Coincidentally, someone I've known for ~20 years asked me to connect via LinkedIn this morning. I've been a passive user of LinkedIn for a long time, but was surprised this morning to discover that I apparently need to "upgrade" to the $19.95/month version of the service if I want to contact the person directly (I opted to annoy a mutual acquaintance for an indirect connection instead). Ridiculous...
Update: in fairness to LinkedIn, note that I was able to make a direct invitation to connect once I updated my work profile -- since both of us have Lotus Development Corp. experience, apparently I can get by without the extortionist monthly fee.
Social networking is a close cousin of the other obsession of the moment: user-generated content. Of course, there is a difference. User-generated content is basically anything someone puts on the Web that is not created for overtly commercial purposes; it is often in response to something professionally created, or is derivative of it. So, it could be a blog, a message board, a homemade video on YouTube, or a customer’s book review on Amazon.com.
Social networking, on the other hand, is something potentially deeper — it represents a way to live one’s life online. In many ways, it is the two-dimensional version of what sites like Second Life aspire to be in 3-D: the digital you. And that ties to another earnestly overused term of art at the moment: engagement.