James Governor says open source software is social media: the communities that form around projects turn every component, every bug fix into a social object. Lance Crosby thinks Internet infrastructure can be social media too. He says SoftLayer's customer exchange and API allow companies whose servers reside in SoftLayer's data centers to become connection points. I say not quite.
SoftLayer is what FaceBook/MySpace/Linkedin would be like if you disabled search and prevented members from seeing what groups people belong to/who else they're friends with/etc. You can add someone as a contact if and only if you already know their user ID. It's got the potential for becoming a social network, but still a long way from actually being one.
It's telling that Lance sees parallels between a packet exchange (peering at Equinix) and an application exchange (developers interconnecting multiple apps through SoftLayer). I don't like the analogy, because whereas you can get a bunch of servers to communicate freely just by plugging them into a shared switch fabric, you can't make collaborators out of customers simply by housing their code on the same network.
I've been hounding Lance for AGES to make hosting at SoftLayer a more social experience. At the very, very least, wouldn't it make sense to showcase a few examples of how people are taking advantage of SoftLayer's very cool network within a network? Better yet, why not facilitate declarative living by allowing customers to tag what kinds of applications they're building, what technologies they're using, where they're located...
Those who are willing can share such data publicly, thereby making themselves findable by like-minded folks. Even customers who prefer maintaining their privacy can glean useful knowledge from aggregated data ("X% of BSD/lighttpd/Posgres or CentOS/Apache/MySQL users like you chose Intel versus AMD processors"?).
When I mentioned this idea to David Feinberg at MediaTemple, he suggested there should be a Google Groups like sub-community associated with each tag. So if you need to hire a PHP programmer or would like to meet follow developers during your next trip to New York, you could broadcast (narrow-cast?) your request to a super-targeted audience. So much better than cluttering a general purpose forum with threads that aren't of interest to a majority of the readership.
Imagine how useful SoftLayer's customer exchange would be if it were coupled with a customer network. I wish Lance would hurry up and build it instead of squandering SoftLayer's social media potential.