The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics

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BarCamp Galway / DERI, National University of Ireland, Galway / 22nd September 2007

BarCamp Galway / DERI, National University of Ireland, Galway / 22nd September 2007

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  • 1. The Future of Social Networks on the Internet: The Need for Semantics John Breslin, Stefan Decker [email_address] http://sw.deri.org/~jbreslin/ BarCamp Galway 22 nd September 2007
  • 2. We all live in a social network…
    • … of friends, family, workmates, fellow students, acquaintances, etc.
    • Stanley Milgram
    • “ Six degrees of separation”
  • 3. Online social networking services (SNS)
    • Idea behind SNSs is to make these real-world relationships explicitly defined online
    • SNSs allow a user to create and maintain an online network of close friends or business associates for social and professional reasons :
      • Friendships and relationships, offline meetings, curiosity about others, business opportunities, job hunting
    • Usual features of SNSs :
      • Network of friends (inner circle), person surfing from friends to friends-of-friends, private messaging, discussion forums, events management, blogging and commenting, media uploading
    • From the beginning, the Internet was a medium for connecting not only machines but people
  • 4. Social networks have exploded…
    • The 10 most popular domains ~= 40% percent of all page views on the Web (Compete, November 2006)
      • Nearly half of those views were from the social networking services MySpace and Facebook – wow!
      • And that’s just in the top 10…
    • Money, money, money:
      • Friendster – $13M VC
      • Tribe – $6.3M VC
      • LinkedIn – $4.7M VC
      • Bebo – $15M VC
      • MySpace – Sold for $580M
      • Friends Reunited – Sold for £120M
      • Facebook – Purported $1B Y! offer
  • 5. But…
    • Fundamental problems block their potential to access the full range of available content and networked people online
    • There is a need to build semantic social networking into the fabric of the next-generation Internet itself:
      • Interconnecting both content and people in a meaningful way
  • 6. First issue
    • Need interesting objects to draw you back to keep on using social networking services
    * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Object-Centered Sociality”, Reboot 7
  • 7. Many social networking services are boring… * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Object-Centered Sociality”, Reboot 7
  • 8. Object-centred sociality can provide meaning
    • Users connected via a common object, e.g., their job, university, hobbies, a date…
    • “ Another tradition of theorizing offers an explanation of why Russell linked out, and why so many YASNS ultimately fail.”
    • “ According to this theory, people don’t just connect to each other. They connect through a shared object.”
    * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Why Some Social Networks Work…”
  • 9. Object-centred sociality can provide meaning (2)
    • “ When a service fails to offer the users a way to create new objects of sociality, they turn the connecting itself into an object [LinkedIn].”
    • “ Good services allow people to create social objects that add value.”
      • Flickr = photos
      • del.icio.us = bookmarks
      • Blogs = discussion posts
    * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Why Some Social Networks Work…”
  • 10. … can connect us to other people
    • Video annotations
    • Chats
    • Photos
    • Micro-blogs
    • OSN profiles
    • Bookmarks
    Everything we make and do…
  • 11. Second issue
    • We all have too many separate profiles and sets of contacts on disconnected social networking services
  • 12. Social network portability and reusability
    • Need distributed social networks and reusable profiles
    • Users may have many identities and sets of friends on different social networks, where each identity was created from scratch
    • Allow user to import existing profile and contacts, using a single global identity with different views (e.g., via FOAF, hCard, OpenID, etc.)
    • See also:
      • http://groups.google.com/group/social-network-portability/
      • http://bradfitz.com/social-graph-problem/
      • http://danbri.org/words/2007/09/13/194
  • 13. The Semantic Web can help
    • Sir Tim Berners-Lee et al., Scientific American, 2001:
      • “ An extension of the current web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation.”
    • The Semantic Web can provide the required representation mechanisms for connecting disparate social networks:
      • It links people and objects to store and represent the heterogeneous ties that bind us to each other
      • Serves as a useful platform for linking and for performing operations on diverse person- and object-related data gathered from heterogeneous social networking sites
  • 14. The Semantic Web can help (2)
    • By using agreed-upon Semantic Web formats to describe people, content objects and the connections that bind them all together , SNSs can interoperate by appealing to common semantics
    • Developers are already using Semantic Web technologies to augment the ways in which they create, reuse, and link content on social networking and media sites (using FOAF, SIOC, etc.)
      • Facebook to FOAF : http://www.dcs.shef.ac.uk/~mrowe/foafgenerator.html
    • In the other direction, object-centered social networks can serve as rich data sources for Semantic Web applications
  • 15. Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF)
    • FOAF is an ontology for describing people and the relationships that exist between them
    • Can be integrated with any other SW vocabularies
    • Some SNSs with FOAF exports:
    • People can also create their own FOAF document and link to it from their homepage
    • FOAF documents usually contain personal info, links to friends, and other related resources
  • 16. Integrating social networks with FOAF Common formats, unique URIs * Source: Sheila Kinsella, Applications of Social Network Analysis 2007
  • 17. A distributed social network with FOAF
    • Can use FOAF to describe social networks across a number of services
    • Picture shows data from both boards.ie and my hand-coded FOAF file
  • 18. Disconnected social media sites can connect using Semantic Web technology
  • 19. Some more social networking trends for discussion
    • SNS methods simulate real-life social interaction :
      • People meet others through something they have in common, not by randomly approaching each other
      • Better interaction methods with friends à la Second Life
    • Individuals are revealing more and more information on SNS and other social software sites
      • Personal privacy issues, where sensitive information is revealed
    • Advertisers and marketers can gain better understanding from customer behavioural patterns:
      • Analysing masses of SNS info, “clouds” showing the overall picture
    • United States NSA using social network analysis technologies for homeland security
      • Also using “automated intelligence profiling” based on unreliable info