The Economist Special Report on Social Networking.

“An astonishing amount of time is being wasted on investigating the amount of time being wasted on social networks.”

I love reading The Economist because of lines like that. The January 28 issue has a special report on social networking. (The cover image is Steve Jobs dressed like Moses with his new tablet)

“Another [report], by Nucleus Research, an American firm, concluded that if companies banned employees from using Facebook while at work, their productivity would improve by 1.5%. This assumes that people would actually work rather than find some other way to pass the time they have to spare. In the same vein, perhaps companies should also ban water coolers and prohibit people sending e-mails to their friends. The assumption that firms can block access to the networks altogether is also rather heroic. Some employees now have web-enabled smart phones, so trying to stop them from surfing their favourite sites will be another waste of time.”

What is different about Web 2.0?

“All this shows just how far online communities have come. Until the mid-1990s they were largely ghettos for geeks who hid behind online aliases. Thanks to easy-to-use interfaces and fine-grained privacy controls, social networks have been transformed into vast public spaces where millions of people now feel comfortable using their real identities online.”

As is typical with The Economist, the report is straight forward and full of facts. There is none of the hyperbole of the social media snake oil salesman.

This special report will examine these issues in detail. It will argue that social networks are more robust than their critics think, though not every site will prosper, and that social-networking technologies are creating considerable benefits for the businesses that embrace them, whatever their size. Lastly, it will contend that this is just the beginning of an exciting new era of global interconnectedness that will spread ideas and innovations around the world faster than ever before.

The stories in the special report: