I dropped into London Open Coffee on Thursday in between some meetings. Having stopped going for a few months (same people each week, venue I wasn’t keen on), it was good to see that it still draws a crowd and that there were lots of faces I’d not seen before.
One of the people I met was the co-founder of a social network for gardeners. My initial scepticism eroded as we spoke and it became evident that “friending” on the sire was more an attribute of having similar gardening interests around plants/species than social relationships e.g. interest in roses. Hence, you were able to discover other gardeners and share in ideas/tips plus have an outlet to ask questions or provide advice to others. In this way, it struck me rather like a forum but with the added benefit of being able to learn a little more about the other members that you were hearing from.
Later the same day my wife mentioned Cookshow to me. This was staggering – she takes little/no interest in matters web-related so it usually means a site has been mentioned to her by a chum. But I always take that as an interesting sign, since it means that the site may have broken out into the mainstream, as opposed to the cloistered environment of early adopters on the web. Cookshow was really interesting in that it deployed lots of styles that would be familiar to a web2.0 devotee – it had video posts of people showing you how to follow particular recipes; recipes and suggestions for similar items; tags for ingredients/tastes etc.
In both instances, gardening and cooking, despite each covering only a portion of a person’s activities, I believe that this focussed environment may be increasingly more appealing to individuals than more generalised social hangouts. This is not to say that Facebook will be abandoned, but it may be that people will rationalise the number of places they use down to a single general hangout accompanied by one/two specialist environments. Whilst Facebook and other such sites, do have the capacity to operate groups for like-minded folks, those environments lack the “feature and content richness” of dedicated sites.
If this sounds familiar, firstly it is a notion that Marc Cantor has banged on about for years, but which is probably starting to take root more, now that people are more familiar with the concept of social network and start to become more discerning. Secondly, it is a better reflection of how we live our physical lives – general social hangouts with friends and more niche environments for hobbies etc.