I love Google. Their tools have really changed my life, in many ways making information management a pleasure. Now they’ve launched a new social network meant to help us organize our social life by categorizing our contacts into ‘circles’. The circles are meant to let you control who you share content with. Just as you might traditionally share a link, thought, picture, or video on Facebook or Twitter, now you can designate which circle of friends gets to see that content. Makes sense right? Some content you might want to share could be useful only to your work contacts, or even a select group within your work contacts. So Google has given us the tools to do this, and I like many probably started building this social fabric around circles of friends.
Then I got to thinking about what I was doing and other recent experiments with Facebook. After exporting my social data from Facebook a few weeks back I was able to computationally calculate groups of friends based on the number of connections they had within my network. I then applied a size metric to the people in my social network who were most central to my network. These techniques worked quite well allowing me to confirm many of the clusters that the diagram presented. The technique worked well and my network was well defined both geographically as well as by the type of social circle they existed in (eg. work, friends, acquaintances) Below is a diagram of my social graph showing the well clustered groups of people in my network.
So I am beginning to wonder why I am deliberately now creating a new social graph in Google+. I do find the ability to organize contacts into groups very useful, but if I can calculate these groups using a few simple social network analysis (SNA) techniques, I would rather do it that way.
In a perfect world, we would own our own social graphs. It could work something like this: I export my social network from Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social network I have invested in; I calculated the identifiable social groups using a SNA tool like Gephi; and I can then apply that social graph to any other social network I am interested in. I can take my social graph and apply it to an image sharing site like Flickr to see which of my friends, contacts, colleagues or family have public photo collections online.
Rather than building a social network in many places (eg. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster, WAYN… and the list goes on and will continue to grow:) wouldn’t it make more sense to open up the social graph standard so that it could be applied wherever we desire?
Just thinking out loud really, Ill still be playing with Google+ in the future. I have not yet found it overly valuable though, my stream feels very heavy. It’s lacking the simplicity that Twitter brought us by limiting updates to 140 characters.
Do we need Google+? by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.