This is my first foray into social networking, other than watching over my daughter's shoulder. By the way, just yesterday she told me she has taken down her MySpace page. It's been a constant with her for the last 3 years and she has thousands of "friends", most of whom she met in real life first and actually seems to know. She taught herself Flash and HTML programming because of it. I tried to engage her in a conversation about it and the most I could get out of her was, "it's just annoying now." Whether this is her growing up (19, first year of college) or MySpace being cluttered with ads and robot-friends or something else I'm not sure.

All that aside, this community has been a cool place so far for me, but I feel like I'm still missing parts of the puzzle.

Maybe some of you can clue me in on what I'm not seeing!

1. I don't quite understand what having "friends" means. I'm happy when someone asks me, but I don't know why. Should that matter? So I've accepted every invitation. But what does that get me? Is there something I should be doing with my friends that I'm not doing with other people? Am I supposed to be asking people to be friends too? What are friends for? (the musical portion of the question)

2. I wish there was some "here" here. I guess by that I mean a notice that someone is actually around live. Maybe that's just so last Thursday, but when I get an email saying that there is a new comment, and I go to the site and there are posts from minutes ago, I get the feeling like there are people "here" but I just can't see them or talk to them. It's like being a ghost in the room and seems sad somehow. I know this exists in some tools, and maybe this is a "coming soon" feature. So the question is, Is chatting important or not important to a community?

3. Why is the chatterwall different from posts? Is this the answer to #2?

Ning seems to have its little quirks and growing pains, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm asking for a guide to the social scene and a tour through people's heads.

Views: 41

Comment by Steve Hargadon on April 7, 2007 at 10:38am
At 19 (my oldest daughter's age), everyone is moving to Facebook.... since that is where all the college folks are. And it's less "garish" :).

I, too, would like a live-chat kind of deal, or IM, built-in. The only problem I can see with that is that it is not really an "historical" technology--meaning, part of what I love about the forum discussions and blog posting is the capturing of the dialog.

I'd like it if they'd add a "I'm live on Skype" button because integrating Skype would allow for both voice and text messages. I do more chatting in Skype than I ever thought I would, and the quick voice calls are becoming more and more an integral part of my interaction.

My impression of the "friends" thing is that when the number of users of a social network gets big enough, it could be an easy way to find someone you are trying to ping or contact. I'd be curious what Ning's vision of it is. I'm supposed to be interviewing Gina from Ning soon, and I'll try to ask her that!
Comment by Sylvia Martinez on April 7, 2007 at 10:49am
Yeah, she has a Facebook page, but doesn't really use it like she used MySpace.

She also read this over my shoulder and gave me some explanation about Rupert Murdoch and how she wasn't going to support him taking over the world (like a good Trotskyite first year college student should. I'm so proud!)

Right now this is a good example, I posted that blog and got your comment seconds later. I don't really want to talk to you right now (nothing personal) - but I would somehow feel better, I think, if I saw that little glowing button next to your name. Maybe that's just crazy.
Comment by nlowell on April 7, 2007 at 11:14am
I invited everybody here to be my friend as they joined up. Most have accepted. I don't know why, other than it was a way to encourage people to participate.

The one difference I see is that, when you're a friend, I get to see your connections in the Ning toolbar up at the top of the screen. (Click on the little "person" icon in the black bar at the top). And I get to see everybody who's a friend, even if you're not in the community I happen to be in at the time.

I'm with you about the "who's here now" feature. A lot of standard boards have a status bar that tells ya how many people are logged in, who's a member, how many are 'guests' .. you wouldn't THINK that would be so difficult to do here.
Comment by Teacher K on April 7, 2007 at 11:16am
I agree that it would be nice to have a way to tell who is live right now.

A functionality with friends that I have seen on another site and would love to see here is a page that contains all of your friends and their latest blog and forum posts. That way it is easy to track the movements of your favorite people.
Comment by Andrew Pass on April 7, 2007 at 1:31pm
I was starting to wonder the same thing about friends. I like Steve's suggestion about Skype. Interestingly, as I just thought about that, I turned on my Skype and see that Steve's online, somewhere.
I guess I'm still struggling with whether or not social sites like ths are helpful. I'm here because other people are here. But I'm not sure if I'm communicating any differently than I would on other roadways of the virtual world.


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