We judge neighborhoods by the beauty painted on their buildings. We judge property values by the quality of their school districts. We judge restaurants by their ambiance. Why shouldn't we use the same type of criteria for judging social networks we engage in?
It's time we judge social networks and their participants by more than popularity. The true value of the social web is finding and forging communities where the quality of conversation ideally suits our mood and manner. Blogs communities already exhibit a great variety of comment quality and self select new active members. Disqus has shown potential in connecting friendly commenters across blogs, providing smooth transitions between conversations.
But social networks outside of blogs provide easier publishing and following dynamics. It's easier to follow short messages or see shared images on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Buzz than to manually bookmark each friends blog or subscribe to their rss feeds. Tools that make following friends sites easier like Tumblr and Posterous will shift interest and attention off of big and popular, back on personal relevance where it belongs.