Minimum Population of a "real" Social Network

Marc Canter says (or at least implies) that a social network with 5 people in it isn’t a real social network. I couldn’t disagree more.

There are 4 people in my immediate family, and let me tell you, there is no more social network out there.

What defines a social network? Number of hits? Ad revenue? If you ask me, the tool doesn’t define the social network – the community does. And I believe communities come in all sizes and shapes. I see nothing wrong with a small group of people wishing to collaborate in the cloud – it sounds a heck of a lot nicer than Facebook, truth be told.

My favorite social networks are not the monster amalgamations of strangers that form the current la-dee-da Web 2.0 acquisition market. My favorite social networks are kind of like the corner bar — where everybody knows your name (or at least your nick) and where you have a history that means something to others, while simultaneously caring about the history others have built with you. Why did Flickr users grieve when they lost their original identifiers? Because it was a little piece of their community history, taken away, diluted into a homogenized mix by a service with altered goals.

Saying a social network isn’t successful or shouldn’t be counted because it is small is like only counting a restaurant as successful if it has a franchise attached – who cares about the corner cafe, when you could have a Burger King, right?

I care. I suspect a lot of other folks care too.

2 thoughts on “Minimum Population of a "real" Social Network

  1. Pam,

    Great point, and fantastic to see someone completely within the IT world able to discriminate between the concept and the tool used to implement that concept.

    Social networks have been around since before humans walked the earth; even today human social networks exist in pubs, sports teams, church communities and so on. The list is endless and so is the nature of the social networks that exist. I have a social network that has existed for 20 years- it has no single common unifying factor; not religion, politics, location, sex, colour of your skin or age. The network has used postal mail, telephones, e-mail distribution and a group from a large internet company beginning with Y!. Will this group of people become a stronger network because they use Ning (or any other Web 2.0 social site)? Absolutely not. Will it change as we grow older, have children, change life priorities etc? Completely, and so will your immediately family network change because of marriage and birth (yay!) and unfortunately death (boo).

    So, do our, IMHO, incredibly strong networks appear in Ning’s 200,000? No, and most likely they never will. And it is precisely because of that fact that the human race will continue to interact with each other in diverse, fantastic and ever more distributed ways. Go on, go talk to someone. It will make their day

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