My Facebook Friend Wheel.
The above illustration is not some recently discovered volcanic planet as viewed by Hubble somewhere in outer space. It is much closer to me. You could say it is close to my heart.
Friendwheel is a neat Facebook application that lets you see how your friends connect, not just with you, but with each other. I have almost 400 friends and I am pretty certain not one of them connects just with me.
This is a social network. I have been building it for a good number of years and it is comprised almost completely of people I trust, or who are trusted by people I know in real life. The exceptions are people I've chatted with on Facebook who have persuaded me that I would trust them if I knew them better.
There are people at Facebook who want to be among the most popular. A good friend of mine has nearly 5000 friends. If you look at his Friends Wheel, you will discover that the center f it is all white space. In short, people tend to just connect with him and not with each other.
Both approaches have merit. There is power and influence in popularity and anyone who claims to have 5000 friends is certainly popular. Hell, maybe my friend could run for public office.
But that's not I want. i want a network, where all the people can help each other. I believe in the power of the network and that for it to really be a network, the nodes need to interconnect. We are the nodes of social networking.
I am amazed at the power of this network. it is more useful to me than my Outlook Contacts list. There are people who found me on Facebook who knew me in elementary school and from every other phase I've been through since.
I have never laid eyes on many of them, but that does not mean I connect. It means that I will meet each of them when I can, and it will be like meeting old friends for the first time. In the last few weeks, I have had conversations that started on Facebook that have led to new business relationships, once by playing online Scrabble. Facebook friends have helped me found people for the SAP Global Survey that I would never have found otherwise.
I think some people get one important part of this confused. The virtual part is the space where we meet people online. The real part is the people we meet.
I believe that other than the tangible part, online friendship s absolutely identical to the terrestrial kind. The difference is the Internet lets you build a larger,stronger and more valuable network faster.
In both cases, friendship seems to me to be like an old fashioned bank account. You have to put something into them, and when you do, you get back more than you invested.