Yet another social network company has come onto the scene, a space already littered with entrants like LinkedIn, Orkut, and Ryze. SocialGrid has an interesting twist, though: they claim that they can automatically go out and use Google to profile members and create profiles, rather than requiring members to laboriously enter their profile into yet another form.
However, I signed up and found that for a site that theoretically could access any of billions of people (ostensibly) it felt like a very sparsely populated match.com sort of site. Indeed, I think I’m only the second person from Colorado to join the site (and, yes, I still had to fill in some profile information, somewhat negating their pitch).
As an interesting side note, my friend and colleague Greg Berry of Think Tank West commented thusly about SocialGrid.com:
This is interesting — it addresses one of the biggest hurdles I see for
social networks, namely that it uses data that already exists. I am a
strong believer that one of the real problems of these services is that
have to input — and update — data about yourself and your relations.
However, I’m unclear how it addresses a few other salient issues:
– accurate rendition of the trust networks. While it’s a secondary
issue for the dating side of this application, it’s primary for the
applications (where my interest lies). If I can list Steve Jobs as a
contact of mine because I met him at a conference once, and he does not
to confirm that, then it’s pretty meaningless.
– privacy. What if I’m not in the market for a hot date, but my
personal web page has data that matches an ongoing search, making me a
‘mark’ for someone who is? I suppose this is a risk I’m taking already,
this product makes the implicit explicit.
The entire “network of trust” is a fascinating concept and one that’s well worth considering in these modern times. Orkut email has devolved into party invitations for events 1500 miles from my house and announcements of yet more ‘communities’ being formed, Ryze has collapsed into the world of MLM and network marketing (blech!), and LinkedIn just a few days ago emailed me a note explaining how to have email from non-linked members either prioritized lower in my mailbox or completely blocked. Why? Because, as I’ve written about before, getting requests for links from people you don’t know is not, in fact, an effective method of expanding your social / business circle, but social spam (the Yahoo! people are starting to call this snam, for social networking spam, but that’s a dopey kinda acronym in my opinion).
The crux of the problem? Social networks set up an expectation of some level of trust and cooperation between members, then members violate that trust because they perceive it to be at quite different levels. It’s a fundamental problem and one that – to their credit – LinkedIn and Orkut are both trying to address. Ryze? They not only don’t have that capability, I now seem to have someone who leaves messages in my “guest book” that even compromise the value and integrity of that (shallow) networking device.
And SocialGrid? They have a tough space to work within, so let’s see how things go. But good luck to them!