Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Google Social Networks The Internet Technology

New Google Research On Social Networks 95

mantis2009 writes "Paul Adams, a senior user experience researcher at Google, has posted a slideshow from a recent presentation that shows insightful research into how people use social networking technologies. The presentation describes several shortcomings of existing technology, and it highlights specific modalities that current technology (ahem, Facebook) gets wrong. Adams concludes that social networking applications are a 'crude approximation' of real-life social networks. 'People don't have one group of friends,' Adams research in several different countries shows that in reality, most people have between four to six groups of friends. He argues that social networking applications need to be built with that reality in mind."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Google Research On Social Networks

Comments Filter:
  • So what (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So what, you can group on facebook, even tag different people into different groups and then adjust privacy and broadcast setting accordingly. May be because they are not separated on you provife where it says 358 friends in stead of 358 friends in 12 groups, average members per group 18.....

  • Just to point out... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Traegorn ( 856071 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:12PM (#32876014) Homepage Journal
    Facebook DOES support multiple groups of friend -- you can create separate friend lists and subdivide what permissions different sets get.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by skids ( 119237 )

      If you know this, what are you doing on slashdot? People who have friends don't come here! :-)

      • Internet friends aren't real friends, duh!
        • by skids ( 119237 )

          Well, OK, he did say "multiple groups of friend" not "multiple groups of friends" and anyone who would put a sole friend in multiple groups surely belongs here.

    • by mantis2009 ( 1557343 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:20PM (#32876122)

      Separating friend lists on Facebook as you describe doesn't support all of the functions mentioned in the slideshow. For example, posting comments on Facebook photos goes out to all people with permission to see your comments on photos. The slideshow suggests allowing different comments to be seen by different groups of friends. In the current Facebook implementation, your friends either have permission to see all your comments on all photos, or none.

      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @04:12PM (#32878252)

        I don't want 'lists' of friends. I want an entire sandbox.

        Right now I can say if friends can see my profile picture, albums, interests, or not.

        I want to be able to set a profile picture, interests, etc for each group.

        Right now the closest thing you're going to get is creating a whole new profile. My coworkers don't need to know I'm in an open relationship with my girlfriend or pictures of me on a Rugby tour.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That lame "interesting" mod should have been "insightful", IMO. Yes, I have circles of freinds. Ever notice that a joke which is hilarious in one circle sounds lame and stupid in another circle? Or, that one bit of data that seems very important to one group is meaningless to all your other freinds? Your wife couldn't care less about some mundane detail of your job, and your girlfriend cares even less. Whoops!!! Wife and girlfreind? You should have put them into two different groups to start with!!

        • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

          "Right now the closest thing you're going to get is creating a whole new profile."

          Why is this a problem? People have been maintaining separate internet persona's since it started. And modern browser features make it easier: don't feel like filling out the same info for 3 different profiles? Browser auto-fill will handle that, as well as remember your different logins and passwords.

          What am I missing here?

      • Although Twitter is obviously a communication service rather than a social network, this is elegantly handled by messages/photos/videos only being seen by mutual friends.

        No setup, no configuration, no separate accounts, no spammage, no nothing, it just works.

      • by khchung ( 462899 )

        For example, posting comments on Facebook photos goes out to all people with permission to see your comments on photos.

        This is exactly the reason why I very rarely post any comment on Facebook (apart from obvious privacy issues). Any normal person has friends in different circles, what's appropriate for one group may be viewed as inappropriate to another group due to different cultural/group context.

        • ...what's appropriate for one group may be viewed as inappropriate to another group due to different cultural/group context.

          That's why I think most people only make comments that will be inoffensive / appropriate to all of their cultural group contexts.

          You must lead a very interesting life if saying, "Wow, beautiful scenery" on one of your friends' photos will offend and alienate another friend. :-)

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        I can relate to this, for some reason I allowed my girlfriends parents to be added to my Facebook friends list, the problem is that what's appropriate for my friends isn't appropriate for them.

        Similarly things I talk about with colleagues at my old work place (the things we used to get up to) aren't appropriate for my new work colleagues after I start a new job and so forth.

        The net effect is that I have to self censor, and not bother posting content to any of these groups.

    • I'm sure they're aware of that, however, it gets tedious when you have hundreds of friends and you're trying to figure out who knows who on your friends list- and even then, I'd be wrong for some cases (many friends happen to know each other, even though I've met them from completely separate channels).

      Google is proposing that the social networking software should automatically detect these subgroups.
      • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:39PM (#32876372)

        Google is proposing that the social networking software should automatically detect these subgroups.

        No. The presentation is suggesting that social networking applications should be designed around the fact that people tend to have a small number of clearly defined silos of friends, and make different distinctions within those groups. It mentions some of the kinds of distinctions made within groups.

        Nothing in the presentation suggests that social networking applications should automatically identify either the basic groups or the distinctions within the groups (although some of the distinctions, particularly the distinctions based on things specifically shared through the social network, are obvious candidates for automated tracking, and some -- e.g., strong/weak ties -- one can imagine might be roughly detectable using heuristics.)

      • by hey ( 83763 )

        I made this to do it automatically
        http://apps.facebook.com/mycliques/ [facebook.com]

        • well congrats then!

          Fatal error: Uncaught exception 'FacebookRestClientException' with message 'unable to get preference' in /home/httpd/htdocs/facebook-platform/client/facebookapi_php5_restlib.php:420 Stack trace: #0 /home/httpd/htdocs/facebook-platform/client/facebookapi_php5_restlib.php(365): FacebookRestClient->call_method('facebook.data.g...', Array) #1 /home/httpd/htdocs/facebook-platform/mycliques/lib.php(121): FacebookRestClient->data_getUserPreference(0) #2 /home/httpd/htdocs/facebook-platfor

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Facebook DOES support multiple groups of friend -- you can create separate friend lists and subdivide what permissions different sets get.

      It supports multiple groups of friends in terms of permission lists (though that's a recent feature, and may well not have been around at the time the research was done supporting this presentation), but it doesn't support them as separable silos. So, even if its somewhat less crude than the state presented in the presentation, it still has the same fundamental problem t

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      And remember that chick friends are worth almost triple what dude friends are.

    • Correction, facebook USED to support this. Or rather, a small subset of this. Now what they have is a hollowed out husk of what they offered before with all signs pointing to them further reducing this capability.

      What's worse is that their only excuse offered for why they reduced this functionality was empty, vapid nonsense that could only be interpreted as "we think it's too hard so we won't do it anymore."

    • by MattCC ( 551250 )
      The problem with Facebook's groups of friends is that the UI hides the functionality. I doubt that one in 1,000 users would have stumbled upon the right process for making a photo available to just a subset of their friends. I've suggested [uxmatters.com] that a better approach to this type of control is to assign "privacy tags" to both people and published objects. A "friend" could then see just those objects of mine for which both they and the object share the same privacy tag.
  • Agree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DIplomatic ( 1759914 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:12PM (#32876018) Journal
    I completely agree. I have to refuse friend requests from family and co-workers because I don't want them viewing my status/pictures. It would be great if I could post a status update to my "New York Friends Group", or share a picture album with my "Family Group".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I 100% agree and would love nothing more for my SN account to have 'multiple personalities' and aggregate it into one place instead of having to maintain multiple profiles. I can obviously see issues arising involving posting to an incorrect profile and so forth, but that's unavoidable no matter the multiple SN profile set-up.

      Actually, I think these will be important features in a future 'facebook killer', although I suspect that facebook cannot be killed and it will take years for someone to catch up to

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheZalm ( 129363 )

      You can do that now. Just create a Family List and and a NY Friends List. That's what I do. Then, when you post an update, you'll see a little icon that lets you pick which lists can see it.

    • Just create multiple ACCOUNTS, one for friends and coworkers and another one for friends. Duh.
    • Interesting. People use social sites to view old friends, current friends and to keep track of others. There are definitely multiple groups of friends that people will have.
    • Isn't that what Facebook Groups are for? You can limit who can be in a FB group.
  • So (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You might say that facebook is killing independent george?

  • More than one... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:16PM (#32876062) Homepage
    I use multiple SN's. For professional contacts I use LinkedIn. For personal contacts I use Google Buzz (or at least did until recently). For imaginary contacts I use WoW.
    • I use multiple SN's. For professional contacts I use LinkedIn. For personal contacts I use Google Buzz (or at least did until recently). For imaginary contacts I use WoW.

      Which is probably part of the reason so many are upset at Activision/Blizzard's intent to interface Battle.net with Facebook.

  • It's a bad thing when worlds collide!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPG3YMcSvzo [youtube.com]
    Hopefully this is the right clip (work pc / no audio)
  • Agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by parallel_prankster ( 1455313 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:22PM (#32876148)
    Facebook as a tool is very limited to imitate real life social networking. For example I have different categories of friends on facebook and I would like to be able to literally have different profiles for each of them in FB. Yes, FB does support something like that, but it is a pain to set each post or album differently for each individual. I still have not added anyone from my work to my FB account because I am scared what they might end up seeing on my account. Ofcourse, FB also has this ridiculously bad privacy policies in which your tagged pictures get shown to everyone depending on whoever has the least restrictive privacy settings!
  • the points this guy makes make sense, but it seems like he is just asking for the re-creation of USENET
    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Usenet doesn't have any concept of friends or social groups, it is all public for everybody.

  • and the point is? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chichilalescu ( 1647065 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:39PM (#32876382) Homepage Journal

    I really don't get it. why is facebook a big deal? I understand the companies that want facebook-like things to work: they want money. but the rest of the world? how does it make people better persons?

    don't tell me it's easier to keep in touch with people you knew in highschool/college whatever. if you're doing it just because it's easy, it doesn't mean you actually need to do it, and it doesn't mean you care about those people more.

    • Re:and the point is? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:18PM (#32876876)

      but the rest of the world?

      Partially, its a grind game. I recently deleted my account, but one behavior I saw was some of my female acquaintances competing to see whom can collect the highest number of male friends, by any means. I enjoyed some of their pictures at least (hope my wife doesn't read this). The middle school girl game of seeing whom has more friends on the bus, minus (most of) the teasing. A nice looking young woman can easily acquire 4 digits of admirers, if not friends.

      Also whenever you hear a trite explanation of why someone is on facebook, always assume the result is the opposite of their goal. Unemployed people claim they are on FB because its a great place to find a job, although they never find one, at least because of FB. I'm at the age where former schoolmates and coworkers are now very lonely stay at home moms, so they claim to be on FB because they're looking for adult interaction, but they post stupid stuff all day, so no one reads them. Single guy friends claim FB is a great way to get some, so they post every freaking benchpress set and every mile on the bicycle, and every time they enter or leave a "trendy bar", yet, they remain single. Everyone in America has heard of "someone" whom got a job or rekindled old friendships or got some because of FB. However, for 99% of the population, FB just simply doesn't work, but as long as there's people who have convinced themselves that it works, its all good, for FB anyway. Its a religion, basically.

      And the final reason is simple curiosity. Whatever happened to that stoner dropout dude that I hung out with in 8th grade study hall? Oh, thats interesting. One of my coworkers was going on and on about some girl whom would never date him in high school, turns out she now publicly prefers other women, which explains that, or maybe it's his fault, whatever. Well, that was fun for a little while, goodbye facebook.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vlm ( 69642 )

        Oh, and collectors. Lest I forget collectors. "Everyone in this department is on FB, so you need to join too". Thankfully not someone in management, so I could simply ignore him. Collectors can get aggressive. Think of how wild otherwise calm cool and collected old women can get when bidding at auctions for antiques. Same deal if you're related to someone or work with them and you've not friended them yet, how dare you.

        Collectors are oddly enough closely related to the drama queens or sh!t stirrers or

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spiralx ( 97066 )

          Or for those of us with lots of friends/relatives it's a way to share information/gossip across a wider group of people than your immediate circle of people you see regularly, or people separated by distance, to find out what people have been up to, to see pictures of yours or others events. And then there's the fact that it makes organising social events a breeze, both mine or my friends and those by any of the dozens of club nights I might want to go out - people get an invitation, and only those who acce

      • by migla ( 1099771 )

        As far as I understand it, people do a lot of networking with facebook, though. They folrm groups to come and BBQ at their place or whatever. Without facebook, when "all" your real life friends are on there, they might forget to invite you to some parties and whatnot. They have my phone number and email. It's not that they don't want me at their parties, right?

    • Speaking only for myself:

      It's a pretty good way to keep in touch with people that you don't see in person very often, probably because they don't currently live very near to you. For example:

      - Most of my family still lives in the area where I grew up, which is about a hundred miles from where I live now. Facebook makes it easy to share bits of news with them, pictures of our kids, etc. Obviously there are other ways to do this; I won't tell you that Facebook is the only way to do this or even the best wa

    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      Here's the reason I found: For most of my relatives who aren't computer savvy, it's the easiest way to see photos of the young people and their babies.
  • ...that tired, clever-maybe-once-upon-a-time "ahem"/"cough" convention?

    Thanks in advance...

  • Each person is the 1-person intersection of a lot of circles of different sizes, potentially having a different personality in front of each of them. And some of those circles are totally contained in others (as in class colleages, and small group of closest friends in that class).

    Is not just 4-6, are a lot, and is very dynamic too.

    They seem to go in the right direction, but falling short on the real problem.
    • by blueup ( 225926 )

      Airset is a "social" tool that has a model like this; but it never took off like Facebook did.

      It has much better find-grained controls for each group of friends, and lots of tools, including one of the best contacts data models I've seen. Unfortunately a good data model doesn't make you popular.

  • This makes a lot of sense but I don't know how you would implement this into social networking on the web. Have multiple groups of friends setting who could see what that could get to be a lot of work. Unless you had friends that are just Facebook friends then friends that were just Myspace friends. That is dependent on the other person to have a Facebook or Myspace would get kind of confusing keep all that straight. Facebook and Myspace only to name two there are hundreds of social networking sites.
  • For example ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @01:45PM (#32876450)
    ... girlfriends, wives.
  • For Google Wave?

  • It goes beyond the problem of having different groups of friends. The problem is that in real life most people have many different personae. You would say and do things with your friends from college that you would never say or do in front of your boss, as the most obvious example.

    IRL we put a lot of work into constructing and maintaining these different personae, and we do a lot of work to keep them separate.

    With social networking as it is, that's all over. Even if you never participate in Facebook, you are probably tagged in dozens or even hundreds of photos, and the odds are pretty good that some of them show you doing things you wouldn't do in front of your boss.

    So the question is, will we adapt the technology to allow the creation and maintenance of a variety of different personae, or will we adapt our own behavior so as to present one consistent, universally acceptable persona to the world?

    I think many of us, particuarly the younger generation, are already doing the latter. In order to adapt to this, we have to adjust our expectations of people. Maybe as an employer, you just have to get used to being able to see pictures of your employees smoking weed at parties and so forth, and not let it bother you. However, until we adapt, it creates the problem that suddenly everything you say and do is potentially public (whether you participate in social media or not).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CraftyJack ( 1031736 )

      I think many of us, particuarly the younger generation, are already doing the latter. In order to adapt to this, we have to adjust our expectations of people.

      According to the slides, at least, that's not the case. The presenter claims that younger users are more likely to actively manage their privacy settings. He seems to be implying that people opt for more control over who sees their profile when they understand how to do so, and stop using the service (or have a bad experience) when they don't.

    • Your site has a big rectangle of blank space right in the center
    • by lennier ( 44736 )

      So the question is, will we adapt the technology to allow the creation and maintenance of a variety of different personae, or will we adapt our own behavior so as to present one consistent, universally acceptable persona to the world?

      So, we all have to be honest with each other? The horror!

  • by Kidbro ( 80868 )

    And again, simple decades old technologies (in this case IRC) solved the problem from the start.

  • One thing missing... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Heshler ( 1191623 )
    I read through the whole slide set, and it was very insightful as to the subdivisions of the network and the influences therein. The conclusions were pretty strong, however there is one issue that could make it difficult to create tools that will be the next Facebook. The problem is that although people in the studies privately categorized their "friends" into different groups and different closeness, I don't think they would be willing to share information on the closeness-level of relationships and the
    • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:36PM (#32877066)
      The tool doesn't need to prompt you for "closeness level". It could just track who you post to, and then when you post a message or a photo, give you a list of contacts, and ask which ones you want to send to. It could sort the list based on frequency, and the people you are close to will filter to the top.

      Share with (check all that apply):
      [ ] Wife, Mary
      [ ] Sister, Betty click here to check this one and everyone above [some.javascript]
      [ ] Dad, Bob click here to check this one and everyone above [some.javascript]
      [ ] Mom. Irma click here to check this one and everyone above [some.javascript]
      [ ] Cousin, Fred click here to check this one and everyone above [some.javascript]
      [ ] Distant Cousin, Joe click here to check this one and everyone above [some.javascript]
      • How about a pie chart/archery target? Groups of contacts are created through tags or algorithms, then displayed like slices of pie. The farther from the center, the more distant the contact. Users can touch using a finger, or click with a mouse to select what parts of the chart to share content with.

        The system could remember common and uncommon chart configurations. So when a user begins selecting distant relatives, the system suggests a previous chart as an overlay.

      • by Mints ( 146243 )

        On problem with that scheme: I never, ever talk to my closest friend on Facebook. In fact, if we were able to get an objective measure of closeness/intimacy for each of my friends, created and ordered list from that measure, facebook contact frequency would peak well below the top of the list because other communication modes would take over: email, instant messaging, text messaging, phone calls, hard drinking in bars, etc.

        For any algorithm to do better than a rough approximation, it would have to be aware

  • Apparently they're not happy enough with what they know about you, they won't stop until your Facebook/Buzz/Yahoo/whatever profile is a 1:1 mapping of you. It all sucks badly when you think of how, a few years ago, having such a profile was kind of embarassing in the context of, say, a job interview, while now it's almost mandatory - "What, you're not on Facebook? How do you LIVE?" I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I always laugh at tinfoil hats, but all this looks like soon we won't be able to do anything wi
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm ( 69642 )

      they won't stop until your Facebook/Buzz/Yahoo/whatever profile is a 1:1 mapping of you .... while now it's almost mandatory

      Don't forget the other aspect of 1:1 mapping from a mathematical sense. How hard would it be to have multiple pages, if there's no authentication and "everyone knows its mandatory". It's like requiring all of us to carry ID cards at all times, yet allowing all of us to hand craft anything that we feel like calling an ID card.

      Maybe, purchase a carefully crafted page for a job interview (HR repo says: "Look! Mr. Someone is a FB friend of the world famous VLM whom has a /. UID with only 5 digits! We gotta

      • That's a good idea, vlm.

        I have had an idea I want to try:

        Create an application and use this to represent yourself (give it my name). Essentially you can collect all the data about your friends with less of the risks.

        You can use it to message your friends and write on their walls. hopefully your friends are dumb enough to give permission "Your Name wants to write on your wall".

  • I have some forums friends that know me as Tei, and for some weird reason have figured out that the Tei on that forum is the Tei on /.

    Do I have to use different nicknames? seems so. Internet with his worldwide design broadcast my life in a tiny spot of the internet to all spots. Maybe I sould use something less unique, theres something called TEI, so I am somewhat safe, but is not enough.

    Everywhere you "deploy" your internet persona, you are reducing your privacy. Even if we use a combination of random cha

  • would be awfully nice. We have these with email, and at parties, the water cooler and so on. I guess the message system can be used to simulate this, but it doesn't feel the same.
  • Well, duh [blogspot.com]. That's what you get when you "favor ability over experience".
  • Clearly facebook is a book of faces, not a book of friends. Friends just means you are connected to someone really, and that's it. That usually just means you came in contact with them.

    Google will obviously have an invested interest in anything online, and the slides are very good. Two thumbs up!

    Will it matter though? Seriously, 90% of the reason why facebook and dreaded myspace became so huge are because of referrals and because of their simplicity. Even with facebook a huge part of the user base are cluel

  • by v(*_*)vvvv ( 233078 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:47PM (#32879522)

    Danah Boyd had a lot of very similar things to say at www2010, and it is worth mentioning:
    http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/futureweb2010/danah_boyd_www_keynote.xhtml [elon.edu]

    And I am sure others have reached similar conclusions also, but Paul Adams is definitely not the first to mention the problems of having one "public". Danah goes further and challenges the common notion of privacy more generically than just focusing on social network systems.

  • Is there any web site which provide a single interface and integrated to all the social web site? I'll always prefer a single interface for all these web site instead of going there and remember my ids. Currently, I'm usinga mobile web site http://fonet.mobi/ [fonet.mobi] which provide a single interface for Facebook, twitter, linkedIn, friendfeed, google docs etc. I have to login to this web site only and link my accounts. Once I links my accounts, I don't have to login anywhere and I can see all the friends comments
  • "Adams concludes that social networking applications are a 'crude approximation' of real-life social networks. 'People don't have one group of friends"

    There's a hidden assumption here that I don't subscribe to: If real-life networks differ from online networks, then real-life ones are better. I mean, try that hat on with respect to other communications and data-processing systems.

    Personally, there's no way in hell I'd want the complexity of managing N different defined social groups and who's in each, who's

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"