Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Parade - Online Networking in the Web 2.0 World

I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with Hoover's, Inc interim president, Paul Pellman, and learn more about Hoover's new online social networking tool, Hoover's Connect. The new product is a joint venture between Hoover's and Visible Path (Visible Path Founder and CEO, Antony Brydon was there too, via conference call) and is the next generation of social networking tools (think Web 2.0)

While MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, ecademy, Ryze, Friendster and others have been the first movers in this space, to often they are seen as just a connect the dots parlor game (think "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"). Many members of these online communities dilute the services by making huge numbers of "contacts" with people whom they do not really have a personal relationship. Collecting contacts for many is the prize, rather than creating a business development tool.

In the real world a "relationship" is not just a digital link to a stranger. A true contact is some whom you know well and who will happily introduce you to people they know. A "friend" is someone you have come to know well.

On most sites my best friend for twenty years (who is Godfather to my daughter) is an equal link to some random person I have never met, but accepted into my "network" on a whim. There is, in real life, a difference between those two contacts, and Hoover's Connect has the intuition to know that difference.

Their software will analyze the types of communications you have with your contacts by looking at emails, meetings and other functions within Outlook. It will not read the actual correspondence (privacy issues are important to these folks!), but it will examine the frequency and types of interactions, thus being able to rank which contacts are most important in your network.

Their tool is "Trusted, Intelligent and Private". They hope this will appeal to more of the business community than the existing services in this space.

While Hoover's Connect does not solve all the problems of social networking (nor will it provide "world peace"), it does address many of the obstacles that have kept business professionals from embracing online social networks as a useful tool to accelerate sales.

I see their biggest challenge as the re-education of business users, who already have developed strong preconceived opinions about the use of such online tools. However, with the younger generation coming up fast (over 70% of college students utilize Facebook or MySpace on a regular basis), the acceptance of online social services will naturally increase in the next few years.

Their product will not go live until early in 2007, but for now you can learn more at their website and sign up to receive information about the pending release. I will be watching Hoover's Connect closely once it is released to the public, and I will report back on my findings!

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

I enjoy the link to the Oracle of Bacon (click on "six degrees of kevin bacon" in this post). I spent some time putting in every movie star I could think of and it always had an answer. Now that is the coolest link I have seen in ages!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought that you maybe you should concentrate your efforts on writing your own stuff rather than promoting and showing off all the neat stuff you find and people you meet? It just seems like your message has really gotten diluted and this is becoming more like show and tell rather than good substantive writing. Reminds me of what bad networkers all things to everybody. It seems, at least from what I have read from your early work, that you have lost your focus (or maybe relevant things to share from Thom's perspective.). This is just my comment but I suspect others might feel the same way.

Just a thought.


thomsinger said...


Thanks for your comment. I always appreciate the "negative" comments, as that is how we learn. I do believe that a mix of my perspective and links to other cool things, and maybe that has been out of balance at times. I do disagree with the "bad networker" comment, as I think it is the opposite. I think a "bad" blogger or networker tries to always make it all about themselves. I know that the world is not all about me, and that is why I try to point out the neat things I find. You wont like December, because most of my posts will be "The Praise Others Project" where I intend to spend the whole month drawing attention to authors and bloggers and the great works they do. I hope most will enjoy it, however.

Anonymous said...

I'll chime in with John. Reading this type of 'review' isn't why I've been reading your stuff.

You didn't even try the product, but just talked to one of the guys selling it. It is really just a rehash of the press release.

And doesn't mention that they launched this thing about 4 weeks ago and it didn't even work and they had to pull it.

I would have held this "interview" (PR piece?) until I could have tried the product and then written my own thoughts instead of repeating what they told me.

This all sounds more critical than I intend (sorry about that). Take it with a smile :)

thomsinger said...

I can take the comments (with a smile :)), but would like people not to be anonymous when they comment. A conversation is better when I know whom is talking. I never post on blogs without using my name and link. It is my pet peeve that one can hide on line, but I digress. I do appreciate you adding to the conversation!

But I can see "anonymous 2's" point. I have not tried the product, but I love the idea of a service that can tell the difference between relationships and contacts. I am not knocking any other service, just that people use them differently, so there is no way to judge the value of someone's network. I got two requests on another service this week from folks I do not know, have never heard of, and have no mutual contacts with. I declined them. But others accept such people, and that is why I like what Hoovers Connect is trying to do. Thus I blogged about it.

JibberJobber Guy said...

I found this review interesting (need to check out their site - no brain juice left right now (1:45 am) - but also wanted to mention that (my site) has the ability to rank the contacts, add log comments, etc. Not sure if this link will come through but I think its worth the read, as it is much related (on what social networking is missing):

Perhaps a shameless plug :p but based on previous commentors (anon1 and anon2), seems like others may be looking to figure out how to get around this issue.