I've been thinking a lot about social networking and community building lately. Spurred in part by Marshall Keyes' talk at SSP, and in part by my participation in numerous Yahoo Groups in an effort to share information and keep in touch.
One group consists of friends from my husband's high school. Another is a group of Girl Scout leaders. A third is a professional organization of women in the information industry. All of these groups share a need to communicate information, keep track of changes of job and contact information, calendars, and manage upcoming events and share files. Yahoo Groups does a reasonable job with this, (although the sign-in requirement for occasional users is daunting.)
Of course journals were the original technology for sharing and community building among scholars. We publishers pride ourselves on getting everything electronic, including some pretty impressive backfile digitization projects.
But we haven't yet used today's technology to change fundamentally the scholarly publishing models. Open Access is making some inroads, yes. Forward looking organizations like Nature, Science, and Highwire are experimenting with aspects of new technologies.
And more is coming. Parity Computing, who I've done some work for, has the ability to mine journal data (mostly references) to create author profiles that make interconnections between researchers and to construct virtual CVs. Technology such as this could be used to integrate society membership databases with journal data, enabling the kinds of networking that is built manually by users in systems like LinkedIn.