This post is prompted by a tweet from Euan Semple to the effect that he is considering relinquishing control of his LinkedIn account and just accepting invites whether or not he knows the person. In LinkedIn parlance he will become an "open networker" and if he wants he can have a (LinkedIn) badge to prove it.
For me this all wrong. But if Euan is considering it, I need to investigate whether it is wrong, whether I'm wrong or whether it doesn't really matter. This is my start. Trying to articulate views. And showing where I have sympathy with alternate views. I'd like to chat with others to increase my understanding of the alternate views.
Before I go any further I need to make it clear that I am not "having a go" at Euan. I have a lot of time for him. I introduced him into the organisation that I worked for to start opening sceptical eyes to the potential of Social Media, as he hates it being called. And I follow his blog, newsletter and tweets avidly.
Euan says he went "open" on Facebook a while ago. I am still considering whether to drop some "friends" from my massive total of 93. Some are really colleagues, and not even the ones I would go out for a beer with. Some colleagues are friends - the go out for a beer/coffee/wine is not quite the acid test but it is a good first sieve for me.
I tend to be lazy about the non-friends who don't say much - they are not cluttering up my wall. (I understand why it is called a wall, but I think of it more as a stream with little paper boats, made by friends, with notes and pictures attached, floating down it). I get annoyed with those who only communicate by publishing game scores. But I can and do filter out game communications.
My ideal wall is full of little snippets of news about what my friends and family are doing, thinking and considering. I particularly enjoy little insights into things my family probably wouldn't bother telling me because they'd think it was not that important, or they forget before we have a chance to talk. I also enjoy getting snippets from perhaps not so close friends who have moved away. In previous times we'd probably drift apart or have the round robin newsletter at Xmas in an attempt to keep in touch. But now we can get those little pieces of news that keep them in mind and let you at least feel that you are keeping in touch, without forcing it.
So given my idyllic view of mountain streams and paper boats, being open on Facebook would be like having 100 tons of slurry dumped upstream. "Where did the boats go?"
So much for the subjective feelings. I can do objective. I realise that I can filter. On Twitter I don't so much follow lots of people (enough to keep the all friends feed moving 1-2 times a minute) but I have search term feeds some set very wide, and I am learning to dip into the stream rather than try to drink it all. I know the techniques for coping with large volumes of stuff: tight search terms; filter; lists etc and use them for professional aspects of my life, but I don't want to have to mess with that with friends.
LinkedIn may be different. The people are different. They may overlap with friends but the sense of obligations are different. And LinkedIn is pushing people into this more open networking environment by limiting what you can see unless you pay for one of their premium services. Seeing full names of 3rd level connections has recently disappeared - but there are ways around this. However I have this view, that your connections say something about you. They also a) might ask you for a small reasonable favour - i.e. that costs you little but benefits them - an introduction say. How do you respond? "Sorry I don't know you"? or "Let me introduce Fred, I've no idea who he is, or whether you should bother talking to him"? and b) their status updates again may swamp your LinkedIn wall/stream driving more relevant stuff downstream before you notice it.
I think for me, I want to group things and people - to organise them so that I can behave appropriately to them and show some kind of courtesy to them. By that I mean in the old days I wouldn't come in to the office and show my holiday snaps to every colleague I bumped into. Nor did I try and explain the intricacies of my professional life to friends. Obviously there were overlaps, but not trying to push specific contextual conversation into other social contexts seems to me a basic courtesy. Nowadays it is easy to breach that courtesy without thinking.
I realise that the social media environment is different. Posting a link to your holiday snaps as a LinkedIn update is not the same as button holing a colleague in the corridor and pulling out the dreaded colourful envelope ... But the volume issue is so much greater now than ever before. Just the act of filtering out irrelevancies becomes time consuming, and it is easy to define such a tight filter that serendipitous items never occur. Anyway if someone really wants to see my holiday snaps and I don't mind them seeing them a) they can search for them b) they can get an RSS feed on my Flickr account or c) they could ask me.
I guess my punch line is that RSS or "persistent search" for me fills the gap. If someone I have tagged as friend set wants what I am pushing out ro professional colleagues or the world, they can get it with RSS. Similarly I use RSS to compensate for my relatively closed networking approach.
What do you do?