I attended a talk recently where the speaker presented social network-driven technology and three kinds of relationships it helps us create: (1) sales, (2) friends, and (3) jobs. (For examples of each, see Visible Path, Orkut, and LinkedIn.)
To that list I would like to add (4) information gathering.
This is an application close to my own heart. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, information gathering (aka learning) has been the main motivation of my networking over the past year. Networking in this way depends on cultivating diverse personal contacts and tapping into increasingly powerful web-driven forums. When I think about how it all comes together I feel like the focal point of a high-gain "business applications of SNA" antenna, with this very blog as my primary output channel.
In that spirit you'll find two prominent links in my list of resources (to the right):
Thanks to the countless SNA fans tagging websites out there, I got wind today of Outfoxed. Created by Stan James for his master's thesis, Outfoxed helps you separate the online wheat from the chaff by leveraging the collected recommendations of your network of trusted friends and colleagues. And it does a lot more; put on your reading glasses and check out this chart:
Come on and join the Outfoxed party! It's a free download that works as a plug-in to the wonderful open-source Firefox browser. It works best if someone invites you to join. Feel free to email me and I'll invite you into my Outfoxed network.