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Imperfect Integration April 15, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Networking.
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Social networking sites are getting too clever by half, providing more and more features to lure users into their web of connected people.  What they are missing are the features that connect their “walled gardens” to other equally useful networks.

As I’ve posted before, I like different systems for different features.  LinkedIn is the gold standard for professional networking, delivering controlled access to professional colleagues in a manner that most closely mimics (and respects) real-world relationships.  Plaxo is the best contact management tool I’ve seen, with unparalleled cross-platform synchronization.  The Plaxo Pulse, which provides a Twitter-like stream of activity for your connected contacts, is interesting and becoming more useful.  My blogging platform is WordPress, which seems to meet my (limited) needs at this point. To be honest, I don’t know that I have the energy for Twitter, although I’m willing to tinker with it.

The problem with these systems is that they don’t play well together.  They want to attract users, confine them to their system, and keep them there for all levels of service.  I understand the rationale: eyeballs = dollars.  But I dislike the constraints, which makes it harder to use all the services.  I want them to interoperate seamlessly, but they aren’t there yet.

Plaxo makes an attempt at this, allowing you to hook feeds from other sites (like this blog) into your Plaxo pulse.  The problem is that Plaxo pulls the content into Plaxo, instead of connecting to the actual source.  As a result, updates lag and the Plaxo version gets out of date when I update the content.  More importantly, readers in Plaxo don’t see the full blog unless they click through to it.  Reading this in Plaxo?  Click here to read these posts in their full glory, see what I am reading, explore the archives, peruse the tag cloud, and subscribe directly (if you are so inclined).

LinkedIn has fairly pathetic contact management.  Why can’t it get my contacts from Plaxo, so that everything is in sync everywhere?  Why can’t LinkedIn connections be mirrored in Plaxo automatically (and vice versa)?  LinkedIn also has a simplistic Twitter-like feature, as does Plaxo.  Why can’t LinkedIn and Plaxo integrate my Twitter stream so I can update things in one place and see them everywhere?

I suspect this will all happen in due time as this space coalesces and matures.  Like other web technologies (and the web itself), we need this period of experimentation and overlap to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  At some point, it will settle out, great sums of money will change hands, and one integrated system will remain.  Until then, we’ll all be updating lots of similar sites, over and over again.

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