It's the start of 2010 and social networking reached another level during 2009, changing the lifes of many and also confusing many others, following are my views on the two most popular at the moment and other services I've used that may make a bigger mark during 2010.
Different generations go for different social tools, the school gen used Bebo, music fans used MySpace, my gen (working folk) used FriendsReunited. These mediums are aimed at those interested in seeing what people they know or interest in are upto and may wish to keep in contact with. With FriendsReunited it was free to view profiles but you had to pay a subscription if you wished to contact anyone you knew.
Then Facebook came along which was original aimed at the Bebo generation (those still at school) but they cottoned on that it was better to open it up to everyone and soon everyone on FriendsReunited was moving over to the free Facebook. Over it's short life it's changed alot, originally you navigated to each friends profile page which was peppered with various useful/annoying gadgets. Over time it's evolved to it's current focus of a live feed of friends updates and photos. Expect Facebook to continue to change, probable more in the direction of Twitter, read on for an idea of what maybe changed...
The first time I tried Twitter was in 2008, at the time I couldn't see the value in it, wondering what the point was, who's interested in knowing what someone is doing. A few months later I gave it another go and it clicked on how valuable a social tool it was. I see Twitter as mainly a communication tool to people you mainly don't know but may share some common interests. I've found it invaluable for finding out what's going
on locally both news wise and event wise, when Kendal had the floods last month Twitter became the networking tool for finding out what local roads were closed/passable, the river level height and seeing all the photos everyone was taking (mine included).
The same networking happened over the past couple of weeks with the unusually long period of snowfall in the south lakes. Twitter has been a good avenue for networking of local businesses, it's impressive how local businesses are using the tool in an interesting way to make their business presence know (no annoy spamming tweets going on). I can see twitter and facebook playing a big part in the run up to the 2010 elections, will be interesting to see how all local candidates use these tools, some are on a good start, others not out of the starting blocks, hopefully these tools won't be abused to spam the electorate.
Twitter has improved with a Lists feature where instead of following an individual you can add them to a personal list or if they belong to a list subscribe to that list. I use this for grouping people I'm interested in into categories to make it easier to follow what's going on. I can see making/following Lists becoming more important than following individuals, I have Lists for Kendal, Cumbria, local-news, local-gov, cumbria-enterprise.
An application well worth using if you use Twitter or Facebook is Tweetdeck this tool makes it easier to see all your Twitter followers, Twitter Lists, Facebook live feed altogether as well as see live update results of Twitter searches which is useful for finding new interesting people to follow. You can write a status update and have it sent to your Twitter and Facebook accounts at the same time saving effort.
Other services for Twitter have sprung up, I used one called TwitterMail to good effect during 2009, first time was in the spring when we rigged our birdboxes in the garden with camera's connected to an old PC (our local SpringWatch). I wrote a script that would periodically take a photo and using TwitterMail post it to my Twitter account for everyone to see. Later on in the year I did a 12mile geocaching walk around Wetsleddale where on my iPod touch I did a series of diary entries of the route with photo, back home merged the photos with the diary entries then sent them to Twitter using TwitterMail. Hopeing to use the service again this coming Spring (subject to the Bluetits returning)
Friendfeed was touted as the replacement to Twitter, but really it's just a service for aggregating all the various services that are used in a central place, all updates from blogger, twitter, facebook, youtube, picasa automatically appear on my friendfeed page. If people I know are wanting to know where to find me I usually send them the friendfeed so they can see everyone. It's very google as looking at links in your feeds and for photos or videos placing a thumbnail in your friendfeed.
During 2009 Friendfeed was bought by Facebook so you may see alot of Friendfeed's features appearing in Facebooks Live Feed in the near future, I'm looking forward to uploading photos to Google PicasaWeb and have Facebook automatically add a status update to the live feed announcing the new album to my friend, will save me manually uploading them to Facebook.
This ramble has gone on too long - Happy New Year