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Social Networking – have you got the IT factor.

Fair, fat and forty-ish may be an accurate description of myself (ed note. We think Gadget Man is too hard on himself), but I don’t recommend it as a description for a ‘My Space’ page. So far, despite the fact the site has 106 million members, no one has offered to be my friend. Now, that’s rejection.

This month we look at ‘social networking’ websites.

My Space
With 230,000 new registrations each day, myspace is considered the field leader. After registering at myspace (for free), you create a web page that includes a profile of yourself, a list of your interests, and a description of ‘who you would like to meet’. You can maintain an online diary (‘a blog’) and share music and videos. You can search for other members with similar interests and tastes, and offer to become their ‘friends’. It is easy to keep track of your friends’ activities, and myspace has its own chat and internal email service.

Apparently a number of celebrities maintain a myspace page, and many musicians and bands use myspace to distribute new music. And some myspace members have apparently become (minor) celebrities through their myspace popularity.

Unfortunately, the only people who have wanted to be my friend have been the ‘live webcam’ group – and I suspect they have ulterior motives related to emptying my wallet. Myspace keeps track of the most popular myspace members – I don’t think I’ll be troubling the scorers any time soon. You’ll find me on the bottom of the board of honour, or perhaps by searching for ‘tlembke’.

Despite the difficult spelling, I like del.icio.us a lot.

Del.icio.us is a site where you can store bookmarks of web sites that you visit. This is made easy by a number of tools and plug-ins, especially for the Firefox browser.

Say you find a website on fibromyalgia that you’d like to save for future reference. Click the del.icio.us button – tag it as ‘PatientEducation’ and ‘Fibromyalgia’ – and keep browsing. Later, no matter where you are and what computer you are using, you can retrieve all the sites that you have previously saved.

The beauty of del.icio.us is that you can also look up all the other sites tagged by other users, providing collective learning. The del.icio.us home page provides a snapshot of which websites are the most popular, right now. Look at recommended fibromyalgia websites by visiting http://del.icio.us/tags/fibromyalgia. You can look at all the sites that I have found interesting by going to del.icio.us/tlembke or del.icio.us/tags/emalidigest

Journalism provides a filter to the news – of all the stories that come in ‘over the wire’ journalists decide which earn a place in the paper.

Digg.com uses a different approach. The readers decide which stories are the most interesting.

Anyone can post a piece of news to the digg site. All new postings are available on a special page and visitors can vote if they ‘dig’ a particular article. Only the stories that receive the most ‘diggs’ make it to the home page – the rest are doomed to obscurity. I tested the system by posting a previous L Files article. It received only one ‘Digg’. Clearly, the readers of digg are not very discerning.

Digg articles mainly concern IT matters. Undoubtedly, reader generated relevance will become commonplace in more general news.

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Wikipedia is probably the most useful site on the web. Wikihow continues in the same theme. Anyone can post (or edit) a ‘How To’ article on any subject. Recent postings include ‘How to Get an Airline Upgrade’, ‘How to Repair the brakes on a bike’, ‘How to pitch a baseball, and ‘How to run up a wall and do a matrix-like backflip’.

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We have previously mentioned Flickr.com, which facilitates the sharing of photos. YouTube does the same for video footage. After creating an account, you can upload your own home videos and movies, which others can then watch. There are a number of professionally made short films and classic advertisements that have been posted, as well as millions of ‘here’s the kids at the Grand Canyon’ and ‘isn’t my baby cute’ forgettable moments.

We have previously discussed services which allow collaboration on documents. Google is consolidating this service, with docs.google.com. In conjunction with these newer social networking services, the web is beginning to fulfil its potential to connect people – that is, of course unless you are fair, fat and forty.
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