I did this drawing while thinking about how each individual person (represented by the vertical white lines) can be a member of multiple social networks at the same time, with some of those social networks overlapping closely, others overlapping somewhat, and still others overlapping not at all.
In the online social networking world, for example, this means that your circle of friends on MySpace might closely match your contacts in flickr, with both groups containing roughly the same people. But your circle of contacts on another social network, let’s say LiveJournal, might be very different, with only a few people shared with the previous groups. And your circle of friends over at LinkedIn, a business-centric social network, might only have a handful of shared members.
This goes well beyond concrete defined groups as seen on online social networks. In real life, I have many social groups, all of which I value and love but who don’t always overlap as much as I would like. My family. My college friends. My hometown friends. My colleagues at work. People in the art world. People in the music and club world. People in the information architecture world. People in the design world. This can get pretty granular, too: People who are friends of my brother-in-law. People who I know from South By SouthWest.
So many networks, so little overlap. How to bring them together?
Think about how we throw cocktail and dinner parties to get our different circles of friends to meet one another. How excited we are as hosts and hostesses to introduce our friends to each other, people who would never have met otherwise. Is there a business model there, to allow people to mingle their social networks together in fun, interesting, and productive ways, the online equivalent of a cozy little dinner party?
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