March 14, 2008

Social Graph(ing)

I've been missing writing again. I haven't been getting good sleep lately which kills my creative thinking processes. Didn't even get good sleep last night, but I did the night before so I'm up to the task.

Social Graphs

Last night over dinner I was given an idea about graphing social graphs. I'm not sharing that with you here yet.
Wait, what?

All those sites in one way or another are considered Social Networks they provide a way to link people to other people either by friendship, admiration (of their photography for example), business relationships or any other idea they deem relevant. These connections are called your "Social Graph". And while ever site differs on what exactly links two people they all deal with managing and using your graph for both your benefit and theirs.

People are starting to take this idea a little further by displaying their social graphs on their own blogs (akin to blogrolls or just linking to friend's websites) by using microformats (a way to put info on a website so it is both human and machine readable) such as XFN (The Xhtml Friends Network) which can be considered an improvement because it puts them in direct control over their graph, they can take it down, delete it, share as little or as much as they want and use that information anywhere they want. They can also share things about trust, which can go a long way but is a topic for another discussion. A problem is that most social networking websites do not allow you to take your graph and leave them. If you quit you usually don't get to take any of your data with you. And they don't usually delete everything either.

Facebook decided to take your data, the social graph, and allow you to share it with made for facebook applications. They do a reasonable job at protecting your privacy while still allowing apps full access to who your friends are, where your photos are, what groups are you in, and more. Most things are shared not by name but by an id number, and while anyone who runs an app can still keep a copy of every one of your photos on fb if they wanted to I have to tell you your personal photos aren't that interesting while the applications can be interesting even though most are not.

Google being the benevolent overlords that they are created something called Open Social. Which is a set of API's that allow websites to talk to each other. Facebook release their api's so people could make applications for facebook, open social isn't for google, it's for everyone to use. So I could make an application and have it work on many different social websites. Google's real plans are a lot more complicated, they're doing something their excellent RSS reader which allows you to share RSS feed items with the click of a mouse. A few of my close friends are using this and it's cool. They're leveraging the google reader to be the core of google's own social networking platform whatever it may be. (Though, I'd argue, that Gmail, Gtalk, and google reader are already a fine social networking platform. Buddy lists and address books are not so different from "social graphs") The more people who use open social the more access they'll have to information.

I've shared a lot so far and you're probably not still with me. Let me share two more links.
The coining of the term social graphs which is the post that caused most of what I've talked about to happen, and a nice easy to follow write up about Social Graph's Concepts and Issues by ReadWriteWeb.

So what's the point of me sharing all this? Besides this being an interesting new direction technology is leading us to, it's allowing me to play with Graph Theories and I like learning new stuff and making cool things with it.

More later!

-Francis © 2022.
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