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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Social Graph & Context

Posted by direwolff on October 17, 2007

Context is a favorite theme of mine (it may have something to do with me liking the word “context“, but I’m not sure) which I’ve discussed on this blog on several previous occasions.  However, this time thoughts around this are coming at me from a different direction since having to do a lot of thinking around what’s happening with social networks and where they might be heading.

Under the heading Master of Obvious, I began listing the contextual characteristic of four social networks, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Tribe:

  • Facebook: is based on real-world networks of people […] and actually want to know more about one another (according to Mark Zuckerberg)
  • MySpace: is a place to showcase myself, a place to be the star, where friends only serve the purpose of reinforcing my star
  • LinkedIn: is a place to keep my professional resume, a place to find other professionals for business interactions
  • Tribe: is a place to meet and hang out with people having like-minded interests

When breaking  things down like this, it didn’t take long for me to more deeply understand that in reality, exposing the social graph for making it easier to find friends on other networks is a nice to have, but the real value of opening this up is that it exposes a ton of context (or call it the semantic relationships) between people.  Yes, I’m connected to some 400+ people on LinkedIn and another 150+ on Facebook, and while there’s some overlap it’s meaningless.  All that matters is that the contexts of these social networks helps to define the my contextual relationship to the people I’m connected to.  This means that those I’m connected to on LinkedIn are more likely business contacts of which some may also be social friends in which case you’ll find me connected to them on Facebook too.  However, my connections on Tribe are purely to people who might share common passions (ie. kitesurfing or snoboarding) though I’ve never met them and may not even consider them friends.  As for MySpace, it’s just nice to be able to have a pretty page.

While the information in the social graph can be useful for facilitating my ability to find people I know in new social media applications or social networks I join, its value is significantly higher to prospective service providers when considered with the source of the graph data.  The source metadata in effect provides a degree of context beyond simply the relationships of the participants (ie. friends, co-workers, family, etc.).

As I look ahead, something inside tells me that the Facebook revolution that has been taking place over this past year is only the beginning of the next explosion of the Web.  Where all of the walls of information are taken down and the social networks begin to play the role of contextual settings (places I go to do ‘X’) and persona management.  In other words, why shouldn’t some random app on the Web need to be in Facebook (or eventually in LinkedIn) to provide me a functionality that lets my friends contribute to helping me select a movie or find a cool place to stay in Hawaii?  No reason, and while this is all beginning to happen in Facebook, I believe it’s too important to stay there.  Much like in the mid-90s the Net exploded to offer capabilities as easy to navigate as AOL environment was, I expect we will see this history repeat itself with Net standards being adopted to enable Facebook-like functionality happen across the Web.

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One Response to “Social Graph & Context”

  1. […] More rumblings about social graphing. While the information in the social graph can be useful for facilitating my ability to find people I know in new social media applications or social networks I join, its value is significantly higher to prospective service providers when considered with the source of the graph data. The source metadata in effect provides a degree of context beyond simply the relationships of the participants (ie. friends, co-workers, family, etc.). […]

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