Friday, September 28, 2007

Are we networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes?

Social Networking is not a website, it's not a technology, and it's not a lifestyle. It's life. It's how we exist and interface with those around us. It may use websites like The Cop Connection Network, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, and Link To Your World. It may include traditional (this year anyway) technology like desktops from Gateway, Dell and HP (didn't they used to make printers?), and laptops from IBM/Lenovo, Apple, or Toshiba. It may include pocket or palm devices with the latest Microsoft (or Palm) operating system, and even smart-phones with who knows what makes them work.

Social Networking may include regular meetings like those at BNI and LeTip. It might be strengthened by relationships between people from Borneo and Hong Kong, and Denmark and the UAE. It may involve text messages, emails, wikis, or even snail mail correspondence.

But at the end of the day, social networking is about people, and our relationships with them.

Here are the rules as I understand them.

1) Social Networking must be transparent, or as transparent as possible.
I don't think a network should be limited to one site, as I believe a real network extends far beyond a site, or sites for that matter. As an example, if you and I corresponded before MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we were both in correspondence with others in our field, I am sure that you would have met people who knew me and vice-versa. We develop ties with people that strengthen when we see how we are connected and look for other ways to be connected.

Adam Ostrow found 15 really useful ways you can already utilize the open authentication system. I've noted them, and explored a few, but I'm just not "there" yet. I don't have the faith and trust in everyone in the world and those who collaborate on the software that provides this open framework. I like to meet people, share ideas, brainstorm, solve the world's problems, and talk about fun places to go and fun things to do, but . . . Between OpenID and the murmurings coming from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Just Search For Me, I am convinced that we are only months away from a manageable profile that inserts anywhere we want, and I think we should be able to take our baggage with us. I, for one, am tired of copying and pasting "about me" from one site to the next.

2) A few strong connections are better than lots of weak ones.
Mark Kerrigan recently wrote about the "currency" of the future -- the number and quality of the relationships a person has. He noted there was value not in knowing a lot of people, but in having quality relationships - if they are properly maintained. Note the role of the connector in my previous post -- that's the key. Having many connections can be a strategy, but we should be as transparent as the network above and be clear to people that we have standards (and tell them what they are). So, how strong are your strongest connections? It's a safe bet that they don't all know each other, but they all have something in common -- their relationship with you! I suggest you let that "be enough," and trust that if each of us builds a few solid connections, all of our connections will be strengthened.

3) You can't want it more than they do.
Adding connections to your database can be an exhilarating experience, but when it comes down to show time, what can we do for each other? If you ask me to share my expertise and I spend time providing you some insight, can I expect you to do something with what I provide? If the answer is no, then what have we accomplished? There was apparently a communication error, but as a result I have wasted valuable time. We need to make sure we understand requests in our relationships, and convey the level of desire and commitment we have before asking someone else to provide something we have no need for.

4) It should cost you before (and more than) it costs them.
Since networking is about building relationships, this is crucial, and may be reminiscent of something your Mom said to your Dad after two weeks of marriage. It's never 50%-50%, it's 100%-100%. The solution if the other person slips below 100% is for you to remain steady, as there will be a time for reciprocity in the future - whether you plan it or not. The best way to get is to give without expectation. Here's the analogy. If we were somewhere together with others for a couple days, and I asked you for a dollar for the soda machine, would you hesitate handing a $1 bill over? Most would not. Would you expect it back? Maybe, but the value is relatively low (like a dime in my childhood). If you had a similar circumstance and "borrowed" a dollar and also did not give it back, then what? As this happens more and more, we realize that it wasn't hard to earn the dollar or hand it off to someone with little expectation of return. But we are never short a "borrowed" dollar, are we? What goes around does come around, eh? Now relationships are better than soda, and they are worth more than a dollar, but they will only work when we give -- unconditionally. That's how relationships work . . . At least that's what my wife tells me :-)

5) Mistakes can be forgiven, backstabbing should be punished.
This rule was designed to cover any misunderstandings. If I am not clear when I ask you something and you mistake what I am saying, there is no chance that what you do for me will meet my expectations. But isn't that the norm, rather than the exception? Mistakes happen! If, on the other hand, you offer something to gain my trust and then sell it to the highest bidder, that's backstabbing. At that point, it's pretty irrelevant whether you know it's a mistake . . . it is. You are blacklisted, the trust is gone, and if you get a Christmas card from me I assure you it was a mistake.

6) The existence of a network is not limited by time and space, but by vision and commitment.
Social networks are a powerful foundation from which to develop group identity and cohesion. Social networks are often examined in the context of the small world phenomenon – everyone in the world is accessible through a "short chain of social acquaintances" (Milgram, S., 1967, as cited in Finin, et al., 2005, p. 422). For a social network to be relevant, it needs to be about something, it needs to have a purpose, but many social networks have limited practical use (Downes, 2005). To avoid such limitations, the suggestion here is to use whichever social network you already use. There's has structure, subscribers, and relationships, and you are not simply re-inventing the wheel -- it's round, and it rolls, why reinvent it? By capitalizing on the existence of our pre-defined social networks, we can catalyze the expansion of our larger network, gaining access to the social networks of others, where there are already established connections, which can be cultivated and developed for the betterment of all.

But, in this context, I still wonder whether we are networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes . . . My understanding of the "social" part of the Cop Connection Network means that every police officer, sheriff's deputy, corrections officer, jailer, probation and parole officer, security guard, and anyone in a related field around the planet (and other planets if they have an Internet connection) is linked to one another someway, somehow. In the current application, that's just theory, but . . . Don't you think there are golf games, racquetball tournaments, shooting matches, parties, car clubs, and other activities going on between them?

The same connections we make on earth can be strengthened when thinking in another plane.

My understanding of the "network" part of the Cop Connection Network means that a parole officer in Michigan on LinkedIn could request an introduction to a police officer in Brazil via InMail, that travels via a Corrections Officer on Facebook (Mobile) in Sweden, who emails the message to a jailer in New Zealand he met on MySpace, who calls his retired friend in Arizona using jaxtr or Grand Central who sends an SMS text message using Skype to the guy in Brazil . . . in under an hour.

Yes, I realize this is a different approach. No, I do not understand how to monetize, googlize and all that stuff. I do, however, understand that we ought not build constraints in where none exist, especially when we are in a place where no one has expertise. Note the video in the previous post -- that was Malcolm Gladwell talking about a guy (Howard Moskowitz, a psycho-physicist) who told big-money corporations that their perspective, vision, and paradigms were out of whack -- and they (ultimately) paid him to do so! If you have no plan to check out the short video, here's a quick summary. Dr Moskowitz taught us first that consumers don’t know what they want. Second, he provided people the opportunity to choose the products that suit them, not settle for products they can learn to like. And third, he revolutionized the food industry by showing them how to make individuals happy without trying to please everyone.

My vision is not to replace or even compete with the linkages that are already formed. I do hope to strengthen them, though. If you have a full profile at LinkedIn and I have one at Facebook, is there any good reason why we would have to complete yet another to make contact in that forum? I think just a name and email would be adequate, at most, with a note that says "for more information, see" And, for those in the field who don't have a place (or would like another) where their profile is available for review, they can complete one at

I am not trying to build a social club, I'm aiming for a social cloud. :-)


Downes, S. (2005). Semantic networks and social networks. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 411-417.

Finin, T., Ding, L., Zhou, L. & Joshi, A. (2005). Social networking on the semantic web. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 418-435.

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