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My Vision Of Social Networking: Burning Problems

This is a first post from my series about social networking.

UPDATE: Yihong Ding created post about Genome. Yihong have the gift of making complex things really easy along with the ability to recognize trends. And that makes him a great thinker and evangelist. Don’t miss his post.

Now I wanna talk to you about some burning problems we have when using social networking sites and tools. This is how I feel from user’s point of view.

Let’s start with publicity and privacy.

Problem #1: Publicity (and privacy)

What your parents, friends and colleagues will think about it???

What will your parents, friends or colleagues think about you????

Are you sure you want everybody to know your phone number, your email? Your ex’s? Do you really need your colleagues or employer to know about your problems?

Due to privacy issues you don’t have a necessary level of intimacy of your social network, although every person needs it. You have several privacy levels in your “real” life (I believe, it’s wrong to make a difference between real life and social networking life, more on this later). In descending order by intimacy level (also look at this taxonomy in comments):

  • Spouse/girl- or boyfriend
  • Family member
  • Best friend
  • Friend
  • Buddy
  • Colleague
  • Business partner
  • Creepy high school acquaintance
  • Can’t remember, too embarrassed to admit it
  • etc.

This natural order reflects the richness of human relationships. And the social networking must embrace them.

See also:

Problem #2: Distraction (and Time Wasting)

Social networking is incredibly distracting

Image courtesy of Paul Stamatiou. Do I have to say something more? Okay. Let’s do some maths.

You sleep 8 hours a day. You move 2 hours a day. You work/study 6-8 hours a day. How much time do you have for the rest? 6-8 hours. Not much. Think about it! Just 8 hours a day for doing sports, collecting stamps, cooking, enjoying your family and all these endless things! Just 8 f***g hours a day! Do you really want to waste it trying to get rid of all these messages, pokes and other *es, invitations, requests, etc.???

Sure, do it if social networking is a part of your profession or business. But in your real life most of this activity just doesn’t matter. We must reduce amount of information. Pay attention to really important things.

See also:

Problem #3: Quantity over quality

How do you like this?

Do you really need 5000 \

Or this?

That’s A LOT of people! 15’000 people is a population of a small town. Okay, I agree that a person can be so popular that a lot of people want to add her/him to their “friends”. But this is just one way interaction. Your social networking profile becomes just like RSS feed.

Value for a user depending on size of his social network

Value for a user as function of his social network size

That’s worth nothing. This “quantity over quality” trend is completely wrong in my opinion. We completely lost all richness of in-person interactions and relationships. Liz Strauss says: “The wider I go, the shallower I get”. I completely agree.

This problem is very close to Problem #2: Distraction I mentioned above.

See also:

Problem #4: Ads

Banner ads suck

See more mmm…”cases” here.

And again, do I need to say something more? I’m fed up with unwanted, irrelevant, banner ads.

Even Google ads rocks only on the search page. They often irrelevant on other pages. It seems like ads (even targeted) just don’t work on social networks. They are just annoying. When I see an ad on MY page (I’m the Owner of all my social data and profile!), it just makes me mad.

See also:

  • Waiting for your examples of stupid and ridiculous ads =)

Problem #5: No control under your identity

Oh….this is possibly the largest problem. And the most painful. To understand importance of the problem imagine that Facebook or MySpace (or other social networking site you’re using extensively) suddenly stop working. Or they decided to reposition themselves and start to sell fruits, for instance.

Your profile, your friends, you message history, all your connections and data are LOST! Forever!

Because Facebook owes your data, not you. You cannot save all your data on your computer. Basically, you cannot import or export your data.

So, let me enumerate all things you can’t do:

  • You can’t import/export your data
  • You can’t control who see what about you
  • You can’t watch who know what about you
  • You can’t ask some new web service to read your name, email, contacts ,etc. from your social networking site during sign-up
  • I’m sure, you can continue this list by yourself

See also:

Don’t miss:

Disclosure

I’m working on the project called Genome. My goal is to create social networking experience that doesn’t suck. I plan to implement all constructive ideas I’m talking about here in my project.

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June 26, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

26 Comments »

  1. I think you’ve certainly hinted at a lot of what doesn’t work well with consumer sites. I think the next phase will be “velvet rope” sites, where we’re in a private environment, so that the silliness doesn’t have to go on.

    Great post.

    Comment by chrisbrogan | June 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Chris!

    Thank you for your comment. Certainly the privacy is going to be very important in the next phase.

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | June 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. Vladislav,

    I would like to have a chat with you about Social Networking++.

    We’ve have been, and continue to work on these issues by leveraging the “Linked Data” across public and private data spaces.

    Please digest:
    http://virtuoso.openlinksw.com/presentations/DataPortability_and_DataSpaces/DataPortability_and_DataSpaces.html

    With ODS we already address Identity Meshing (i.e. put all you online IDs behind a single URI that is linked to OpenID).

    Links to live demo / eval instance of ODS:
    1. http://myopenlink.net/ods
    2. http://community.linkeddata.org/ods

    In either case above just open an account. You “Person” Entity URI will take the form:
    http:///dataspace/person/#this.

    Your OpenID and Profile Page URI will take the form:
    http:///dataspace/person/ .

    Kingsley

    Comment by Kingsley Idehen | June 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hello Kingsley,

    Thank you very much for your comment! You can reach me using vlad@genomepeople.com or any other way you like (see the top of the page).

    –Vlad

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | June 30, 2008 | Reply

  5. Hi Vlad,

    Thanks for the link!
    I actually think there are more problems to add. In relation to identity; we are not one-dimensional, we have many aspects to out lives, different circles of friends or acquaintances, different email addresses or websites and therefore many different aspects of our identity, which may or may not overlap. Using something along the lines of oAuth and/or openID for example, will offer a technical solution but maybe it’s not fully identifying the problem it’s trying to solve.

    Would we then need an OpenID for work, one for friends and family related sites/services in order to keep the privacy levels of all of our data in order?

    Managing identity alone is a major issue, especially when it comes to storing data which allows for greater access to who you are – identity fraud is a big problem already, but what if through one log-in someone could pose as your thorugh X number of sites and services?

    Linking with this is the fact that ‘social graphs’ (though I dislike the term) aren’t flat as they often appear as there is depth or relationship and the intersection of various network graphs to better represent our social state. A flat graph merely demonstrates connections between ‘friends’ and misses the context(s) of these relationships.

    Good post though!

    Comment by Dan Donald | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  6. Hi Dan!

    Thank you very much for such thoughtful comment!

    Absolutely. I agree. Indeed, if you have one identity to access multiple sites, and some one stole it, it’s a big problem. but perhaps, we can deal with it by giving to user ability to lock your identity (just like you can lock your credit card) or by using mobile device as a key to access identity. We’ll see.

    As for “flat graph” – what do you mean with the word “flat”? do you mean term “flat graph” for the graph theory or something else?

    If you were designing new model of relationships, how are you going to take a proper account of the context(s) of these relationships?

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. Hi Vlad,

    When you see social graphs, they’re often about visualising a relationship between people (nodes) and how they interrelate. To me this is based on the assumption that I know X and X knows Y, etc and so this links up. I have seen versions of this that use length of links between them to infer depth of relationship (or how well you know someone). I think in many ways this graph is flat, it’s 2D. We have contexts within our relationships and these layers of social graph often can intersect.

    For example: you work with a colleague called Dave, but you also go out for a drink every so often – here he’s in your professional network but you could also have him as a more distant friend. You might have a brother or sister you hang out with a lot as a mate, so here they might transcend the family and friend ‘graphs’. To me context is the missing piece of the current thinking on social graphs and in many ways that’s why I don’t link the term. By thinking in terms of a graph do we lose sight of the fact these nodes are people and people have complex social interactions?

    Comment by Dan Donald | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your comment! Now I understand. What do you propose to take account of contexts in social graph?

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | July 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. Hi Vlad,

    This is just the beginning of trying to figure this stuff out! Working out how to make a reliable mechanism for someone to store their relationships and build in context is something I’m working on but when you consider privacy, security, etc it’s a challenge. The interface needs to be simplistic and offer up these concepts in a way that makes sense to non-techies. Maybe when you provide access to your networks(s), you also get to specify a context/persona (if you have any configured), and/or a subset of people (or ad-hoc group) to be used for that service.

    What d’you think?

    Comment by Dan Donald | July 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your comments!

    I totally agree that interface must be really simple. As simple as possible. You said that when we consider privacy and security it’s a challenge. But first we must figure out the model of relationships. How to store them properly. Relationships with your perents, your girlfriend, your classmates, your neighbours, your colleagues, your teachers, etc. That is the question. Then we can think about privacy and security.

    Also I must confess, I completely misunderstood your last sentence! 🙂

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | July 4, 2008 | Reply

  11. […] concerns, distractions, quality interactions, and advertisements. (More details can be found on this post about Genome.) How these issues will be dealt with is currently under […]

    Pingback by Exclusive: First Look At Genome, A Next-Gen Social Networking Service - BuzzYA! | July 8, 2008 | Reply

  12. […] concerns, distractions, quality interactions, and advertisements. (More details can be found on this post about Genome.) How these issues will be dealt with is currently under […]

    Pingback by Exclusive: First Look At Genome, A Next-Gen Social Networking Service | July 8, 2008 | Reply

  13. […] concerns, distractions, quality interactions, and advertisements. (More details can be found on this post about Genome.) How these issues will be dealt with is currently under […]

    Pingback by Exclusive: First Look At Genome, A Next-Gen Social Networking Service | Techno Portal | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  14. How would I use it on my website to become more social site?

    Comment by gpo | July 10, 2008 | Reply

  15. Can I host this Genome for a website?

    Comment by pete | July 10, 2008 | Reply

  16. Hello gpo, hello pete,

    Thank you for your comments!

    Pete, this a very good question. We’re thinking about creating hosted version of Genome that you can host on your own server, but I think this is not what you need with your http://palsnaija.com/ site. What you need is to implement Genome API support when it will come out.

    gpo,

    I’d suggest following scenarios (from a user’s point of view):
    1. Logging in/signing up with Genome identity.
    2. Having all my contacts already in (no need to build relationships from the scratch).
    3. Having my data which is relevant to your site in (no need to fill most of fields in profile)

    From your point of view as the owner:
    1. You implement Genome API support in your site.
    2. You’ll have read/write access over the user data (of course, if he/she allows you this).
    2. You just need to concentrate on making value for user with your niche social network.

    Hope, this will help. You may want to drop me a line at vlad@genomepeople.com with description of your particular problem with your site, and we can discuss it.

    Also you may want to read an article by Ian here:
    http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10008664o-2000561249b,00.htm

    But be warned that his opinion and vision of Genome is NOT official. I’m not affiliated with Ian.

    Take care,
    Vlad

    Comment by Vladislav Chernyshov | July 10, 2008 | Reply

  17. I’m curious about your plans to implement or adopt and support open and established standards and protocols — notably OpenID, but also OAuth and microformats and ATOM, etc.

    We’re doing similar work on the DiSo Project (http://diso-project.org) and we’re tackling the same kinds of problems you’ve enumerated.

    Comment by Chris Messina | July 11, 2008 | Reply

  18. Thanks for this beautiful Posting On social networking!
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    Comment by Frank | July 27, 2008 | Reply

  19. […] Oímos hablar mucho de qué funciona en redes sociales. En el enlace se habla de lo que no funciona: privacidad, distracción, calidad, propaganda, identidad…. [L][C] […]

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