Social Network 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 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:
- 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.
- implement hCard+XFN on the list of friends on your user profile pages. Use XFN - The XHTML Friends Network rel="me" to link to friends list pages and friends list pagination links too. See hCard+XFN supporting friends lists for sites that already do this. (e.g. [Twitter]).
- Subscribe to microformats for your user profiles:
- when signing up a new user:
- 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.
- let a user fill out and "auto-sync" their list of friends from one of their existing hCard+XFN supporting friends lists. Dopplr.com already supports this.
- when signing up a new user:
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- psyc and psyced, a decentralized multi-protocol chat and event notification system with friendship and trust modeling.
- "Social Network Portability with Microformats" - a user interface that lets you check how portable your social network is across various sites.
Social Network Portability FAQ
- Doesn't OpenID address the re-enter all your personal profile info problem?
- No it does not. OpenID is fundamentally about proving to one site that you own or control another particular URL. Nothing more. All the profile stuff is extra and even then the specific property set is unspecified in OpenID. That's where hCard comes in. hCard specifies a vocabulary of personal profile info (name, email, birthday, URL etc.) based on industry standard vCard. And in fact that's all you need to solve the "re-enter all your personal info" problem for public sites - no need to authenticate public URLs via OpenID, just read them and parse their hCard(s).
- Doesn't OpenID provide people with a way to create a globally unique identifier for themselves?
- It is URL (by way of DNS) that creates a globally unique identifier, not OpenID. All OpenID does is add authentication on top of having a URL that is itself a globally unique identifier, that is, OpenID is a way of asserting that you "own" or otherwise control a particular URL to another service/site. The essential quality of being a globally unique identifier is present in a URL even without OpenID. Thus, no, it is not OpenID that creates a globally unique identifier, rather, simply using a URL creates a globally unique identifier. A URL by itself can be used as a basis for portable social networks, since it provides a way of referring to a single person that makes sense across the whole Web. And as such, people can (and will) create multiple URLs that represent them, so a method of enabling people to tie their URLs together (e.g. XFN's rel="me") becomes important. However, by adding authentication, OpenID can enhance existing globally unique identifier URLs for people, by permitting authenticated access to (perhaps more information in) profiles and social networks represented at those URLs using microformats.
Discussion and suggestions
- 2006-11-21 Jeremy Keith: Twittering:
- 2006-11-21 Derek Featherstone: Solving problems with social networking
- 2006-11-22 Thomas Vander Wal: Following Friends Across Walled Gardens
- 2006-11-23 Jeremy Keith: More thoughts on portable social networks
- 2006-11-23 Glenn Jones: Microformats and portable social network
- 2006-11-23 Velvetsarah has posted a screenshot and brainstorm about how a site could handle importing XFN enabled contacts.
- 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)
- 2007-06-20 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.
- 2007-07-18 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
- 2007-08-08 Brian Oberkirch: Building Blocks for Portable Social Networks
- 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)
- 2007-09-07 Carlo v. Loesch: Privacy and the web? Notification and HTTP? Are you looking at the right technologies!?
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.
- 2007-08-25 Linking It All-Social Network Portability by Mike Lotz for Ignite Social Media
- 2007-08-17 Thoughts on the Social Graph by Brad Fitzpatrick.
- 2007-08-15 Pull down the walled gardens Internet law professor Michael Geist says the walled gardens of social networks should be pulled down.
- 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.
- 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
Related Events and Notes
(if you know of or can find earlier mentions on the web of "social network portability", please add the earliest reference elsewhere on the web to this chronology. Tantek 08:25, 22 Aug 2007 (PDT))
- 2006-11-22 Following Friends Across Walled Gardens Thomas Vander Wal
- 2006-11-23 More thoughts on portable social networks Jeremy Keith describes the process of portability
- 2006-11-23 Microformats and portable social network Glenn Jones talks about portable social networks in the backnetwork
- 2006-11-24 "social network portability" phrase and problem statement introduced to microformats wiki by Tantek Çelik
- 2007-07-17 Plaxo Pushes For "Open Social Web": Endorses and implements key open standards, OpenID and microformats
- 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.
See the microformats Microformats events page for upcoming events related to social network portability.