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Prof. Richard's untimely death is a tragic loss to our community. As a
-very- junior scholar I'm in no position to sufficiently eulogize.
Yet, I felt compelled to reply to this, the last message he sent
(which I realize he merely forwarded rather than write). It's a
compelling thought experiment about the state of the art of the
internet social networks - and helps contextualize how far social
networks have come during his career. This wasn't a question forwarded
on someone's behalf, but an ambitious idea I think he wanted to
community to ponder. If we could all sign off with such vision.

Bill has helped feather a bountiful nest for the younger academics
like myself. I'm happy I met him at Sunbelt Vancouver and I wish I had
the opportunity to say thanks.

BERNiE

[log in to unmask]

On 8/21/07, Bill Richards <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> *****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****
>
> *'Thoughts on the Social Graph'* (http://bradfitz.com/social-graph-problem/)
>
> *Problem Statement:*
>
> *There are an increasing number of new "social applications" as well as
> traditional application which either require the "social graph" or that
> could provide better value to users by utilizing information in the
> social graph. What I mean by "social graph" is a the global mapping of
> everybody and how they're related, as Wikipedia describes
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_graph> and I talk about in more
> detail later. Unfortunately, there doesn't exist a single social graph
> (or even multiple which interoperate) that's comprehensive and
> decentralized. Rather, there exists hundreds of disperse social graphs,
> most of dubious quality and many of them walled gardens. . . . .*
>
>
> *Goals:
>
> # Ultimately make the social graph a community asset, utilizing the data
> from all the different sites, but not depending on any company or
> organization as "the" central graph owner.
>
> 1. Establish a non-profit and open source software (with copyrights held
> by the non-profit) which collects, merges, and redistributes the graphs
> from all other social network sites into one global aggregated graph.
> This is then made available to other sites (or users) via both public
> APIs (for small/casual users) and downloadable data dumps, with an
> update stream / APIs, to get iterative updates to the graph (for larger
> users)
> 2. While the non-profit's servers and databases will initially be
> centralized, ensure that the design is such that others can run their
> own instances, sharing data with each other. Think 'git', not 'svn'.
> Then whose APIs/servers you use is up to you, as a site owner. Or run
> your own instance.
>
> # For developers who don't want to do their own graph analysis from the
> raw data, the following high-level APIs should be provided:
>
> 1. Node Equivalence, given a single node, say "brad on LiveJournal",
> return all equivalent nodes: "brad" on LiveJournal, "bradfitz" on Vox,
> and 4caa1d6f6203d21705a00a7aca86203e82a9cf7a (my FOAF mbox_sha1sum). See
> the slides for more info
> (http://bradfitz.com/social-graph-problem/social-graph.pdf).
> 2. Edges out and in, by node. Find all outgoing edges (where edges are
> equivalence claims, equivalence truths, friends, recommendations, etc).
> Also find all incoming edges.
> 3. Find all of a node's aggregate friends from all equivalent nodes,
> expand all those friends' equivalent nodes, and then filter on
> destination node type. This combines steps 1 and 2 and 1 in one call.
> For instance, Given 'brad' on LJ, return me all of Brad's friends, from
> all of his equivalent nodes, if those [friend] nodes are either
> 'mbox_sha1sum' or 'Twitter' nodes.
> 4. Find missing friends of a node. Given a node, expand all equivalent
> nodes, find aggregate friends, expand them, and then report any missing
> edges. This is the "let the user sync their social networking sites"
> API. It lets them know if they were friends with somebody on Friendster
> and they didn't know they were both friends on MySpace, they might want
> to be.
>
> But more generally, for developers, enabling new kinds of apps we
> haven't been able to think of yet.
>
> *
>
> --
> Bill Richards
>
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