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Oct 06, 2006: Finding contacts in unfamiliar cities

Here's a feature I'd love to see in social networking apps like LinkedIn: say you're headed out on a brief trip to an unfamiliar destination. It'd be really nice to get a list of people to look up who are friends of friends. But your social network has few or no contacts who live in the city you'll be visiting.

You could expand your search another degree of separation, and see who within that set of contacts lives there. But how many of us actually bother to do this? It seems like a bit of a hassle.

Also, these networks only know about the cities our contacts currently reside in. Lost is the information on our contacts' past locales (and, therefore, all the contacts they have in those places). So I may be on my way to Seattle, and one of my contacts lived there for twenty years and built a wonderful network there. But if I don't happen to know she's an ex-Seattlite, there's no benefit I can derive from her past network.

I think a potential solution is to allow network members to specify the names of cities where they have strong networks, however they came by them (whether they lived there before, worked for a company with a headquarters there, and so on). The result: next time you're headed somewhere new, you could quickly access a list of local contacts who are only one degree of separation (and an informal email introduction) away.

Is there some way to do this already that I'm missing? My experience is pretty much limited to LinkedIn.

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Comment: Ed Costello (Oct 6, 2006)

I've been working on something like this for the past year. It started as a tool for making serendipitous connections with people when you're traveling and sort of mushroomed.

I'll add you to the alpha list (which at my current pace of development won't be for another month or more).

Comment: leisa.reichet (Oct 6, 2006)

kind of like Dodgeball? (http://www.dodgeball.com/)

Comment: Lou (Oct 6, 2006)

Ed, looking forward to seeing it!

Lisa, not really: I want to know who's been where over time. If you lived in Sydney for years before moving to London, but I only met you since you moved to London, I won't know that you have an extensive network in Sydney. I don't think most of the social apps surface your social nets aside from where you currently live.

Comment: Eric Scheid (Oct 6, 2006)

Most social apps make a poor effort at surfacing implicit knowledge, relying instead on trawling through their meagre databanks.

Where people have once lived is just one more data point which people don't upload into their profile (mainly because it's not asked for, and there's no place to store it). Other data points that don't get entered are things like what skills they have, what jobs they've worked at, who they know, specialisations, etc etc ... we've all seen the profiles of friends that don't say everything you know they could say. The knowledge exists - in your head, in your friend's head - just not in the online profile.

This knowledge can even include non-participating contacts. I have 200+ contacts at LinkedIN, but ask me for someone that is active in the non-profit sector and I'll refer you to someone I know who doesn't have a LinkedIN profile.

If a contact of mine did a search for globe-trotting speakers who have visited Sydney recently, they wouldn't find much with the current search system. If instead that contact of mine asked his circle of contacts, I'd be able to point him to a bunch of folks.

What I want to see is a social app that *facilitates* in an efficient and simple manner access to this *implicit* knowledge of our social networks.

Comment: Eric Scheid (Oct 6, 2006)

Back to LinkedIN though ... if only they asked for city name against each listed employment position, that would be grist for the mill.

I found Lou (who is listed as being in Greater Detroit Area) while searching for "Michigan", as in "University of".

Comment: Karl Laird (Oct 8, 2006)

"*facilitates* in an efficient and simple manner" - I think that alludes to the most important part, thanks Eric.

There are a number of factors that people want to be able to reference across in profiles like linked in, but unless a significant portion of the people involved can actually be persuaded to fill their profiles to the level required it will be pointless to provide the search.

Having a place to input the data is insufficient if the greater part of the data points are still left unfilled.

Comment: jen (Oct 29, 2006)

this feature was in one of the earliest social networking/calendaring/PIM sites - PlanetAll. you'd enter in your travel details & it would alert you if anyone of your friends was going to be in the city at the same time and i'm pretty sure it also did one level of friends of friends. i loved that site & the feature (amazon bought it in 1998 and it disappeared).

good to hear you're coming up with something like it ed! feel free to add me to the alpha list too!

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