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Summary:

If you pick up the buzz on the most popular blogs lately, it’s like the online world woke up and suddenly discovered Facebook at exactly the same time. What a difference an open API can make when developers want to connect with millions of users. Some […]

If you pick up the buzz on the most popular blogs lately, it’s like the online world woke up and suddenly discovered Facebook at exactly the same time. What a difference an open API can make when developers want to connect with millions of users. Some may be sick of hearing about the social network, but you can’t deny that some sort of lightning has hit. Now no one knows quite what to make of it. Robert Scoble asks simply, “Why Facebook, Why Now?”

For web workers, there may be a lot of answers to that question.

Like many others, I joined Facebook in the last few weeks, curious about the new application platform. I scanned my personal contact list to find current Facebook members and spent some time exploring the service. The experience has been a bit of a revelation. For starters, let’s just say that I’ve been out of Facebook’s original target demographic for longer than I was in it. There is currently just one person on Facebook who graduated from my college the same year that I did. Searching for members who graduated from my high school class in 1984 turned up no matches at all. Rather than slinking off to drink my Geritol, I pushed forward on the network, adding a couple of dozen friends along the way from both my personal and professional history. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience on all levels, and how easy a visit to my Facebook page has worked into my daily routine.

As someone not looking for a date or a party, why is Facebook engaging me in a way that competing network LinkedIn has not? As Robert Scoble accurately complains about LinkedIn:

I dropped off LinkedIn a year ago cause the expected useage model there is to have your friends do things for you. Pass along resumes, give references, etc. Because of my popularity I simply got too many requests to do those things. There is no such expectation on Facebook.

On LinkedIn you take your connections out to pet every now and then, but otherwise the site is rather static if you’re not the type to push on your connections to make contacts for you. You may know when your connections change jobs, and you may know the people they’re adding to their own network, but contact is limited and/or costly beyond that. On the other hand, Facebook gives me a glimpse into the lives of my friends and colleagues with no expectation of specific action on their part to build connections for me. If we have friends in common, we have friends in common. Networks are open, but one’s own. I can update Facebook easily from my blog or other social networks that have a link to a Facebook application. And Facebook does it all in a clean, consistent and easy interface that doesn’t assault my eyes and ears the way a MySpace page does.

Professionally, I believe Facebook has the potential to significantly impact web working. Shout if you never “talked shop” at a family barbeque when you’ve had the opportunity to chat about something related to your work that you enjoy. Shout if you never had a personal conversation with a colleague. ::crickets:: I thought so. Truth is, while there is a line between our work and personal lives, it’s a moving one. Facebook applications allow you to position that “line” between your worlds where you feel most comfortable. For example, I added the Causes application to my profile and created a cause to fight colorectal cancer through advocacy, with the hope of using the viral network to help promote the mission and activities of the nonprofit organization I get paid to work for. My father died of colon cancer in 1999. Is it business, or is it personal? In the end…does the distinction really matter? It’s still all about people.

How will Facebook survive the long haul if the advertising model isn’t profitable? Who knows. For now, with business-minded applications like Zoho coming aboard, Facebook is worth watching for those of us that rely on the ‘net for building our personal and business relationships.

Have you discovered a life on Facebook beyond college? Share you thoughts (and favorite Facebook applications) in the comments.

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  1. The Rosemont Loving Friday, July 13, 2007

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  2. Wall Street Geek Friday, July 13, 2007

    Also, for the tens of thousands that work at the company I work for, facebook is the only social network that we can access behind the firewall. Linked in, My Space are both blocked. I imagine that it’s the case in other companies too.

    One can’t really ignore the ‘work surfers’ and how corporate IT departments are having an effect as to where those surfers migrate to out of necessity to keep in touch with their networks.

  3. It’s good to know that I’m not the only ‘elderly’ web worker who graduated high school in 1984. :)

  4. The problem with facebook is that it has become too cluttered with info. With all the new app’s it is no longer the simple and clean info I’m used to seeing.

    As for business purposes, facebook is not geared towards business. LinkedIn’s main purpose is business networking and I think it does a better job at it. Another thing, it’s weird to be on the same site your kids are on. Or just young immature kids in general.

  5. Jon, that’s my point. Why does a social network have to be “geared” towards any pre-defined demographic? My real world interactions don’t split the line that cleanly, why should it be that way online? Whether Facebook is geared to the business user or not, business users are using it. Often times more effectively than they’re using tools that are supposed to be geared for them.

    As for the apps, it’s hard for me to say since I didn’t use Facebook before the apps. Honestly, I think it’s the new thing and folks are trying them out. There will be those that will add and keep every app there is, useful or not. But I suspect most will try 100 different ones and then settle on the handful that have real meaning to them and the noise will settle.

  6. Facebook Could Be A Killer Productivity App For Web Workers Friday, July 13, 2007

    [...] Worker Daily has an interesting piece on how Facebook could be a killer app for working professionals.  I gotta say, I agree [...]

  7. Neil Ford » Blog Archive » More Facebook coverage Friday, July 13, 2007

    [...] Web Worker Daily considers Facebook and the working adult. [...]

  8. dinis correia Saturday, July 14, 2007

    I’ve been wondering during the week the exact same thing – all my friends and co-workers ara now joining Facebook.

    I don’t think it’s as well suited to business networking like LinkedIn; still, it’s starting to become *the* social netowkr for adults.

  9. class of ’84 rocks! :)

    I wrote a piece off of Om’s article yesterday. I don’t know why it’s taking off either, but unlike some of my older friends, I’m embracing it and running with it. As you may know, I’m working for Lending Club as their Director of Social Media Content. Without Facebook, I’d be still doing the day gig and blogging.

    So what is the appeal? I don’t really know. It is working, and as I said yesterday, in my post – those that want too can complain and moan and groan about it “not” being a real business. For others, they will be smart and grab the bull by the horns and make the most of it.

    A lot of times in life, it’s not figuring out why something works, just go with the flow and you’ll be much better off.

    Rex

  10. Lori Ferguson Saturday, July 14, 2007

    I joined Facebook as an undergraduate–in my thirties. I failed out after my freshman year of college way back in 1988-89, and health problems forced me to return to school to be educated in a career I can do despite my disabilities. I just graduated with a BA in English–from the original school I failed out of, a coup for me finally getting over my personal Waterloo–and will be entering their Master’s in English Generalist program this fall so I can teach in a community college after graduation, as my ubiquitous “day job” to my future career as a novelist and screenwriter.

    Facebook has given me a way to communicate with my classmates and find out that I have more in common with these much younger students than I thought. While I am shocked by some things that I see–pictures of underager’s I know at parties with alcohol in hand–I’ve found some of these young adults are quite intelligent and socially cognizant, and I have found quite a few that I would like to work with in the future. I spent time today writing to two fellow graduate students–one who is soon leaving for school in San Diego and out of easy contact range–and I find the use of this easy messaging system helpful when my fibromyalgia keeps me at home and not able to socialize in person.

    At first, I was upset when I discovered Facebook was expanded beyond the college site that it used to be, allowing everyone to join, but I am seeing that I will find good contacts for writing and filmmaking outside of my enclosed school network and I am grateful for this forum. I agree that MySpace does “assult the eyes and ears,” and while I enjoy it, I like Facebook better for the ease of use, the applications and it’s overall organized appearance.

    I do have to agree also–Facebook can be a time-drainer if one isn’t careful! I’ve been sucked in for hours at a time when I’ve only meant to spend a few minutes, but I feel the time I spend there is worth it because it is an investment in networking and what I find out by what I add and how I express myself I learn more about myself in the process–a great asset in career success.

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