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Sunday, 17 August - link

Machine Friendship and Portraiture

The first social networking software I saw online was SixDegrees.com back in 1996. It is severely gone; along with its record of friendships and acquaintences. Since then, there's been an explosion in these services. I have profiles on Ryze, Friendster, Tribe.net, LinkedIn.

As much as I might like the interface or community of any one of these sites, I'm getting a bit tired of typing in my preferences, birthplace, star sign and appreciation for the film The Pillow Book. This is not a new complaint - it would be nice to have portable personal data.

I just spent this morning fooling around with FOAF and BIO.

FOAF stands for friend-of-a-friend, and it's a way to signify relationships between people over the web. As best I can tell, FOAF is only useful to people with home pages. In the future everyone is famous for 15 megabytes, goes the saying.

FOAF will be useful when someone sticks it in a mobile phone. It could become the open standard for buddy lists! And then I wouldn't have to explain to every new appliance, contact organizer or personal network software who I know and how I know them. There are smart people pushing FOAF in this direction; for now, FOAF is fun Sunday-morning geekery, with a FOAF introduction, roll-your-own-FOAF apps, FOAF browsers (FOAF me!).

BIO (nee One-Line Bio) is a standard for describing biographical information online. You describe yourself in one file, the premise goes, and then that information can applied elsewhere. Write-once, read many Friendster.

BIO is a fine idea; I first heard about it in March at the SXSW Geek Out. BIO authors David Galbraith and Ian Davis haven't posted about it on their personal weblogs in some months - maybe development has slowed, or maybe I'm missing something. Has BIO been folded into FOAF or superceded by other efforts?

The early work on BIO was to establish a standard and spread early enthusiasm. BIO makes sense; again, at least for people with personal web pages.

But the BIO spec still boasts event:marriage as the only notable personal event besides birth, death, keywords and self-description. What about tattoos? Religion? Right-or-left handed? Favorite candy bar? Favorite films?

Event:marriage doesn't appeal to anyone below the age of 25, often the most eager technology pushers. BIO is not likely to catch on until teenagers can use a web form to describe their favorite television shows and then automatically stick that in their TypePad profile. And from there to the mobile phone - that's the obvious home for any truly useful social networking technology.

There's probably a way for me to develop my own extensions to the BIO standard. What it is, is up to us, as Howard is fond of signing his emails.

Posted on 17 August 2003 : 03:16 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.