I had a really interesting conversation today with Dennis McDonald about Social Networking. His observation was that most of what he's seen so far with social networking is that it's been focused on people connecting to people that they already know. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I love to find the people I know online but for me it's usually a quick, "I found you, cool now we're connected." I'm sure that there are stories out there -- particularly with job searches -- where social networking has been instrumental. Outside that, it seems that more often it's card collecting. I can see that Jill knows Steve but I'm no closer to knowing Steve, I just know that Jill knows him. I do like knowing there's a bag of potential contacts, even if I never use them.
Social Bookmarks have a great purpose, too. I can see what other people mark as interesting content. I have no connection to them personally, but social bookmarking allows me to snoop "good readers" and track their information consumption. I follow the tags and feeds of a number of people but I have never said one word to them. Love reading over their shoulder, though. It saves me a lot of time.
Social Productivity is different than social networking or social bookmarking: it's about getting work done outside the team of like-minded people you work with everyday. With social productivity, an idea is introduced and all sorts of people get to chime in on it. These could be people you work with a lot, people you've never worked with or even people outside your company. Now all of a sudden your idea has been developed openly by all sorts of people who bring their own, valuable perspective. You can evolve those ideas into all sorts of collaborative or locked content but thanks to the social whetstone, your original idea is much stronger now. This isn't just true "behind the firewall" within companies. Look at Wikipedia, the content has been built, written and organized more relevantly than any single or traditional team of authors could have done.