Are you old enough to remember the "Who's Who" list? Actually, it's not just one list but many companies that offer these sorts of lists. Usually they are billed as professional networking groups of influential people and they actively recruit new members through flattering emails and letters talking about "exclusivity" and "rare achivements." In the past, most people used it as a sort of virtual rolodex to extend their personal networks and find leads of people to hire or partner with.

Over the past few months as I have been contacted by several of these lists to be part of their "exclusive" 2009 publication. They have names like Presidential, Continental and Marquis – and they all promise things like blasting my bio on a billboard in Times Square, and accessing a site where I can connect with all sorts of other highly influential people that I may not know yet. All in exchange for my paying a small "listing fee" to augment my "free listing" which apparently will be part of the directory anyway.

With the rise of online professional networking tools like LinkedIn and social networks like Facebook – you might have thought surely these Who's Who lists have become a forgotten relic of the past, but they seem to be alive and well. Though it may be hard to imagine people still pay for this sort of thing for someone like me who is active on social networks and publishes content to connect to more people, perhaps this Who's Who list subculture is the secret engine really driving business relationships and networks. Am I missing something here, or are these Who's Who lists a virtual ego stroke destined to join Encylopedia Brittanica as tools of a past age that our digital lives are making obsolete?