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Social Software III

(November 13, 2003) - While Monster deserves plaudits for moving quickly into the social software space, we've sidestepped a critical piece of the equation. To date, no one has really solved the fundamental business model (how do you make money?) issues associated with online community.

For the most part, only sales people, biz dev professionals and various segments of the underworld depend on networking as a primary component of income production. The very reason that networking is such a barrier to job transitions is that most people are not very good at it.

On the business side, after all of the experiments of the past decade, there are few real examples of scalable, high profit online communities. While Classmates comes to mind as a partial example of success, no one has really ever been able to harvest the value created by online communities. The reasons are complex and counter-intuitive. The Wall Street Journal's various conversation forums are an interesting demonstration of the possibilities for conversational community within a subscription model.

But, networking as a component of career management suffers from many of the problems of the overall employment services marketplace. People network when they must. Something, perhaps peculiarly American, makes asking for and receiving help a distasteful piece of life that is put off until absolutely necessary.

Please don't misunderstand. We are certain that community will become a critical component of the Recruiting environment. It's just that the next several generations of moves will require level headed investment and persistence. At this juncture, it's an R&D project.

The trick for Monster, which has limited experience in long term, high profile R&D projects, will be enduring the slings and arrows. Unlike the original business, which took off on a fairly failure-free curve, the business of community building and networking will be riffled with mistakes. It's the way of the world in R&D.

John Sumser


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