Lately, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with social networking. Seeing my therapist about it, but can’t seem to work a breakthrough. This love-hate thing is founded on a couple of points.
I've experienced the personal value add: I’ve benefited greatly from some of the discussions around social networking. Not the “do you know classic rock quiz” or “I’m getting a cup of juice now” types of discussions, but the real meaty stuff like “using bind variables in pl/sql”. Overcome more than a few tough challenges with info coming to me through social networking. Love that part of it.
Quantifying the value add is another story. I can’t run any numbers or show a solid cost reduction with social networking. Which is why the execs at my company (and many others) still see social networking as kind of a cute concept, but a waste of time in the office. Hate that part of it.
Back to the love part. I’ve nearly stopped using Google Reader or any other aggregators altogether. With the exception of a few general news sources, I get most of my reading material every day from suggestions brought to my attention via Twitter. It’s low-maintenance, concise, and has definitely expanded my technical horizons.
The hate part? I think Twitter may have jumped the shark. Every day brings more advertising spam and new followers with whom I have nothing in common. I’ve become pretty selective recently about adding to my Twitter network, but I still can’t help but think that the growth in Twitter spam portends bad things for the future (for further reference, see MySpace).
More hate venting here. Facebook has become a royal pain for me. Far too much maintenance, too much spam, too much of a time sink. I’m barely even in sustaining mode with Facebook anymore. I do check in about once a week, mostly out of a sense of obligation, but I’m even slacking off on that.
Now for some love. I think the real value of social networking is not just in making the connections between people with common interests. In fact, I suspect that may be the tip of the iceberg. The real value, at least in the enterprise, comes of mining that data and leveraging the information obtained through that mining. Imagine building a software development project team with the eight or nine people who put the most energy into discussing iterative development or J2EE or WebLogic or…well, you get the idea. We’ll finally be able to not only map the informal network that exists within an enterprise (including those participants who would not be normally considered as part of the enterprise organization), we’ll also be able to identify and organize people by common interests, skills, or performance levels. That promises to shake up a few business models.
This last point is not as far into the future as you might think. There are social networking elements in the upcoming release of Oracle Fusion Applications (the “social mesh” functionality is very impressive – check it out if you get the chance). I suspect these elements will get enough traction from users that it won’t take long to see similar functionality in Oracle Applications Unlimited product lines. Ditto for competitors in the enterprise software space. Personally, I’m looking forward to tipping the social networking scales in favor of the love...especially when my therapist has to find another chump to make his mortgage payments.