We’re close to finishing, and with not much time to do so. Thing 21 required us to investigate social networks other than MySpace and Facebook. I’m quite familiar with these applications, but hadn’t heard of many of the social networks mentioned through Thing 21.
One of these social networks was Gather, which is somehow affiliated with National Public Radio. I did not join Gather or any other social network through this Thing because, well, I don’t need yet another set of user names and passwords to keep track of, nor do I believe in scattering my information around simply to try out an application. Gather did give me some information on its front page that I could use, via its poll in the sidebar. I liked the format of Gather and that I could read the comments people left without being a member.
I also checked out Ning, which is an application that allows you to create your own social network. I decided to look for writing networks, but discovered that most of them were closed to the general public without a user name and password. The ones I was able to look at seemed to be networks that people had started and then abandoned.
This leads me to an observation. While MySpace and Facebook are all the rage right now, and they seem to be getting dissed for that, I think the best social networks are those that open themselves up to the multitudes. There’s something about having a mass of people to draw from that makes these networks click, plus, you don’t have the irritation of belonging to a different social network than your friends do.
The suggestion has been made that museums should join MySpace and Facebook and other social networks – as many as possible – in order to gain greater visibility. But, from what I’ve seen, the best social networks are the ones where the users are most active in updating their pages and profiles. Gather appears to have a good deal of activity, while a lot of the networks on Ning are languishing. Given that activity is a necessity, I don’t see that we’d have time to join a bunch of social networks and stay current with them. While Ning contains a number of abandoned social networks, the beauty of the application is that it could be adapted to a particular use for a museum, say for creating a network of genealogists.