Relationships are the heart of a social network.

Recently we went to a friend's birthday party. Call her Norma.  Over the years too numerous to mention, Norma had worked on lots of places and organisations. She is a natural organiser and entrepreur who had created several companies aand run lots of events.  Each of us knew her from our own niche in Norma's ecology, so a big get-together was a chance to meet Norma's friends from other niches.  Naturally, the first question was ' so how do you know Norma?' Of course after a few glasses, you've forgotten who said what and maybe it doesnt matter anyway.

It struck me later that this was the essence of what a social network could be  - a place to make statements about relationships:

  • "Norma, Bob and I were into orienteering in Harrow in 1965"
  • "Norma and I worked for IBM from 1970 to 1976"
  • "Norma is my sister-in-law "
  • "We've bought Norma's cider since 2005"

I think of such statements as tuples based on Kiplings six honest serving men : What and why and when and how and what and why and when. To which we might add - how do you know?, requiring pehaps affirmation by each party in the statement. Underneath we could use triples but these multi-faceted relationships are the units of the network. With dates we can make timelines and weave events into someting like a story.

Too much information exposed?  Probably, but my page of friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn looks meaningless even to another friend, and, as memory fades, puzzling even to me.  Linked in does gather some relationship data when a connection is made but it doesnt seem to be accessible later.  

So any VC out there ready for the next big social network? More likely it's already been done and I missed it. Perhaps it's just FOAF writ large.