Oct 19, 2007

friend is not a verb

Spent a little bit of time at the Web 2.0 summit this afternoon, with the express intent of catching the following early afternoon lineup:  Kedrosky, Butterfield, Recordon & Fitzpatrick and then Safa Rashtchy's panel discussion with a group of baby boomers about how they use the web. Kedrosky convinced me that I need to learn more about dark pools; Stewart showed off some really sexy new photo mapping features coming soon to Flickr, and Safa's panel was as entertaining and enlightening as ever.  (This couple was on the panel, and they were great.)

I'm admittedly biased, but the highlight for me was David and Brad. They did a great job of laying out the problem of closed social networks: as more and more applications benefit from social interaction, connecting those apps to an appropriate set of your friends will become a more frequent occurrence. In short, soon you will be very very tired of using the word "friend" as a verb, if you're not already.

The solution is a combination of a technology tools, a mindset change, and user education.  The technology stuff is basically there -- XFN, FOAF and OAuth, for example -- and is being demonstrated now in the Six Apart Relationship Update Stream that David announced today. The mindset change requires social network operators to open up that data, which will come, even if it takes a while. The education piece is about providing simple user experiences that (a) teach users how this works and (b) shows them the value of expressing at least a portion of their graph publicly and (c) allows them to control and maintain their relationship data.

David's got a post up on O'Reily Radar that summarizes their talk; it's a good followup to his post on Opening the Social Graph at sixapart.com.