Where can Librarians discuss topics of interest?  Clearly lots of places, including mailing lists such as the LIS-* lists hosted by JISCMail; many similar lists based in the US; Web 2.0 collaborative environments such as the Library 2.0 Ning site and, of course, on Twitter.

And now there’s the Library Related People Facebook group. There was set up by Aaron Tay on Saturday 6 November and as he described in a blog post later that day:

We librarians are consummate users of social media. We are all over Friendfeed, masters of IM, Twitter & Skype. But Facebook is still the 500 pound gorilla in the room and most of us even the least techie librarian probably spends most of our time logged into Facebook.

The Facebook group chat option will allow us to chat with any of the librarians in the group. My hope is for this group to grow such that at anytime there are at least a dozen librarians online when you want to pick the brains of librarians who might be logged into facebook, you can just go to Facebook chat and send out a message.

I do feel that there is a need for such experimentation and so it is good to see that Aaron has set up this group to allow librarians from around the world to gain experience of the role, if any, which Facebook groups might provide for their users as well as possibly providing a forum for discussions by those working in the library sector.

And whilst several concerns related to use of Facebook Groups were discussed on the launch day (which I spotted in the chat window but now seems to have disappeared) it perhaps might be more interesting to discuss possible success criteria for an online community.  After all, I suspect that if an online social network had been set up using an open source software (such as Diaspora, the “The privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network“) for some the political-correctness of the software environment would result in being unwilling to ask questions such as What is the environment for?; Do we need it?; how much will it cost?; What are the risks?; How will be know if it is a success and, conversely, How will we know if it’s a failure? But such questions will be asked about use of Facebook as an environment for hosting such a community.

When I joined  on Saturday 6 November 2010 the group had 46 members and by Saturday evening there were 192 members. On 8 November there were 299 members – and the current number can be see by visiting the members’ page.  But before anyone comments that the success of a social network environment shouldn’t be gauged simply by the number of members and growth rates (which, in this case, will be more to do with the extent of Aaron’s professional network and his esteem in the library community)  remember that I am seeking to understand how one can identify the success or not of a social network which could be applied equally to a Diaspora environment and a Facebook group. And if you reject the notion of success or failure, then you will be in a weak position to make criticisms of Aaron’s experiment.

My question,then, is does anyone have any suggestions for ways of identifying the success or failure of such social networks?