Facebook and Circles of Relationships

David Kirkpatrick’s has written a great piece on the new direction Facebook is going. His lead in says it all:

“Imagine that when you shopped online for a digital camera, you could see whether anyone you knew already owned it and ask them what they thought. Imagine that when you searched for a concert ticket you could learn if friends were headed to the same show. Or that you knew which sites – or what news stories – people you trust found useful and which they disliked. Or maybe you could find out where all your friends and relatives are, right now (at least those who want to be found).”

Notice how each one of the examples relates the person with what they’re trying to find out by way of Trust. In other words, information is important to people not just because of what it is, but because of what it means to the person and their future. Knowing what concerts are playing is nice…but knowing which one your friends are going to is what’s important.

Schneiderman’s Circles of Relationships

Ben Schneiderman came up with a nice graphic to illustrate this. He calls it the circles of relationships. It shows several concentric ovals (centering on the self) that illustrate how Trust dissipates outward. As we move away from people near to us, we trust them less.

Ben Schneiderman's Circles of Relationships

David Kirkpatrick’s has written a great piece on the new direction Facebook is going. His lead in says it all:

“Imagine that when you shopped online for a digital camera, you could see whether anyone you knew already owned it and ask them what they thought. Imagine that when you searched for a concert ticket you could learn if friends were headed to the same show. Or that you knew which sites – or what news stories – people you trust found useful and which they disliked. Or maybe you could find out where all your friends and relatives are, right now (at least those who want to be found).”

Notice how each one of the examples relates the person with what they’re trying to find out by way of Trust. In other words, information is important to people not just because of what it is, but because of what it means to the person and their future. Knowing what concerts are playing is nice…but knowing which one your friends are going to is what’s important.

Schneiderman’s Circles of Relationships

Ben Shneiderman came up with a nice graphic to illustrate this. He calls it the circles of relationships. It shows several concentric ovals (centering on the self) that illustrate how Trust dissipates outward. As we move away from people near to us, we trust them less.

Ben Shneiderman's Circles of Relationships

Much of what Facebook has in store is about leveraging our social relationships in this way. The scope of what they’re doing is really amazing…opening up their database so that 3rd parties can create tools to leverage those relationships in countless ways. Facebook is smart to realize that it’s the users who will innovate best here…because they’re the ones who know what’s important to them.

Further reading: Chapter 5 of Sheiderman’s Leonardo’s Laptop (.pdf)

Update: Extending the Circles of Relationships

Published: May 25th, 2007

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