Oak Tree Idea
Last week, Kent Shaffer of Bombay Creative emailed me asking if I would take a look at his company's new social networking venture, Oaktreeidea. I am always skeptical when people ask me to review things, mainly because I am not a Michael Arrington, and do not particularly enjoy testing out new technologies. Shocking as it may seem, I do not even own an iPod.
That being said, I fully expected to just take a look at their site, write up a list of critiques to email back, and not really do anything more about it. However, as I begun to play around with their various profile options I found myself being drawn in, seeing the forest for the trees (bad pun, I know). According to Kent's email, Oak exists to help Christians meet and cooperate in ministry:
It is a social network designed to help Christians collaborate with each other and make a difference in the world.
— Kent Shaffer
Now, one might be quick to make a snap judgment and simply write this off as an attempt at a MySpace clone for Christians, attempting to milk the cash cow of user-created content. Such an assumption would be dead wrong. I am not at all a fan of MySpace, because of its terrible markup and shady origins.
MySpace is just not something I make use of, since I already have a blog and prefer the flexibility of managing my own site. Oaktreeidea is different, because its reasons for existing are not self-serving. Yes, there are ads for the pragmatic purpose of footing the bill for operating costs. The ads they do accept though are in line with the community oriented vision of the site.
I especially like that when you log in, there is a listing of the most recent prayer requests, dubbed Hope Exchange. There are also thought provoking user-submitted questions, challenging you to delve deeper and ask why you hold certain faith beliefs. The current question is: "Why is Socialism becoming popular among Christians?" That's a conversation starter, for sure.
Now, the "so what" analysis - Why should you sign up and use this new fangled social networking? Well, for one it's free, so if you don't like it then there's nothing lost. Two, it could potentially enable you to meet and connect with other like-minded people who are passionate about the same types of ministries. Three, if you do not already have a blog or online photo album started, then Oak allows you to do so using their service.
There is also a way to promote and support upcoming initiatives, simply dubbed The Next Big Thing(s). You can check out a few of the currently slated events here. Additionally, for ongoing causes you can join what is called an Impact Group, focused on affecting change in a particular way. There is also a feature called Photo Rocket News which features a pictorial narrative about various topics. For instance, there is one that is a collection of 9/11 photos.
All things considered, I think that Oaktreeidea has a chance to make quite a substantial difference in Christian outreach. Right now, the user base is at around 3200, and it only recently launched. I am curious to see how it will unfold in the future, and so am doing my part to try to raise awareness.
I would encourage you to sign up and give it a try. There are four possible categories: Individual, Author, Musician/Band, and Church/Ministry. Might I also suggest checking out the related blog Church Relevance, which is focused on keeping the gospel message applicable in our ever-changing society.