A bunch of people recently have asked me about doing one thing or another online and I find myself recommending the same services again and again so I though I’d just make a post covering a few of the services I use a lot and suggest other people use. I’ll also briefly mention a few of ones I’m still looking at or avoiding all together. Also, let me preface this by saying I’m not stupid enough to think any of these applications themselves are “social” because, well, they are software, but that they enable people to be more social online. Which is good. Also, these are in addition to your own personal or business blog or website, obviously. Also not including communication things like instant messaging, video conferencing or e-mail.
Details and info about these and others after the jump.
Flickr – If by some crazy chance you don’t realize this Flickr is an online photo hosting & sharing service. In my opinion it’s the most useful and worthwhile service out there both for keeping your own stuff online and for seeing what’s going on in the eyes of your friends. An account is free but the pro version which lifts pretty much ever size and storage restriction is only $24 a year and completely worth it. Even if you don’t take a lot of photos yourself, there’s nothing quite like seeing the photos your friends and family have taken and posted recently all together. It gives you an amazing visual into their lives, and with the ability to comment and add notes to pics (assuming your friends allow that) you can have cnversations right inline with the photos. Really if I could only have one account on one website it would be this. I use it more than anything else and love it like no other. (my profile)
LinkedIn – Strictly business here, but if you have a job, have had a job, know people who have jobs, are considering getting a job, or anything else along those lines it’s worth it to sign up. At facevalue it’s just your resume and work history online, but the ability to connect with coowrkers, friends, employees, bosses, etc turns it into a massive network of people in your field with connections to other fields that is really unlike anything else. I know several companies who do their hiring exclusively though personal recommendations and contacts on this site. If you don’t give a crap about a job or working or anything then maybe this isn’t for you so much. (my profile)
Twitter – I’ve talked about Twitter before and said that this site changed the way I communicate and interact with people and that is just as true today as ever. This is a great video that briefly describes it’s usefulness, but it’s so much more. Clive Thompson wrote in this Wired piece that Twitter creates a “social sixth sense” and that’s an amazing way to put it. By using twitter you essentially take your list of contacts, friends, family, coworkers, mentors, etc and bring them into one global chat room. But rather than you actively going to the chartoom and having to look in on it, it comes to you, passively surrounds you, keeping you up to date on only the bits and pieces that you want.
I’ve met many people through Twitter, had in depth conversations with them, and really gotten to know them without ever meeting them in person. Of course when I have met them face to face later on it didn’t seem like a first meeting at all. In some long lost (at least to me) blog post Joi Ito described the difference between simply having someones contact and spending time with them online in something like IRC or an MMORPG as the difference between just being introduced to someone or feeling like you’ve hung out with them and what Twitter does better than anything else is give you that connection and feeling of having spent time hanging out and socializing with people. When people ask me to introduce them to someone, more and more often I’m hooking them up on Twitter in addition to the usual shaking hands and kissing babies. (my profile)
Dopplr – Dopplr is all about travel and about creating coincidential connections between people who may end up in the same cities at the same time. This works wonderfully if you travel a lot yourself, but also works for people who don’t but have friends who do. I live in Los Angeles and have friends who live here and elsewhere that frequently I run into while in other cities when we are both traveling. This used to take a lot of work and coordination on both our parts, but Dopplr makes it easy. Additionally I have friends who never leave their town but use Dopplr to see when their friends are going to be passing through and it allows them to make sure not to have any of those “oh damn, I wish I’d known you were in town” moments. While the other services I’ve mentioned so far have been very good at enabling connections with others online, Dopplr actually takes those ties and links and creates real world, in the flesh connections. (my profile)
pbwiki – Once you know all these people and are talking to them online, you are bound to end up working on something with them. Could be a new business idea, could be a weekend pot luck dinner, could just be a collection of ideas several of you want to build on. You need a wiki for that, which is a website that people can edit and add to right from the web, and pbwiki is the simplest, easiest way to get one up and running in seconds. You also get to decide who can edit what, and it’s free (though there are also paid versions with more features). Set up one for a specific project, or just set up one for yourself and invite your friends to collaborate on it with you. Here’s mine to give you an idea how I use it. Once you have a pbwiki account you keep track of all the wikis you work on and contribute to, and they’ll even e-mail you letting you know when one has been edited if you want.
Google Apps (docs, calendar, etc) – And finally, the mother of all and most overlooked on this is Google’s suite of online applications. Create Word docs and let several people edit them all at the same time. Add and event on your calendar and invite other people to it, or even share your whole schedule with folks who need to know where you will be. Lots of import and export options, and all linked with GMail as well. This is really super amazing and useful and just about all the people I work with use one part of it or another.
Using just those few things listed above you’ll be able to meet more people, online and in person, and work on super cool things with them no matter where you are both based.
The WORTH LOOKING AT list: Facebook, Brightkite, Trazzler, FriendFeed, Aviary, Jaiku, Pownce, Plazes, SmugMug, Tumblr
Caveat: Some of these sites or services do similar things as the ones above, some do new things all together, and each has their own privacy and security issues you should look into on your own and make sure you are comfortable with before diving into head first.
The NOT SURE THEY ARE WORTH YOUR TIME TO LOOK AT BUT NO ARGUING THAT THEY DO IN FACT EXIST list: MySpace
OK actually this list was much longer but I chopped it, no reason to recommend things I don’t recommend. But yeah, MySpace blows, but that’s no secret.