Russell & Jyri: Object Centered Sociality

Russell Beattie responds to Jyri Engeström's post about social networks. Russell recently left Linked In, one of the big social networks. His conclusion was that he connected with a lot of people, but that they were loose connections and not very valuable. So today he reads Jyri who says:

Basically I'm defending an alternative approach to social networks here, which I call 'object centered sociality' following the sociologist Carin Knorr Cetina. I'll try to articulate the conceptual difference between the two theories and briefly demonstrate that object-centered sociality helps us to understand better why some social networking services succeed while others don't.

Russell's disappointment in LinkedIn implies that the term 'social networking' makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it's not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine when they hear the term 'social network'. The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object. ...

Right on! People have to have a reason to connect. Proximity isn't enough. Think about it. You can go to a baseball game, be around 50 thousand people and not really connect with any of them. But you go to some club meeting, where everybody shares a common interest, and with only 50 people in the room you connect with 10 of them. Having something in common makes all the difference.

Social networks are taking on many forms in the technology world. builds networks based on image tags. Dating sites connect people preferences. People's preferences are just data.



(You knew it had to head there, didn't you?)

Here's's version of social networking based on datablogging:

1) People create custom log types. Triathlon Log. Coffee Shop Review Log. Whatever. Users create these types for things they're interested in. makes the creation of these log types a simple user-interface-based affair.

2) Log types are shared between users. has built-in invitation engines to help you share log types. When you create your account you can search from the (someday many) log types available. Something of a marketplace develops. There are good triathlon logs and bad ones. Some are actively used. Some are not. Log types compete for attention and new users.

3) Communities develop around log types. Users who log on the same log type can see each other. They can compare each other's data. They can see each other's posts.

4) People do datablog searches to find other people with similar interests/capabilities/data. For example, you could say show me people using the running log who are doing runs of over 13.1 miles in less than one hour and thirty minutes. Boomps... there are your possible friends... and you have something in common... you all run fast half marathons.

What I loved seeing in Jyri's post is this object concept. He's right. There has to be something that binds people into a common interest. Since we're dealing with technology, this tie is data.

I see as a generalized dating site... and a specifiable Linked In... and an expanded It's as general or as specific as you need it to be because you can define how much or how little data to collect.

Data connects people. More on datablogging here. Very exciting to see Russell and Jyri talking about this stuff.

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