Social networks on the Internet like Facebook serve more than just as places where people can connect with friends (new and old), share gossip, and post pictures of them making a fool of themselves at a kegger last night or from their spring break trip on the beach.  People can also use them to start or bolster a real world cause. 

While people show their early support for 2008 presidential candidates in groups like "One Million Strong for Barack" and "ABH: Anyone But Hillary," there are more focused niche groups where organizers rally support and organize specific real world action. 

For instance, Vice President Dick Cheney is speaking at Brigham Young University's commencement ceremonies later this month, but not everyone is happy with this speaker choice despite the conservative leanings of the school's community.  Besides voicing opposition in the student newspaper, a group on Facebook was created to serve as an organization point.  The social network provides a venue where people who share similar feelings can vent and plan, but the university has no control and likely no jurisdiction over it.  Group leaders have kept members informed on their progress on obtaining permission from the university to protest Mr. Cheney, and after approval was granted the group was used as a bulletin board for organizing the event.  Further, links to news coverage of the greater opposition and debate through comments are available there. 

It'll be interesting to see if people use the groups for politicians as places to spur real world action and host vibrant forums for debates and information gathering and sharing like the anti-Cheney at BYU group since these groups provide a way for politicians to tap into a significant chunk of the overall passive young voter demographic.  The fact that many young people who are otherwise not active are joining politically focused groups since they see that their friends join is a potential harbinger of social networks' future influence in drumming up support from the young.  In a sense when people see a group on their friend's profile, their friend is endorsing the group's mission — like electing a certain politician. 

On a related note, alumni of math, science, and technology focused high school program in the Houston area created a group to show their support for a popular teacher who was applying for the headmaster position over the program.  In fact, many of the group members graduated high school more than five years ago.  Although the headmaster applicant has a Facebook profile (and is a member of this group), it is likely that the school district administration is oblivious to the group and won't allow it to sway its decision in either way, but politicos and organizations in many cases cannot ignore such groups since people use them to spur real world action. 

When it comes to social network groups, it is very important to note that in this realm an individual, group, or organization has little or no control over them unless they create them.  Even if an individual or organization launches a group, their control is constrained to whatever the network allows.  Thus, those who want to venture into social network groups should remember what Todd wrote concerning the recent spamming on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign site.  He said, "If campaigns are going to play in these social communities they need to understand the rules and respect the culture."