Friday, January 11, 2008

(2) comments

Whose data is it?

The Burton Group's Bob Blakley has a great post ("Antisocial Networking") today about the Facebook-Scoble story. The essence (or, at least one essence) of Bob's note is that relationships are a different order of data from attributes. As he says:

"Even the fact of your relationship with Scoble is not Scobleís property, it is common property, like the kids in a joint custody arrangement. Both you and Scoble are obligated by the laws of relation here and here to treat the fact that you have a relationship, and also the details of the relationship, according to certain understandings and social conventions. If you donít believe this, meditate on whether you think it would be OK for,, and linkedin to share friend lists. The information Scoble tried to take out of Facebook is NOT Scobleís property; it is relationship information. Scoble is not free to do whatever he pleases with relationship information; if he violates social understandings and conventions by disclosing the existence of or certain information about his relationship with you in the wrong context, he may embarrass or endanger you, and he will certainly endanger the relationship."

And that's what it's all about.

Of course, not all relationships are reciprocal. I have a relationship with Edith Piaf - I'm a great admirer of her singing. The relationship isn't reciprocated, of course, and not only because she's been dead for many years. But I also have a relationship with the very lively Tom Hanks, of whom I'm a fan. I don't think Tom is one of my regular readers, though, so I doubt the "fan" relationship is reciprocated.

Human relationships may need to be classified similarly to mathematical transitivity. There are:
  • reciprocal relationships (e.g., a is friends with b and b is friends with a);
  • non-reciprocal relationships (e.g., a is a fan of b but b is not a fan of a);
  • relatively reciprocal relationships (e.g., a is father to b, b is daughter to a); and
  • asymmetric relationships (e.g., a loves b, b can't stand a).
Some of these relationships will need joint permission for publication, some won't. Some will allow unidirectional publication, some will require it. It's not going to be easy, it's not going to happen soon, but a relationship calculus is going to be necessary for this to work at all.

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