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How about a social directory?

The last posting I wrote about Spock has touched a nerve among more than a few people in the blogging world.  Both Irwin and Andy have responded saying "enough is enough! who needs another social network".  Andy writes:

Do we really need more networks, or do we need to get more from the ones we already have? As Plaxo looks more like LinkedIn, and as LinkedIn tries to keep up with the Facebooks, the whole idea of social networks, to get closer, not farther from people has really started to wane, and we may be seeing something more necessary the OPT ME OUT NOW option that would prevent the impersonal "join my network" emails that are doing nothing but creating the equal of Internet "in box pollution." In affect the value of the "network" which is really at the core of all these is being burned at the altar by a "get big fast" VC fueled management style these networks all have in common.

Spam aside, our idea of social networks is undergoing a dramatic change.  When Facebook opened up their "social graph" to third parties they profoundly altered the balance of power around directory.  Recall this paragraph from the Voice 2.0 Manifesto:

…in the Voice 2.0 world, individuals own their own directory listings.  What you wish to list in your directory listing, including the fundamentals of name, address, and contact point(s), is your business. It’s your identity, and you get to manage it — not the carrier. Directories can be extended to include the idea of persona’s (work, home, leisure), interests, and a myriad of other kinds of personal information. Directories also become repositories for subscriber preferences, credentials, social networking details and potentially even financial information  for voice enabled transactions.  In the voice 2.0 world, the directory is an opt-in enabler for applications, commerce, and identity.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?  It should. It's the same information you find in your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. Your profile is your opt-in directory listing – the identity that you get to manage. 

Social networking sites are evolving from being the repository for your personal network to your address book, and ultimately to a full people search engine. Today's phone book is a primitive paper DNS system for e.164 phone numbers. In fact, it's not even as efficient as DNS, because it doesn't have any ability to replicate changes when they occur.  Tomorrow's system will be a completely different kind of "phone book", though — one that's built on identity, trust, recommendations and relationships.   It will be a social directory built on the graph of relationships we maintain every day.

In an ideal world, a social directory like Facebook or LinkedIn would:

  • Allow me to efficiently segment my profile based on the viewer.  (As an aside, Facebook's decision to allow people to construct lists based on their friends doesn't go nearly far enough.  It's a timid half-step.)
  • Interoperate with every other social graph tool out there so that I needed to only maintain one identity. After all, in the real world we each have one set of social relationships, not the multiples that multiple social networks would imply.
  • Automatically update every other address book and social graph so that I wouldn't need to manage multiple instance of my identity.  Plaxo's killer feature should be a core component of the social directory.
  • Expose my identity and profile information to applications as I permitted and required it to.
  • Allow me to search other profiles through my relationship network, and rank those results based on the information I need, plus factors like reputation, location and so on.
  • Permit all kinds of communications based on privacy and profile segmentations. 

We're headed in the right direction on many fronts.  The cries for help from folks like Irwin and Andy are simply an indication that we've got a long way to go on some crucial issues like interoperability and profile segmentation.  

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Patrick January 18, 2008, 9:28 pm

    Alec,

    Very insightful post on the Social Networking business as a whole. I thought I might be able to offer some insight into what Spock.com is doing to create your ideal social directory.

    1) Allow me to efficiently segment my profile based on the viewer.

    Because Spock is a people search and can link a person to multiple sites, we in effect enable users to maintain a more fun social site and a professional site. Because you can restrict these things via your security settings, it enables a user to connect and direct people.

    2) Interoperate with every other social graph tool out there so that I needed to only maintain one identity.

    As noted above with Spock.com you have one search result which lets other people know where else you are on the web. The fact that Spock relies on publicly available information it enables us to include people from all across the Web so that you don’t need to search multiple sites to find someone.

    3) Automatically update every other address book and social graph so that I wouldn’t need to manage multiple instance of my identity.

    With Spock’s Trust Network, it essentially updates people’s network in that your Search Network is controlled by relevance to you giving you the benefit of being able to search specifically within the people you know, and the people your contacts know.

    4) Expose my identity and profile information to applications as I permitted and required it to.

    With Spock you have voting authority on the tags with which you can be searched for and in terms of contact information, these are fully controlled by the user. The fact that you can have links to your other sites enables a user to have a strictly professional site such as LinkedIn and a strictly social site such as Facebook.

    5) Allow me to search other profiles through my relationship network, and rank those results based on the information I need, plus factors like reputation, location and so on

    Spock’s Trust Network informs you of how you may be connected to certain people, and allows you to specifically search people via our tagging system. This essentially allows you to search for a Tennis Partner in San Francisco who is connected to you through a coworker.

    6) Permit all kinds of communications based on privacy and profile segmentations.

    With Spock, messaging can only be done between people who have mutually accepted Trust Requests. You also have a variety of e-mail setting controls

    If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me at Patrick@corp.spock.com

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