I've never been a political animal, and when the whole social network thing took off a couple of years ago, I was initially uninterested. As ever, I was slow on the uptake, and as ever, I eventually found one site which finally brought home to me what I was missing (that, and reading The Wisdom of Crowds).
For me, that site wasn't Facebook or Twitter, but del.icio.us. And since I discovered the value of social networking, I've carefully cultivated my del.icio.us network. My network is powerful because it it is bigger than me, but also because it is diverse, containing people with a range of knowledge and experience. But I also filter my del.icio.us network carefully, selecting a range of people who look as if they will add value, but also filtering out people who don't cut the mustard (e.g. if someone stops posting regular updates, or if it turns out their interests don't overlap significantly with mine - that's what Google is for). A valuable network isn't static, it's a dynamic entity.
This past weekend I added some valuable new contacts to my network, and I also discovered Ajaxonomy's del.icio.us Spy:
Like Flickrvision, Twittervision and Digg Spy, del.icio.us Spy presents new links (with thumbnails) in real time as they're submitted. A few minutes viewing reveals something obvious but important: most of the link submitted to del.icio.us are of no value to me. And that's why populating and filtering and your del.icio.us network is so important.
Here's Howard Rheingold's succinct explanation of building a del.icious network: