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The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics

The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics



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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    The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics The Future of Social Networks: The Need for Semantics Presentation Transcript

    • 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
    • We all live in a social network…
      • … of friends, family, workmates, fellow students, acquaintances, etc.
      • Stanley Milgram
      • “ Six degrees of separation”
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • First issue
      • Need interesting objects to draw you back to keep on using social networking services
      * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Object-Centered Sociality”, Reboot 7
    • Many social networking services are boring… * Source: Jyri Engestrom, “Object-Centered Sociality”, Reboot 7
    • 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…”
    • 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…”
    • … can connect us to other people
      • Video annotations
      • Chats
      • Photos
      • Micro-blogs
      • OSN profiles
      • Bookmarks
      Everything we make and do…
    • Second issue
      • We all have too many separate profiles and sets of contacts on disconnected social networking services
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • Integrating social networks with FOAF Common formats, unique URIs * Source: Sheila Kinsella, Applications of Social Network Analysis 2007
    • 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
    • Disconnected social media sites can connect using Semantic Web technology
    • 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