The other day I was talking with someone who works at Facebook. She and I were having a fun conversation about number of followers and all that. At one point she emailed back that I was “destroying the utility of the social graph.”
How did I do that? By adding people who actually were not my “real” friends.
I asked her to define “real.”
Anyway, this morning, in the comments of my Facebook post I saw a comment from someone named “facebook user” that said “people may not be leaving, but i know plenty of folks who are trimming their friend lists down to true personal friends.”
Ahh, have you ever thought that this is behavior that Facebook wants you to do?
After all, how can they recommend the best sushi restaurant to you if you’ve added people you don’t even know?
Hint: the Facebook employee is right. I have destroyed the utility of the social graph — from her point of view. But I’m there to study patterns of early adopter behavior. For ME my social graph brings me stuff that no one else’s social graph brings.
Which points to what I want in the future: multiple social graphs for different things.
I really hate the word “friend.” It has no meaning anymore. No one can define what a friend is. Believe me, I’ve asked dozens of people to define it for me. My wife is my most “true” friend, for instance but if you trust her with picking a great wine (she doesn’t drink much) or picking a great sushi restaurant (she hates the stuff) you’ll be very disappointed. You’d be better off asking @garyvee about the wine even though you’ve never met him and he probably wouldn’t be listed among your “true” friends.
This is one reason why I like Twitter and friendfeed. Friendfeed in particular lets me follow different people with different contexts. I can put @garyvee into a “wine” folder, for instance. But I can also put him into “social media innovators.” Twitter doesn’t let me do that, but Twitter also doesn’t try to force me to subscribe to only my “true” friends.
Anyway, in the past eight years I’ve met many thousands of people face-to-face. Just last week I sent off more than 1,000 business cards to Allen Stern’s new business, CloudContacts (and that’s only a small fraction of the ones I’ve collected since I’ve started blogging). His business is scanning them and will build me a new social graph that I’ll bring into friendfeed and other places to study. I can’t wait.
Regarding whether I’ve destroyed the utility of the social graph: that’s up to me to decide, not you. Not Facebook. Not my commenter. I get great utility out of what I’m doing. I see patterns before most other people do and those patterns are getting more and more useful. A year ago I didn’t have the ability to search Tweets or friendfeed items. Today I have very rich search features so I can go through my like feed, for instance, and find every item that mentions Evernote.
Think that’s not important? Well, Feedly, a company that makes a small toolbar that sits at the bottom of Firefox, is using friendfeed’s search API to find people who’ve said stuff about the pages you’ve visited. This is a new kind of application that simply was not possible a year ago.
Yeah, I’ve destroyed the utility of the social graph, but on the other side is a whole new world that I’m discovering has great utility. You must destroy before you can build. Go have fun with your social graph and stop taking this friend thing too seriously.