Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Streamline Your Social Networks

This summer, I’m exploring a variety of Web sites and tools that you can use in the classroom and/or for your own professional development. Each week, I’ll talk about how it works, point out related sites, and discuss classroom connections. This week, I focus on social networking aggregators, tools that streamline the time you spend on social networking sites. And if you’re not sure what social networking is, the Common Craft Show has a fast video explanation that will make it all clear.

Time to get caught up on what your colleagues are doing? That means you need to check all your friends on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Ning, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Blogger, LiveJournal, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, Plurk, Technorati, and delicious. Just the thought of all that is overwhelming, and it’s likely to take the entire evening to get all those sites checked—and that’s if you re lucky. Some nights you only get through two or three of the sites before you run out of energy and head to bed.

A social aggregator could make this process much easier. Rather than going to all those different sites, you could go to one that included updates from all those different social networks. 8Hands is one aggregator tool, which compiles information from your friends on ten different networking sites (like Facebook and LiveJournal). You just download and set up the 8Hands application, login, and catch up on everything in one place. This demo from the 8Hands site shows the features that the site offers:

While 8Hands is a tool you download, there are plenty of social network aggregators that you visit using your web browser. Friendfeed is one of the more popular of these sites. Friendfeed gathers postings from over forty different social networking sites, including blogs, image sharing sites, social bookmarking sites, and microblogging sites. Friendfeed creates a single RSS feed from all those sites, allowing you to view everything in one place.

If you’d like more organization for your social network aggregator, you might try SecondBrain. Not only does SecondBrain aggregate twenty-five sites, but it also allows you to arrange the information in folders, or collections. SecondBrain is still in beta and is a bit clunky, but its ability to categorize your networking sites may make this site useful in the future.

For my own connections, I’m sticking to Friendfeed for now. There are numerous other sites and tools out there though. For more alternatives, check out The 19+ Social Network Aggregator List from MakeUseOf and 20 Ways To Aggregate Your Social Networking Profiles from Mashable. And come back next week, when I’ll talk about how aggregator sites can streamline the way you post information to friends and followers in your social network.

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