At the MIT Emerging Technologies conference this morning, keynot speaker and Ning CEO Gina Bianchini was asked: "How many social networks can we stand?"
That, replied Bianchini, was the question she asked back in 1995 about Web sites. How many can you keep up with before it becomes too much? The answer she came up with at the time was seven.
But she thinks that number has increased since then. "As the means by which you can manage [web sites] have gotten better you consume more Web sites and blogs," she said, referencing tools such as the RSS reader. "We think the same things are going to happen with social networks."
I have my doubts. I have more than seven social networks, and keeping up with them is just too damned much work (although Bianchini questions whether this is a problem for most people today).
Here's one way to solve this: Make me master and commander of my own data. If I were the main repository of my own social network data, if I directly owned and manaqed that data and could link it to social networks in which I wish to participate, that would make managing those social networks a much more efficient process. No duplication of effort!
Perhaps a social network aggregator/broker will evolve that will roll up my social network interactions while providing pointers to relevant bits of my common data sets. In this way I might share the relevant pieces of me - photo subsets, biographical details, etc. - with each social network. But I would be in control. I would maintain and share out that data to social network communities in which I participate. Social networks would be consumers of that data but I would control the firehose from one centrally managed repository. Give me that tool and we can talk about breaking the magic number seven.
But such a scenario, says Bianchini, is a long ways off.