Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wrong concept called “digital” friendship

Let us discuss the concept of “digital” (=Yes/No) friendship that governs today’s social networks. I am afraid this concept is outdated as it doesn’t reflect reality of peoples’ relationships. It should be replaced by a more natural concept of, say, “communication proximity”, which would be dynamically built on frequency of communication between any two people.

The long-term solution would be to incorporate a standard to the internet that would unambiguously identify people along all ways of their communication. Even if I read an article of certain author, this should be calculated as his one-way communication with me. If I post comment under that article and the author reads it, it will be already a two-way communication. After collecting all these data, everybody would have a personal map available to him that would automatically map people in his neighborhood – from his closest friends to some remote potential contacts; in addition there should be possibility to map people not just by frequency of communication, but also by common professions, interests, hobbies. In other words, even results from this mapping exercise would be highly personalized and would offer variety of outputs. This model would correspond much closer with reality than today’s digital Yes/No schemes.

Ideally, contact management systems should be developed that would automatically watch all means of my communication: email systems, IM systems, (VoIP) phone applications, and that would also integrate with my calendar, as personal meetings are also a way of communication. To allow these applications being established, a clear method to uniquely identify people in their different ways of communication should exist. Yes, we are again returning to the concept of “Unique Personal Identificator” described earlier in this blog. Unfortunately, nobody has the authority to define such a thing, even if it is very useful. Several interesting attempts exist (e.g., FOAF), but the way to go is probably through creating a de-facto standard.

And now we are coming to our question. How can, to your opinion, such a standard develop? Which is the most likely scenario that would force people to use certain identification method in all their communication?

I have some ideas and I am ready to share them with you, but would love to hear your opinions first.


Anonymous Adam Zbiejczuk said...

i agree that yes/no approach is totally limited and it's just ridiculous, that it has survived until now - we don't live in boolean logic! but e.g. orkut let you estimate the 'level' of friendship, and another nice example of structured relations gives - a hospitality network, where difference between 'best friend' and 'met on the internet' might be crucial.
some of the safety problems MySpace was struggling with might be partly solved using this model i believe.

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Misha said...

Do we need communication proximity?

2:58 AM  
Anonymous Chris Chen said...

How would software determine my friendship level with people with whom I do not communicate on line? There are people I talk to often, and with whom I hardly exchange an email.

How about simply adding a rating to say a Linked in connection?
-A: a friend
-B: a colleague
-C: an acquaintance
-D: someone on my list of "friends" whom I have never spoken with, a digital acquaintance

People have a built in incentive to be honest: no one wants to represent to their true friends that someone they have never met is anything else than a digital acquaintance.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jiri Donat, Ph.D. said...

Yes indeed, we can ask users to evaluate the "level of friendship" manually. This has however three problems:
First, this "friendship level" can change over the time and people will not be willing to continuously update it (in most cases they will be even not aware that something changed). Anyway, the idea that they should continuously edit their profile doesn't sound attractive for me.
Second, these categories are not granular enough; in addition, they are even not well defined. How about a colleague which is also my friend?
And third, maybe the most important one: the majority of people is "lazy". I am afraid that they will not be willing to invest the extra work into this evaluation process. We can see it on Facebook which also resigned - we can easily skip the "level of friendship" evaluation step.

In other words we really need an automated system. In fact, the best way how to get our personal map of our friends will be combination of automatically calculated frequency of our contacts and our personal feedback (in most cases, the more intense the communication is, the closer friend this person is - but there are also exceptions, and these should be covered by the personal feedback).

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well described. However there is missing area. Security. People usually not expose contacts which could be pretty close and they feel that another their contact dislike/ hate the person. Second, not all communication whatever intensive mean we are friend or colleagues. Imagine yourself complaining to any bigger company. Many times long story and no relationship will happen. Third, Unified ID. Thanks God there is no way how to enforce it (now). ID itself is great idea, however real people abuse anything they can. Now you loose at maximum limit on your credit card. However with digital identity you could loose more. In worst case you could be completely impersonated with all consequences. In digital world (now I exclude mixing of real and digital world) your reputation could be easily harmed and your chance to prove your innocence is limited

2:23 AM  

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