Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grooming my Social Graph

Google Buzz peaked my interest in my social graph. I knew about Google's Social Graph API but I never looked into it before. It turns out that it uses XHTML Friends Network, XFN for short, to declare links between various services. The entire system is built on top of the existing web and uses links that are already in place. When a person links to another person's page, they describe the relationship using the "rel" attribute. There are several defined ways you can describe your relationship using a link that are shown in the following table:


Depending on how you want to describe your relationship, there will be different values used in the rel attribute. You can also use multiple to describe a single relationship. For example, if you have met someone and are their friend you may use rel="met friend" in a link.


Right now there are a growing number of sites that are using their existing data and simply declaring these relationships. The power comes when big companies such as Google index these pages and can then surface and analyze this information.

The only real way to use this type of information at this point in time is to correct your social graph. When I looked at mine using Google's Site Connectivity tool, I noticed that all of my profiles were not all linked together. When you enter in a URL of on of your profiles on services such at Twitter or Digg or the URL of your personal home page or blog, it uses the public data to connect to all of your other services. Even though I had a lot of established links, it simply was not fully connected.

What I needed to do was update all of my profiles so they provided a two way link using the "me" relationship. This mean each of my profiles on the various services needed to link to one of my pages that I was claiming to be me, I choose my blog because it is where I have the most up to date content. This is just half of the link that is required. A link from my blog would need to be traced back to each profile. This way both ends are in agreement and can substantiate the same claim. The link does not need to be direct and can pass through several nodes. For example if my Twitter account claims my blog, my blog claims my Google profile, and my Google profile claims my Twitter account, this provides the same authority as two profiles claiming each other.

After adding and updating links between all of my profile pages my graph was corrected, but was not updated. Luckily Google provides a tool to force a recrawl of updated pages to correct the graph. The pages you can recrawl are those claimed on your Google Profile, so if you want to correct a link just add it and force the update. I did this for several pages that I then removed from my profile. They were linked to on other places in my social graph, but I did not want them listed on my Google profile.

While it is not yet useful, as more sites support XFN, this may change the way we use the Internet. There are valid concerns about privacy, but the potential applications are very exciting. I'll leave the explaining up to Google:

1 comment:

Diane said...

Way to go Jared and Speed Council