Social Graph, Platform Wars and Giant Global Graph

3 October, 2009 at 16:35 7 comments

Have you ever thought of an idea or joke or quote or term that you could really call your own and then happen to encounter it on the web? I am telling ya, it is a mixed feeling. At one level, you are happy that it is out there but at the other level, you are sad that someone beat you to it. Well, that has been the story of a small portion of my life. You know, it is like watching the same model of the car you have in a movie. It is involved in car chases, outrunning police jeeps, hero is having sex with the heroine in the backseat, catching villains and what not. The car is changing lives but yours is not. You sit there in your sofa and go, “Maybe I am putting the wrong kind of gas in my one”. Or, maybe not but the object of discussion is the term “social graph” which I thought I coined a while back but which has got into active circulation as soon as Tim Berners-Lee brought it into style. This post is not a deep analysis nor a satirical blurb on what Tim wrote. It is just a wee meditation that the term is the right one to be used in the right way for we are in semantic territory.

    The bi-word “social graph” has been the term of my choice since 2003 to describe my ‘relationships summa’ with other people in the real and digital world. Terms like “personal web” and “implicit web” have also done the rounds. Apparently the conflict of which term to use is not just raging in my mind but in new age media too. Some are of the opinion that a graph and a network are the same thing and so, one should use the accepted term “social network” to describe the XML expressible (not as simple as FOAF though) relationships information. They make a good case and I sorta agree that the world does not need yet another term but I want to throw the hat in the ring and put forth my contention that there is justification in the not-so-new “social graph” term. Simple argument is le entity is more than an aggregation of “social network”(s). I opine that every person is born with a “social graph” but only a select few – or roughly 20% of the worlds population by 2012 who have access to ICT – have “social network”(s) as we know it. There is another and more stark distinction on the lines of ownership. I strongly believe in the idea that the “social graph” is a personal construct that is to be defined and indeed editable, by the person and therefore, it should be owned by the user whereas, “social network” as it exists today does not have to be so strict. In fact, we see this all around us. A decently online person has several “social network” information in islands of Web 2.0 services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, iLike and what have you but does not own the soul. Email, IM, Newsgroups, Forums etc. are classic examples of application level “social network” and mobile phone contacts, company numbers spreadsheets, college yearbooks, little black diaries et al. are examples of hard to capture “social network” silos. Hence, we need a seperate term such as “social graph” to describe the aggregated superset of networks we happen to find ourselves a part of in the course of our trivial existence. The irony of the connected age is that even if we integrate all of these networks together, it will not be an exact mirror of the graph that a person has in his/her mind. Needless to say, it is a hard problem to compile an accurate per-user “social graph” and one of these days, I hope to be fortunate enough to have a crack at it and take a step towards building a Memex kind of a thing. Quick research has pointed out that several others want to do it too and there is a platform war going on since 2007 as we speak…

    Sorry for the digression. Coming back to the conundrum of the “social graph” term, I was led to a TNT post by Valdis Krebs which gives an etymology of the term when it started making the rounds in the blogosphere circa mid-2008. The TNT post was a comment on a rambling post by Tim Berners-Lee in which he expounds that the semantic web popularly known as Web 3.0 will be about “Giant Global Graph” (GGG) which views the world on the basis of how people are connected. So, this post is a comment on the TNT post which is a comment on the GGG post. This is how comments on the blogosphere should have been working from the start instead of stupid comment sections at flag ends. End of rant. Start of quotes…

    This week we witnessed a tipping point for the term “social graph” – originally a term used by mathematicians and sociologists – currently the buzz of the social web community. When the designer of the web, Tim Berners-Lee (TBL) got involved with the term battles, the tipping concluded in a load cacophony of bloggers commenting on the concept. One of TBL’s insights was very simple, yet useful. He explained how Internet is changing focus from the connections between computers to the connections between people. Sir Tim explained the change using three, three-letter acronyms. First, he started with the III – International Information Infrastructure which grew up to be the Internet. On top of the III, TBL built the WWW – World Wide Web, which is really about how documents are connected. And finally he sees the GGG – Giant Global Graph, which connects people and objects

    So the Net and the Web may both be shaped as something mathematicians call a Graph, but they are at different levels. The Net links computers, the Web links documents. The Graph links people. We are all interested in friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. There are cries from the heart (e.g Open Social Web Bill of Rights) for my friendship, that relationship to another person, to transcend documents [and even applications] fired by an angst against the plethora of social network sites which are not excited about connections as they should be. In the long term vision, thinking in terms of the “social graph” is critical to us making best use of a wild zoo of devices, connectivity and applications. Then, when I book a flight it is the flight that interests me. Not the flight page. I’ll be thinking in the graph. My flights. My friends. Things in my life. My breakfast – yoghurt, nuts, and fresh fruit

    Well, there you go. A full blast on the origins of the “social graph” term which has been creeping in. Brad Fitzpatrick talks about users wanting to own their graphs, as does Alex Iskold, who discusses “social graphs” and network theory in general. In 2009, we are nowhere near where we should be because while our networks grew in size and numbers, they are still isolated and even when dirtily combined, they are but a slice of real life. Yet, slices are useful. This is how CAT (computer assisted tomography) scans work. The photographic slices of our complex bodies help doctors diagnose our ailments. You need the focused slice to understand, looking at the whole often results in overwhelming confusion. Do we need the GGG? Yes, like a map of the world, it will have applications. Yet, most of us are much happier with local maps revealing local dynamics for our local lives. So, a per-user “social graph” or a detailed and accurate slice of life would be great for kickin starters.

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      Entry filed under: Computers/ICT, Research, WebXP.

      Gandhi Jayanthi, Pub Talk and Lindsay Sloan Murphy Quacks # 05 – Paper in Wet Part of Garden

      7 Comments Add your own

      • 1. Darvill  |  3 October, 2009 at 18:41

        Posts about Information and Communication Technologies as of October 3, 2009. […] access any and all information regarding Pakistan that is available on the net or electronically. Social Graph, Platform Wars and Giant Global Graph – 10/03/2009 The bi-word “social graph” has been the term of my […]


      • 2.  |  4 October, 2009 at 00:47

        […] more here: Social Graph, Platform Wars and Giant Global Graph var $j = jQuery.noConflict(); $j(function() { $j("#get-article-code").css({opacity: 0}).hide(); […]


      • 3. Sarah  |  14 October, 2009 at 06:28

        With love :confused:, Sarah from South


      • 4. Belle  |  19 October, 2009 at 02:17

        Oh, I don’t blame Congress. If I had $600 billion at my disposal, I’d be irresponsible, too.


      • 5. Hayfa  |  22 October, 2009 at 08:14

        Good afternoon. The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.


      • 6. Caitlin  |  13 November, 2009 at 14:16

        Hey. Nice site. Very cool design. Useful information. Go on. Good Site. Caitlin from Haiti.


      • 7. Redmond  |  21 November, 2009 at 09:53

        Excuse me. The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with the pleasures of others.



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