Forget Open Social Graphs. Let’s Just do Something Useful Together Online

October 12th, 2007

UpdateLinkedin apparently agrees with me.  They just announced a developer-API program to create widgets that allow “business functions like conference organization or travel planning”.  But no superpokes.

There’s been lots of talk about walled gardens in social networks. Plenty of people seem to be asking for “network portability”- the ability to move one’s social graph of contacts and connections across platforms. Given that the revenue stream for most social networks depends almost entirely on advertising, which depends on page views, I am starting wonder if that puts the cart before the horse.

Also like many people recently, I have been thinking about how I and my friends really use social networks. My conclusion is that they are a nice adjunct to offline communications- they can help me deepen connections with people I don’t see regularly- but they don’t actually *do* much.

For example, my Facebook news feed is almost entirely full of “___ became friends with ___” and “___ added the ___ application” updates. Do people actually do anything meaningful other than friending, adding applications, joining groups and updating status?

What about “___ beat __ in scrabblicious”, or even “Brad Fitzpatrick nailed his 95 theses on the opening of the social graph on Facebook’s door”?

Facebook seems to be mostly a tool for casual, superficial interactions and ways to show off one’s interests and affiliations- joining groups, marking favorite movies/music/books, showing where one has been, etc.

I’d love to see the platform and the feed represent real activity, not just connection-forming. Maybe the “next Facebook” (which may or may not be Facebook itself) will be the one that lets us really collaborate and not merely connect.

The next question, though, is on what we want to collaborate. I suspect it is probably different for different people and groups. That thought leads me back to the open social graph issue- maybe the open social graph is the horse after all and useful (as opposed to entertaining) applications are the cart. Oh dear, thinking in circles again. Time to quit.

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