Against the Current


In the last 72 hours, I have received a stream of invitations to connect to people on Plaxo Pulse, Plaxo's new initiative to transform itself into the flavor of the month: a social networking company. I dutifully responded to all these requests, partly out of curiosity and partly out of courtesy. I am now duly connected, awaiting all the benefits that will presumably accrue to me.

This stream of Plaxo connection requests came on the stream of Facebook connection requests. I dutifully responded to those as well, and continue to await all the benefits that will presumably accrue to me.

I should also note that I continue to get an ongoing stream of requests to connect on Linked-In, to which I also dutifully respond, and continue to await all the benefits that will presumably accrue to me.

And as I continue to wait, we stand poised for a major announcement from Google that it is partnering with Linked-In, Plaxo and others to create an open standard programming interface that will let third party developers leverage their platforms in all sorts of creative ways. This collaboration among seeming competitors is aimed directly at Facebook, which is growing too quickly for their comfort.

I continue to be impressed every time Plaxo alerts me to someone's changing job or contact details, which it then automatically updates on my computer. I have found that Linked-In can provide powerful insights by letting me see "who knows who." Facebook? Explain to me again why I should spend time there.

I truly hope that anyone reading this who's contemplating leaping into the social networking waters will remember that social networking has the word "social" in it for a reason. Layering glorified chat rooms on top of otherwise solid business data and applications can destroy rather than create value. A top Plaxo executive actually envisions Plaxo Pulse becoming part of a "life stream," presumably implying that social networking will become integral to one's existence. That may be true in certain segments of the consumer market. But in the business and professional world, if you dive into this "life stream," you'll likely be swimming against the current.

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