tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

South Downs Ecademy Club / online social networks

It was an interesting Lewes Ecademy meeting last night as I bumped in to Phil Booth and we chatted about social networks, wifi, post-.com bubbles and other things. We agreed that there's now so many new ideas and software coming out for new areas of organising to do with the internet that it's almost impossible to keep track of them, let alone decide which one is going to be big. It's become a matter of something catching on and you thinking "Damn, I read about that months ago. Who knew people would like it?"

I enjoy talking to Phil because not only is he very energetic, but we have a similar thinking when it comes to new software or processes - that the human is at the centre of what you are trying to achieve, not the computer, or whatever you are using to deliver what you are creating. That can be so easily forgotten when a group of people are putting something together, whether it be a ten page website about recipes or a four-year massive software project.

Also being talked about was the large number of on-line networking organisations that have sprung up recently. LinkedIn, Okrut and a variety of others. Some will succeed, many will fall by the wayside or be absorbed in to other offerings.

As with anything on-line, social networks have the problem of not only getting people to sign-up, but come back and do things. 'Stickiness' as it used to be called, or how often people come back and see what you're doing, and what your advertisers are selling, is a tricky thing to manage. All mailing lists, forums and newsgroups have a natural attrition rate. People forget to check a site, or they change computer and can't remember their password, or just generally don't find it interesting enough to come back. This last one is a killer, and fighting it generally involves creating content that people are interested in, making them feel part of the site, and getting people to contribute themselves.

For business-type social networks it is important that registered users feel they will gain work or customers through the network, either directly from other users of the site, or from people they know.

I think Ecademy is doing quite well for keeping alive and interesting. On-line it has blogs, clubs and articles that people can contribute to and comment on. Off-line it has regular meet ups across the country and a league of signed up users encouraging others to sign up. I do know several people who feel they do not and will not get anything from Ecademy, but I also know people who have had work through it. As with anything, you get out what you are willing to put in and I think those who put in the effort to show they know what they are doing and are contributing to the system tend to be the ones who get an advantage out of it in the long run. Unfortunately there's no network you can sign up to and expect to just get work straight away, or if there is can you please tell me about it.
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