Thursday, January 29, 2004

Social networks - the New Tower of Babel

This posting wanted: personal social network coordinator the original link is here from Dennis Yang says it all. Social networks are springing up all over the place and I am sure most bloggers are members of at least 2-3 some who have more time on their hands are membes of more.

Social networks fall into three broad categories, business networking, personal interests, and dating. There is not a clear distinction in various categories but the intent is usually to be good at one or two of these. As I am coming up on my 10th wedding anniversary I cannot comment on the last category. but the first two are freely mingled in my life. I recently had an e-mail conversation with the CEO of a social networking company who declined to join one of my networks as his company had a similar feature. This is just an indication of some of the artifical barriers the networks are placing on my life. Each network can have different purposes but they all should work with my like and not segment it into various incompatible communities.

Are we doomed to having a proliferation of identities and social contacts even though we wish to have only one life that we manage. Social networks are suppoed to help the interactiosn between idividuals through the internet but if they just create artifical segmentation of our lives they are not achieving their full potential.

I believe strongly in the value of shared infrastructure and keeping the complexity in the network but this one case where we have too much in the network and not enough in the hands of the user. The better networks bootstrap themselves from my address book but they need to go further. I need to have my own metdata that works with any network that I choose to join. The role of the network is not to keep my metadata it is to enhance it through unique IP and provide connections and a social fabric.

I predict that all the current social networks will fail unless they start to interoperate and provide distinct obvious value beyond collecting and rearranging my metadata. Some of the work done by people like Marc Canter with FOAF is a step in the right direction

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