Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's aSmallWorld, after all

Yes, I admit it. I check my SiteMeter reports far more often than I should. Really, it's unhealthy, and I should stop, but ... I just can't.

Anyhoo, I see via SiteMeter that The Velvet Blog has a semiregular visitor who keeps up with TVB doings via a service called aSmallWorld. I was curious enough about the refer to check it out. According to the service's Web site:
aSmallWorld is a private online community, which is designed for those who already have strong connections with one another. ...

We have imposed certain criteria in order to keep the network exclusive. To join, you need to be invited by a trusted member.

If you have not received an invitation, you can ask your friends to invite you. If you have no friends who are members yet, please be patient.

Oooooo ... exclusive! It's like a gated community to keep out the riffraff--like me!

What's the old Groucho Marx joke? Something like "I would never join any club that would have me as a member." That's not true in my case. I would totally join any club that would lower its standards to include me.

And who belongs?
Members range from entrepreneurial and business opinion makers to leaders in media, entertainment, fashion, the arts and sports. ...

As an exclusive network of like-minded individuals with an appreciation for quality in life, aSmallWorld offers a rare opportunity to reach and interact with a discriminating global community of opinion makers.

A discriminating global community of opinion makers! That's exactly The Velvet Blog's target audience!

Who are these opinion makers who are checking out TVB? aSmallWorld doesn't dish the dirt, but Wikipedia does:
aSmallWorld is an online social network service similar to Friendster. Dubbed "Snobster" by critics, it is an exclusive invitation-only network with roughly 128,000 members. Founded by Erik Wachtmeister, a former investment banker and the son of a former Swedish ambassador to the United States, the network includes socialites such as Naomi Campbell, James Blunt, Ivanka Trump, Tiger Woods, and Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia.

Uh-oh. James Blunt? James Blunt??? James, if you're reading this, I'm kind of sorry if this post offended you.

No, wait ... I'm not.

And how does aSmallWorld work?
According to Wachtmeister, "members are people with large personal networks, frequent travel and highly active personally." Most aSmallWorld users come from European countries: London, New York and Paris are the top three cities of residence. Wachtmeister has been quoted as stating that only some members have the right to invite others, as determined by a panel that factors in more than a dozen variables for eligibility. According to Wachtmeister, aSmallWorld keeps "track of people's behavior and we actually do kick people out." Members are not allowed to discuss the inner goings-on of aSmallWorld on any outside website, and doing so may result in internal exile to "aBigWorld".

This is starting to sound like Fight Club: The first rule of aSmallWorld is that you never talk about aSmallWorld.

I was going to ask our aSmallWorld visitor to give us the inside scoop, but that warning above sounds ominous. What does it mean?
aSmallWorld is patrolled regularly for suspicious activity or members who are not closely connected enough to its main userbase. Problematic users are immediately exiled to a separate network called aBigWorld without notice; when exiled users log in, they will find that the color scheme of the website has changed from blue to green, and they no longer have access to aSmallWorld profiles or forum posts. aSmallWorld members can see the profiles of exiled users, and have the option to reinvite them with an administrator's permission.

aBigWorld prevents outside groups from breaking into aSmallWorld's network. For example, when hundreds of Swedish teenagers managed to get invited in May 2004, they were quickly discovered by the administrators and kicked out.

In conclusion, I can only say: Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, call me, and let's do lunch.

UPDATE: But wait ... there's more! From Wired:
A former investment banker and the son of a Swedish ambassador to the US, Wachtmeister got the [aSmallWorld] idea during a boar hunt at a friend's estate in Germany. "I was crouched in the leaves, meditating alone, and thought: Relationships are like assets. Why not create a secure network where people can share and develop them? People in the upper echelon have a tremendous need for trusted info. Not from a guidebook, but from their peer group."

My thoughts during similar circumstances would be more along the line of: Why am I crouching here in the leaves waiting for a wild boar to come by? Do I not have anything better to do?

And what do members have to say?
[A]s Cheray Unman, an [aSmallWorld] member and former VC living in Mill Valley, California, puts it, "If I'm trying to find someone to look after my purebred Samoyeds while I'm in St. Tropez, I'm not going to ask some naked Burning Man hula-hooper on Tribe.net."

How true, Cheray. How true. (And I'm assuming here that VC means venture capitalist, not Viet Cong.)


Gina said...

Could VC mean Vassar College?

punkinsmom said...

It seems so inevitable that there would be gated communities online also.

And I have to agree that I would have the same thoughts as you would while boar hunting.