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Monday, February 04, 2008

Social Network Operating System

In the 2008 Horizon Report, they discuss various technology trends including. Their comments around Social Operating Systems is interesting:
The issue, and what social operating systems will resolve, is that today’s tools do not recognize the “social graph”—the network of relationships a person has, independent of any given networking system or address book; the people one actually knows, is related to, or works with. At the same time, credible information about your social graph is embedded all over the web: in the carbon-copy fields of your emails; in attendee lists from conferences you attend; in tagged Flickr photos of you with people you know; in your comments on their blog posts; and in jointly authored papers and presentations published online.
This is a good definition of what we need from an open layer that allows a transportable, open social graph that we can leverage across various applications.

This address a critical problem that we face right now that I described in Social Networking Entrepreneurial Opportunities on my SoCal CTO Blog.

Certainly, what we are seeing with OpenSocial and DataPortability represents a possible future state where we can avoid some of this issue. If we could focus on building our "destination" on top of a set of open protocols that provide us with the social graph for users but that allows us to control our destiny, I believe that's the right model in most cases. It reduces friction for end-users and still gives us the leverage you want.

What I found interesting and I disagreed with was the statement that:
The essential ingredient of next generation social networking, social operating systems, is that they will base the organization of the network around people, rather than around content.
First, I don’t necessarily consider the social operating system to be “next generation social networking” – rather it’s a layer that allows us to have transportable information between all the places that knows about our information. Social networking sits on top of this and provides interfaces that allow us to interact.

Second, I don’t agree that next generation social networking will be based around people rather than around content. My personal experience is that content and social networks are intertwined. Blogs are both content and a social network. There is a social network around, YouTube, Flickr, etc. I’m much more likely to form and keep a social network when there is common interest in some form of content. And as we see more and more niche networks forming – they will almost invariably form around content. In fact, the Social Operating System will make it more likely that common interest and content will be the tie that binds.

If you go to the introduction page for OpenSocial, you can see that it too focuses as much on content as it does on person to person. The image is great and shows that OpenSocial thinks of the social graph as being BOTH people and content.


Paul said...

I find myself agreeing with your disagreement on social networking occurring in spite of content. After all, we all know and maintain relationships of different types with people because there is a mutual relevance to doing so. Relationships do not exist simply to exist. There is an underlying purpose to maintaining social bonds with coworkers or family members or friends.

Blogs are a perfect example of the content dynamic. Why would I choose to participate in this blog if I did not have an interest in the topic? Cotnent is the locus for interest in just about anything.

I am trying to better integrate social networking into my daily activities. It's tough after years of ingrained activity within a small circle of internet travel, but the tools now are so much more engaging than before, and content can no take advantage of the tools.

Anonymous said...

Great post. By layer (I only have networking knowledge at a foundational level) are you talking about in the computing 'stack' so that as data gets transported from node to node ?

Its also a little difficult to visualise in 2D as per the OpenSocial graphic - would like to see visions of social mapping or relationship mapping in 3D or through a more dynamic interface though - something along the lines of Visuwords / SearchCrystal or some of the ideas that Digg Labs were experimenting with perhaps. I feel like at the moment it is a bit limited.

Does it cover tagging as well as public connections like URLs, if you ask a question somewhere or make a comment on a blog, if your comment is tagged as well as using a URL to identify yourself when submitting it - will it then be easier to identify common themes and topics ? I really like the idea of tagging, but if you;re like me on I haven't spent enough thought into tagging that I have done, so could throw up some 'red herrings' with people looking for stuff so unless there is a way of autotagging... hmmm...
Very interested in this area, started to look at in job last year, we were investigating relationship tagging to help partners find other partners/similar sources of expertise/knowledge or on a more personal interest level.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't think I explained myself very well - have attempted to sketch out what I mean, it should say Current Situation at the top (hopefuly its semi-readable). So when you mention layer,is this something that sits somewhere above the session layer, so that it can be picked up and displayed using whichever software and whatever browser, without having to ask servers to pull info from databases and reload it each time ?
Apologies if this still makes no sense?

Tony Karrer said...

Paul - seems like we are on the same page.

Nicola - thanks for the thoughts. Couple of things you sparked ...

By layer - I mean a set of calls that can be made to various different tools that will establish a picture of your social graph. Right now you have a defined API for Facebook that lets us know about your friends, groups, etc. Now with Dataportability and OpenSocial we are talking about getting this information from a variety of tools so that we get a more complete picture.

"Does it cover tagging as well as public connections like URLs" - Yes in that tagging is really just URLs + tags.

"will it then be easier to identify common themes and topics?" - Hmmm maybe. Think about how works. You find people with similar interests via URLs and tags. You then find what else they are pointing to. So, yes, it does. But not that simple. Of course, you can be sure that lots of applications will be built to help you do this algorithmically.

And, I agree that there's interesting information you can derive from this.

I'm afraid I don't quite understand your question and your sketch. Maybe put some narrative around what you are thinking?

Anonymous said...

Thank Tony, I'm not 100% sure I understand myself either right now, think there are some vital missing links somewhere, also did not specify by tagging whether I was talking about html tags or just general 'tags' that you use as a front end user to categorise things.
I'll post back when I can be more -specific!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony, have thought some more about this - re narrative, where I worked last year, we used to have a dynamic 'internal organisation directory' where in addition to contact details, because the organisation was large, there was a dynamic visual diagram that you could roll your mouse over to reveal further 'strands' to the company.Something a bit like this (except it didn't have additional mouseover functions like in 3)

I think it was a compiled application / Java applet type thing, but I think you could achieve the same effect with dynamic xhtml pages (and then also achieve things like in 3).

When we came to look at ways of helping partners locate other partners with similar interests, we found that the internal directory was not sufficient, you could search by keyword (like a word tag)or business unit/team but it ddn't produce enough specific ways of showing how people could be connected.

I left before they had chosen a solution, but we were also looking at things like wiki and user profiles in there because that had global reach and you could also tag (as in keyword tag) your profile.

You could also tag wiki pages and individual comments and we had found a tag cloud option for visually representing them (as in dynamic not text only ones)

Also as the wiki was not compiled, you could have better search functionality, because you could search by wiki topics / themes as well as just users because they were just web pages.

But the combination of the internal directory and the wiki did still not identify relationships.

So on top of that we wanted to build a visual map which showed relationships, or find a tool which could look at various different ways in which people were connecting such as cross social networks and show it dynamically to the user.

It would also be helpful if you could update this visual representation (as relationships change) that you see as a user, by clicking or rolling over any point or word in your 'graph' entering the changed info or ,let's say you wanted to remove a 'friend' type relationship from facebook,twitter or whatever,you click/rollover and strand and press delete, save and then your revised graph dynamically appears.

Ideally, you should have the ability to be able to do this over any word, link/strand/dot or whatever in the graph.

So this is where I am confused about a couple of things(probably more).
1) I have had a look at the data portability profile page and the social graph API examples and it appears that you are entering text queries which sends an http reuqest to a server and then returns a response to you in text form on a page (i.e. you do not look at a visual representation and it does not return an answer to you as a visual representation in your browser),so why not - and wouldnt looking at a dynamic graph in the first place be better and then query further if the graph didn't give you what you needed?

2a) If web developers have not already used XFN and FOAF markup in their blogs, wikis, twitter or other social network type apps, or there are duplicate and mispelt keyword tags (I think I might have a few in delicious :-( how are the web developers going to add it into existing non XFN/FOAF markedup apps (some kind of algorithms I suppose ?)If not every company agrees that data portability as a good thing (maybe as a user yes, but maybe for them commercially no, they might lose people to competing web aplications or other social networks), how is an open social API going to be able to interact with those 'proprietary' web applications ?

2b)So that you don't end up seeing a bunch of misleading a bunch of misleading relationships/data e.g. I have tagged something in delicious with a keyword of AI (artifical intelligence), I then don't get a million results back saying that so and so on Facebook is also interested in AI (but it then turns out that is an Amnesty International facebook group or something)and so on.