Esther Dyson on LinkedIn

After reading danah boyd’s post about autistic social software a couple weeks ago, it was interesting to read this CNET commentary by Esther Dyson on LinkedIn, discussing several of the same issues. Since Dyson is one of the high-powered elite of the computer world, she is looking for a tool to help her manage her own social network, which involves board members that she works with, friends, etc. As she put it, “LinkedIn should acknowledge that each person is a member of a variety of networks, of which that person is the center. Networks overlap through individuals, not as groups.”

This is similar to danah’s point that existing social software does a poor job of capturing the complexity of social relationships. I also really like Dyson’s phrasing, because it makes a lot of sense to me. I recently had a BBQ to celebrate my birthday, and it was interesting because a couple representatives from each of my facets of life showed up. I had a few college friends there, a couple chorus friends, an ultimate frisbee friend, and my family there. All these different networks of people, intersecting through the locus of me. I’m not sure how best to capture that in an online setting. Perhaps something like does a better job, with its explicit acknowledgement of groups of people. I haven’t played with that, though.

I guess the ideal social networking software would be something like the Remembrance Agent, except augmented to handle social duties as well. Something that unobtrusively tracks my interactions with people, and reminds me when something comes up that is relevant to another friend or contact. For instance, if I know that one friend is looking for a database programming job, and I hear that another friend has such a job open, I should put them together. That’s simplistic, because that example is obvious enough that I’d probably put the pieces together on my own. But I could see a more complex version being of great use, especially to people who do a lot of business networking, keeping track of all of their contacts. Thoughts for future software…