[NetBehaviour] Buzz Fail

Rob Myers rob at robmyers.org
Fri Feb 12 15:08:39 CET 2010

The concept of relationships used by social networking software is a
limited one compared to the concept of relationships used in sociological
social netowrk analysis. I social networking software all relationships are
positive. You only have friends, not enemies, so any connection between two
people is assumed to be positive and privileged by the software as such.

Outside of computerised social networking services, real-world social
networks can contain *negative* relationships. You can have *enemies*, and
they can cause you real-world harm. You don't want them being given the
privileges within the service that friendship affords. Considering the
information that social networking services contain, this can have harmful
real-world consequences.

When a company decides to automatically create social networking software
relationships for you based on all the relationships they can discover from
other data sources that implicitly contain information about real-world
social networks, such as your email contacts, this cannot differentiate
between the two kinds of relationship. When they create positive social
networking service relationships this gives negative relationships the same
privileges as positive relationships. 

Which is why Google really shouldn't have done that with Buzz -


"I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.

There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts.

You know who my third most frequent contact is?

My abusive ex-husband.


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