Social Networking With A Point - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/13/2007
09:56 AM
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Social Networking With A Point

Is there a real point to social networking? It is a lot of fun, and it can be a useful way to establish contacts. But it's usually a black hole of time -- a lot of chat without a lot of substance. However, there's at least one new site that's trying to offer social networking with a social conscience.

Is there a real point to social networking? It is a lot of fun, and it can be a useful way to establish contacts. But it's usually a black hole of time -- a lot of chat without a lot of substance. However, there's at least one new site that's trying to offer social networking with a social conscience.The site is called The Point, and the idea is to help people organize to solve personal, local, and national problems -- for example, raising money to help their school buy books, organizing a protest against a company who has stiffed its customers, or getting people to attend an event. Users who start a campaign for whatever cause they are interested in need to establish a specific goal or "tipping point" -- in other words, what the problem is and how many people or how much money they need to address it. Those who respond can commit to an action or pledge a certain amount of money -- but they don't have to actually show up or pay up unless the goal has been reached.

It's an interesting idea. For example, when I visited the site and browsed some of the campaigns, I found one to pressure a local supermarket to take down barriers that prevents customers from using shopping carts to get their groceries to their cars by boycotting the store -- if 400 people would commit to it (so far, they had 13). Another successful campaign needed 20 employees to commit to a recycling program, while an optimist had started one to pressure the Universal Music Group to sell DRM-free music (with a tipping pint of one million members). Each campaign has its own page that shows related news, comments, and members.

The Point is a very new site -- in fact, a little sign above the title proclaims it Alpha -- and it remains to be seen how effective these campaigns can be, especially if they become overwhelmed by a lot of users with a lot of different goals. But I must say, I like the idea.

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