There are a lot of social software tools that I never have time to explore, nor see any value in.  Others make perfect sense right away.  It's a challenge to stay on top of trends in the market while not getting sucked in by flash-in-the-pan hype.

This week, I've dipped a toe in the water on three tools -- Flickr, OpenBC, and  

Flickr is a photo-sharing site; designed around the idea of photos as a social context.  You can find Flickr photos via an RSS feed or searches; you can also build a network (such as the Lotus Domino bloggers group).  Photos can be uploaded traditionally or via cameraphone.
I see Flickr as a way to share photos in context of blogging... I don't see it replacing my photo album sites.  It doesn't have the tools for that kind of story-telling; rather, in Flickr-land, each entry seems meant to tell a story on its own.  There are other such sites on the web; Kathleen McGivney has been using buzznet for this purpose (and it seems to have some quite diverse communities going...perhaps not-so-business-oriented).
Anyway, I started using Flickr earlier this week; I think I'll be more active about it next month when I get around to getting a cameraphone (a topic for another blog/day). is a link-sharing site; while it can provide a sort of organized bookmarking tool, I believe it's real value is in seeing what other people are reading/bookmarking.  I first started paying attention to because of Ross Mayfield; he's cleverly set up a single RSS feed for blog, Flickr, and links at feedburner (hmm, yet another tool to check out...).  So, what value do I see in  Well, there are often articles and blog entries that I read that I think would be interesting to readers, but not quite worthy of a full entry.  Today, for example, I read articles about RIM/Blackberry and BEA.  They're interesting to me, interesting enough that others might want to read them...but not really material for an entry here.  Thus, I started using; we'll see if I continue to find it useful to publish links there.

OpenBC is an online networking community; it seems to have strong European roots, as opposed to similiar service LinkedIn which seems more US-based.  vowe wrote about OpenBC earlier this week, and it was easy enough to join and start a network.  They are dissimilar from Orkut, which seems purely social; LinkedIn and OpenBC both seem more business-oriented.  To be brutally honest, I haven't yet seen the value in these services...they seem like big time-sinks and/or ego boosters to me.  Perhaps, one day, I'll need to know if anyone knows anyone at Foo Incorporated.  In the meantime, we can play "my network is bigger than your network" -- not that I've really spent much time building on either site.  On LinkedIn, one data point that I noticed was that most of the people with "Lotus" in their profile who are one-degree away from me are people I know; those two or more degrees away are mostly people I don't know.  I guess it just means current and former Loti really do stick together.

It remains to be seen how useful these various tools will be.  Like I said, many have come and gone before -- anyone remember Third Voice? -- but the idea of wanting to share and organize web content by community remains strong, and thus, I'm willing to explore.

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