Real Social

Freshness Warning
This article is over 10 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current.

Tim Bray explains how social networks really work:

John is the guy who’s building the new room for the new kid; he was recommended by Diane, who’s a friend who used to work with Lauren ... We got Albin to do the electrical work, I met Albin through my old friend Glen, I rent an office from Glen ... and he brought Albin in to run the wires for the DSL at the store/office. Turns out John is going to be doing some work for Tracy three doors down, whose boy and ours play all the time and sleep over and so on; but Tracy met John not through us but via Nick’s mom. ... John and Albin hit it off and they’ll probably call each other in for carpentry and electrical work in future. Why do we need computers to help us with this?

The promise behind social networks is to make these types of connections easier to find. Right now, the connections are largely serendipitous. Tim or his wife probably mentioned in passing to Diane that they wanted to build an addition and Diane mentioned how she knew this great contractor. If the Bray’s hadn’t had this happy conversation, then they’d never have found John and John wouldn’t have met Albin.

In January my fence blew down and I needed it replaced. In the view of social networking, the ideal situation would have been for me to check my network online to find someone that knew a contractor. The problem is, very few of my real-life network can be found on my online network. Sure I could invite them all, but spamming my friends to get them to join a service so that I may benefit isn’t my style.

The people that are linked to me through online social networking tools are in most cases not local to me, and in many cases, not all that well known to me. At Barcamp this past weekend I met Enoch Choi. We talked for an hour or so and I’ll likely continue having conversations with him. But if I needed a recommendation for a plumber, it would be silly for me to ask him.

A while back I wrote:

Social software sites make it easier for people to make connections with others. This reduction in friction encourages people to make connections to everyone—even those to which they have only a tenuous relationship.

One of these "sort-of" relationships is a useful link in the social network chain. The strength of a connection determines what sort of recommendation I’ll ask someone for. I don’t really know my next-door neighbor, but I’ll ask him for the name of his pool guy. I wouldn’t ask him to get me a meeting with the CEO of the company he works for.

Social networking could be useful in everyday situations. It could help make connections that I might not otherwise find. It could help me discover that my son’s baseball coach has a brother who pours concrete. But in order to do that, my everyday contacts need to already be available in the online tools. And the tools need ways of helping define the strengths of those connections.

Your comments:

Text only, no HTML. URLs will automatically be converted to links. Your email address is required, but it will not be displayed on the site.


Not your company or your SEO link. Comments without a real name will be deleted as spam.

Email: (not displayed)

If you don't feel comfortable giving me your real email address, don't expect me to feel comfortable publishing your comment.

Website (optional):

Follow me on Twitter

Best Of

  • Rounded corners in CSS There lots of ways to create rounded corners with CSS, but they always require lots of complex HTML and CSS. This is simpler.
  • Embrace the medium The Web is different than print, television, or any other medium. To be successful, designers must embrace those differences.
  • Writing Realistic Job Descriptions Publish a job listing like this one and you are virtually guaranteeing that you won't get qualified applicants for the position.
  • Lock-in is bad T-Mobile thinks they'll get new Hotspot customers with exclusive content and locked-in devices.
  • Movie marketing on a budget Mark Cuban's looking for more cost effective ways to market movies.
  • More of the best »

Recently Read

Get More

Subscribe | Archives



Turkey Legs (May 30)
Product naming gone awry.
Speaking for Geeks: Your Slides (Dec 17)
Tips and tricks for creating great slides.
Speaking for Geeks: Writing Your Talk (Dec 14)
Don’t wait until the night before the talk to write it. Crazy, I know.
Speaking for Geeks: Tell a Story (Dec 13)
Telling a story keeps your presentation focused, keeps your audience interested, and makes it easier for you to remember your talk.
Speaking for Geeks: Where to speak (Dec 11)
You've got a great idea for a talk. How do you find conferences to submit it to?
Speaking for Geeks: Getting your session accepted (Dec 10)
Your conference speaking submissions are not getting accepted because they're bad. Here's how to make them better.
Speaking for Geeks: What Should I Talk About? (Dec 9)
Don't wait for that conference to come calling before you start planning for it.
You should speak at conferences. Yes, you. (Dec 8)
Developers, you should give talks at conferences and your local meetups. It's easier than you think, and you’ll improve your career.

Subscribe to this site's feed.


Voice and communications platforms, including Tropo and Phono. Work.
The Sacramento technology startup community.
Pinewood Freak
Pinewood Derby tips and tricks


Adam Kalsey

Mobile: 916.600.2497

Email: adam AT

AIM or Skype: akalsey



©1999-2016 Adam Kalsey.
Content management by Movable Type.