So I get this email from Marc Canter, saying
“Marc Canter invites you to join his network of personal friends at orkut.com. orkut is a community of friends and trusted acquaintances that connects individuals through a social network that grows person by person. With orkut, you can catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances through people you trust, and maybe even find that certain someone you’ve been looking for everywhere. orkut helps you organize and attend events, join communities that share your interests, and find partners to participate in the activities you most enjoy. To find out why Marc Canter thought you’d enjoy orkut and to discover who else you know is already a member, click on the link below…”
So far, so good. Or is it? Orkut is an invitation-only (so far) Google-“backed” social network created by Orkut Buyukkokten, a Google employee and Stanford University social networking guru. It has the same kind of characteristics we’ve seen in the other big social networks like Friendster, along with some nice features like a karma points-rating system for accumulating stars for trustworthiness and coolness. It also has strong privacy/trust capabilities, including the ability to flag items for viewing only by yourself, your friends, your friends of friends, or everyone. The privacy principle is just what we’re trying to capture with ‘zones of trust’ in BuddySpace, but I nevertheless have some worries:
– ‘degrees of separation’ is not a sufficient metric for assessing who is in what trust zone: it depends entirely on the context! On the other hand, this is clearly a first approximation which can be refined, and for the end user it does need to be kept very simple.
– for social cruising, promiscuous chatting, dating, and indeed for the ‘social-network-erati’, i.e. the people in the business of studying and creating social networking phenomena, this is the right kind of direction. But for the rest, I’m still unconvinced.
– Like many other tools out there, you can specify contact info via email, Instant Messaging addresses for AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, and MSN, and even IRC… but where is Jabber, which is now bigger than ICQ? Grrrrr…. Come to think of it, I use Jabber clients (BuddySpace for me, naturally, but in fact many others will do) as my ‘personal IM aggregator’ to pull in all my work and social contacts into one harmonious space… my own social network!
Anyway, I’ll keep an open mind, and see how things go… last time Marc Canter and I chatted via Yahoo, I was stumped by the following dilemma: “if you and I each know, say, one total bozo, then this whole damn thing breaks down, because I’m only a degree or two away from random junk… just like I am without any social networking tools…” Marc is an optimist, and believes that the social networks, like the Internet itself, will route around bozos… let’s see how it goes.