Social Networking tools

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... part of the technology for communities project,
started off by the authors of [Digital Habitats], Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John D. Smith.


Social networking tools provide network analysis and connection facilities to allow people to understand the community structure and influence it over time. They are often integrated with a variety of other tools including: calendars, chat, presence indicators, group membership, connections finders, expert finders, and community entry pages. Social networking tools allow users to understand the role of the individual in the community by providing information on how they relate to others. Issues addressed by these tools include network discovery and network visualization. These tools range from applications like Friendster, where all the information is provided by people themselves, to tools that silently collect information from a defined population, for example, by reading email headers.

Uses in communities of practice

These tools can be useful for risk reduction and business development. Social networking tools allow the community members to understand how they are linked in a network, allowing any member to visualize the roles of any member within a community. These tools can be particularly important during periods when communities are forming or undergoing the upheaval associated with mergers or acquisitions.


  • Together/apart, Synch/Asynch:
  • Interaction/publication:
  • Individual/group:

Key features

  • Email and Buddy Link Monitoring: Analysis of email and IM to identify network connections.
    • Using the traces of daily communication to reveal communication patterns within a group. Can feel either negative or positive, depending on whether the community feels it is under the microscope or just getting additional insight without extra work.
  • Autonomous workstation monitoring: Monitoring of a workstation to understand all relevant links.
    • Used to find out what the sharing and collaboration network looks like.
  • Manual link identification: Manual link entry for informal off line networks or telephone based networks.
    • To put in the social network that develops around the water cooler.
  • Outlook and Other Integration: Integration with time management tools.
    • To allow my network to be uploaded into the system to define the network.
  • Grouping Algorithms: for mapping and understanding the network, potentially based on a variety of different types of nodes like: connectors, experts, and so on.
    • Understanding the network and the critical people within the network.
  • Weak Node Identification: Weak links are very powerful in a network and discovery of weak links is very important to exploit the full potential of the network.
    • Understanding who are the distant but powerful links that you have.
  • Color Link and Group Annotations: Display subsets.
    • Useful to understand the network and analyze it effectively for risk reduction.
  • Intelligent Graph Display: Make quality visualization aids.
    • Useful to understand the network and analyze it effectively for risk reduction.

Related tools

See also:

Resources and directories