Sumit Sharma

The need to move beyond our Social Graph…

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What are friends? People we have something in common with? What explains why we’re always looking for someone else to satisfy our taste for company? Are our current group of peers enough or are we always open to meeting new people in the hope that we’ll enjoy an even stronger bond as compared to our current relationships? I believe this to be the case. At some level, we’re always looking for that “better” friend/associate/co-worker/manager/peer/team-mate and so on. Of course, depending on the context of the situation, how hard we’re looking for that new next best thing, and how far we’re willing to go to find it will vary. There are other social, cultural and professional norms and constraints that we need to abide by, else this world won’t be too different from Aldus Huxley’s brave new world of ‘free free free’.

That said, perhaps we need to take a step back and really think about all this hype around the power of our social graph, and how by analyzing data and trends from this we can find more relevant things to us. That’s what Facebook is betting on – that by crunching data produced from our respective social graphs, they’ll be better placed to recommend or even predict what they think we’d like the most. I don’t think this is the right strategy, at least not now and as long as my assumption in the first paragraph is true – that we’re always looking and searching.

Perhaps, our social graph will reach a state of equilibrium where our friends are truly people we want to be friends with, and are satisfied with. Or perhaps, the sheer number of friends in our social graph is so vast that it captures an extremely statistically significant point of view/recommendation or opinion. This is of course assumes that this statistically significant set of data does apply to us – or – that we are conformists to this notion of society. What if some of us are outliers? – will the yelps of this world mean nothing to us? OR should the yelps of this world be smart enough to know we’re outliers…

I’ve just highlighted two ends of the spectrum: you’re either a conformist or not. Of course, for most of us, myself included, we are placed along the spectrum and probably dynamically shift to and fro depending on many variables not limited to time, location, mood and who we’re with. The key then, is not to directly place our bets on our social graph, but to place our bets in discovering who we are and using that to work forward. My point is this: working backwards from our social graph may not be the best solution in the long term. Of course, we’re limited by technology, analytical capabilities and limitations in data so we’ll take whatever short term solutions/efforts we can grab our hands on….but lets continue to work towards a more pure solution shall we?

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Written by Sumit

January 18, 2010 at 11:58 pm

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