In writing this book about nonprofit tech, I've come across the term "social graph" one too many times. I thought that it was finally time to explore it a bit... especially with some recent Marshall Ganz reading in mind. Here's what I found:
FB's social graph
* Social Graph is the network of connections and relationships between people.
* FB has twice as much traffic as any other photo application b/c it has access to people's real connections which trump everything else, including editing/organizing options
* it's the reason FB works
* FB becomes more useful the more people use it
a quote from zuckerburg:
As he describes it, this is a mathematical construct that maps the real-life connections between every human on the planet. Each of us is a node radiating links to the people we know. "We don't own the social graph," he says. "The social graph is this thing that exists in the world, and it always has and it always will. It's really most natural for people to communicate through it, because it's with the people around you, friends and business connections or whatever. What [Facebook] needed to do was construct as accurate of a model as possible of the way the social graph looks in the world. So once Facebook knows who you care about, you can upload a photo album and we can send it to all those people automatically." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20227872/site/newsweek/page/0/
[it seems that FB popularized use of this term as it relates to web]
The Social Graph problem
The case for Social Network Portability
* there are a ton of social applications
* each is building its own social graph or could benefit from one
* there are 1000s of independent graphs
* if you want to build one you run into the user/pwd/login issue. it's a pain and creates a big barrier to entry
* FB is great, but the graph shouldn't be owned by one company
* makes a case for a distributed nonprofit social graph
* will allow many other apps to bloom
[this is really interesting. would really like to see it happen. the article above written by the creator of liveJournal, apparently. after more research, the above article has spawned a ton of response. was written around aug2007]
Stealing your graph
Interesting response to the post above. Talks about someone friending you by ruse and then joining another network so as to lift your graph. I've thought about this a lot as I let people sit in my friend request box trying to figure out if I know them or not and if I'm going to give them access to my graph. Clearly, if I can't remember them, they're very distant at least and complete strangers most likely. But it feels terrible to click "ignore" or to send them a "how do I know you" message. I'd love to see an experiment looking atfriending those who are clearly 'strangers' simply b/c they've asked. (serendipitous irony: some strangers just rang my doorbell - and with these thoughts on my mind, I quickly turned them away - not wanting strangers to take my valuable blogging time - or just being mean(?))
Time for Social Networks to open up
Wired echos (or pre-dates) the comments above:
* personal data is locked up in SNs
* Plaxo launched Pulse, which allows users to share their profile data
* it's possible to roll your own facebook, but missing the valuable - how is this person a friend metadata
* they call for an open source answer to the problem
* they talk about http://www.pageflakes.com/ which seems kind of like a google home page approach
..interesting. I was planning to read a bunch about the power of the social graph and how different orgs were using it. Didn't expect to run into the social graph open source movement - but it makes a lot of sense. I've worked on so many applications that have been hampered by lack of a graph and was excited as anyone to see FB open up their platform - but then again frustrated by their tight control over working in their walled garden (the app I manage needs to be updated every week to keep up with their changes, and despite 10,000 users, I just gave up, b/c I don't have enough time to deal with it). Would love to see an open source social graph come to fruition.
Have seen a bunch of new discussion on this topic. Fred Stutzman laments the growth of this term as a depersonalization of our computer based social relationships. Dare Obasanjo gives a great definition of the differences between social graphs and social networking sites.
I agree with some of the comments on Fred's site - it's a depersonalized term to represent an aspect of a social network - a technical aspect - not the network itself, which is a different and more personal entity. I think it's appropriate.
couple of interesting related things from stutzman's delicious feed: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/social-networks, http://www.cs.cornell.edu/Courses/cs685/2007fa/