Facework works well. Better, I think, than LinkedIn.
Take the case of Kevin Slavin. I heard Kevin speak in New York City in early March this year at PFSK. I was wowed by his presentation. I thought to myself this is one way to glimpse the future, listen to a real smart guy who has found a way to turn Manhattan into a large-scale, real-world game.
But it doesn’t really matter how I impressed I was. Four months later, Kevin was becoming an ever fainter memory. I’ve been pinballing around Europe and North America. And with a memory like mine, unless there is some kind of reinforcement, the node in memory slowly begins to…go…out. (I was in fact beginning to forget about Kevin altogether when the idea for this blog occurred to me. )
Now, take the case of Ed Tam. I meant Ed at Interesting2007, Russell Davies’ event in London last week. Smart guy, really impressive. I remember thinking, as we stood drinking at the bar, "geez, if ever there’s another Sir Martin Sorel, this could be the guy." As it turns out, Ed is in transition and will be relocating to Hong Kong. There’s a good chance I won’t ever see him again. (Unless again he turns out to be the next Sir Martin Sorel.) In fact, by October (4 months, from now) there’s a good chance that Ed will be a diminished and diminishing memory, too.
And this is where Facebook comes in. Ed is now one of my friends on Facebook, so I keep seeing his name there. And this is enough to persuade me (ok, I’m an idiot), that we are still in touch. Now, if Ed had a real picture of himself (he uses a Wii image), I would have a still more vivid sense of him. And if he posted his daily activities, as other friends do, I would have a really vivid sense. I would now his life as well as I do that of Charles Frith.
So, Facebook supplies the repetition and the additional details to allow the network and memory node to form. And it turns out that this works not only for new acquaintances, but also for quite good friends. Debbie Millman and I know one another quite well, but we travel in different orbits. Having her on my Facebook list makes her more vivid too.
Facebook is better than LinkedIn in another way. I’m persuaded that all this networking is going to pay off soon. We will see it help to sort the world, so that we end up knowing more people who share our interests, and more people who have the interests we need to make our own. As it stands, LinkedIn does not capture enough information to make this sorting possible. Facebook, plainly, does. See my StuffCloud for instance. This is a list of the things that interest me. One of these days it will be used to discover contacts in a way that LinkedIn, as it is now constituted, never can.
As it stands, the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook is a little like the difference between Microsoft and Apple. The first term in both cases is business like, narrow, not very imaginative, and it reduces our complexity so dramatically that it may record our social connections, but it is not likely to help us create them. The second term is, well, a little more lifelike. Like the networks we’re going to care about.