Jumat, 01 April 2011

The Web's 10 Weirdest Social Networks

The Web's 10 Weirdest Social Networks

© Fast Company
Trying to meet people on MySpace or Facebook is like participating in one of those office gift exchanges: you have no idea what you're going to get. Witness the rise of niche social networks, where hamster enthusiasts, mustache lovers, even lonely farmers can find kindred spirits to commune with (and sometimes sleep with). New virtual cliques form every day, thanks to platforms like Ning that enable anyone to create an online network around any topic. Check out our list of the 10 weirdest social networks.
By Ellen Gibson, Fast Company

This smelly corner of the Web is devoted to over-parented domestic rodents. The proud owners of Fiona McNibbles, Hammin McSquish, and thousands of other hamsters compare notes -- on how Hammy Heit always tries to escape, Fatty likes lying in bed with the fan blowing on his face, and Nutmeg enjoys dance music with a good beat. A FAQ page addresses such puzzlers as "How do I make another hamster friends with mine?"

It seems that raking manure and breeding alpacas aren't the best ways to meet hot singles. Enter Farmers Only, a thriving online community of eligible farmers, ranchers, and livestock owners. The site bills itself as online dating for country folk -- people whose lives revolve around blue skies, not $4 cups of coffee. FarmersOnly is just one of thousands of specialized dating networks -- for Trekkies, the overweight, celibates, and even married people.

Members post questions and predictions ("Which country will win the most gold medals at the Beijing Olympics?" or "When will Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie break up?") and other users vote on the likely outcome. Inspired by James Surowiecki's pop business tome "The Wisdom of Crowds" and the belief that if you average the uninformed opinions of a bunch of Average Joes, the collective judgment is remarkably accurate.

This network boasts some 1,700 members with overactive imaginations, posing as zombie-hunting vigilantes, survivalists, and the undead themselves. Everyone's an amateur George A. Romero on this site, where the exalted art form is a perfectly staged photo or mock radio broadcast documenting a zombie "outbreak."

This is a simulated community for the avatars who inhabit virtual worlds like "Second Life" and "Google Lively" -- because why not get one more degree removed from the real world. Human users will be able to post profiles for their avatars and recommend cool places they've stumbled upon in metaverses. The creepiest part: Users build up karma points, and thus a more visible profile on the site, the longer they stay logged on.

The icky factor on this "plastic surgery financing" site is high. Under-endowed women post sexy photos and profiles to solicit cash from silicone sugar daddies. Why would anyone give a stranger money for breast implants? It's a pay-to-play format, where the men have to shell out cash to send the women messages. My Free Implants is surprisingly legit: It raised over a million dollars for surgical procedures last year.

Yup, this is a social network for people with social anxiety disorder. The goal of this virtual support group is to help its members overcome their disorder, but it actually seems like more incentive to stay inside. The huge virtual arcade is especially popular, but the activities -- barbwire jump rope, "Ant Burner," "Cubicle Warfare," and one in which you feed babies to alligators -- are decidedly antisocial.

Do you idolize Rollie Fingers or fantasize about Magnum P.I.? This is the place to be for mustache wearers and the men and women who love them. The mustachioed members divide themselves according the type of stache preferred (Pornstar, Fu Manchu, Dali), and post stache-related videos. The company behind this site, Passions Network Inc., also hosts the popular Goth Passions and the yet-to-catch-on Mime Passions.

Only applicants deemed beautiful enough by existing members are welcome. To gain access, you need to post self-portraits (including a full-body shot) and leave them up for three days while those on the inside size you up. The tone of the site is Darwinian smug, proudly "separating the hippos from the cheetahs" in the online dating jungle; just one out of 10 applicants makes the cut.

Like many networks on Ning, this one might be too specialized. Members post photographs of the toilets found in their homes and in public places -- for no discernible reason. The site should take a page from MizPee.com, the useful public restroom-locating site, and focus less on bathroom décor and more on practical considerations like cleanliness.

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