I admit to testing tools just for the fun of it; so I find myself hovering between a dozen different networks, without much commitment to any of them. Some of these I treat as news sources. Facebook is the only one I look for any kind of social connections, but I tend to be stingy about them too. The problem with this lifestyle of tasting different services is that my networking world becomes distorted in favour of geekdom, a domain to which I don't really belong. Some of the services I like best, such as FriendFeed and Twine, have readerships that incline heavily towards technical people. I am still trying to figure out which of these networks I feel most at home in, and what I want to accomplish there.
I have just read some interesting, if terse, notes that came out of the SXSWi event, Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content" [Louis Gray posted an interesting blog post after this same event: Finding the Web's Best Content - Do You Want it New or Trusted ] A panel of experts discussed their methods. For me, I find a mixture of RSS news feed reading, supplemented by FriendFeed to be the most useful. If I want to learn more about a subject, or what people are saying, I try a search on socialmention.com. I don't have the time or the patience to wade through reams of twitter tweets.
The next question is what to do with all the information I gather. The first step, I think, is to get it organized in something other than chronology, so for this it makes best sense to use one of the social bookmarking sites - I use Delicious.
There is a serious question about the value of link sharing. So many people are already sharing, and have greater expertise than me in every field. I'm a dabbler; I don't have the time to read everything about all the subjects that interest me, and other people who specialize in each knowledge field, are better at aggregating content for it. Lately I have been thinking that the best approach may be to gather various stories about a given subject, then contribute towards the conversation by placing the most authoritative articles together in my blog, together with my own thoughts. Besides mentioning these articles in the text, I will gather the links together prominently, so that readers can go directly to them and not listen to my blather. In order to preserve a unique voice, I will speak mainly from my own experience.
In the last few days I have begun to reduce my linksharing across various networks. In order to be efficient, it isn't sensible to cross-post to various services. I seem to have gone back to delicious for most of my bookmarking (rather than Twine). Delicious enables finer control over the placement of the information, and their website also works very fast. But most people, including me, seem to treat delicious just as a great reservoir of information. I also want my links to enter a chronological "river of information". I like Friendfeed best for this. I have decided to put into Twitter (using FriendFeed as the lever) only my original material. On Facebook I have stopped sending all the Friendfeed information to my profile and news feed. It can be found under the FriendFeed tab of my profile. When a link seems particularly relevant to my facebook crowd, I can send a link directly to FB.
I have yet to consider the changes that have come to Facebook today (new privacy settings that enable profiles and newsfeeds to become public - see links below) and the other modifications that may change the way that people use Facebook. But I will leave that to think about that another day. For now, I have opened up my privacy settings.