Here is a little debate that took place on twitter between Inkling Media, Ben Craddock, Steve O’Donnell and myself. For those of you who don’t use twitter the @ sign followed by the persons name is a reply to them. I’ve attempted to show this in reverse reverse chronological order so it makes sense.
It all began with this tweet…
@Inkling_Media No email is not dead and still has many years of vibrant life. It’s still the largest social network.
@ethand_local certainly not dead. not sure i would call it a social network, per se, though.
@Inkling_Media a social networking tool allows people to network socially, which is what many people do with email.
@ethand_local but social network usually implies more of a group/community vibe, email is generally more one to one
@Inkling_Media To: CC, BCC, “Reply All” are not one to one, they are one to many and many to one. Dare I mention email forwards
@Inkling_Media So are more than 2 people required to make up a “Social Network?”
@bencraddock You’re still only getting one tweet from one person at a time, or one wall post on fb per person per time.
@ethand_local in the current sense of the word, i think it implies more, yes. it’s the jump from one-to-one to something larger
@ethand_local True…you can accomplish the same things using email or faxes or snail mail or in person. So what was the question again? 🙂
@Inkling_Media my point is it doesn’t have to be large to be “Social Networking” 30 people with email using “reply all” is a social network
@bencraddock the question is whether email is a social networking tool, I think I’ll have to blog this
@ethand_local i don’t think that’s entirely true. there is a much larger level of communication going on
@ethand_local i agree with the reply all. but i think in general, the one on one nature of email is more akin to a phone call
@ethand_local Sure email is a social networking tool. So are phones, paper, telegraphs, smoke signals…
@odonnellsteve I would say so
Some more thoughts on why I believe email is the largest social networking tool on the internet.
Email is the building block of most other social networks
Yahoo groups, google groups, email notifications from twitter, facebook, youtube, forums etc. I’ve seen people “check facebook” by reading their email notifications. Were they engaging in social networking?
Defining the Terms
To really discuss the issue you need to sort of agree on a working definition. Since it’s 2009 I’ll use definitions from wikipedia.
Social Networking -A social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) called “nodes,” which are tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.
Social Networking Service – A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.
An Example for my side
My church has a “pub night” once a month where the guys get together at a local pub and hang out together. The primary form of communication and coordination is via email and since it’s not a huge group everyone can be emailed at once. So the leader sends out a mass email and banter summarily ensues as many more people hit the “reply all” button and suggest locations, make fun of each other. After tallying the votes and non votes a location is decided on.
In this case study “Pub Night” is the social network of guys connected by church and our enjoyment of public houses. Email in this case study is the social networking service which allows us to interact with each other online.
It’s pretty much online social networking in it’s purest form.