Not bloody Karen Liddell again?!?

Networking – the people kind, not the computer kind – can be a real pain. I should point out here that I’m not going to offer you shares in some company you’ve never heard of. I’m not going to invite you to join in a pyramid scheme. And I’m not going to ask you to become an agent in your local area for some crap product that I claim has performed miracles for me. Honest.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the type of networking I really don’t like is when somebody is trying to make money directly out of doing it. The type of networking that sees Amway reps pulling you into a corner and offering you a "great business opportunity", and another variety is those endless spam e-mails, most of which seem to involve bloody Karen Liddell, the 35 year old mom, wife and part-time accountant with a great pyramid scheme for you to join.

Another one I got earlier this year was a letter through the mail from somewhere in the US, addressed to me personally, and asking politely if I wanted to be included in a Who’s Who list of the computer industry. I wondered where they got my name and address, something I still don’t know. But it said that all I had to do was fill in my details and send it back, and I could get listed. So I thought "what the hell", filled it in and sent it back, and then forgot about it.

A couple of months later, there was a phone call. An American voice was on the other end, explaining that Who’s Who wanted to make an appointment to do a telephone interview to work out if I qualified to be in their guide. After she’d finished struggling to get the concept of what timezone I was in, we made an appointment for the following day. I made a note of it in my diary, and then forgot about it.

The next day, the phone rang, and sure enough it was Whatsername, the woman they’d said would call. She asked questions about what I do and what I was planning to do in the computer industry – mostly the sort of questions that were answered on the original form anyway. She then did a telephonic song and dance about how marvellous their Who’s Who is, and what great networking opportunities it offers for those privileged and very special people who managed to crawl their ways into it.

By this point, I was getting a very bad feeling about this. It wasn’t helped when she said that I had indeed been judged one of those privileged and very special people who could get into the guide, and, as if it was a Nobel Prize For Computing, offered her congratulations.

Then she went on to explain what you get with membership into Who’s Who – and by the time she’d talked about the special book of annointed people and the plaque to put on the wall, it had clicked. These people were not getting the smartarses of the computing world together out of the goodness of their hearts. All this wanky plaque and book stuff was going to cost some serious moula.

Sure enough: "The basic membership costs $951…" So at that point, I brought the conversation to an emergency stop, trying (barely successfully) to find the good nature to be polite about my reasons for not wanting to shell out something over $1400 (‘cos you can bet she was quoting US dollars) for a glorified hyperlink.

We hung up and then I forgot about it. Though thinking about it now, I wonder – does the Real Who’s Who have some sort of trademark protection? ‘Cos if it was me, I’d be suing these guys’ arses off.

But now to the good news. Almost a year ago, one of my diary entries (30/5/97) rabbitted on about the possibilities of setting up an equivalent of the Kevin Bacon Game database for ordinary (ie non-movie star) people, to see if the links between different people could be worked out.

With a little help from a friend, I’ve discovered that somebody’s done it: it’s at www.sixdegrees.com. Okay, so they do make money off advertising on the web pages, but that’s fair enough. And they’ve actually done quite a good job of it. So, anybody reading this, jump to their page and tap your details in. Feel free to put a link to me as an acquaintance or a business contact or friend or something. They don’t have to know the truth!

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