Thoughful post on the difference between symmetric (Facebook) vs. asymmetric (Twitter) relationships, courtesy of Wes @ Plinky. Advantage to Twitter for enabling attention inequality (receiving more attention than you give). Bottom line for me is that edges in the social graph should have (dynamic) meta-data as opposed to being hard-coded to “friendships” or “following” or whatever. Of course, this will be hidden from users in simple abstractions such as connecting/friending/following.
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Twitter is pretty much in the spotlight nowadays, but isn’t the only asymmetric platform, neither the first. From personal experience, Flickr comes to mind as an example, also the humble Ecademy (nowhere near in membership size, but worth studying for its 10 years of consistent innovation and very advanced social functionality, populated by a small but very active constellation of communities)..
The asymmetric model better reflects real social relationships: parellel co-existence of (to use classical relational terminology) both one-to-one and one-to-many links from the same node.
An interesting aspect is the concept of ‘attention relationships’ vs ‘human relationships’. While ‘human’ relationships are the fundamental (and semantically superior) fabric of social networks, attention has become an extremely important attribute of human relationships. A scarce comodity in the IO (information overload) world, attention merits modelling as an entity / object in its own right – especially because its better understanding is expected to make it more manageable and yield economic (or political) benefits.
Before Twitter, ‘plain old’ blogging was the area where dynamic metadata was (nearly) mastered in assessing the attention ‘value chain’ and propagation. Volumes of such data were much smaller, as most models were based on links, talkbacks and quotes.There are also countless dispersed blogging platforms (and non-platforms :). Twitter, with the concept of ‘following’ brings an unprecedented volume of such data, concentrated on a single platform – perhaps, as Joshua Porter suggests, the key to its monetization?
But he is,IMHO, over-obsessed with Facebook’s copycat actions and the (perceived) war between the two. If they have anything to fight over, it is just the center-stage position in the hype circus, not much else.
Vlad, I think your point about attention meriting its own modeling is spot on. We are all short on time and how we spend our minutes says a lot.