Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yenta, the "social graph"

Brad Fitzpatrick & David Recordon have issued a manifesto called "Thoughts on the Social Graph," where that is defined as the global mapping of everybody and how they're related (see this Wikipedia entry for more detail).

Brad & David decry the effort needed to involve your friends, family, acquaintances, etc. in the activities presented by the Next Big Thing in social networks - whether that's aggregating current thoughts, current locations, current activities, etc. As they say, not only do you have to fill in all of your personal details at each new site:
"You also have to have usernames, passwords (or hopefully you use OpenID instead), a way to invite friends, add/remove friends, and the list goes on. So generally you have to ask for email addresses too, requiring you to send out address verification emails, etc. Then lost username/password emails. etc, etc. If I had to declare the problem statement succinctly, it'd be: People are getting sick of registering and re-declaring their friends on every site."

What they're proposing is a service (open source, at that):
"...which collects, merges, and redistributes the graphs from all other social network sites into one global aggregated graph. This is then made available to other sites (or users) via both public APIs (for small/casual users) and downloadable data dumps, with an update stream / APIs, to get iterative updates to the graph (for larger users)".

But, as I've said before, I don't want to aggregate every relationship I have. I especially don't want to aggregate them where the whole world (or even just that part I'm "related" to, i.e. all the members of my 'social graph') can see all of my relationships!

There's a reason why people create different personas for different on-line communities - they really do wish to keep parts of their life seperate from other parts. Do I really want my children to know how I interact with my work-related friends? Do I want all of my clients to figure out who my other clients are? Do I really want the feds to be able to easily create a dossier of all my contacts? No. No. And, um, definitely no.

The portable relationship graph is a nice idea, but only when all parties to each relationship agree to the port.

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