« Posts tagged Facebook

Stop or I will add you on Facebook!

Michael Arrington recently posted this neat article on his blog. While I don’t disagree with him, do you really think it is possible to delete 400 out of your 600 “friends”? I think the problem comes from the fact that Facebook is a collection of people we know, but we want it to be a network of friends. It’s a very cool way of socially organizing all your contacts, but this comes at the cost of watering your true “social network”.

Facebook is the equivalent of meeting someone and giving them your business card, except now the business card contains the access code to your house. So there are basically the following options:

  • Stop handing out business cards to most people.
  • Hand out cards to almost everyone, and complain about how too many people are up in your business.
  • Complain that the business card maker needs to have some easy way to choose who gets what.

This is basically what is happening right now. Now lets take case 1. You meet someone at a conference. You chat for 5 minutes. Do you tell them that they are not close enough to get your business card? Probably not, right? A very good example is Path. You are sitting with a colleague and chatting about technology. Now they add you on Path as you show them this cool new app. Do you tell them, this is restricted to your friends/family? There is no real way of declining this socially. What we need is circles much like we have in real life (and no I am not saying that Google+ circles are the right way or anything like that). In real life you call a bunch of friends to chill. Not every time you invite everyone. But that doesn’t mean they don’t belong in your network.

A contrast to that is twitter, which is completely public (and I actually consider my website/blog + Twitter as my business card). You can either have a completely closed network, or a completely public one. You can not have a semi private network like Facebook, and then tell people they are do not belong in it. Rather much like real life, give me control on what goes where. In real life I use my cell phone to call everyone, but I don’t need to tell everyone the exact same thing, when I call them.

I hope our social networks will get smarter, and realize that not everyone is equal to us. At the same time, I don’t wanna use 50 different networks for different types of people/activities.

A Singly view of my data

I don’t know when we will understand this, but the social web is not about checking into places, or posting photos and tagging people. It is not about us sharing our information via our blog, or doing micro updates on twitter. It really doesn’t matter if I use Flickr or Instagram, or Google+ or Facebook. What is more important is the actual interaction we have on a day-to-day basis, be it in the real world or the virtual.

Life is just a collection of experiences that we create, or share with people around us. Different people use different “social” services to serve their purpose towards this end. And to tell the truth, we actually need different services at different times. However that leads to a lot of fragmentation of our personal data. Right now a large chunk of my thoughts are scattered around on Facebook and twitter updates. Similarly Picasa has all the photos that I take from my Android phone, while there are more that are posted by my friends on Facebook and Flickr. This makes it a mess to actually see what content do I really create, get linked to or ingest. And the problem doesn’t just stop there. It is a pain for me to even put the various blocks together. There is no real bridge between these disconnected services. This hurdle is also felt when developing any application that consumes this data (don’t even get me started on actually creating this data). How many websites have you visited recently which didn’t ask you to sign in on at least two of these social services?

This also makes development a challenge. Recently when I was trying to write a simple service to analyze my geo presence based on data online, I found that I had to write code to query at least 4 services to get an accurate answer. Shouldn’t we be making this easier? On thursday I was down at Singly office in the mission for a small Create-a-thon. The plan was to hack till midnight, and welcome 11/11/11. I thought why not? I had read a little about them online and the Locker Project and I thought they were on the right track. Singly provides a unified APIs to query our personal data.

Starting off around half past seven, it didn’t take long before Simon and other folks at Singly had my account setup. They had a general theme of building a photo viewer, which could take photos from all your services (4Sq, Instagram, FB, and so on). However I was more interested in how I could use this data towards my personal project of analyzing my location, based on my online interactions. Despite them still being in an early phase of the places API, it didn’t take me long to see all the checkins from me and my friends, and actually start analyzing them for patterns. Before we hit midnight I was able to pull up a small application which could figure out the places I have been to recently, and an overlap between me and my friends. This was pretty cool, because this actually collated data across 4Sq and Facebook (I wish they had Google Places) and was pretty simple. Despite all the rough edges this actually made sense. Given all the development happening out there, why is there no single way of getting my personal information?

I also played around with their existing photo viewers, contacts and links interactions. I was actually surprised on how accurately they recovered all the links I saw through the day. Although I must say that was a lot of data but nevertheless it really was deduplicated and ready for me to crunch on. I didn’t have to worry about linking 10 different accounts (although I did have to do it once at Singly) in every app I write. While talking to folks @ Singly I realized that there were a lot of challenges in this data unification. I really appreciate the effort they were making, but I wish that a large part of this focus came from these big social networks to allow me to unify the access (and perhaps creation) of my personal data. I know it’s almost impossible to wish for open standards in this, but that would definitely make my life easier as a developer, and also allow people to focus on innovation and not data aggregation.