Last February I wrote the following but left it as draft for some reason.
Last year I was able to connect with my classmates and childhood friends at the Russian Odnoklassniki.ru which some claim is used by successors of the KGB to keep tabs on overseas connections of Russians and others. Before that I signed up for LinkedIn hoping to never lose contact with colleagues. Then came Facebook for yet a few more friends and relatives. Some time has passed and I can see the usefulness of these “social networks” but while they all have continually improved their user interfaces and the network sizes, they have failed in one area. They can all list the connections but so far I have not been able to find one that tries to gauge the strength of the relationship.
Is it fair to treat all relationships the same? The best we have evolved to is grouping of relationships (friends, coworkers, close friends, etc.). Whoever unlocks the method of gauging the strength of the relationship will have discovered the next generation of social networking. Who is in a position to do this? Not the Facebooks and LinkedIns of this world, IMHO. I would place companies like Apple and Google on the map along with Verizons and AT&Ts but even these will have quite a struggle. A light read of the interpersonal relationships page will help understand the magnitude of the challenge.
Not all parent-child relationships are the same just as not all marriages are created equal. These are the easy ones. LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar will scan one’s e-mail to suggest contacts (based on numbers of e-mails exchanged). Does having frequent contact with someone result in a stronger relationship than having very infrequent contact? Is it even possible to quantify and digitize something as complex as human relationships? I think it is but will require capture and analysis of even more information.
Capture of on-screen (technology based) information is easier (and Googles, Apples and Verizons may be able to do that). The really hard part is the capture of the wink, the nod, or the smile that can make or break someone’s day. How about computing the trustworthiness and reliability of someone? I guess we are able to compute credit scores… but wait these are based on transactions. So maybe we can capture transactional relationships but what about the transformational ones (completely outside of systems)?
Sometime ago I wrote this post. I had no idea that Apple was working on the iPad. Perhaps someone out there is spending their days, weeks, and years trying to decode that which we value most – our relationships. I just hope the KGB doesn’t get a hold of that technology…