Why has social networking taken off online? Why do we need an Internet for it? Why can't it be transferred to the 'real world', where you really meet people? I decided it was time to find out whether or not it was possible to take all the cool bits from popular social-networking sites and somehow turn them into real-world experiences -- this was project SociaLim.
To get things going I'd need people, but how would I find them without the aid of the Internet? I turned to my trusty landline phone and started calling buddies at random. By the end of the day I had five unsuspecting friends hooked up to the SociaLim experience. Now all I needed to do was establish how this was all going to work.
What better system to start experimenting with than Facebook, one of the most popular social networks out there? Spotting my opportunity in the pub, I rushed over and poked one of my mates in the ribs, threw a pirate doll at him and stuck a photo from a drunken night out on his t-shirt.
My mate looked at me in disbelief, his hands clenched in a threatening manner, clearly not buying into these SociaLim features. It looked like everything was going wrong, until I remembered that I'd brought along all of the photos from our drunken night out on my digital camera -- could photo sharing save the day?
Up until this point we'd only messaged each other Flickr links and left comments, but we'd never actually looked at photos together. As we flicked through each photo and laughed about who looked more out of it, it started to feel like SociaLim might just make it.
But photo sharing wasn't enough, we needed something exciting, something that would take it to the next level. What better feature to elevate this real-world social network than adding instant messaging from Twitter? Using my mobile I started to frantically send text messages to all five friends about my every move.
Two days into it and I received five "unsubscribe from SociaLim" text messages -- apparently my friends didn't enjoy receiving text messages about my bowel movements. You just can't please some people. I tried in vain to resuscitate project SociaLim, but they'd had enough.
Project SocialLim had failed. So it was a half-baked attempt at setting up a social network, but I learned -- as many people are going to learn over the next few years -- that bolting on social networking features isn't always the answer. I would have been better off using the tools that are already out there to be a better friend, rather than trying to sign my mates up to real-world social network.
But it wasn't a pointless exercise, because I did learn a valuable lesson. Cities were built around rivers and churches because they provided a resource, and I wasn't providing enough of one in SociaLim. It can't just be about the frills, you've got to offer people some meat -- and definitely stay away from bowel movements.