Networking: YASNs vs. blogs
I'm supposed to work on a paper abstract, but I find all reasons not to do it (I guess next to studying my own multitasking habits I have to study what turns me into "can't write right now" mode :) In such a case my favourite distractor is my news aggregator (if there are no new e-mails in my mailbox; old e-mails that need actions are not good as a distractor :), so I join the crowd enjoying flow of posts reflecting on Orkut (read overview and commentary by Lee Bryant).
My "reading distraction" turns into an urge to write when I see Dina's post, My Blog is my Social Software and my Social Network. Dina passionately explains the feeling that I share as well, something that made me writing at my Ryze page "I'm not sure what to write here, because my main internet identity is my blog".
I guess many bloggers will share this feeling, but then why YASNs manage to get us in? I'm thinking about differences between weblogs and on-line networking tools...
Fuzzy and emotional vs. clear and square
Reading a weblog creates very rich, but fuzzy image. I have been surprised so many times to find out somewhere else (often at Ryze :) that someone I thought I knew from a weblog was much older/had kids/worked for a company X/lived in a country Y. Weblogs do reveal a lot, but very often we omit trivial details we include in our business cards or tell at a first date.
In turn, YASN profiles are very explicit in following social conventions of introducing yourself: born..., studied..., work..., married, have 5 kids, big football fun. These profiles are not very warm and inviting, they square as business cards and I never experienced such a strong emotional connection from Ryze as I do with many bloggers.
Slow uncovering vs. instant visibility
Learning about someone from a weblog takes time. Personality appears in a context and through time to read many lines of weblog posts and to participate in conversations. And it's even more difficult to learn about someone's network: linking, blogrolls and RSS subscription lists tell a bit, but you never know if linking or blogrolling means regular reading and how many e-mails/IMs/calls were exchanged next to blogging.
At YASNs finding about someone's profile and network doesn't take much time (only invitation or access rights :) The degree and type of connection are still not clear, but at least you know that it was explicitly approved. Browsing through connections is easy and fun.
Building relations vs. browsing them
Both weblogs and YASNs have added values: weblogs are good for developing and maintaining relations, while YASNs are much better for surfing existing ones. Just compare how many new relations have you developed in each way (later: Paolo about it).
I'm thinking about YASNs and weblogs in terms of contact management (knowing whom and how you can reach) and relation management (knowing why you do it and why they would react). For networking you need both...
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Found just after finishing this post: comment by sneJ
I also think another aspect of what makes Orkut (and Friendster et al) not work is that there's no "there" there. The lack of personal journals/blogs makes the individual content sort of hollow. All you are given to learn about someone is pictures and a few short blurbs, which is nothing compared to stalking through their last few months of journal posts.SneJ reminds me that I totally forgot the model tha combines blogging and network browsing has been there long... I guess now we just need it flexible and decentralised.