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Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007, 07:18 pm
Jack Names the Planets

I've been pondering the nature of social networks recently and especially the meaning of "friend".

Chances are you already have a few friends - most people do, whether they like it or not. Friendship in real life is a multi splendoured thing with infinite gradations and nuances. However, on a social network friendship comes down to a brutal 2 bit encoding - 0x0 NOT FRIENDS, 0x1 FRIEND OF, 0x2 FRIENDED BY, 0x3 MUTUAL FRIEND.

What this doesn't explain is the politics of being friends. LJ has a particularly odd one - if some one friends you it's rude not to friend back (unless you really have no idea who they are and are surrounded by swarms of fanboys) but at that point your friends list becomes too long and unwieldy to read. Of course at that point you can do the "Default View" trick but that's not entirely satisfactory.

Coincidentally, today I read Scoble blogging about this 'problem' and Twitter
3. Never follow more than 300 people. Why is this a rule? Because if you follow 5,700 people, like I do, then you’ll be tempted to answer lots of those Tweets, which will put you in danger of breaking #2. See next rule.
4. Never follow anyone who isn’t your “real” friend. This will help you keep your friends’ list down to less than 300, which will keep you from breaking rule #2.
8. Follow one person for every 10 who follows you. Me? I follow EVERY person who follows me, as Dave Winer points out. Why? Cause I believe that anyone who follows me is a friend and is someone I should listen to. Other people think it’s just a publishing mechanism for posting their URLs and other stuff to the world.

It's that last bit that terrifies me - does he have no work to do at all?

Anyway, I think there should be a new scale - Funerals (Weddings work as well but Funerals came to mind first). In short - how far would you go to go to that person's funeral? Would you even send a card? Would you take a day off work? Would you drive to it? Would you stay over night? Would you fly? Would you fly to another country? Would you fly to another continent? Would you cut a holiday short? Would you cut a wedding short? Would you cut your own wedding short?

It's fool proof - suitably gradiated and with no ambiguities? Would you or wouldn't you. We should all rate our friends. I can see nothing going wrong with that whatsoever.


This hasn't been an entirely serious post.

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)

Er... that's actually a two-bit encoding. I intend to save that third bit and use it later for storing something else. Like cupcakes.

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)

Damn it! You're right. I blame being tired and umming and aahing between writing 3 state (since MUTUAL == FRIEND OF|FRIENDED BY) or 2 bit. Prepare for a Stalinesque revision of history! RARR!

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)

See, turn it back into wedding, and I can do a case study for you fairly soon if you want. A big chunk of miss_s_b's friends list is USian or elsewhere, and a lot are planning to make it over. OTOH, I suspect half my RL friends won't bother to travel from the other side of Britain. Ah well.

It's as valid a way as any other, I guess.

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)

Hm, but once the person is dead it makes no difference to them whether I go to their funeral or not.

How about the "how far would you travel to deliver emergency gin" scale?

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 09:03 pm (UTC)

I'd stay overnight for your funeral, but I'd get the train there. When is it?

Mon, Sep. 24th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)

Depends on the SN. LJ yes, but myspace for example only allows 1 bit encoding: not friends or mutual friends. Unless you consider the quantum state wherein you have friended someone, and they are yet to respond to your friend request: are you friends or not? No-one knows until the inbox is looked at...

Also, this is a second vote for the emergency gin scale. *nod*

Tue, Sep. 25th, 2007 08:17 am (UTC)

The funeral test is a good one, but neglects the basic fundamental cynicism that should be applied on the net. People I friend aren't my friends. It's a misnomer. I follow people on del.icio.us I really don't give two hoots about - I just want their links so I can get good recommendations for software, restaurants, or more often than not I'm using them as a highly adaptive well trained blog filter (i.e. I only bother reading some blogs posts if other people have already tagged that entry on del.icio.us)

That's right. If you're my "friend" it probably means you're not my friend at all. I'm out to get everything I can from you. And you know what? You're probably okay with that.

(this comment wasn't entirely serious either)

Point in case. Despite the fact that you were my Best Man at my wedding you're not my LJ friend because being so would not be useful for me (that's what RSS is for.)

Tue, Sep. 25th, 2007 08:45 am (UTC)

Off topic, but can you remind me of the company you mentioned Sunday? Would love to chat more with you about that.....thanks.

Wed, Sep. 26th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)

i don't do funerals and i rarely do weddings.

i think the emergency gin test is much more accurate.