"If Facebook is the Cathedral, who owns the bazaar?"

This evening's Mashup Event, hosted this time at Merrill Lynch's London HQ, focused on Social Networks. It was the busiest of the series to date; at over 200 attendees it was twice the size of the one I chaired earlier this year. So congratulations to Simon and Tony on making it happen.

Social networking has arrived. I can say this on the sole basis that we were in less-than-5-star hotel venues not long ago, and now we're hosted by one of the world's biggest investment banks! Moreover, the breadth of attendees is growing as more and more employers and leaders become interested in how Mashups affect their business, affect their markets, affect their lives.

This is beneficial as the event inculcates interactions, questions and comment from a wider cross-section. But this can also frustrate the process when varying levels of insight come together and talk at different levels. Take the first sentence of this post for example; a quote taken from tonight's event which obviously comes from someone confusing open and proprietary approaches to social networking with Eric Raymond's distinctions between different software engineering models.

Now I don't want to sound like a geek, because I have gaps in my knowledge too. (For example, I learned things tonight from Chris Seth, the UK MD for Piczo, about creating social networks for kids.) Rather, what I'm trying to say is that I think I learned something this evening about social networking that wasn't even discussed...

Efficient social networks should allow you to find your level for any given topic.

So, for example, as a social professional network like MarCom Professional attracts thousands of members and tens of thousands of posts, each and every member should help rate content; not just for quality, news worthiness or entertainment value, but also for the level it's pitched at. Or perhaps this is implicit to the links to it and from it, and the kind of members who've read it, linked to it and commented on it? Not just a pagerank in Googlespeak, but a "memberrank".

Either way, this convergence of social networking and knowledge management approaches is going to be valuable in so-called Enterprise 2.0, and for consumer facing sites too. It will start to make simply sending virtual fish, vampire bites and buckets of cold sick to each other appear very 2007.