I recently joined keireki.jp, a Japanese social networking service (SNS) launched earlier this month. It’s a neat concept which may interest many in the English blogosphere.
(Disclosure: In a past life I helped the site’s coder-in-chief, Kristopher Tate, get set up in Japan, but I currently have no business relations with his company.)
Keireki is essentially a Japanese version of LinkedIn–a service aimed at professionals who want to expand their network. Unlike the big Japanese SNSs, GREE and Mixi, it is designed to be non-anonymous and (more or less) entirely public. Users are expected to use their real names and employers, although some choose to redact their employers’ names.
There are four components to a Keireki profile:
- Keireki (“work history”): Takes up the front page of each user’s profile and lists the user’s current and past jobs and schools in chronological order, just like a Japanese-style CV. Doesn’t have any space for qualifications, hobbies, etc., although those can be included in the “hitokoto” tab (below).
- Iitoko (“good points”): The most unique feature of the service. These are short tags added by other users to describe the person’s strong points: “good designer,” “bilingual,” “super hacker,” and the like. Each new iitoko has to be approved by the recipient, and if users agree with an iitoko they can click a link which says “Tashika ni!” (“Certainly!”) to signal their agreement. Clicking on an iitoko produces a list of all users nominated for that particular iitoko. The concept is generally somewhere between a LinkedIn recommendation and a Flickr tag.
- Kikkake (“opportunities”/”springboards”): A personal feed very similar to Facebook status updates. Each one-line post can be the basis of a comment thread below it. This appears as a separate tab on each user’s profile, while the main landing page for the site shows the collective kikkake of your connections (again, very similar to Facebook).
- Hitokoto (“a word”): The third tab on each profile is a free writing space which the user can fill as they prefer. It supports basic rich text formatting, hyperlinks and images, which puts it several steps ahead of even Facebook and LinkedIn. In practice, users seem to treat this like they treat their “personal introduction” space on Mixi: some write a sentence, while others fill the space with gobs and gobs of personal information, interests and links.
The site is still in alpha and has some minor annoyances: for instance, while it can handle foreign names (in katakana and romaji simultaneously), the order of foreign names often comes out differently in the input field and the final profile, which requires some fiddling. The sign-up process is also unnecessarily clunky and requires a Japanese mobile phone to complete (you have to send yourself an e-mail, then click on a link in your phone to get an access code). Some features are also conspicuously missing: there is no private user-to-user messaging, no RSS, no direct interface to other websites and fairly limited search functionality, but I expect that all of these features will be strengthened in future updates.
With some further development and good marketing, this could make SNS a useful business tool in Japan. I deleted my Mixi and GREE accounts a while ago because both sites seemed to be optimized for frivolity and little else. Keireki has the potential to be a serious platform for businesspeople and creative types to get together.
Keireki is currently invite-only, although several MFT bloggers and commenters have accounts already. It’s also only available in Japanese for the moment.