You can't take it with you

I'm LinkedIn.

I have a Friendster profile.

I'm a member of NYSSA, an alumni of Fordham and an alumni of Regis High School.  I have various levels of data about myself at each of these institutions.  NYSSA and Regis have online databases available for people inside those organizations.  Regis lets me post a resume/bio.  Fordham... well, Fordham puts out a book (yes, with actual pages and everything) every five years or so, which is already obsolete in my case because it doesn't have my current work address.

I have an About page here and here.

I just registered for the NYPEN.

I'll admit to some online dating... but I'll let you match me to those profiles on your own.  ;)

I play kickball and dodgeball for ZogSports, and softball for Fordham in the NYC MetroSports League.  Both of these leagues have enormous online social networking potential that I'd be very happy to participate in, but they don't take advantage of that in any way.  Sportsvite is trying to solve that problem and while its a great idea and a neat implementation, its Y.A.F.P.  (Yet another...err... profile.)  If anyone is looking for an OF/3B in softball who catches and hits a lot better than he runs for a fill-in or a pickup game, that's the site to contact me through. 

The Downtown Boathouse is the same way.  They don't attempt to leverage their network at all.  I don't even know the last names of most of the other kayaking volunteers, let alone what they do for a living.  Its actually kind of an unspoken taboo there that when you're there, you're a kayaker and that's all that matters.  In a way, its sort of cool, but I'm sure I'm probably missing out on a lot of good professional networking because it never gets discussed.  Its a great place for free kayaking in New York City on the Hudson, but a terrible place for efficient social networking.

I also have an outdated profile at MonsterTrak where I'm listed as an alumni contact for Fordham students.   Now, Fordham wants me to fill out Y.A.F.P.  for the alumni mentoring program that I helped start two years ago so that all of the other students in the program can contact me.  I'm all for being helpful, but, to be honest, I'm a little profiled out.  I'll fill it out, but there has to be a better solution, for ALL of these things I'm a part of.

As far as I'm concerned, LinkedIn, at least for all this professional stuff, is far and away the best answer.  Their site is extremely professional.  Their set of permissions based contacting prevents me or my network from being spammed.  That's my favorite profile, but it doesn't solve half my profiling and networking issues.  I can't take that profile anywhere and use it for anything, nor can anyone else use it to really solve their member database issues.  Everything about LinkedIn has to be done on the site.  So, people see it as Y.A.F.P. when they already have enough trouble managing all of their member database and profile data everywhere else.

LinkedIn should open up the network through an open API and "Powered by" type services.  Take Fordham, for example.  Fordham University as a whole is never going to get LinkedIn for Groups.  They already have an alumni database.  They don't need two.  However, LinkedIn could provide a "Powered by LinkedIn" front end that would, with permission, give anyone in the alumni database all of these great networking tools that the LinkedIn users already use.  So, lets say I'm Joe Blog, Class of '57.  I've already given the school all my data, but its going to get stale pretty quickly, because they don't have a clunky online database which will take a million years to implement.   Besides which, it becomes Y.A.F.P. for people to manage, and Joe's not interested in that, especially since his own participation in the database might not provide him any direct value.

But, what if Joe gets an e-mail or sees on the alumni website that he can now log-in and get connected via Linked-in automatically to all of these great features if he so chooses.  So, his profile is on the system, but he can opt-in to a Linked-in for Groups type functionality.  If he's already on LinkedIn, that's great, because his profile has been autopopulated, and if he's not, his LinkedIn profile has been autopopulated with the data he gave the university.  If he wants to turn it on, great!  If not, that's his choice.  For LinkedIn, its mostly coming up with a school skinned UI, because they already have the database backend for groups.  For the school, its a really really lightweight, simple, opt-in implementation of the online database everyones been asking for.  Why every professional member database doesn't have a LinkedIn frontend with a one click option to be a LinkedIn member, I have no idea.  Joe would love it, because then he could use the same profile for his school, his professional society, or his softball team.

If you open up the API, you can let people develop stuff on top of the LinkedIn backend.  So, the Sportsvite folks can choose not to show your professional resume, but instead throw on a rating on how hard you can throw.  Currently, aside from the attempts at FOAF, I haven't seen anyone open up their system and attempt to be the profile engine for everyone, but I think LinkedIn has the best shot.  I don't think you can just do this with a closed, offering.  You need NYSSA to choose you as their front end provider and Fordham and whoever else wants a "Powered by LinkedIn" database.  Until then, LinkedIn is just going to be Y.A.F.P. and we're still going to have to log on and put our stuff into these clunky pseudo address books.