Monday, February 16, 2009

This Online Networking Thing? I'm Liking It


I've been a skeptic for years about social networking sites as tools for getting actual work done. I've peeked into MySpace and Facebook to see what all the excitement is about, but I just haven't seen any value there, at least for my work in community development and communications.

But I'm coming around to sites with tight niches that draw together people with similar interests or expertise. Two that I'm now visiting regularly:

Adventures in Nonprofit Communicating, "brought to you by Community Media Workshop," uses the ning.com template to offer cross-pollination among several hundred people involved in communications. Members post events, create discussions, put up videos and, of course, promote their causes. I learn things just by browsing around, and I've posted some videos that I think others would enjoy viewing.

Community Collab is still in beta form but already it offers two things that have kept me reading for five-minute stretches, which is a long time on a web site. There's a Work Update function that let's you see what some of the other 400 community-development-oriented members are up to, and there's a News section that aggregates lots of different web sites and blogs, nicely grouped in categories to lure me in. Collab was created by Webitects, Inc., for the national LISC organization, with Macarthur funding. A new "groups" function will be added soon, says Webitects' president Paul Baker, to encourage discussion and sharing of materials.

You have to become a member to get in on the action, of course, but I got over that hump and I've even gotten to know a few new people -- or know about them -- through the networking sites. For me, the sites are working well enough that I'll keep logging in.

Any suggestions on other sites worth visiting?

4 comments:

Gordon Mayer said...

It's a funny thing about social networks. You have to get your mind around this idea of the power of the group. That people will actually come to a network, and somehow magically they connect with each other and then stuff happens. Not just online, but actually in the real world. Hard to believe until it actually happens... I think of Imagine Englewood If using The Point to raise funds for a new garden tool storage shed, or at our ning (thanks for the shoutout, P!) a group that was spontaneously created by a member to look at how to upload video.

Anyway, you have to take it on faith at first that something's gonna happen, and it's just mindblowingly cool when it does!

Patrick Barry said...

Thanks, Gordon, for turning me on to The Point. I found the Englewood project and indeed they raised $2,026. Posted some nice videos too:

http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/where-hope-blooms-help-imagine-englewood-if-repair-damage-from-vandals

But it's not just taking things on faith. There are so many networks out there that you have to be constantly on the prowl, looking for what works and recognizing the clunkers for what they are. Which is why it's all the more important to tap into other networks (including really old-fashioned ones like email) to find out what's worth checking out.

L said...

Hey Patrick. You're right to be skeptic about social networking all these years because few tights really had a cohesive niche they catered to. Facebook started with one (college students), but in the expansion process, lost that quickly. Other sites boomed in this same way. However, it seems we are coming back full circle because on social networks, they are trying to carve out little communities in the huge ocean of people.

Lovette Ajayi
Marketing Coordinator
Community Media Workshop

P.S. You're awesome for the shoutout of the Ning site. Glad its of use and value to ya.

Mike Quinlan said...

Never heard of either one. just saved both under "my favorites" to look into further. thanks for the leads! websites like these live or die by good word of mouth.

Glad to hear i'm not the only one NOT into facebook or my space. is it a generational thing? Never was into Linkden for that matter either.

However I got a hunch "Yahoo Groups" may have some promise on the community level. need to look into it further though.

PS - What's "Ning"?