As for the biggest professional social network, Gates said she would rather integrate with LinkedIn than compete with it. "We don't ever want to have millions of members, so we can sell ads," she said. Wisegate is just now integrating LinkedIn authentication and plans to also allow members to import from and connect with their LinkedIn profiles, she said.
Another important aspect of the service is that it's not only on the Web. Wisegate also organizes conference calls on topics of interest to its members and assigns staff to moderate and follow up with a transcript that identifies key takeaways. "It's human to human--how novel---but it's really funny how popular that is," Gates said.
For example, Wisegate organized one of these conference calls at Wheeler's request to discuss hiring mistakes and how to avoid them.
"We talked about finding the right technical skills and background, coupled with business skills and savvy, which seems to be very difficult, and how to rectify mistakes and improve the process going forward," Wheeler said. Online questions and polls are useful, but sometimes it's useful to hear the tone of someone's voice when they make a statement so you understand if they're angry, or passionate, or maybe just joking, she said. The results of these conversations are also archived, so they can be referenced by other members in the future.
Kristen Knight, privacy director at Philips Electronics North America, said she recently attended a valuable Wisegate conference call on data loss prevention. "The thing is, I didn't have to drive into Boston and sit in a seminar and get probably only limited information," she said. She is also a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, which is a good source for information, but when she attends one of its in-person conferences she is often too rushed to ask an organized list of questions, she said. Compared with a conference, Wisegate "is way more cost effective, and I don't have to worry about travel," she said.
Knight said she trusts the online conversations on Wisegate "because I know these people have been vetted, and I know I can be confident that they became a member because of their position, and they're not a vendor. They're not going to give me skewed information because they have no reason to."
As anti-social as it is, should Wisegate even be called a social network?
"I think over time, it will become more of a social network," Knight said. "Right now, I'm still trying to navigate through it figure out how to use it."
"To me, it feels like something else," Wheeler said. "It's not a LinkedIn, it's not a Facebook--thank God--but it's something very much needed in my industry, a sharing forum that feels secure."
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