Online Networks and What They Mean for Engineers and Scientists

By: | February 1st, 2014

Social Network

How are you using your social networks? Image Courtesy

A phrase in the Bible says: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Huge websites like Facebook and LinkedIn are growing bigger by the second and the stated goal to connect the entire world; but can these sites be all things to all people? Will these sites in the end, just “save some?”

Building a “Social Graph”

One of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook’s main goals is to provide a “social graph of the world” or in simpler terms, map the world’s social relationships allowing people to capitalize on the synergies they find or develop through the network.

As a user of Facebook, I have expanded my social network dramatically but I’ve ended up with a large number of “friends” I have nothing in common with. Every time I go on Facebook, I have to wade through lots of information that is irrelevant and sometimes downright offensive. I admit I have “friended people” I didn’t know who were friends of friends and through this made some of the best friendships I have. But the cost of time and frustration is too high.

Building a “Professional Graph”

According to Jeff Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn, the ultimate goal of his website is to “digitally map the global economy or create a ‘professional graph’ identifying the relationships between people, jobs, skills, companies and professional knowledge.”

Weiner believes LinkedIn can help match skills with opportunities but also identify areas where more worker training and education is necessary so emerging opportunities can be capitalized on. Users of LinkedIn already view their school’s alumni to get an idea of career path progression. Weiner admits his vision is huge and is unlikely to be completely achievable; it is a dream.

Living in an age of “too big to fail” we are also seeing “too big to be useful.” Getting bigger will only challenge companies like Facebook and LinkedIn and, in the end, may make their offering “too overwhelming” for the needs and purposes of the average user.

Specialized Networks Emerging Too

Engineering Network (EngNet), IndustryTap’s parent site, for example, is an online community, built over 15 years, that introduces manufacturers to industry buyers and is run by engineers for engineers. While LinkedIn can provide certain advantages over specialized networks of this type, EngNet centers on very specialized connections and knowledge. EngNet is relatively easy to access because users don’t wade through millions of profiles that have no meaning to the business at hand.

Science & Research Networks

Here’s a list of science and research networks to explore:

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References and related content:

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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