May 20, 2003

What value FOAF networks?

Just wondering how useful it is to invest in setting up my FOAF info. The problem is that my personal networks (friends, colleagues, etc.) aren't static, so what benefit is there in my keeping it up to date, and when do I decide to change it?

Jo, who started me off on this voyage of discovery in the first place, is a good example. Her goal is to map how everyone links to Malcolm, which is quite an interesting exercise, but is essentially a historical endeavour - I've probably communicated (IMed, emailed, spoken, met, whatever) with her as much as I have with Malcolm recently, so I think she should be directly linked from my FOAF info, but in her map of the world, she'd have to be linked through Malcolm.

So whilst it's interesting to map a snapshot of a social network, I don't see any real value in it. Maybe I should work out what uses I'd have for a FOAF network map.

  • Contacting people I've met, but who's contact details I don't have. It would've saved a few extra emails recently when sending out invites to my party, as I wouldn't have had to bother my friends to invite their friends for me, or guessed email addresses from mass mailing from our mutual friends. But it's not exactly a major hassle, and I think I'd rather be "hassled" if I were the mutual friend, as then I'd get the satisfaction of finding out my friends had gotten on so well
  • Explaining how I knew people. It would've saved effort the day after the party, when I was concentrating on being hungover, and there was discussion about who'd been at the party, and how I knew them all. I could've just point everyone at my FOAF network and gone back to bed ;-) Although that would've only worked if my FOAF network was either the historical, initial connections version like Jo's, or if it included that information in the current version
  • As a fancier contacts database? I guess I could just keep it for personal use as a contacts database, with extra info about my links to people. Actually, thinking about this, it might be one of the few really useful uses for it. If, instead of a normal contacts database, everyone has their contact info in a "well known place", then my contacts database will just be a list of bookmarks to the individuals' contact details, then they don't have to tell me their new email address, I'll just automagically get the new one when they update their info.

It would appear that I'm unconvinced about them so far :-)

Posted by Adrian at May 20, 2003 11:51 PM | TrackBack

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