January 30, 2005

Granular Social Networks to the Rescue

Things have been buzzing around these parts on the folksonomy subject. A few weeks ago I started thinking about social networks (Feedster, Orkut, and LinkedIn) and why they do not work, well other than LinkedIn I do not find much if any useful value. I do think there can be value in social networks and actually believe we will need social networks in the not too distant future.

Why will we need social networks? As personal electronic information publication continues to grow we have more opportunities for shared information that has value for us. The problem will be there will be even more of a deluge of information than there is today when we go seeking information. As people start annotating physical space and tagging physical space we will need the means to quickly parse through the information to find that information that may be the most valuable to us.

Consider standing in front of a restaurant in a city that is new to us. We are considering the menu and look to our mobile phone to see what others have said about the restaurant and there are more than 200 reviews and comments, which is far too many to be read on a mobile phone or even parsed on a mobile phone. But, before we request the reviews and comments our mobile device as noted our location and pushed that out to our predictive services in our Personal InfoCloud (looking at our own reviews, preferences (food and restaurants in this case), and contacts), and checks our social network based on food and restaurant interests. Our phone returns the top 3 reviews and comments that should be of value to us and two of these reviews are three and four degrees from us (could go even farther) in our social network, but based on our food preferences and our trust of our friends taste in food and restaurants and their service and their friend's same values, and so on. The other review is one who is considered to be the polar opposite of our preferences and can be used to shade our interest.

How did we get to a social network that has needed value? If we take the same folksonomy approach and apply it to social networks we could see social network tools that actually have value. This would work as a narrow folksonomy (like Flickr) with a person tagging people with the connections they trust (or even those they do not trust with a "-" prefix).

The folksonomy is just one option, but social networks have to get far more granular than the broad line that is drawn between people today.

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