As you may know, RLG Programs lives in the Silicon Valley. So we have neighbors like Google. We recently met the new kid on the block, LinkedIn, who just moved upstairs. I signed up, following an invitation from my brother in law — and immediately felt so insecure! I had only one connection! Fortunately, I was able to link to some friends and OCLC colleagues, but I still have a relatively slim number of connections.
The interesting thing is, this is supposed to be a networking site (as in job hunting). But many people who are not currently on the job market have tons of connections. My brother in law has 83 connections. Eric Childress has 69 connections. One of the speakers at our annual meeting, Dylan Tweney has a whopping 408 connections! Connecting with these individuals has made my expanded network huge, and it can be pretty addictive to see which relatively well known people I am “related” to. Gary Price? Three degrees of separation. Lorcan Dempsey? Only two degrees away!
Creating relationships this way, the hard way, got me thinking. It would be great if I could turn to my mail client and ask it to give me a prioritized list of all my important connections — the people I’m in touch with the most, and the people who are in touch with me the most. Maybe some piece of social networking software could suggest which people I’m not in touch with that I should be. (My thinking on this was somewhat inspired by this CNI Podcast with Marc Smith, from Microsoft Research.) When looking at the connections on LinkedIn, I’d like to see what the direction of the link was. Was Eric building his network, or did lots of people want to have Eric in their network?
Relationships like this also exist in our collections. Sometimes these are explicitly expressed (lists of correspondents in archival finding aids, names in subject headings in catalogs, in back-of-book indexes, tables of contents, etc.). Sometimes these relationships need to be mined out of unstructured text. In either case, I see WorldCat Identities as a great tie in for this type of activity. Once you identify that there is a someone associated with the thoughts and ideas of another someone, you need a way to explicitly nail down which someones you are talking about, and then a place to explore the relationships dynamically.
If you are playing around with LinkedIn, invite me to join your circle!