A Conversation About the Social Graph

Last night the newly-freewheeling Susan Mernit and I attended the SD Forums meeting on Using the Social Graph / Social Platforms to Enhance Search at the Yahoo campus. The panel included representatives from Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Chirp, and they grappled with questions about what the Internet is going to do with all of this information about who is connected with whom. Here are a few of my takeaway notes:

  • When we search, we find things we were looking for. When we participate in social networks, we find things we didn’t know we were looking for.
  • To subscribe to someone on Twitter is to use them as a media source.
  • Our public content and our public statements about our social graph are a kind of performance. (Dopp Juice is a kind of performance.) This stuff needs to be treated differently than private conversations (messages, emails, IMs), which are meant to be off-stage.
  • One-way connections (e.g., following someone on twitter) articulates what you’re interested in. Two-way connections (e.g., an email conversation) articulates who you’re interested in.
  • Direct search has been nicely monetizable (see Google’s Massive Empire) because it involves a direct interest, but social search is the new frontier for monetization.
  • Social networks SHOULD NOT ASK PEOPLE FOR THEIR GMAIL AND YAHOO MAIL LOGIN INFO. (i know, we’ve talked about this already, but it was nice to hear it on the panel from the Yahoo rep, too.) His reasons: our email address books include everyone we’ve ever emailed; not just the people we have valuable relationships with. The tactic is spam-producing and relationship-damaging.
  • Facebook’s style of social networking sometimes creates lightweight friendships that obfuscate the value of networks. Knowing who my 20 best friends are is often more valuable than knowing who my 500 best friends are.
  • There is an ongoing tension between privacy and portability. How do we keep our information safe, versus how do we carry our information with us?
  • True portability involves both the ability to extract your information in a way that can be used elsewhere and the ability to delete it from the system so that it’s no longer in the first network’s hands.
  • There can never ever be a privacy surprise. If the user sees you publicly displaying something that they thought was private, you just lost their trust in a very big way.
  • There’s user-generated content and then there’s information about the user’s social graph. These are separate things. To do cool things for fun and profit on this next frontier of social media, you’re gonna want access to both.

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2 Responses to “A Conversation About the Social Graph”

  1. Jaz Cummins Says:

    Hey Sarah

    Thanks for the interesting notes, especially the idea of Twitter as a media source, it definitely fulfills that function for me – amongst others – but I hadn’t thought of it that way before!

  2. sarah Says:

    Glad this was useful, Jaz. The “media source” line made me do a double take, too. I’d never looked at it like that and, yes, it makes perfect sense. Twitter is my primary news source right now.