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The ‘Social Graph’ Is Neither Social Nor A Graph

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"The ‘Social Graph’ Is Neither Social Nor A Graph"

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Maciej Ceglowski is not a fan of the concept of a “social graph”:

Social graph proponents seem uninterested in the signaling problem. Leaving aside the technical issues of how to implemented, how does cutting ties actually work socially? Is there any way to be discreet, for example, or have connections naturally degrade over time? In real life, all relationships fade naturally if you don’t maintain them, but right now social networks preserve ties in amber until we explicitly break them. Is my sister going to resent me if I finally defriend her annoying husband? Can I unfollow my ex now, or is that going to make her think I’m still hung up on her?

There’s no way to take a time-out from our social life and describe it to a computer without social consequences. At the very least, the fact that I have an exquisitely maintained and categorized contact list telegraphs the fact that I’m the kind of schlub who would spend hours gardening a contact list, instead of going out and being an awesome guy. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there’s a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!

You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols.

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