September 14, 2009

Ecademy Revamp Brings Real-Time to Social Network, Blog Platform

On Friday, Ecademy, the business-oriented social network whose roots span back to 1998, revamped its Web site, highlighting members updates in real-time, much like its much younger cousins, Facebook and FriendFeed. The new revisions serve to better highlight updates from around the Web, activity on the site from logged in members, and the newest blogs - which can be hosted within the site instead of requiring a third party network. Ecademy, which preceded Web 2.0 when it debuted in the late 1990s (see Web Archive from early 2000) hasn't been on the tip of everyone's lips, like many of the newcomers have, but the site has a wide array of features - not to mention leadership that takes a different look at the value of connections than most based here in Silicon Valley do.

A Recent Blog Post I Added to Ecademy

Ecademy, like many other social networks, enables users to connect to one another to send direct messages, and highlights updates made natively or from Twitter. But the network, unlike FriendFeed, Twitter, Socialmedian and other sites, also enables users to post native blog entries directly to the site, including "likes" and comments. In fact, the site probably has more raw features than just about any other network - ranging from personal profiles that show the basic biographical data, contacts and external sites to search engine optimization, testimonials on users' behalf, a marketplace, groups, and a personality profile that suggests how you can best be approached, following your taking a short survey. (My profile can be found here and my blog posts are here)

Ecademy's NetNews Updating In Real-Time

In the wake of Facebook's acquiring FriendFeed, there are open questions as to the future of that network, which was among the first to bring real-time to its core. In the meantime, Ecademy's newest introduction provides a constant flow of updates through what it calls "NetNews" which shows all activity from all contacts, and a running count of how many members are actively using the site. (2,594 as I type this - and you can expect that to rise and fall with the sun over the British Isles) And everywhere I turn in the site, I find that it is as connected to other networks as any I have seen.

The Latest Blog Posts On Ecademy

For one thing, every blog post lets you share to other networks, but also, if you have connected your account, the sheer act of liking a post preps a box, complete with TinyURL, to post a link to your followers on Twitter. Each profile shows my most recent activity, both on Ecademy and other networks, not to mention displaying the most recent members to "like" me or my activity, or those who have viewed my profile.

If I Like a Blog On Ecademy, I Can Tweet It

The Ecademy community is also very different than other communities where I have spent a lot of time. FriendFeed for me has been about communicating with fellow geeks, but also finding personal relationships which can have a wide range of topics. Facebook has been as much about connecting to friends and family as it has been for connecting to online peers. LinkedIn has typically been about real-world business relationships, colleagues and partners. Ecademy, so far, is about driving business and experimenting with social media. The community is vibrant, and as I read in Penny Power's book "Know Me. Like Me. Follow Me.", the majority of Ecademy users own their own business. Premium accounts, which gain more access to members and meetings, called "BlackStar", even pay $140 a month for the privilege, making Ecademy a serious revenue generator.

I have gotten to know Ecademy mainly through the efforts of its co-founder Thomas Power, who is active on practically every network, and has become a good friend online. It is through knowing him that I will be meeting with a small group from Ecademy this week in London for a full day's presentation on the hot topic of social media for business. That Ecademy revamped the site the week before I ventured to London is sheer coincidence, but a great opportunity to see how the product is improving.