Are friends electric?

I regularly read a number of blogs and email newsletters, as I’m sure we all do, but I’ll freely confess that I don’t keep large XML databases of blogs that I then feel compelled to trawl through, nor do I feel the need to have hundreds of links on LinkedIn, either. I really do wonder how many of those links are real friends and colleagues, or just the grasping of the desperate in an attempt for social self-justification. I hope that doesn’t sound catty at all? Oh well, It’s been a long day, and I’m not in the mood to be any nicer…

Are friends electric?

I signed up for Friends Reunited way back when and it was fun for a few months, as old schoolmates started reappearing. Then there’s LiveJournal, where I can pour out my bleeding heart or post pictures of my dogs, although for many people it seems that these amount to the same thing. Then came LinkedIn, and I have a goodly set of links in there of people I actually know and communicate with on a moderately regular basis. Since then there’s been community after community that I feel press-ganged into joining, the latest being Naymz. The invite read: “Jon, Please join my Reputation Network on Naymz. Click here to view, accept or decline my invitation, which will expire in 30 days. Sincerely ” (where I’ve hidden the naym to protect the guilty). I wouldn’t have minded except for two things: I absolutely refuse to join anything that has such a desperately arty spelling as its naym, adding a “z” to make the plural is so last decade that it shrieks of desperation, but worse still I already have a link to this particular friend on LinkedIn.

Why would I want to join a new “Reputation Network”? I already have a reputation, some parts of which I’m proud of, some parts of which are best forgotten. I can’t help wondering whether the whole point of such networks is to get you to populate their database for them, so they can subsequently sell it on for profitable targeted marketing. I certainly haven’t had any work out of any such network, and nor do I think my reputation has been advanced by any of them. And if anyone wants to get in touch with me, Google does a pretty good job of coming up with my contact details, and they are after all printed by the side of every PC Pro column.

This outburst of spleen has been brought on by a whole raft of “jam tomorrow” promises from just about every vendor under the sun. As we slide into a major slump, there’s no question the IT department is going to receive its fair share of punch-bag management, which from a corporate IT systems point of view might not be such a bad thing, tragic although it will be for the casualties. Even today, a lot of IT stuff is just mindless nonsense, with too little focus on the core business, and far too many promises over impossible deliverables with zero real end-user benefits. If a contraction in public sector spending does any good at all, it will be to squeeze those contractors that promise the impossible to those people too gullible or incompetent to be left in charge of our money.

I was in quite an upbeat mood at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference just a month ago, where I saw lots of good work; some of it truly innovative, some of it fixing past and present embarrassments such as Vista. And the weather there was just spot-on, T-shirts and shades, but not too hot. As we slide into a cold, wet English winter – both literally and financially – the promise of “jam tomorrow” is starting to leave me a little bit cold. Of course, we’ll eventually come out the other side of this recession, but I wonder in what shape corporate IT will be by then? Be in no doubt that the SME (small medium enterprise) sector will take a pounding, too.

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