Social Networks – what makes them work
For some reason I’m being bombarded with social networks for scientists lately.
First of all: you can call your website a “social network”, but it’s just not a social network until there is actually a network of social interaction. There is no such thing as a “new social network website”, because if it’s new there’s nobody there and if there’s nobody there it’s not a network.
What makes sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn so successful is the fact that so many people are on there. You can actually find people you might want to connect with on those sites. They have different audiences – some more academic, musical, or professional than others – but what they have in common is that they’re big. MySpace is the ugliest website in the world. It’s like 1997 all over again when you visit it, even after their recent redesign, but teenagers and bands are all on there, so if you’re interested in either group, you actually have something to gain by joining, despite the blinding animations and overflow of crappy images. You can make your social networking website all pretty-looking and efficient but that doesn’t matter much if nobody is there.
The only social networking site for scientists that I’m a member of is Nature Network. It’s not perfect. It’s sometimes hard to find things, and the blogging software is frustrating if you’re used to typing in html, but the site is worthwhile because there are many members and many relevant groups to join and interesting blogs to comment on.
But critical mass isn’t everything either, and there might be a time when another site manages to attract a subpopulation of scientists and claim those for their network. Orkut and Hyves are both popular and successful (non-science) social networks that are open to an international audience, yet Orkut is mostly Brazilian and Hyves is mostly Dutch. I’m on Hyves because that’s where my high school and university friends from Holland all are. They’re slowly starting to seep into the pores of the Facebook network as well, but don’t actively use it as much as they do Hyves.
So while Nature Network might have the critical mass for scientists at the moment, don’t rule out that some of the other social networks might take specific subgroups or disciplines and be THE social networking site for them.Over time, there might also be a certain type of people that prefer NN over the other websites, and it might fall into its own niche. Judging by the groups and blogs, and undoubtedly as a result of its NPG origins, there seem to be a lot of writers and life scientists. I’m not complaining! Maybe the fact that I like it here is that there are others like me.
Over time, there might also be a certain type of people that prefer NN over the other websites, and it might fall into its own niche. Judging by the groups and blogs, and undoubtedly as a result of its NPG origins, there seem to be a lot of writers and life scientists. I’m not complaining! Maybe the fact that I like it here is that there are others like me.
There is no real point to this, I’m just typing out some thoughts so I don’t forget them, and since it was about NN I figured it was worth a blog post.