Somewhat reluctantly, I have now joined Plaxo's "Pulse beta". If you are a Pulse user and I know you, please do add me as a connection. It's precisely this last sentence that is why I have been reluctant to join Pulse, despite the many raves in the blogosphere of late - I have to rebuild my entire network in yet-another-social-network.
Now, granted, Plaxo makes it easy to find other people through importing various different lists of contacts: GMail, AOL, Yahoo... take your pick. You can even buy the Premium version (or do the 30-day free trial) and import your LinkedIn contacts.
But I don't really want to go through the aggravation. I've been a LinkedIn user for now about 5 years and have a nice network there of contacts. In my daily life these days, it seems that Facebook, Twitter, and my various blogs are the communication tools/sites I use. Do I really need another one?
Not really... but over time I admit to have become curious enough based on comments from people I know (such as Robert Sanzalone) to break down and open an account. There's a couple of reasons. First, with my interest in identity, I'm admittedly a sucker for a major site that allows OpenID use:
but that alone is of course no reason to try out the site. More, I was intrigued by Plaxo's "PulseStream", which seems to be a much more open and useful version of Facebook's "Newsfeed". With just a single glance at a page, I can see the information from the people I find interesting... what their latest blog posts are, what their tweets are if they use Twitter, new contacts they have made. All aggregated on one page. Simple and easy.
I also do like that Plaxo allows a more granular segregation of "friends" than the other sites. Right now, with Facebook, for example, people are either "friends" with full access to the site or you can make them a "friend" but give them only access to your "limited profile". That process though is a bit klunky, in my opinion. And you have basically one "limited profile" for all your "friends" (if I understand the process clearly). However, in Plaxo, contacts are divided into three categories: Business, Family and Friends:
Note that you can put a contact into multiple groups, which is nice. As you work with the site, this segregation has a couple of benefits. On your "Pulse" page, for instance, as shown at right you can choose to only see updates from the appropriate groups (or everyone, or just yourself). It is also extremely easy to only expose certain information to one of those three categories but not the others. For instance, in the picture on the left, I am choosing to include my Flickr stream into my "Pulse Stream" and specifying that it is available to the public, but note the various choices that I have. (I am assuming that if I choose "Nobody" it will only be available to me when I view my Pulse Stream.)
I am sure there will be folks who want more than three groupings. And there will be undoubtedly some who say "I never use this site with family members, so why can't I remove that group?" Allowing grouping like this will surely just invite people to say that they want more groups or want to create their own arbitrary groups. (Which, to a degree, are we then getting back into groups like Facebook has?)
Regardless, it is nice to be able to group contacts accordingly rather than just labeling them all with the overloaded term "friend".
Now, it's intriguing to think that Plaxo's Pulse might be a tool for "lifestreaming". It certainly allows the aggregation of feeds (like Tumblr does)... but it's still a walled garden like Facebook. In order to see the "Pulse Stream", one has to login to Plaxo Pulse. Does this make it any better than Facebook's NewsFeed? Not really. Now I've heard rumblings that there may be an RSS feed in the works for your PulseStream, which would then let you pull it outside the Pulse Walls and do something useful with it like put it on your blog or in a widget. We'll see.
In the meantime, I'm there on Pulse, at least for some period of time. If I do know you, please do feel free to add me as a connection.