In my Master’s, i was obsessed with understanding how people structured their social networks. I chose to analyze one slice of it: email social networks. When Friendster emerged, i became very curious about what it’s impact would be. How on earth would be take on articulated networks? What would they do? What would the social implications be? I started surveying people (and love the folks who respond to me).
Of course, fundamentally, i believe in social networks. I believe in their power to provide far more than sexual hookups. I also believe that one size does not fit all when it comes to social networks. People have different needs, different levels of privacy. They manage their social network very intelligently, providing proper structural holes as appropriate (connecting people in ways that will benefit them for being a connector). To model this is complicated. To provide people with the tools necessary to empower all of the diverse ways in which people want to access their network is a fascinating challenge.
When the creators of Tribe.net (currently in early beta) asked me to help them conceptualize people’s diverse issues around their social network, i became curious and gladly took that consulting gig. Since then, i’ve been nothing but tickled with the approach that Tribe. net is taking.
1) Diverse users require diverse sets of tools; one size does not fit all.
2) Groups/Collectives/Tribes are also a key part of people’s social network and must be taken into consideration when modeling networks.
3) People invest time in building their social network. Paying to use it for non-commercial uses is horrifying to most.
4) User feedback loops are essential for understanding how to make things better. Theory is useful for providing essential models. Research is a useful tool for iterating these systems.
I state all of this publicly because folks keep wondering what my role is in all of this. The social network software community is small and awefully incestuous and i’m certainly embroiled in that. Fundamentally, i want to see that people are empowered to control and utilize their social networks in a meaningful and protected way. I believe that this will require many iterations from what is currently out there. And i’m certainly going to enjoy helping that process along.