Directory of specialist social networking websites
Social Networking for the Older and Wiser concludes with a directory of social networking websites to explore. I've enhanced this directory by adding in entries for the sites covered in depth in the main body of the book. It provides a one-stop directory of leading social networking websites for you to explore.
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About this social networking directory
After reading Social Networking for the Older and Wiser, you'll be an expert on social networking, so why not see what other sites are out there? You can use your experience creating profiles, finding friends and groups, and sharing your photos, words and wisdom.
This directory outlines some of the key sites dedicated to different interests. It couldn't possibly be exhaustive: there are hundreds of networks out there. I've focused on those that add something different to the networks you've already read about in the body of this book, and I've focused on those that will provide a good welcome for older and wiser web users.
At the end of this directory, I've added a section about a website that can help you to cut the complexity of participating in several different social networks.
If there isn't a network here to tickle your fancy, you can often find groups dedicated to interests like these at major social networks including Facebook (see Chapter 3 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser), Meetup (Chapter 8) and Ning (Chapter 9).
The sites in this directory are grouped in the following categories:
- Books & reading
- Creating your own network
- Friends and family, and socialising
- Knitting and crochet
- News and views
- Sharing status updates and ideas
- Video sharing
- Virtual reality
- Web surfing
- Box: Integrating different social networks
While many social networks help you share the details of daily life, 43Things is a place to take a step back and think about the bigger picture: what you are doing with your life, and what you want to do next. It's where you share your life goals and receive support from others with similar aims in life. And as a member of the older and wiser generation, it's where you can share your past life achievements and advise others who aspire to achieve similar goals.
At 43Things everybody publishes a to-do list of things they want to achieve. You're allowed to have any number of things on your list, up to a maximum of 43. Nobody knows why the limit is 43; it's just a quirk of the website. As you make progress towards your goals, you can write about it on the site and seek advice from others on the next steps.
Visits to 43Things are inspiring. The site is full of people who are passionate about self-improvement, and about getting the best out of life. There are plenty of ideas for things that will make life simpler, more exciting, and more rewarding. People of all ages mingle on the site, from students who are contemplating their whole life beyond school, to mid-life career changers, and seniors with time to devote to their hobbies.
Dandelife.com (no longer available)
Dandelife is like the Timeline feature in Friends Reunited, but it tends to be used for more in-depth diary-like posts describing key life events. It integrates with Flickr and Youtube, so that you can combine video and photos from those sites with your stories. All the content is public, but comments are only allowed from registered members. Membership numbers are fairly low, but if you want to create a blog or write your life story, this is a platform worth considering.
Books & reading
Goodreads is a social network for book fans. Readers create virtual shelves of books they've read, or books they'd like to read, and can add their own reviews and comments on them. The site has over 2.5 million members who have added over 60 million books to their shelves, so you're sure to find somebody who can recommend something you'd like to read. More importantly, you can be alerted to reviews posted by your friends, which are likely to carry most weight with you.
Discussion groups centre on particular authors or genres, and you can also interact with authors who blog on the site.
Goodreads can update Twitter automatically with what you're reading and can tell your Facebook friends about your updates on Goodreads. There is integration with MySpace too, and a widget you can use in your Ning pages.
This is the most vibrant community connecting readers and writers, but similar sites include Library Thing (www.librarything.com, with 850,000 members) and Shelfari (www.shelfari.com, which is owned by Amazon).
Many people have an informal network of friends and colleagues they can consult when they have questions about work and their professional development. LinkedIn brings these loose connections to the internet and enables you to consult your trusted network, and tap into the networks of your friends. Using LinkedIn, you can find new suppliers, clients, projects, employees and employers. LinkedIn also enables you to share your professional experience and expertise with others worldwide.
LinkedIn was established in a living room in 2002, and has grown to have over 48 million members today. Half those members are outside the US, and are claimed to spread across nearly all the world's countries.
There are no games on LinkedIn; it's much more serious than Facebook or Friends Reunited. It is an ideal way to reconnect with former colleagues, and to collaborate with your social network on projects and professional development.
While there are some premium features on LinkedIn, you'll find that you can do most things you want to using a free account.
Creating your own network
Wouldn't it be great if you could have your own social network, just for you and your friends? It would certainly beat squatting on somebody else's network, turning a blind eye to the features you don't want and having pretty much the same experience as everybody else who uses that network.
Ning makes it easy to create your own social network. You choose which features your network uses, including blogs, chat, groups, events, photos, videos and music. Features you don't need won't clutter up your screen, and you can extend the functionality with third-party content and applications. It's your group, so you decide who joins and what the rules are.
Ning is free, so the only limitation is your imagination. You could create a group to keep in touch with the extended family, sharing photos, videos and chatting between get-togethers. Perhaps your local classical music society would like to keep up the discussion between lecture meetings, or would like a place for members to share their thoughts on the programme? Maybe your college alumni association would benefit from having a place where old friends can mingle online, and build up their confidence to attend a real-life reunion? Ning enables you to bring all the benefits of social networking to any group of people with a shared interest.
Even if you don't already have a group of people waiting for a place to congregate online, Ning enables you to create a social network and helps you to recruit members. Your social network can be found through search engines (including Google), and Ning will recommend your network to members of its other networks who might be interested in yours.
Chapter 9 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Ning in depth.
Disaboom.com (no longer available)
This website featured in the book, but is no longer live. An alternative site you might want to explore is I live with a disability.
Friends and family, and socialising
Facebook is the ideal place to begin your exploration of social networking for a few reasons. Firstly, it's big. Huge, in fact. With 300 million active members (people who returned to the site in the last month), Facebook has a larger population than nearly all countries in the world. Only China, India and the US have more citizens. It's bigger than the UK, France, Germany, South Africa, and Canada combined. That means you're certain to find friends and family already on the site that you can connect with. Facebook is the most popular social networking site, with research from Hitwise showing the only website that's more popular in the UK is Google.
Facebook began in 2004 as a way for Harvard University students to network with each other, and was named after the book showing students' faces and names that is sometimes circulated in US colleges to help students get to know each other. The site was soon opened to other colleges, and then to anyone of any age all over the world. The fastest growing demographic now is those over 35, and over 70% of Facebook users are outside the US.
Chapter 3 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Facebook in depth.
Friends Reunited has a bold ambition: to have everybody in the UK registered, so that old friends never lose touch. So far, it's attracted over half the UK's adult population with 20.6 million registered members. The site attracts adults of all ages, with the average age of users 42, and 11 million users over 35.
Of all the sites you'll be looking at in this book, Friends Reunited is the oldest. The site began in 1999 when Steve and Julie Pankhurst started to develop a website that would help people to find out what their schoolfriends are up to today.
In the early days, Friends Reunited charged members a subscription fee if they wanted to be able to send messages to friends. That's been abolished, so it's now free to connect with your old mates, as it is on most other social networking websites.
If you tried Friends Reunited years ago, it's worth giving it a second look now. A lot of the innovations from other social networking sites have been adopted, such as friend relationships and more in-depth profiles. Because the site's original purpose was to reconnect school colleagues and because it was so ahead of the game in social networking, it remains the best way to track down former school colleagues. There is significant cross-over between social networking sites, but there are likely to be many people on Friends Reunited that you can't find as easily elsewhere. The built-in features for organising a class reunion make it ideal for that purpose, too.
Friends Reunited also has a group chat facility, and the ability to create and share a timeline that tells your life story.
Chapter 4 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Facebook in depth.
Meetup takes a slightly different angle: whereas events are just one of the things that sites like Facebook offer to their communities, Meetup exists primarily to bring people together in the real world. It describes itself as a network of local groups, and says that over 2,000 groups meet in local communities each day thanks to its planning tools. The site's mission is to revitalise the local community and help people worldwide to organise themselves into groups.
The interests represented by groups are as varied as the people within them: near me I could mingle with chess players, poker players, kung fu movie makers, solo travellers, badminton players, readers, Agatha Christie fans, Chihuahuas (and their owners), jive dancers, and German speakers. There are also many groups dedicated to socialising, bringing together people just to make friends.
Because you can restrict membership of your group to those you know, Meetup is also a great way to create an online meeting place for an existing local community group. Meetup can help to sustain momentum between meetings, provide advanced planning tools and even enable people to pay before they attend. Organising groups does incur a fee, but this can be passed on to members.
Chapter 8 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Meetup in depth.
Growsonyou is a friendly and supportive community of gardeners who share their tips and advice through blogs and question and answer forums. The site has 9,000 members, three-quarters of whom are over 40 years old. 65% of the members are female.
Photo sharing and commenting is a key part of the site. Members uploaded over 80,000 photos in the site's first two years. Growsonyou makes it easy to find pictures by colour or to find inspiring shots of small gardens, waterfalls or decking, among other design challenges.
The site is free to use. There is an optional garden supplies shop built-in.
Genesreunited is a sister site to Friends Reunited, dedicated to helping people to connect with their family members and create their family trees. The site has over 10.5 million members and enables you to search over 209 million names to see if your relations appear in other members' family trees. If they do, you can contact the member who owns that tree to find out more and view their family tree. The community shares tips on genealogy research, and there is pay-per-view and subscription access to scanned census records.
The site enables you to add your relatives to a world map and import or export data in the standard Gedcom format used by genealogy software.
This site has over 70 million profiles and enables families to collaborate to build their family tree online. Families can share photos and videos and add events to a timeline or calendar. Using Geni is a bit like having your own Ning network: there's no pre-built community for you because each family's discussion is private to them, so you'll need to invite others to join you if you're the first in your family to discover the site. You can do most things with a free account, but paid accounts start at $5 per month and provide access to advanced search and family tree statistics and also enable you to collaborate with others on your family tree. You can kickstart your tree with a Gedcom file if you've already been creating your tree using genealogy software or on another site that exports in that format.
This site has one foot in the past and one foot in the present. While the family tree is a key feature, the real focus of the site is on creating a mini website for your family to keep in touch. You can share photos, videos, recipes, polls, links, family news, and events on the calendar. The site includes facial recognition software which aims to make it easier to tag people in photographs, and to find photos of your family uploaded by other members. Your family website can be private or public. During the registration, the site railroads you into downloading a toolbar so you have all its tools always available in your browser, but this is optional. Just close your browser windows, open them up again and log in to the site and you can bypass the toolbar installation.
Knitting and crochet
Ravelry has 372,000 members who knit, spin, crochet or design patterns. On the site, you can share your projects with others, search for patterns and seek and share advice on the best tools and techniques. You can add other members as friends, and can join groups dedicated to chatting, swapping or local meets. The forums cover patterns, techniques, yarn, and needlework on the net.
Practising with a native speaker is the best way to keep your fluency up in a foreign language, and can also be a friendly way to improve your language skills if you're not yet fluent. Italki makes it easy for you to find study partners who are native speakers of the language you're learning, and who would benefit from your native language (probably English, if you're reading this).
Whatever you want to learn, you're bound to find a partner here: The site has over 450,000 members from 212 countries, who speak over 100 languages.
As well as finding language partners, you can join or start discussion forums (in English, or a foreign language) and can pose or answer questions about language study. There's a wiki for learning languages too, which is an encyclopaedia that anybody (including you) can edit. The ratings will help you to find the well researched and accurate entries. Don't forget the contributions mostly come from other students and might occasionally include errors - don't let their mistakes rub off on you!
Last.fm is a site where music fans discuss their favourite artists and find others who share their tastes. There are groups where you can seek recommendations of new music to try, and Last.fm will itself analyse what you like and suggest new bands to you. If you listen to music on your computer, you can install software that keeps a record of what you play, which helps Last.fm create a personalised radio station you'll enjoy. If you want to blog about music, Last.fm enables you to create what it calls a journal and receive comments from other site members. When you visit other members' profiles, you can see how compatible your music tastes are. Best of all, Last.fm will create a chart showing what you and your groups listen to most. Ready, pop pickers? Not 'arf!
MySpace is the platform of choice for music fans and for musicians, both amateur and professional. Most big name acts have a presence there today, and new material is often released on the site first.
MySpace makes it easy to search for others in your age group, and to find new friends who are interested in friendship or dating. Bear in mind that many lie about their date of birth to protect their privacy, so the age displayed on a member's profile might be misleading. Either that, or it's the top hangout for young-looking septuagenarian dance music fans.
If you're a musician, comedian or film-maker, you can create a free MySpace profile that helps to promote your work. Anybody is welcome to join, blog on the site, and connect with friends.
MySpace members are guaranteed at least one friend. Tom Anderson, the site's co-founder, is automatically added to your friends list when you join up. Don't expect to hear from him much, though. He has over 260 million friends. That illustrates the difference between online friends and real friends perfectly.
I've created a MySpace profile for the fictional band in my novel University of Death. Feel free to send a friend request.
News and views
Reddit.com and Digg.com
These are sites where people can share links to interesting stuff they've found on the internet, and vote on the links they like. They enable members to decide what's newsworthy, with the most popular links making it to the front pages. Each link has its own discussion thread, but the conversation can get rather fiery, particularly on political subjects on Digg. Discussions tend to focus on a single link, so there's not much repeated interaction with people unless you happen to be commenting on the same links. If you find someone you like though, you can see what else they've posted and this can be a good way to discover new websites, articles and videos you want to see.
Flickr is dedicated to sharing and discussing photos. Now that digital cameras are relatively cheap (and even incorporated into phones and other devices), we are probably living at the most photographed time in history. Flickr makes it easy to share your memories, creative works and observations of daily life.
Members can tag areas of an image to comment on, perhaps drawing attention to a detail you might not have noticed, or comment on the image as a whole. While there is a wealth of public photos there, you can also use Flickr to create private groups for sharing and discussing photos of family occasions. There are groups dedicated to different types of photography, such as nature.
Flickr has a simple tool called Picnik for rotating, cropping, and resizing photos and for fixing colours and red-eye.
Normally copyright law means you're not allowed to republish someone else's pictures, but many members of Flickr make their images available for free under a creative commons licence. That means you can take those images from Flickr, with the creators' consent, and use them to decorate your profile or identify your group on other social networks.
Although most people access Flickr through its website, there are lots of different ways you can get photos in and out of Flickr. There is a Flickr application for Facebook, and a widget for Eons. You can customise your 43Things profile to display your photo stream in the sidebar. You can also add Flickr streams to your Ning social networks. For that reason, people often use Flickr as their main storage depot for photos, and let the images automatically flow from there into the other social networks they use.
Saga Zone has been created by the Saga Group, which is based in the UK and provides services including insurance and holidays for the over 50s.
At Saga Zone, you can network with 55,950 other seniors in forums and clubs. Saga Zone also makes it easy to create a blog, and organise real-world social gatherings. Saga Group itself has organised overnight cruises for members to meet other Saga Zoners face to face, with a programme of entertainment and educational activities on board.
Chapter 6 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Saga Zone in depth.
Growing Bolder is aimed at those who are 50+ and is a cross between a broadcaster and a social network. It has a team of professionals creating videos and audio programmes that tell inspiring stories related to wellness and positive living. Channels on the site enable quick access to professionally created and user generated content on the same subject. Those channels span a vast range of subjects, including a number of sports, health issues, entertainments, work issues, travel, technology and relationships. Social networking features include forums, blogs, groups, and photo galleries.
Sharing status updates and ideas
If you're feeling overloaded with information and bamboozled by everything you can do in the social networks you've explored already, Twitter might come as welcome relief. It has just one function: to enable its members to share concise answers to the question 'What are you doing?'
How concise? Well, each entry must be no longer than 140 characters. That might seem like a lot, but it's only the length of this paragraph.
Twitter has grown fantastically quickly since its public launch in August 2006. The site's owners are secretive about how many people use it, but estimates have placed the membership between one and six million. That makes the site a minnow next to Facebook, and a whale next to Saga Zone, although it lacks Saga Zone's focus on the over 50s.
You might not find most people you know in the real world on Twitter, but you will have a chance to find plenty of people who share your interests, and to interact with them in a unique way.
Twitter has also been widely adopted by celebrities, who have used it to keep their fans, the press and the world at large informed about what they're doing. Many people have found that they're able to build up a close connection with their favourite writers, actors, musicians, businessmen and sports stars through the insight into their daily lives that Twitter provides.
Chapter 5 of Social Networking for the Older and Wiser covers Twitter in depth.
Couchsurfing is all about travelling the world, staying with hosts who donate the use of their couch (or spare room) for a night or two. The site has over a million members all over the world who are willing to offer up their couch for the night, or might like to sleep on yours. You're encouraged to spend time with your guest or host, and to use it as the chance to start a real-world friendship.
Safety is paramount, and the site has been designed with this in mind. The site is free to use, but members can offer a donation so they can be verified: Couchsurfing uses the payment details to validate that the member's name and address are true. Unlike most social networking sites, friends on Couchsurfing are people who know each other in the real world. Friends can vouch for each other, which enables other members to see how trustworthy somebody is. If somebody receives negative feedback, that also hurts the reputation of those who vouched for them, so it carries some weight. 99.6% of Couchsurfing experiences have been reported as positive on the site.
You don't have to host anyone you don't want to, and you can take the opportunity to just chat about travel in the discussion forums, or meet passing travellers for a coffee.
Couchsurfing has over one million members from 62,000 cities who speak 1,270 languages. If you've always wanted to go to Antarctica, and don't mind kipping on a sofa, then this could be your chance. Wrap up warm!
Travbuddy enables travellers to share their travel stories, recommendations for places to see and photos from all over the world. The content is organised by location, with over 20,000 places recognised, making it the ideal place to go if you know you're travelling somewhere and want guidance on what to see. For photographers and travellers alike, the content is inspirational.
Travbuddy has over 1.5 million registered users, who have written 111,000 travel blogs and 32,000 travel reviews and have uploaded over 2 million photos of places all over the world. Membership is free.
Youtube has brought about a revolution in how we consume television: many people are as likely to watch a few short films on Youtube a day as they are to sit down and watch a conventional TV broadcast. Those short films might be funny candids of everyday life, scripted mini-plays, business presentations or music performances.
Youtube video crazes often sweep the internet, such as Rickrolling (where people try to trick others into watching a Rick Astley video at Youtube) and the literal pop videos (where people caption pop videos and re-record the lyrics to match what is actually happening on screen, with often hilarious results).
Now that so many digital cameras and phones record video (check your manual, you might find yours does!), Youtube has been phenomenally successful. The site has 71 million different visitors each month and has been measured as the sixth most popular website in the world.
When you upload your video to Youtube, you can receive feedback from viewers and ratings out of five. As a viewer and film-maker, you can search by keyword for films you're interested in and participate in discussion groups.
Many other social networks rely on Youtube for their video functionality. If you want to add a video to Saga Zone or Meetup, for example, you need to upload it to Youtube first and then provide those sites with its address at Youtube. Only then can your friends discuss it and leave their comments on those sites.
Because Youtube is owned by Google, you can log in using your Googlemail/Gmail account, if you have one.
Second Life is a virtual environment which you explore in 3D by moving your avatar around the screen, as shown in Figure A1:
The controls are like a computer game, with the freedom to walk, run and fly all over the world, but there's no goal to achieve. You can go there to do whatever you want: attend virtual concerts, explore the castles or hang out with friends in the parks.
Even though some social networks help you to shield your identity, most expect you to be yourself online. Second Life encourages you to create whatever virtual life you can imagine. It's a surreal fantasy land. You meet fox-headed gentlemen, daintily-dressed dames, dragons and funky dancers. Users can shape themselves in their own image, and adopt the personality, age and gender they would like to portray.
It's all built by users like you. In time, you could learn how to design your own clothes and buildings, and could even make money by creating objects and designs for other users. There is a whole economy in Second Life, with users exchanging Linden dollars (L$) for objects, clothes, building designs and services (such as DJ-ing or promotions work). You can use real money (including through Paypal) to buy in-game currency, and if you earn a decent amount, you can cash your L$ back into real money. Don't expect to get rich, though. There's a limit to how much people will pay for a bunch of pixels, however nicely arranged or animated they are.
You communicate in Second Life by typing and/or by speaking into a computer headset, similar to internet phone calls service Skype. Whichever you use, when you chat you can be heard by other avatars up to 20m away from you. If you shout (as frowned upon in Second Life as it is in the real world), you can be heard up to 100m away. If you want to communicate privately with someone, you use instant messages. It is possible to add characters to your friends lists, but is considered too forward to do that until you really are what could be considered friends. There are groups, which help you find other people who share your hobbies or interests.
Second Life is vast so you probably won't bump into the same people twice. Until you find your own regular haunt and make friends with the locals in-world, it's worth inviting offline friends to join you so you can explore together. You could sit side by side at the same computer, or log on separately (even from different countries) and arrange to meet up at the same place in the world.
When you get started, Second Life will introduce you to some places that offer informal training courses (mostly signs you read), and have a friendly welcome in the form of friendly tutors or Q&A sessions. I recommend the University of Oxbridge Course at Caledon as a good starting point.
To use Second Life, you'll need to register an account and install free software from the website at www.secondlife.com. For that reason, you'll probably need your own computer to use it. Membership is free and you can take advantage of all the features without buying any Linden dollars.
Some users of Second Life play out entire fictional life stories in the virtual world, including starting a business, buying some land, building their dream home and settling down with another player in a virtual marriage. The experience can be incredibly immersive. Just don't forget your first life!
This site previously had the web address del.icio.us, but they have thankfully changed it to something we can all remember. Delicious enables you to share your web bookmarks online, and to find the websites that others are bookmarking. You describe sites using tags, short keywords of your own choice that summarise the content of a page. This site is best thought of as a people-powered search engine - it's good for finding new content, but the focus is very much on the bookmarks, rather than the community of people posting them.
If you enjoy surfing the web, StumbleUpon can give you tailored recommendations of new sites you'll enjoy. Members share their website bookmarks and reviews, and can give each webpage a 'thumbs up' or a 'thumbs down'. StumbleUpon works out a member's taste based on these ratings, and uses it to recommend websites that others with similar taste liked. It's a bit like Amazon's 'customers who bought this book, also bought this book' feature, only it's for website visits. There's a toolbar you can download, so you can give the thumbs up (or down) to any webpages you come across and stumble onto a new recommendation with a single click.
The site has over seven million members and has hundreds of different categories of website that you can express a preference for, when you register. These include home brewing, cats, lounge music, fishing, politics, weight loss, and rugby - there's something for everyone.
About my book Social Networking for the Older and Wiser
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