Moreover, Marc Pincus and Reid Hoffman made financial investments in the Friendster venture, even as they worked on their own projects. So in fact, the beginnings of social software came from a small group of people who knew each other. It is just as significant to note that their services were launched during a brief time period in 2003: Friendster in March, LinkedIn in May and Tribe.net in July. Within a few months, these services completely changed and revitalized Silicon Valley, signaling a new wave of services. Today, you can find hundreds of them on the Web, all inspired and derived from Friendster, Tribe or LinkedIn. In total, there are already dozens, or perhaps more than a hundred. They have millions of registered users, and have attracted tens of millions of dollars in venture capital.
- Why so much excitement?
- What are these new services used for, how do they work, and who uses them?
- Is this just a temporary fad or a major development that will change the nature of social relationships?
- Will we see the same phenomenon spread worldwide?
This book will attempt to answer these questions. But first, I’ll answer this one: Why did I decide to write it? My discovery of social networks in May 2004 was a bolt from the blue. A friend told me that Ecademy needed a regional manager. I was available, so I said I would take a look. The interchange didn’t lead to a job with Ecademy, but thanks to Thomas Power, I discovered LinkedIn. Then I said to myself, “This is what I need to do!”
So I threw myself into the quest of creating a social Web network, from scratch, for French-speaking professionals. This book is not the story of my experiment with the ñergies project (though there would be a lot to tell!). But to institute the project, I first needed to analyze this new field, so I tried to gain a sense of the marketplace. I also realized that France at the time was far from ready to accept these new services enthusiastically. (However, today there are already at least 100,000 professional users of ñergies, OpenBC and Viaduc.) So I discovered that I had to explain over and over what social networks are and what they aim to accomplish, in order to persuade as many people as possible to take advantage of them as soon as possible.
Also, there was another factor that motivated me to invest in this new field, to launch ñergies, and to write this book.
As a professional, I was already somewhat successful in my career, and I could give many examples of how important it is to be introduced to the right person at the right time—in other words, to have relationships.
However, when I was young, I hated this view of relationships, because it brought to mind a social class I did not belong to: people who were born into privilege, in an environment where they had natural advantages of being connected to influential people. I completely rejected the idea of getting ahead through personal connections and wanted to be judged only on my individual merits. I was young and idealistic, but I particularly disliked relying on influence for personal advantage.
Since then, the idea of changing the uneven playing field of business relationships always appealed to me, just as a revolutionary might look forward to the grand soir (great evening) when the monarchy is finally overthrown.
And suddenly, thanks to social networks on the Internet, that has become possible! Yes, all you businesspeople—my siblings who will never get inside a Rotary Club or a Masonic temple—there is finally a better, more effective way to advance your careers! Once more, the Internet will help level an arena that was bound by tradition for far too long. Social networks on the Internet will help redefine relationships between people just as the Web has redefined so many sectors of commerce.
You might say that social software has used its influence to facilitate the introduction of Internet v. 2.0.
It is obvious that that these services are important, and will outlast the phase of mere curiosity. Getting to know their basics will allow you to take advantage of them quickly, to the benefit of your career path. For whom did I write this? For professionals—all of them, and anyone with ambition who wants to use Internet networks to become successful. These tools could be a booster rocket for an ambition like starting your own company, or for any other project.
The book is particularly directed toward professionals who feel that “networking isn’t for me, because I wasn’t born into privilege, and I’m not into relationships” …as I once thought. Sure, I saw myself that way—trapped behind barriers of social autism! For people like me, building a social network on the Internet is more than a practical tool, it is a genuine liberation! There are so many individuals who are creatively rich in imagination, but lacking connections, who don’t know how to prime the pump. They might be obscure professionals who would gain from getting acquainted, unique characters who are so many diamonds in the mud—all of them potentially fascinating, even brilliant people who can’t quite move outside a limited circle.
It is actually for them that this book was born, to give them admission tickets to this new playing field of Internet relationships that is now open to all. With social network services on the Web, there’s no need to pay an exorbitant entrance fee to join a private golf club, where the membership committee can discriminate against you because of your ancestry or some other arbitrary, unjust reason. Social software really is the democratic affiliation network for everybody. Take advantage of it!
In terms of structure, this book is organized logically: theory, then practical applications, including examples of successes. I have also speculated on the future evolution of these tools. Not every available service is mentioned (which would be difficult, since I find more every week!). There are some variants that I do not discuss here, though they certainly belong to the Pantheon of social software. That is why I did not devote an obligatory chapter to blogs. Lest I insult the entire world of bloggers: Yes, I agree that blogs are a type of social software, but not the one I would ultimately recommend for professional people. You’ll see why later. Besides, plenty of excellent material is already available about blogs, so I didn’t feel it would be worthwhile to add more.
I did not add an acknowledgment section, because there would be so many to thank that it wouldn’t be readable. So I would rather do that personally.
The premise of social networking software
“With social software networks, the human capital is located at the points, and the social capital in the lines that connect the points.” James Coleman, sociologist
During the era of Internet v.1.0, the watchword was, “Content is king.” That is how the Web became indispensable to our thoughts and our endeavors . It provides the greatest collection of documents in the world, available at our fingertips. The first wave of Web services accurately confirmed this simple principle: Contents is a king. So—no content, no traffic!
But the history of the evolution of the Internet always brings us back to the same certainty: People are the killer app of the Web. Yossi Vardi of ICQ put it very well when he said, “People are the principal software of the Internet." This is confirmed by the key trend of Web services on the Internet v. 2.0.
Formerly used to access things—such as published documents, consumer products and so forth—the Net from now on will be viewed as a tool that enables people to connect. This evolution was imprinted on the genes of the Internet since day one. Beginning with Usenet forums through Yahoo Groups and on to mailings lists, the creation of digital social bonds was always the Internet’s engine of development.