Perhaps folks are on vacation and things will pick up in another week or so.
The membership list as it is currently is not very helpful. It was better initially since the search worked on all public fields in the profiles. As a result I got to meet with another local faceter and through him, met a beginner who he was helping. Now we are trying to find a few others in the area so that we might get together on occasion.
And as you mentioned, the ability to find your online friends should you travel to their area is another way that the membership directory used to help.
Even when it did search better, the location search was very limited since it was a fill in the blank field instead of a drop down list, many people put in the two letter state abbreviation. For most states, that combination of letters matches all sorts of other things so the results were not helpful.