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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Social Graph – The Next Future Overused Phrase

Comments (8)

Get ready to start hearing “Social Graph” as frequently as you hear “Web 2.0.”  The construct of the Social Graph (and its friend – Social Network) has been around for a while.  Now that Facebook has stolen our minds (and help us control our friends), we all are part of a social network.  Or nine.  Or 721 (that’s my best guess for the number of different services that have a social network that I’m a user of.)

Brad Fitzpatrick, the creator of LiveJournal, has a great overview of the Social Graph and a real call to action in his post Thoughts on the Social Graph.  After reading it, I thought of a few things:

  1. My first online social graph was my Compuserve email list.  I don’t have it anymore.
  2. My second online social graph was AOL and my buddy list.  I still have it.
  3. My biggest online social graph is the 4348 contacts I have in Outlook.  Where oh where is Microsoft in all of this?
  4. Every time I log into a new web app that needs a social graph, I want it to inherit the one I have (see #6.)
  5. Identity theft is going to become a massive problem.  On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.  Except maybe Dogster.
  6. I own my social graph.  Whatever applications I use need to give me a way to control it.
  7. All applications should be motivated to interoperate with each other.

Several of my investments are addressing different parts of this problem, including Me.dium, Lijit, and TrustPlus.  Several of the TechStars companies, including EventVue, SocialThing, and Villij are also working on aspects of this.  Many of my investments rely on a Social Graph and should be motivated to aggressively interoperate with others.  Remember that I’m a horizontal guy so this appeals nicely to my brain.

“Social Graph” might become the new “Web 2.0.”  Phrase droppers of the world unite.

  • http://www.mvpartners.com Rich Levandov

    only every so often does an insight pop onto my brain and re rank the priority of the other insights

    The notion of social graph has me breathless

    thanks. But it will steal from my last surfing day ( real surfing that is, here in truro)

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    Go surf. Your social graph will still be there on Monday.

  • Robert Dewey

    Interesting post. I just sent you an e-mail.

  • sigma

    Now, now, now, now, need to calm down a little here!

    Graphs have been studied and applied for decades, at least back to Ford and Fulkerson.

    This history shows that can’t expect that one ‘graph’ will represent more than a tiny fraction of ‘everything’, even about people!

    E.g., what do the arcs mean? There are many quite different things they might mean, even just in ‘social graphs’.

    But, the idea of ‘social graphs’ does begin to move in a direction of progress: For far too long, the ‘technology’ in applications of ‘information technology’ has been little more than routine software development. Or, compared with good salaries in the US, computers are cheap, and there were a lot of manual tasks ripe to be computerized with routine software development. Good.

    But we might want more: Standing back a little, we take in some available data and want to manipulate it to get some valuable results. So, how to do the manipulations? Routine software development doesn’t say. Really, mostly computer science doesn’t say, either. To say, a good direction is to find an appropriate ‘framework’ for the manipulations. At times, graph theory is such a framework.

    E.g., there is

    Ravindra K. Ahuja, Thomas L. Magnanti, James B. Orlin ‘Network Flows: Theory, Algorithms, and Applications’, ISBN 0-13-617549-X, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1993.

    with quite a lot of nice applications, including even to tomography!

    E.g., which salesman goes to which customers and sells what products in what order and leaves how many free samples? Surprise! Except for a little Lagrangian relaxation, this can be done just with network flows, and the flow part can go very quickly.

    Okay, some ‘incoming’ warheads have been sighted. Now, which missiles should be aimed at what warheads? Yup, there’s a network (graph) problem here! For more, start at Winter Street and go a little further clockwise!

    There are also other ‘frameworks’ that solve other problems, including some having to do with people!

  • http://www.ajira.com Nari Kannan

    Social Graphs are a very useful contruct but more usage will only render undifferentiated arcs of this graph will make the entire graph useless to some extent. Brad, you wanting not to send Facebook invites to all of your 4300+ Outlook contacts is a great example!

    Now if there were semantics associated with each arc and some of it can be built automatically (say based on who you exchange emails with often), then the graph becomes immensely powerful in you reaching different “views” of your graph for different purposes!

    Now that would be a very powerful Social Graph!

  • http://500hats.typepad.com dave mcclure

    yep, absolutely correct.

    (and it will have legs for at least 3 more years ;)

  • http://www.defragcon.com eric norlrin

    …and yes, we’re working to cover social graphs fully at Defrag — planning to get David Recordon there for sure, and working on Brad Fitzgerald.

    Why social graphs at Defrag? Because there are very few collaborative “aha moments” in solitude. ;-)

  • Dennis Kelly

    It is absolutely time for another overused phrase. Upon hearing overusers several times per day make broad sweeping reference to Web 2.0, I’ve gone from feeling nausea, to challenging the intelligence of the overuser, to wanting to find the nearest WMD for deployment. Social Graph it is!! I’ll alert Landry to warm up the Powerpoint engine!

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