|by Flemming Funch|
Recently online business networks have become a more important interest of mine. In part because I actually have a need for networking, because I need new business. So, there's one point there. A lot of people who are networking are doing so simply because they're looking for a job or project to do, and when they've found it, they disappear. But some people are great networkers AND are already busy doing great things. The latter are the people I expect to learn the most from.
Anyway, these are the networks I currently use occasionally, and what I've noticed about them.
Ryze has become a huge network, and a lot of people I know are in it. It is also the network that has been most useful for me in finding local contacts in my new home town. I was at first a little puzzled at ryze's success, as the site does a number of things I absolutely hate, and which normally would make me leave and never come back. Such as frequently popping up screens saying things like "You would be able to actually see the results of this search if you were a gold member, which is only $9.95 per month". I.e. it is deliberately crippled and pushy on signing people up. But somehow it is also very easy to find people, particularly after I finally broke down and paid the stupid gold member fee. Leaving a message in somebody's guest book is the main way of contacting others. And looking at other people's contacts is a good way of finding other people one might share something with.
tribe.net is new, but expanding very quickly too. It takes a bit more work to find people, and you're not talking with them out in the open like in Ryze. But it doesn't have those annoying signup screens, and it seems to have some good features, like classified listings and job search.
ecademy has good features like seeing who's online and good searches. If one has the right kind of membership, which is free the first month, but then costs money. I like that way of doing it better. A business oriented network, also connected with business coaching services from the British company that created it.
LinkedIn has probably the most high-level business contacts. In part because it is rather hard to contact anybody, and you need to be introducted through shared contacts, potentially through several steps. So you can expect to not be bothered very often. That also means it is rather hard to find anybody, and it isn't a good place for making new friends. But I wouldn't be surprised if it is useful for doing serious business for a number of people.
Friendster is huge and my daughter seems to find it very useful for finding people to chat with. For me, it just makes me feel sort of old. But if you're vibrating at the right wavelength, it is probably great.
Friendly Favors remains a network I feel connected with, because its creators are friends of mine and I was there when it started. And I did find new contacts in France through it. It is useful to do a search in, but it isn't suitable for hanging out in, or communicating through on an ongoing basis.
The New Civilization Network is of course my home network. Not just because I started it and maintain it. It is where I go first every morning. It is good for ongoing support, and a sense that there's a place there one can come back to. But it isn't particularly useful for finding people to do business with.
Now, jumping around between several of these, one of the things that immediately becomes apparent is the repetitive effort of linking up to people as your friends or contacts. It is often the same people on the various networks, but even though they're your *friend* in 4 other networks already, you still need to request it again in the 5th. I'd much rather see a standard in place where we each could record on our own computers who we think are our friends, and those networks could be fed that information.