Hey, I’ve invented a new initialism: pd;dr. For “Pando Daily; Don’t Read”. It’s necessitated by me quoting a Pando story, but not wanting you to follow the link there and have your faith in humanity whittled down to a stump by the articles that will be in your peripheral vision. In any case, there’s an interesting article in Pando today on the re-emergence of vertical networks [pd;dr]:
Spiceworks is one of many professional social networks to spring up in the last decade that seem to be doing remarkably well. There’s also GitHub for developers, ResearchGate for scientists, Edmodo for educators, GrabCAD for mechanical engineers, and Practice Fusionfor doctors. In total, these platforms have raised $454.6 million in venture capital.
Cynics might groan. “Haven’t we seen this before?” they shout, shaking their hypothetical fists at the sky. “No one wants a social network for dogs!” Or at least, not enough people to bring in the sky high returns VCs look for.
Ai, it may be true that not many people want a social network for dogs. But it turns out people do want a social network for their jobs, and one with a more curated user base than LinkedIn.
I think in this case Pando (well, Carmel DeAmicis, actually [pd;dr]) might be on to something. LinkedIn is a bleak existential vacuum because it doesn’t embrace the core of your job, unless your job is networking connections. Which means that LinkedIn is basically a vertical for salespeople with everyone else trapped inside it.
What strikes me about this article is one of the unrecognized stories of the internet is how robust hobby communities (which are basically the free-time analogue of work verticals) have been — I used to hang out on Soundcloud when I had more time to make music, and loved the interaction. My wife loved WetCanvas when she was getting going with painting. Others have written about Ravelry.
You’d think the emergence of other tools would obviate the need for such things, but no, apparently not.
I don’t know if Goldman Sachs is right for putting a gazillion dollars into an IT social network. But the surprising resilience of special purpose networks is interesting to say the least, and deserves more exploration, both in business and education. What makes some work, and some fail? How can those lessons help us to build better experiences for people?