Before you start bashing me up, by email-like I mean they should be open. Nah, this open does not mean being a platform or letting others get the data. Open means ability to talk to anyone you want to across the boundaries of tools and technologies. Imagine if you could send email to only another Yahoo! account holder from your Yahoo! email account. Feel free to replace Yahoo! with whatever email host you use. Would it work? Rather, would it be effective? Isn’t effectiveness the factor to consider when you decide to use a tool or not? This is one of the reasons why email still lives, in spite of developments in social networks and email not being most convenient.
We are seeing the social network fatigue or exhaustion, and I am facing something similar because of the number of different ways and places to do it. Let me list the number of social tools I end up using – twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, del.icio.us, Facebook, Ryze, LinkedIn, Orkut and I am sure there are more. Of course I joined some of them to test them out, but ended up developing a network there which I cannot carry anywhere else. Most of them are similar in functionality, but I cannot stop using one without the risk of losing contacts and friends. All this in addition to this blog and my feed readers.
The combination of a plethora of these tools and preference of every contact I have, has created this mesh which I have to go through frequently. This has not only distributed my online presence, but also made me use more ways to keep in touch. Scoble says Facebook is the modern day rolodex. No way, I do not force my contacts to be part of a social network to be part of my address book!
How can this be handled? In my opinion, we need social networking tools to be more email like. Instant Messaging is already heading in that direction with Jabber, though everyone has not adopted it yet. Also, opening up the social networks might mean using some standard protocol or might require more work, but today it is important for users like me to build my real social network, which is an aggregation of all social sub-networks, if you will. Otherwise I am afraid they will soon stop being effective.
I have alleviated some pain by feeding other sources at Jaiku, so that at least one can go to this place and see some of my activities in single place. However, that is still one-way. No doubt every tool comes with its own speciality and flavor. But if they intend to replace my address book or other communication ways, they have be interoperable with others. I wish social networking tools behave more like email hosts, with least restrictions, not only for me but also my social network.