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When I was new to the Internet, in 1994 and 1995, I looked around to see who could help me. Everyone I found was willing to talk, willing to learn and if they had the knowledge, willing to assist. As New Zealand Dances became one of the major dance sites on the Internet the number of dance sites grew from six to over a hundred. There were no search engines to speak of. Alta Vista, tried to list the main sites, several months behind the action. Web sites linked to each other. Webmasters were incredibly generous in creating free links to other sites that people visiting might be interested in. Yes this seems foolish, encouraging your "visitors" to go away, but it worked beautifully. People "surfed" from site to site. Today that is hardly possible because most web sites today are built without those links.
Buiding the Web, link by link, was "networking" although we didn't call it that.
As New Zealand Dances developed a lot of correspondence took place between the web site and the users. As a result people began sending things for publication. Often just a letter, but also dance scripts, photographs, dance news, and lots of discussion about dance bands and dance music. This was also "networking" but we didn't call it that.
In New Zealand, a very small country, unlike most countries overseas, the tradition of networking, with classmates, or your church group, or the old boys network from school is not strong. When I was first offered the opportunity to JOIN, an online social network called Ryze, I foolishly turned the offer down. "What a waste of my precious time," I told myself. Six months later I realised my mistake, I joined Ryze, and for 6 years, until recently, I've led several Ryze networks, one with close to 800 members.
There are now hundreds of social networks like Ryze, all of them important to a few people, only small number attracting the attention of people from all around the world. Most countries have a popular home grown network. Ecademy in England, Viadeo in France, Xing in Germany, Orkut in Brazil and Two Step in India for instance.
My Space was once all the rage, but now Facebook has that honour. In my view Facebook is a good place to for family based networking. There's a lot of noise on Facebook and it's not the place in my view to do anything serious. Still I'm a member and I do spend time there occasionally.
Serious efforts and productive work and learning occur in other places. Often the most productive for the least effort are simple online email lists. The best of those are based around a topic or an expertise and they attract a group of "experts" some of whom may indeed be experts, but most of whom are learning what they can, like the rest of us. The high return for little effort makes the email list ideal for Street Groups, and the development of Online Groups, has offered an ideal opening to use this new improved tool for making email lists to good effect.
The largest business network on the Internet is LinkedIn, with over 90 million members. This was once quite a simple tool. It's now well developed, and is becoming an indispensible tool for daily business for many of us. The median member has about 35 connections, but people with more than 500 connections are quite common. There are many LinkedIn Groups which offer the opportunity for discussion. Most LinkedIn members join too few. LinkedIn is a network of 90 million people dedicated to "helping" each other, and to a large extent it works.
Finally I need to mention Skype and Twitter. Both have their place, and everyone should feel confident enough to use such tools. Where do you develop that confidence? You can jump right in of course. But is you want to go softly, joining a Street Group first makes a lot of sense.
John Stephen Veitch
Street Groups Limited
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