Thursday, October 23, 2003

Tribe now has a PeopleAggregator tribe. And Zbigniew Lukasiak asking for a vision of FOAF. Here's my attempts to organize my thoughts in a post there :

As I understand it, things are like this.

FOAF : is a distributed data-format which represents information about people and their connections.

PeopleAggregator : is an example of a database which can be used to hold a lot of this data.
There will be other places that hold this kind of stuff as well such as individual web-pages. Eventually other services like Tribe / Friendster will probably make their data available in this format too, and will become FOAF databases.

The business logic that *animates* all of this is mainly going to be in the "scutters" that run around the network collating this FOAF information into particular views of the social network. They will analyze the hints given in FOAF records and use those as routing information. But they'll also bring their own inference strategies to it. They may try to screen-scrape Friendster or Technorati or Amazon reviews to get a better picture. They may use FOAF information in ways you never intended : "X knows three men who've reviewed queer-studies text-books. Better bump-up his health insurance premiums" etc.

You have an interesting perspective. I think you see this social network as primarily a piping system for information. (Which I certainly think is a good way to think about Weblogs.) A scutter / news aggregator combination can suck RSS feeds from your social locality.

Two thing seem likely to me.

One is that this functionality will migrate to a desktop client, to be integrated with the universal mailbox / aggregator / search tool / blog tool.

The other is that the user will want *control* over the routing. To take one of (I think) Bill Seitz's examples, you may want to program your combined tool to aggregate all RSS info. in your two-step neighbourhood, minus all stories about sports.

In other words, routing will be modified not just by the contents of FOAF records, but also by the *content* of the data.

What I *don't* see happening (though I've been wrong before) is that much more fine grained routing control will go into the FOAF file itself. Users will want the control their end, rather than to give it up to me or PA.

(Actually on second thoughts, maybe I do want my FOAF file to say "I value everything Eric Raymond says about Unix, but nothing that he says about Europe.")

For similar reasons, I don't see that there's a long term role for server-side scutters. Which try to give "definitive" network views.

Although maybe Google is a counter-example. Perhaps it's more complicated ... giant scutter / search engines to produce "objective" views of the network in some cases, and local perspectival scutter / aggregators for individuals. Tribe Discussion

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