'Inside the Beltway' was originally a term coined for those who worked within the confines of the Administration and Congress. Other time, the negative connotation of "insular" and "out of touch with mainstream America" emerged to describe the close-knit clique of Washington insiders. An "inside joke" refers to humor that is apparent only to those who are "inside" a social group or occupation. Now combine the two...and you might come up with a social network the likes of 3121.
However the National Journal Group, the developer of the network doesn't think this is a joke, even though if one were to go to the 3121 Web site, you will only find a blank page. Apparently the official launch date isn't until September. Ironically the goal of the platform is not insular at all, according to NJ. To the contrary, the raison d'etre for 3121 is to help increase transparency and communication in the Nation's Capital. It will become a social network for people that work on the Hill, and apparently need a place outside of the DC pubs and bars to communicate while on the job.
However, only those with a valid Senate or House Committee email can request a beta invite. Taxpayers are not invited! (note: as another 'inside joke' and a means to attract the right crowd, the name "3121" is the phone extension of the Capitol's switchboard)
Called by some, the "LinkedIn for Congress Members," among its features will be a online contact directory, communications tools, and customizable newsfeeds. Users will be able to find and collaborate with colleagues and create personalized filters for the National Journal Group and other news sources on a secure, private platform that values privacy.
Many social networking sites have come and gone, although it's easy to forget about most of them with the colossal impact of Twitter and Facebook stealing the spotlight. Social networking online began with a concept called Six Degrees of Separation, popularized by Kevin Bacon that basically connects the dots between contacts and followers with social-circle networking guidelines that are used by so many sites today.
Question is: Do niche social networks really work? Or are they a fad that draws a group of like-minded people into an esoteric group, only to find out over time, the interest wanes and nothings really gets accomplished?
Providing a private, limited-access only platform for lawmakers and lobbyists to mingle didn't work out well for The Washington Post. Ning, the off-the-shelf-do-it-yourself social network seems to have also lost its appeal. On their site one can virtually create a social network pertaining to any interest group in less than 10 minutes. However once developed, it is questionable whether the supervisor of the group can put in the hours it takes to not only promote membership but to motivate users to collaborate and interact productively on an ongoing basis?
Ning Socal Networks
According to Kristen Nicole at the Social Times, "creating a tool specific for an entire sector within a particular profession is a difficult task and requires a large appeal in order to garner a high adoption rate."
So will 3121 follow the doomed fate of other niche social networks and become an 'inside joke', or will the boys and girls on the Hill expand their social network 'inside the Beltway' to create wider-reachng circles of influence?