Saturday, June 21, 2008

Status Quo

Biologically we are driven to survive. In humanities birth, it was a question of strength and endurance as this correlated directly to person's ability to provide. As society built itself up, social status and purpose became the dominant metric.

We gain status by being noticed. The people we talk to, the people we say "Hi" to in the hallway, the friends we have intimate conversations with. This blog. Before the information revolution, it was the newspapers, television, movies, and word of mouth which got you noticed outside of your personal network. The higher the status, the more precious the power to keep it current. There are quite a few good thoughts to explore with government press, paparazzi and the control of this information, but let's get back to our favorite topic.

Although the Internet has made it easier for us to extend our personal network, the latest innovation has been on the maintenance of our local network. For the time being, the focus is on keeping our connections up to date. No information is more precious than that which is current, current information allows us to make the best possible decisions. Knowing information about the people in our personal network allows us to gain better status with those people.

The 'social graph', the record of everybody's personal network, is well on its way to saturation. Now everyone is scrambling to find out what's next and how to leverage this new repository of information. Those of us who are part of the social graph have seen the torrent of applications trying to capitalize on the social graph.

Many companies have made a business filling out the finer grain details of information that the current networks don't cover. Ranging from entirely new social graphs to personality quizzes to whether you support Pirates or Ninjas. It's low hanging fruit, but there is a ton of money tapping into this market if you can generate a useful or entertaining fad.

Other companies are attempting to put a twist on the social graph. Micro-blogging and location based networks, are trying to provide the next step on providing current status information. Between all the small tidbits of information being collected by the low hanging fruit and an increased ability of keeping current, the social graph will become one of the most important sources of information the world will ever have.

By maintaining a history of our personal network, we create an outline of our lives, almost a self-writing biography. Entire lives on record. The applications are both terrifying and exciting. It becomes possible to mine the social graph for insights into human nature well beyond our current capabilities.

Mining the social graph will revolutionize our understanding of ourselves as a society and eventually, alter our metric for survivability. As Google revolutionized the world by mining the information network, the next big thing will be the company that can mine the social graph for useful information.