I've written extensively about social networking in many venues. We've embraced social networking at Harvard and its affiliates for everything from patient-doctor communications to sharing ideas among researchers.
Barack Obama's campaign has released a very innovative social networking tool for the iPhone that supports the Obama compaign. It inspired me to think about potential applications for similar tools in the research and academic environment.
It's called a "volunteering tool" on the website, but I can see this as a research collaboration tool. It has people grouped by battleground state (think research interest), videos/photos of campaign events (think lecture videos), news and events both national and local (think Harvard-wide vs individual institution), and call stats (think the network analysis to provide metrics of social networking success).
The iPhone SDK has a steep learning curve, but given the hundreds of iPhone apps already available in the App Store, it's clear that the iPhone has become a premier handheld computer environment for innovative software. All apps developed with the SDK run on the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G, and the iPod Touch.
My hat is off to the creative folks at the Obama campaign for an inspirational application that connects people and provides updated campaign information from the convenience of a phone. That's cool.