Monday, 29 November 2010

Social network cancer, meaninglessness in a connected workd

This is my current social network mapping in Facebook. Notice my identity almost branded on to a tight cluster of other users who themselves are highly connected. One would look at this and maybe conclude that I was a member of a tight network. But actually I only know people in the crescent shape around the inner circle, all the people I have the tightest connections to in Facebook are utter strangers to me. We are only joined by an interest in Second Life.

The presence of this cluster of total strangers joined by single interest has all but destroyed the previous meaningful deep connections that showed up. People from my home town, people from my family, and people I have worked with for a long time used to make up clear groups around my personality.

Than I started to use Facebook to promote by SL blog. I simply clicked on the suggestions Facebook was making for me, and a large percentage of them approved my request. Strangers linking to strangers via Facebook. Now my social network has been utterly destroyed by this cancer of contact suggestions.

Now I admit I probably did not exercise the restraint that making friends most people on Facebook would. I have turned my Facebook from a social network in to a promotional platform for a couple of blogs. One such networks, Second Life, was highly established on Facebook and within a month it came to dominate my social network. But I never made a contact Facebook itself did not suggest. In a way this is a demonstration of just how poor contact suggestion systems based on common elements are. It also shows how power law works. Since Facebook suggests friends via how many existing friends are already linked a wide spread yet still highly unique common interest, in this case Second Life, will produce a feedback loop that will create meaningless trash to any automated system trying to guess communities.

This system promotes the most shallow of connectivity over more real measures of community. Social network graphs, as this shows, can be pretty useless in understanding community and the presence of power law relationships, like the circle you see here, is more due to the nature of the tool than the community it tries to capture.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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