The Social Graph is Neither

Nov 09, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I like this article a lot. It captures many of my own misgivings about social networks and adds a number of new ones I hadn't considered, and does so with a turn of phase leaving many memorable quotes in its wake. To cast the thesis in a nutshell, the author argues, first, that human relationships are too complex to be captured in a predefined set of fields or relations, and second, that because these services need to observe your every behaviour for marketing purposes they create an environment that is profoundly unsocial. "Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers - that's the social graph. Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook." See also Ross Mayfield, who proclaims that "page rank is dead." And D'Arcy Norman, who on moving his content, opines, "If it’s less 'social' (if tapping into a corporately-monotized social graph makes it social), it’s also feeling more… valuable?"
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