The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'social networking'
Brad Fitzpatrick, the founder of LiveJournal and architect of OpenID, has put forward his thoughts on the social graph problem — which is to say, the present state of affairs in which each social software application has its own social graph (of which user is connected to whom) which its users have to independently maintain — and how to go about aggregating these graphs into something less unwieldy:
Currently if you're a new site that needs the social graph (e.g. dopplr.com) to provide one fun & useful feature (e.g. where are your friends traveling and when?), then you face a much bigger problem then just implementing your main feature. 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., but also: Developing "Social Applications" is too much work.
Facebook's answer seems to be that the world should just all be Facebook apps. While Facebook is an amazing platform and has some amazing technology, there's a lot of hesitation in the developer / "Web 2.0" community about being slaves to Facebook, dependent on their continued goodwill, availability, future owners, not changing the rules, etc. That hesitation I think is well-founded. A centralized "owner" of the social graph is bad for the Internet.Brad has written down a set of goals for a project to open up the social graph, in a way that allows sites to interoperate gracefully. This will include a common infrastructure that manages the social graph data, within an architecture which (much like OpenID) allows anyone to operate their own servers, and prevents any one entity from owning the graph. This will have an API, which returns all equivalent nodes of a node (i.e., given an identity on one service, the owner's identities on all other services registeded), the edges in and out of a node, the aggregated friends of a node across all services, and any missing friends (i.e., any pairs of nodes connected on one service but not another).
From the user's point of view, this will allow some fairly nifty magic to happen, saving users the hassle of registering on yet another social network site and rounding up their friends:
A user should then be able to log into a social application (e.g. dopplr.com) for the first time, ideally but not necessarily with OpenID, and be presented with a dialog like: "Hey, we see from public information elsewhere that you already have 28 friends already using dopplr, shown below with rationale about why we're recommending them (what usernames they are on other sites). Which do you want to be friends with here? Or click 'select-all'."Brad acknowledges that there will be uncooperative sites, who, owning the lion's share of the social-networking sphere, don't see it in their interest to prioritise interoperating with other sites (no names are named, though I'm betting that it'll be a cold day in Hell before MySpace plays nice with something like this; after all, it may tip their users off to the existence of other sites and depress banner-ad impressions). Thus he proposes a browser add-on which implements the system on uncooperative sites, by means of screen-scraping.
What's happening with this proposal? so far, they have prototypes of the APIs, working on the data for 5 sites (LiveJournal and Vox are, not surprisingly, two of them), the start of a Firefox plug-in to drag MySpace, kicking and screaming, to the party, and the start of a website allowing users to register their points of presence in social networks; a limited beta is expected at some time in the future. There are apparently a lot of people from different organisations working on this, much as there were on the OpenID project, and a Google group has been set up for discussion of the details.
Note that this only covers social network (i.e., "x is a friend of y") data, and not the actual content (birthdays, photos, favourite movies/bands). There is another project named Move My Data, which aims to make the actual user data portable between accounts, though so far it seems to consist of a vague proposal.
Web entrepreneurs are attempting to adapt the MySpace formula, massively successful with teenagers and twentysomething, to the huge baby-boomer demographic. One attempt is Eons.com, which replaces the pop music and cool animated ads with brain-exercising games, a longevity calculator and an obituary notification service:
"Many people no longer live where they grew up so the idea of a rich story about someone's life in a local newspaper is often lost," said Taylor, who sees online obituaries replacing the traditional death announcements in newspapers.
He said baby boomers, the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, also wanted to have a greater input into their own funerals. This prompted Eons.com to look into a service where people could plan for their favorite songs to be played at their funeral and where friends and family can go afterward for food and drink.
LiveJournal (which was something like the MySpace of the 1990s, only not owned by the forces of evil and not spammy with ads) is testing its own instant messaging service. The service is technically a Jabber/XMPP server connected to LiveJournal, and using authentication and social-network data from LiveJournal's database. And, being XMPP, it can communicate with other open XMPP networks, such as Google Talk.
-- your Jabber Roster ("buddy list") is integrated with your LJ friends list. If you friend bob and bob friends you, both of you can see each other online. It has to be mutual. Friends that haven't friended you back show up as "pending subscription" in your jabber client, kinda grayed out, depending on the client.According to the comments, once the server works, there are plans to add an AJAX messaging interface, sort of like GMail's Chat mode.
-- if you add a LJ person in Jabber, it won't automatically friend them on the site, but next time you use the site, it'll prompt if you want to. It's imaginable there's people you want to chat with, but not befriend. Our strategy is "least surprises".
Concept of the day: taste tribes, a somewhat gimmicky name for the phenomenon by which tastes in different categories cluster. (I.e., two people who like books by Author A are more likely than not to like music by Band B, or have political opinion C, or somesuch.) This makes for a useful heuristic for finding potentially interesting things, without exhaustively searching the entire space of ideas.
Where this becomes really interesting is when taste cross-pollinates between one medium and another. The guy in the Kraftwerk t-shirt may recommend that I read Douglas Coupland's Microserfs. On the surface, there is no direct connection between Kraftwerk and Douglas Coupland. But underlying both of these signifiers is a whole world of shared cultural assumption and contextualization. Not to mention the unspoken trust implicit in the transaction of ideas, which goes something like this: the guy in the Kraftwerk shirt is obviously an individual of high intellectual quality, because he likes the same things I do. Therefore, his recommendation is likely to be of the same high quality. Nobody thinks this consciously, of course - to do so would be to admit to a certain egotism about one's own intellect and taste. But we all think it nonetheless. This person likes cool stuff, therefore, they must be cool, too. Again, it might be superficial - but it turns out to be correct most of the time.
He goes on to tie this in with the phenomenon of blogs-as-commentary, or as advertisement of one's interests/tastes.
Many people - myself included - use their blog not only as personal diaries, but as a sort of informal critical journal. Surf any random blog and you'll find a few reviews of books, movies, albums, or concerts. Because bloggers are not under the same commercial constraints as mainstream media sources, the length and subject of these reviews tends to be far more diverse - one blogger may write a 2,000 word critical essay about the Clash's London Calling, another might write a 500 word review of the local band they saw last night. I might write twelve different pieces about Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska while drunk, and probably have.
While it might be argued that this tendency to publish one's opinions is somewhat self-indulgent, the same can be said of professional criticism. My personal experience as both a blogger and professional journalist is that the level of quality in the blogosphere is pretty much on par with the mainstream media, which perhaps says more about the mainstream media than anything else.
IMHO, using blogs to kibbitz about electroclash or avant-pop literature (or just about ideas/concepts in general, i.e., whether "electroclash" or "avant-pop literature" are overrated/a load of rubbish or not) is a lot less self-indulgent than using blogs to kvetch about one's (lack of a) girlfriend or expound one's daily routine in excruciating detail. Or, as some Portuguese blogger called it, "masturbating in front of a mirror". But I digress.
It happens because minds think alike - great minds, lesser minds, minds that really love Jean-Luc Godard or Kenneth Cole or the booming garage-rock scene. The Russian lap dancer who links to my ninth drunken review of Nebraska is likely to be someone whose tastes I instinctively get - like the theoretical guy in the Kraftwerk t-shirt I mentioned at the beginning. If she likes Nebraska, she probably likes the Cowboy Junkies. She might read Flannery O'Connor (whose short stories heavily influenced Springsteen when he was recording the album). If she doesn't, I can suggest these media to her. And in return, she can turn me on to some vastly beautiful and eminently depressing Ukrainian alternative country band that I would never, ever have come in contact with otherwise. She is another member of my taste tribe, and we can introduce each other via our links to others like us.
But wait, there's more! This also ties in to the concept of decentralised discovery of good music, and the impending death of the RIAA and extinction of the manufactured Britney-clone armies. (via Die Puny Humans)