I am typically not one to recommend a social network to my clients w/ the exception, of course, of the already established networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc. My whole philosophy regarding social networking at this stage of the game is that if you want to build a community, build upon what’s already out there as much as possible (Facebook API, Twitter API) and don’t try to re-invent the wheel.
However, I have always felt that strong, reputable Niche networks could exist externally if they were packaged correctly. A good example of such a network that is currently in Beta right now is O’Reilly Answers. O’Reilly has a good vision with this network, and of course they have some really positive things in their favor already such as Awesome Reputation, an Established Following, and a Trusted Name, what more could you ask for?
You can also look at the Network and tell that there were some clear objectives put into place while developing this solution. They obviously wanted it to be user friendly, functional, and interactive. There are basically three ways you can interact inside O’Reilly Answers:
Share Your Knowledge
You can actually enter in blog posts and tag them according to your subject matter and other users can comment you on your posts. This is one area that I think they could have done a little differently. We all manage our own blogs externally, why would we want to post our content on their website as well and have 2 comment systems running at the same time to follow up w/ readers? My thoughts on this part are that they could have put into place some sort of RSS option where you could aggregate your content from your blog and have your friends inside the network click out to read your posts. Maybe I am not seeing the big picture on this, but as a workaround I posted about 3/4 of 2 blog posts into their network along w/ a link at the bottom to get to the remainder of my post on my blog.
Ask A Question
Since O’Reilly has been catering to the Technically Minded community for so long, you can rest assured that some pretty sharp folks are going to be hanging around in this community. Well, let’s say you have a question about a project you are working on, you can post that question to the community, tag it, and before you know it some of the sharpest minds in the world are answering your question. This is an area where I really see this network having value for a lot of us…
Answer a Question
Let’s say someone asks a question and you know the answer, you can provide them w/ your insight w/ ease. I think that this networking model is going to speed up the “obstacle to solution process” once the network get’s off the ground.
Also, just a few notes regarding the Network as it is right now. There are obviously some bugs, I had a couple of errors pop up on me when I was setting up my profile, this is to be expected w/ a new release like this. Give them time, I am sure that O’Reilly will iron out all of the kinks very soon. Here’s some basic information that was forwarded to me today from our Account Rep at O’Reilly…
We’re launching the beta of O’Reilly Answers, and I’m inviting you to be part of it. In brief, O’Reilly Answers is a community site for sharing knowledge, asking questions, and providing answers that brings together our customers, authors, editors, conference speakers, and Foo (Friends of O’Reilly).
Why Answers, and why now?
O’Reilly is at the center of an amazing exchange of knowledge sharing and idea generation. We’ve created the usual means of facilitating communication between customers, O’Reilly folks, and the outside experts we call "alpha geeks" who contribute to O’Reilly books, conferences, and websites. We can connect through reader reviews, errata submissions, book forums, blog comments, Get Satisfaction, our customer service department, and more. But too much of this conversation is siloed, and not enough is public (e.g., discussions on our internal mailing list for editors, or personal responses to customer questions). O’Reilly Answers will be the place where much of that communication happens from this point forward.
The lofty reason: Like O’Reilly, you want to "change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators." That’s our mission, and we’ve been fortunate enough to build a community of passionate, committed people who love to learn and share their knowledge as they work towards a better world for us all.
The "nice, but what’s in it for me" reasons: reputation, recognition, and rewards.
Get Recognized: "Find interesting people" is a core activity at O’Reilly, and an important component of our success. We see Answers as an important way to discover and connect with our next authors, online instructors, videographers, and speakers.
Build Your Reputation: You’ve learned a lot, why not get credit for all that knowledge? As your submissions to Answers are voted up, your personal reputation on the site increases. At launch, your reputation will be based solely on your participation in O’Reilly Answers. Soon, we’re expanding across oreilly.com, so the book errata and book reviews you’ve submitted, books you’ve registered, and conferences you’ve attended, will add reputation points. You’ll also earn badges to mark accomplishments and milestones.
Earn Rewards: Glory is great, but discounts and deals are nice, too. We want to reward your contributions to the O’Reilly community. Shortly we’ll have a point-based system in place that you can redeem for books, training, courses, and conferences. Details soon, but in the meantime, any actions you take now will count towards your total points.
This is just v.1: The best part of any project on the web is watching it take on a life of its own. With that in mind, we’re looking forward to *your* suggestions about where O’Reilly Answers should go, what features should be added, and what benefits and rewards we can offer all of you.
I’d like to acknowledge the projects that have proceeded Answers and inspired us, such as SitePoint Forums (we distribute their books), StackOverflow, Yahoo! Answers, Knol, and many others. They’re great resources, and we think the O’Reilly community can create a useful site that’s, well, a different kind of animal.
One last thing: O’Reilly Answers is in beta and you may encounter bugs. We’re still working on many improvements to the site, such as feeds for each tag, but would love to hear your suggestions for features and improvements. Please send any suggestions/questions/bug reports to email@example.com.
Until next time–
Also, if you should signup, be sure to add me as a friend, http://people.oreilly.com/cotton