Social Network Portability
Social network portability is one of several User Interface ideas and suggestions for working with microformats in the area of data-portability.
Why is it that every single social network community site makes you:
- re-enter all your personal profile info (name, email, birthday, URL etc.)?
- re-add all your friends?
In addition, why do you have to:
- re-turn off notifications?
- re-specify privacy preferences?
- re-block-list negative people?
AKA "social network fatigue problem" and "social network update/maintenance problem".
When you join a new site, you should be able to import or preferably subscribe to
- your profile information
- your social network
from any existing profile of yours.
In addition it would be nice if preferences around:
also transferred between profiles.
AKA a social internetwork, a network of social networks.
Design Patterns and Recipes
The "How To" for social network profile sites that want to solve the above problems and achieve the above goals.
- Publish microformats in your user profiles and contacts.
- implement hCard on user profile pages, including XFN - The XHTML Friends Network rel="me" on hyperlinks to users' blogs or home pages that they specify. See hCard supporting user profiles for sites that have already done this. See how-to-publish-user-profiles for more details (See hCard authoring tips until that previous link is created and filled in.)
- implement hCard+XFN on the list of contacts on your user profile pages. Use XFN - The XHTML Friends Network rel="me" to link to contacts list pages and contacts list pagination links too. See hCard+XFN supporting friends lists for sites that already do this. (e.g. [Twitter]) and how-to-markup-contact-lists for more details.
- implement hCard wherever a user's name is mentioned in lists, in comments, in messages or wherever else it would help to identity that a "person" or "organization" is being referred to.
- Subscribe to microformats for your user profiles and contacts:
- when signing up a new user and importing contacts
- let a user fill out and "auto-sync" from one of their existing hCard supporting user profiles, their name, their icon etc. Satisfaction Inc already supports this (sign up page). See how-to-import-user-profiles for more details.
- let a user fill out and "auto-sync" their list of contacts from one of their existing hCard+XFN supporting friends lists. Dopplr.com already supports this (screenshot). See how-to-import-contacts for more details (e.g. first implement direct XFN friends list import/subscribe by using the SGAPI to important contacts *across the web*, much faster than importing from one service at a time.)
- when signing up a new user and importing contacts
- Ma.gnolia Portable Social Networks group for aggregated bookmarks around the subject and join the group to share links.
- Upcoming Social Network Portability group for events to discuss and implement social network portability.
- "OpenSocial defines a common API for social applications across multiple websites.
- hKit - web service and open source PHP for parsing/importing/subscribing to hCard open user profiles.
- "Online Identity Consolidator" rel="me" web parser/crawler web service and open source Python. (source code link now broken; Google code has a copy at rel_me_crawler.py)
- "Django-PSN (portable social networks)" open source for a user interface to create links on a social network profile to "other profiles" marked up with rel="me" naturally. The code can be seen in action on the Pownce website, e.g. on a Pownce profile page that links to other profiles of the same user. This is a great complement to the above Plaxo Online Identity Consolidator. What Django-PSN publishes, Plaxo Online Identity Consolidator parses.
- identity-matcher - Rails plugin to match identities and social network information from sites such as GMail, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and any site supporting appropriate microformats. This code was extracted and contributed from Dopplr.
- Portable Social Network Lib is a Ruby library for consuming/providing Portable Social Network services in social web apps, written by Steve Ivy. (More)
- DiSo - distributed social networking components, Chris Messina and Steve Ivy
- "Social Network Portability with Microformats" - a user interface that lets you check how portable your social network is across various sites.
- "ufXtract - Portable social network profile parser" - A public API which can extract both hCard-XFN patterns and XFN rel=me links from social networks. The API can spider multiple pages following rel=me links. It also tries to find the representative hCard and provides output as JSON or XML.
Social Network Portability FAQ
- 2007-07-28 portable social networks initial meeting between Daniel Burka, Tantek Çelik, Eran Globen, Brian Oberkirch at Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco, CA. Discussed portable social networks, simplified and crystalized problem statement (with progressive problems to solve), goals, design patterns, recipes. Created social-network-portability page.
- 2007-08-19 BarCampBlock session on social network portability TODAY at Princeton Review offices, High Street, Palo Alto, CA. Reviewed problem statement, how sites can use the hCard and XFN microformats *today* to become a node on the "open social web" (phrase introduced).
- 2007-08-28 Social Network Portability Today lunchtime meetup
- 2007-09-05 d.Construct workshop on microformats which covered both data-portability and social-network-portability.
- 2007-09-08 BarCampBrighton session on social network portability at Madgex offices, North Street, Brighton, England.
- 2007-09-25 Portable Social Network Micro Meetup at Citizen Space, San Francisco, CA, USA.
- 2007-09-28 Portable Social Network Panel at PICNIC in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 2007-10-04 Fundamentos Web: Social Network Portability by Tantek Çelik — Gijón, Spain
- 2008-09-05: dConstruct 2008: Social Network Portability (http://2008.dconstruct.org/schedule/TantekCelik.php#talk) at dConstruct 2008 in Brighton, England. (presentation)
See the microformats Microformats events page for upcoming events related to social network portability.
Articles and blog posts
Note: if you know of or can find earlier mentions on the web of the phrases "portable social network" or "social network portability", please add the earliest reference elsewhere on the web to this chronology. Tantek 08:25, 22 Aug 2007 (PDT).
- 2006-11-15 Jon Hicks: The straw that broke this camels back:
Thats the last social service that involves me adding all my friends in all over again. Life is too chuffing short.
Please, can someone come up with some way of avoiding this repetition of 'buddies'?!
- 2006-11-15 Drew McLellan on Twitter: (Perhaps the earliest mention of the concept of social network portability.)
Thinking that we really need to join the dots with XFN and make social networks portable.
- 2006-11-15 Jeremy Keith on Twitter: (first known reference to "portable social networks")
The mention of Jon is likely a reference to the above-mentioned Flickr photo.
Agreeing with Drew about using XFN to create portable social networks. If we don't, Jon is going to go postal.
- 2006-11-19 Phil Gyford: Your single social network
I really, really want a single service where I can say “these people are my friends” and then when I sign up to any new website I can sync it with my previously-defined social network.
- 2006-11-21 Jeremy Keith: Twittering:
Here’s what I want: when I go to the latest social networking fadsite, I want it to ask for my URL. Then it can go off and fetch my hCard and XFN list. A pre-filled form for my details and a pre-filled list of potential contacts can then be presented to me.
- 2006-11-21 Derek Featherstone: Solving problems with social networking
- 2006-11-22 Thomas Vander Wal: Following Friends Across Walled Gardens - first mention of "portable social network" but in reference to quoting Jeremy Keith
- 2006-11-23 Jeremy Keith: More thoughts on portable social networks - describes the process of portability
- 2006-11-23 Glenn Jones: Microformats and portable social network - talks about portable social networks in the backnetwork
- 2006-11-23 Velvetsarah has posted a screenshot and brainstorm about how a site could handle importing XFN enabled contacts. See social-network-portability-interfaces for more.
- 2006-11-24 "social network portability" phrase and problem statement introduced to microformats wiki by Tantek Çelik
- 2007-03-11 Robert Gaal: Making OpenID your only online profile: Alpha Dash - An abstract attempt to create one dashboard, to be used as a starting point for all social networks. It contains four elements: identity, ownership, presence and contacts (see comments also)
- 2007-05-16 What is your provenance? by Gavin Bell for Xtech 2007. Also available on Google Video
- 2007-06-20 Alper Çuğun: The Future of Everything is Social: Consolidate and take back your social network
- 2007-07-17 Kevin Lawver: A Portable Social Network Prototype - A simple Ruby on Rails app that uses OpenID + XFN to look for users of the site w/ the same homepage as the href value and allows you to add them as contacts.
- 2007-07-17 Plaxo Pushes For "Open Social Web": Endorses and implements key open standards, OpenID and microformats
- 2007-07-18 Jeremiah Owyang: Twittering:
What if we could port all our friends and family from one social network to another. Why do we have to continue to add people = annoying
- 2007-07-18 Brian Oberkirch: Highrise, microformats and portable social networks
- 2007-07-24 Thomas Vander Wal: Sharing and Following/Listening in the Social Web
- See blog posts following up from the 2007-07-28-portable social networks meetup.
- 2007-08-01 Jeffrey Zeldman: "InterNetwork" regarding social network portability
- Identity Crisis part 1
We need to put the ownership of how we define relationships online in the hands of the individual, not the services that utilize them.
My theory on how this should be accomplished is based on a marriage of OpenID and an open standard for defining relationships such as the XFN - The XHTML Friends Network Microformat.
- Deeelightful: Making Profile Import a Snap
Why not make it simple for them to jumpstart a profile by reusing information they already have on the Web? Some forward thinking Web services are marking up user profile data with hCard, a microformat that signifies a person, place or organization is being described.
- Identity Crisis part 1
- 2007-08-08 Brian Oberkirch: Building Blocks for Portable Social Networks
- 2007-08-15 Pull down the walled gardens Internet law professor Michael Geist says the walled gardens of social networks should be pulled down.
- 2007-08-16 Stephanie Booth: We Need Structured Portable Social Networks (SPSN) (links to two more posts on the subject, but not certain they're relevant enough for a separate listing; edit as you see fit)
- 2007-08-17 Thoughts on the Social Graph by Brad Fitzpatrick.
- 2007-08-25 Linking It All-Social Network Portability by Mike Lotz for Ignite Social Media
- 2007-09-03 There are no social networks by Cameron Adams
If you can't see my friends and let my friends be seen, you'll be washed up and hung out to dry.
- 2007-09-07 Carlo v. Loesch: Privacy and the web? Notification and HTTP? Are you looking at the right technologies!?
- 2007-11-21 Sitepoint article Portable Social Networks: Take Your Friends with You
- 2007-12-03 Making your social networking data portable - Marking up profiles and friends with mircoformats by Glenn Jones
- 2008-02-19 Can your website be your API and real life presentation by Glenn Jones (Semantic Camp London) covers social network portability and date portability
See ma.gnolia Portable Social Network Group for aggregated bookmarks around the subject and join the group to share links.
View blog reactions to this page.
- Beware of and avoid Social Network Anti-patterns!
- See and add to social-network-portability-issues.
- psyc and psyced, a decentralized multi-protocol chat and event notification system with friendship and trust modeling.