Social software/social networks: YMMV

That’s obvious, though. Some of us find some spaces and tools more natural. Some of us have more time and affinity for “life online.”

When I’m wriitng anything substantial (some posts, all columns, most Cites & Insights pieces, certainly any books), that’s all I do. No minimized email window(s), no music, certainly no chat rooms or anything else.

At work, there’s always at least one minimized mail window (Outlook) and generally two (Gmail)–although we don’t have speakers, and I usually have headphones plugged in but lying there, so there’s no audible announcement of new interruptions. Still, it’s harder to get the kind of concentration at work that I can at home–good writing probably takes at least 50% longer.

The current stuff I’m doing as the transition winds down frequently does not require (or reward) complete concentration, but requires enough attention that you really can’t focus on any other major task. That’s particularly true for the 2nd through 10th working day of the month (more or less).

What does all this rambling lead up to? Well, the relatively unfocused nature of this post may suggest–correctly–that I’m multitasking: Checking in on a Meebo room as I write this. And it turns out that, for me, for now, for times when some attention is available, this particularly library-related Meebo room is a pretty good form of socialization.

It’s certainly not a secret clubhouse. (It is passworded, but only because a pr0n spambot was attacking any Meebo room with more than a couple of participants, which made it useless.) If anything, it’s a little like Cheers–a welcoming place where, once you’ve been there once or twice, everybody knows your name. Or at least your screen name. Some people use transparent screen names (the abbreviation of their blog). Some need asking to relate screen name to real-world name (and, of course, they don’t have to answer). Quite a few–myself included–just use their full names as one word. You can change your nickname any old time, but that’s not a big problem.

In this particular room, I’ve found lots of interesting idle chatter–and a fair amount of useful professional advice (some received a little given). There’s an air of full equality in the room: No leaders, no followers. People drift in and drift out. Sometimes there’s a round of “Hi X” when X shows up on the sidebar. Sometimes there isn’t.

If this particular room is indicative (and I have no reason to believe it is), things work best when there are anywhere from five to ten people in the room. Fewer than five, conversation tends to dwindle away. More than ten, the flood of overlapping conversations can get hard to deal with, although it’s certainly interesting. There are, to be sure, rooms where that’s simply not a problem: I know of two library-related rooms that almost never have anyone in them at all. That’s the way things go sometimes.

I’ve never been much for chat. I got introduced to it by default: Gmail now comes with its own chat client automatically enabled. Used it once in a while (rarely). The Meebo Rooms are a little different, because they’re occupied by several people all of whom see what everyone says. I guess they’re like IRC, but since I’ve never used that…

As for other social networks/social spaces, here’s where I stand now, if you care:

  • Ning (specifically Library 2.0): I think you need to spend a lot of time there and/or be enormously patient to get much out of it. It’s the most, um, leisurely online application I’ve dealt with. I’ve been in the Library 2.0 and Library Blogger Ning spaces for some time, mostly passively, accepting “friends” upon request, sending some invitations. For me, it seems not to work very well, My current guess is I’ll remove myself from Ning following ALA. It may be the greatest thing since artisanal bread for others.
  • Second Life: Didn’t work for me at all. Oh, I tried it and managed to get around, but felt like it was a complete waste of time for me, for now.
  • MySpace: Haven’t tried it. Yet. Might.
  • LinkedIn: I’ve had a profile for some time and have a pretty good network built up, largely since a former colleague told me she’d gotten three interviews (and her new job) through LinkedIn contacts. When I was doing an emailing on my future availability, first two people whose addresses I knew from gmail contact, I thought I’d add more names from my LinkedIn network. Turns out there was nobody in that group who I could conceivably send the email to who I hadn’t already sent it to. So, for me, it’s just not clear whether LinkedIn works. (They now operate in much of the rest of the building I work in.)
  • Twitter: Not yet. I may set up an account for use during ALA, just as I picked up a text-oriented cell phone for use during ALA. Guess I’d better do that within the next week or so…if it’s going to be of any use at all. In general, though, I don’t think I’m a twitter kind of person.

Of course, there are other social networks that just don’t work the same way. I’d call the loose collection of libloggers a network of sorts, connected through posts, comments, linked posts–and all those background emails that don’t quite work as comments. To some extent, lists can be vague social networks. LISNews has elements of a crude network. I’m probably missing some.

Will I keep up with Meebo Rooms in the future? Hard to say. I have to admit it’s made writing this post slow and clumsy–but that’s partly because I did it wrong (two Firefox tabs instead of two overlapping windows).

No real point here. I think each person needs to figure out their own comfort level and appropriate set of social spaces. Some hardy souls seem able to handle them all and revel in the process; I think that would drive me (even more) nuts. Some people avoid the whole concept, not an unreasonable choice. I just thought I’d say a few words about my current choices.

One Response to “Social software/social networks: YMMV”

  1. Pete says:

    I’ve had some practice working and ircing, so meebo isn’t so bad.

    I don’t think I’d have the patience for Second Life. My first one is challenging enough as it is!

    Ning is ok, but has a rather static feel. Has the problem Orkut etc had. You need to check it a lot, and even with RSS it can feel a chore. It progresses in fits and starts.

    The experiment at LSW may be the future. A wiki for sharing ideas, a loose structure based on that wiki and a ‘social’ space via Meebo.