An interesting comparison and contrast with two recently added time-sink temptations while online.
As of a few weeks ago, you can submit news stories to the new WriterRiver.com, a digg clone site with the clever Sink or Float capability on news stories, built by Tom Johnson who writes the IdRatherBeWriting blog. A few months ago, Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler blogger, started TheContentWrangler.Ning.com, where you can build a profile for yourself and interact with other members via discussions and postings.
So, all technical writers, technical communicators, information designers and architects and other such content wranglers: which online activities do we prefer? Are we networking online or creating online media?
In the last six months or so, have seen shift in thinking towards social networking as a preferential term rather than the phrase social media. I think that this change in the terminology is a result of the constant comparisons of old media versus new media, such as comparing printed newspapers to online blogs. But, for a set of future thinkers, blogs and blogging feel like old news, especially to the leading web design people. So perhaps this crowd is the one preferring the term social networking. I know I heard social networking much more often than social media at SXSW Interactive 2008.
It’s interesting, though, in contrast, Danah Boyd points out in a November 2007 O’Reilly Network interview, “I don’t call them social networking sites because most users aren’t “networking” per say [sic]. They are modeling and maintaining their pre-existing social networks.”
So this rambling brings me to our two new social sites. In the case of TheContentWrangler.Ning.com, people who are perhaps not natural networkers won’t “get” the site right away.
For WriterRiver.com, I’m not sure if non-natural networkers will “get” the site right away either, but there’s also a little bit of journalist enthusiasm and “scooping” a story that will help you “get” the usefulness and entertainment out of the site.
For anyone who has read The Tipping Point, I ask this (and I’ve mentioned this to Gordon McLean so I hope he gives his take as well): are people who tend to be technical writers naturally Connectors or naturally Mavens?
Connectors are the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.”
Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.”
With all this in mind, I offer my personal take on how I can use each site.
How I use WriterRiver.com: If I like a story, and think it’s relevant to writers, I copy the URL, then go to WriterRiver.com and enter the URL along with a brief description of the story. Others can come read the story and my summary and “float” it further up the river. I check in on it every few days to gain new insights or see the freshest stories. I also see how far up river my submissions have gone, and check on any comments, especially from writers I know through online communications and in real life.
How I use TheContentWrangler.Ning site: I built a Profile page with my blog feed as content, then I started or joined groups that I think would give me connections to mind power that I wouldn’t already have through some of my other connections. I set notifications only to email me on specific discussions that I started or want to watch, and I pop by every week or so to see what’s going on with discussions, the blog entries on the front page, and other media.
Please, let me know if you find this helpful, or if you have suggestions for your own uses that are different from mine.