I have been thinking a lot about friends lately and the real value of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo etc. I came across an excellent (if long) presentation on slideshare by Paul Adams of the User Experience team at Google. It looks at relationships (friendships) and the differences between the way your online social networks (such as facebook) work and your real life social relationships and how they influence each other.
Online, people are either your friends or they are not. There is some filtering at a very high level, Plaxo and LinkedIn for example are typically limited to business acquaintances not personal friends, but beyond that everyone is treated the same, from your best buddy to the guy you met yesterday. To paraphrase that wise TV philosopher Theo Kojak, “(online) Who love’s ya baby?” the answer is all your online friends. He uses the analogy of the time and trouble folks take on planning the seating at a wedding in real life and yet how on a social network they are all just lumped together.
Paul provides a view of your offline relationships that can be segmented by groups of people (family, college, neighbours, activities etc. (most people have 4 to 6 major groups)) and the strength of the relationship (strong (4 to 5 relationships), weak (up to 150 relationships) and temporary) and how they influence your decisions. As he points out,
Social Networking is a means to an end.
You need to understand what the end is.
So what does this mean? I think there really is a need to be able to segment friends on social networks to better reflect how life really works. Until then, I for one will continue to be just a casual user of facebook (social networks). As always comments welcome.
In tandem with the cultural view taken by the Us Now video, I had commented on previously, I came across an IBM presentation through slideshare on the business side of social networks.
It was presented at the mobile social networking forum and concentrates on how social networks affect businesses in the media and telecom industries. There are a number of key points to be drawn from the presentation.
Social networks while primarily about relationship building are branching out to content distribution and a place for targeted adverts.
Brands are creating their own exclusive social networks to build direct dialogue with their customers.
Many companies are using social networks internally to replace the disappearing water cooler
Revolution does not happen when a society adopts new tools, it happens when society adopts new behaviours. – Clay Shirkey
Thanks to boingboing, I came across a one hour British documentary on the cultural aspects of social media and how as the cost of collaboration becomes very low people can actively participate in areas that were typically closed to them before. This view is extended to both local and national government with the conclusion that government will become more participatory but with no firm conclusions on exactly how.
Today, Microsoft announced a tailored message and alert social network called Vine. It is very local in scope and in restricted beta. Seattle is one of the first test areas (I intend to test the service but have not been accepted as of yet). Vine is intended to be a dashboard that people can use to keep tabs of their family, friends, activities and major events in their community. Could be fascinating if it works.
Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times has a long blog piece on Vine and its initial use for emergency services. It some regards it is similar to the impromptu mashups that arose during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. One of the comments, associated with the story pointed me to bliin, a similar Dutch effort. They have an interesting application that geotags photographs as they are taken for upload to a trip report (or vacation record).
This got me thinking to another post I read on what folks actually photograph. In one of the largest samples used for crowd sourcing, a group of researchers from Cornell University have analyzed over 35 million geotagged photos on Flickr and have built maps based on those photos. These maps don’t show roads and buildings per se but show hot spots of activity – there are over 130,000 tagged photos of the Taj Mahal on Flickr for example. So on their Asia map, Kolkata and Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) appear the same size yet Kolkata has six times the population.
This map of ‘photo attractiveness’ is a fascinating concept as it shifts how you view a map from being static data (roads and rivers) to also having a focus on information and opinion. It will be interesting to see how successful Microsoft Vine, Google latitude, bliin and others are in utilizing this concept.