Posted by: nickgerlich | April 2, 2008

In The Fast Lane

Our dogs and cats are interesting critters. Somehow they manage to coexist and not kill one another. They have their own separate food and water supplies, but they see the world through very different lenses.

Cats, for example, like to have a steady supply of food, but they are content to nibble on it throughout the day. Just as long as the supply doesn’t run out, of course.

Dogs, on the other hand, will eat until they are sick. Opportunists to a fault, they take no chances that someone (or some thing) else will come along and eat their ration. If a dog food truck were to crash and spill its contents in front of our house, our dogs would eat it until they exploded.

Sometimes I feel like we are all dogs at a social networking feeding frenzy. Except that it is the network providers who are actively encouraging us to eat until we…um…toss it.

Fast CompanyTo wit: I just opened the April issue of Fast Company magazine only to find that they have completely revamped their website and its features. And guess what? They have added a social networking section, whereby readers can create and maintain their own accounts. Just like MySpace, Facebook, et al.

To their historic credit, Fast Company once had a social networking hub called Company of Friends back in the 90s, but it apparently was way ahead of its time. They allowed it to die, and then sat back while others perfected the medium we all know and love today. But that’s kind of like inventing the car, and letting the Japanese have a go at it for a while.

So I signed up for my own account, not really knowing how much (or if) I will use it. After all, I already have a slew of accounts elsewhere.

And therein lies the problem. It’s just like having multiple email accounts, all of which must be monitored on a somewhat regular basis. How many networking profiles must I maintain? How many different audiences of friends, family, colleagues, etc., could I possibly need to reach? And while there are services that allow heavy users to macro-manage their networking sites through one convenient interface, just the thought of having so many public faces is a bit unsettling.

A few days ago I heard that Starbucks plans to add social networking to its website. Now let me get this straight. The company that for so long prided itself on being the “third place” for legions of coffee drinkers is now saying that the new third place is your computer screen?

User 1: “Ooh, I love the aroma of that new Colombian breakfast blend.”

User 2: “Yeah, but I bet it isn’t Fair Computing Coffee. We should be giving those coffee pickers a decent computer in return for their hard work.”

User 1: “Are you nuts? We’re already paying $15 a pound for this stuff. I may have to go back to Yuban.”

Sometimes I feel like my dogs waiting at the end of the driveway for that truck to crash. Twitter. LinkedIn. PhotoBucket. Slide. Bebo. So much food, so little time.

Is that a cat I hear laughing?

Dr “Over-Networked” Gerlich


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