Friday, September 21, 2007

More on ownership

David Recordon has now further developed the ideas ("We Are Opening the Social Graph") first presented in the "Thoughts on the Social Graph" manifesto he wrote along with Brad Fitzpatrick. It's an important work, but begins with a flaw which may, ultimately, prove fatal.

"Your lists of friends and connections on the social websites that you use, sometimes called your social graph, belongs to you. No one company should own who you know and how you know them."

This is a strawman argument, though, as no company claims to own this data. And, in fact, there can be no ownership of what amounts to, simply, a group of facts. What companies do own, however, are the tools for constructing the graph. And, I fear, too many will see the tools - and their output - and claim it as their own.

But consider this analogy:

You take your dirty clothes to the laundromat. You wash them in the washers there, then dry them in the dryers. The laundromat doesn't claim 'ownership' of your clothing (either dirty or clean), but neither can you claim 'ownership' of the cleaning process nor of the equipment (the 'tools') used to do the cleaning. You pay the laundromat for the use of their tools and processes and , in return, you're presented with clean clothes. The "cleanliness" was always present in the clothes, it simply needed some processing to bring it out.

So, too, your friends and relationships need processing in order to form a rational 'social graph'. You can pay some company (either in cash or in kind) to do that for you (like the laundromat) or you can buy or "roll your own" tools to do so (just as you can buy your own washer and dryer).

The sooner we can get away from the disastrous "ownership" meme, the sooner we can get to the fun and interesting parts of identity.

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