Plain Old Networking and Social Networking

Microsoft's beta Aggreg8 site

As part of the Web 2.0 buzz, everybody talks about “social networking.” But unless you use MySpace or, I’ll bet you wouldn’t claim to participate in social networking, right? However, I’ll also bet that at some point in your life you’ve probably found a job by following up on a tip from a friend or acquaintance. How about solving a technical problem? I once saw a study that said that the first resource IT pros call on is the person in the next cubicle. Newsgroups and forums are the second resource for technical problems. Getting job leads from friends, consulting with coworkers, and turning to forums and newsgroups are all forms of “networking” that we all use every day.

So what’s the difference between that kind of networking and “social” networking? Actually, I think the only difference is where and how you do the networking. I’ve been thinking about social networking because I had an interesting conversation the other day with Mike Ward, who works on Microsoft’s US IT Pro Audience team and who is in charge of a new experiment in social networking for IT folks. It’s a beta effort called Aggreg8, and here’s a link to it:

Here's a description of Aggreg8 that I copied from the site: “Aggreg8 is all about IT, so you know the people here are living in the same professional world as you are. Invite in your peers and you can keep track of your trusted network. Then you can collaborate with just your network in working groups. Soon we'll be adding more features focused on helping you to extend your network and do more with your trusted network.”

            In response to a user’s question about how Aggreg8 is different from other sites, Mike Ward said:

Here is how we view it different from what is out there:

* Social networking.  Seems light right now, but before the end of the year we are planning on much more robust networking features to help IT Pros connect.  We're also going to put the social networking into play in other areas of the site allowing you to filter by degree of separation etc.

* Privacy - you can create working groups that are totally private.  So if you have a user group you want to connect with, share documents etc you can create an area to do this in totally privacy.

* IT focus - there really are not a lot of IT related communities out there.  Most are developer focused.  My group is driven solely to increase satisfaction with how Microsoft supports the IT Community. This is something that has come up in surveys as a main pain point. Also, in a functional sense we will be adding specific IT features. Example - we're going to add a posting type for selling hardware. 


Some examples of working groups that I looked at on the site include a German-language group where people talk about things like salaries in the US vs. Germany; the “All Your Batch” group for exchanging scripts and knowledge about batch scripting; and even groups for non-Microsoft platforms such as Sun and Oracle. I could spend days browsing around in all the fascinating topics!
            I’d love to hear what you all think about the whole idea of social networking as part of your job. And I’m really curious to hear what you think about Aggreg8. Check it out at the link above and send me an email ([email protected]) or comment here.

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