I’m tired of re-stating my intentions with the same person on every social networking site I join. For example: I have met Jeremy Keith. He is my friend. He is a colleague and co-worker based on our conference and WaSP involvement.
This is always the same – whether I’m using LinkedIn, the d.construct backnetwork, Web Connections, defining my flickr contacts, or the new craze – Twitter.
Surely technology can solve this problem for us? I delivered the closing keynote on Day 1 of Web Directions South in Sydney, Australia earlier this year, and in that talk, I discussed something that Jeremy mentions this in his recent post about Twitter.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I want: when I go to the latest social networking fadsite, I want it to ask for my URL. Then it can go off and fetch my hCard and XFN list. A pre-filled form for my details and a pre-filled list of potential contacts can then be presented to me.
Here is what I suggested in my keynote at Web Directions – I throw it out there as an idea, or the seed of an idea that will maybe spark someone to build it. I haven’t had the time to think it through completely, but what about a microformat for XFN relationships?
<dl class=”XFN”> <dt>Jeremy Keith</dt> <dd class=”rel”>met</dd> <dd class=”rel”>friend</dd> <dd class=”rel”>colleague</dd> </dl>
The premise is simple: save time setting up your account on the new fadsite so you can get straight to wasting time with that new fadsite.
There are always caveats. Here’s some that I can think of:
- We’d need to identify people via email address. The email may not always match, and I don’t always use the same email address to sign up for different services.
- I might not know the person’s email address – a LinkedIn connection might come through a mutual friend without either of us knowing each other’s contact details (though presumably we’d be able to get them)
- The structure of a definition list relies on order to specify name-value pairs as there is no container for each defined item, so it would be a bit more of a pain to parse
- The ramifications of what a “friend” can do on one site versus another may be significant. For example, friends on flickr get to see private photos whereas contacts don’t. Friends on Twitter get to see all my messages, whereas people that aren’t friends might not. Any settings that are automatically created based on my XFN list need to be spelled out for people, and we need the ability to arbitrarily override those settings.
- What about security? do we need to protect these files with encryption?
- If I add a new person in any given service, I need a way to easily export that so that I can add it to my global list
Getting the ball rolling
I’m sure there is someone out there that can do this. I think it will only be a matter of time before someone tries it. At least I hope so, because when I sign up for the next social networking site, I really want that initial barrier removed, so I can get right down to wasting time.