FOAF stands for Friend Of A Friend, and it’s a decentralised way of tracking social networks. The idea is that I would add some tags to my blog or website saying “I count these people among my friends” and list my friends. Then lots of different social network applications could use this data. Stewart Butterfield has an interesting post about how, ultimately, there is no use for FOAF. Well, no, there aren’t many examples of actual usefulness of social networking systems. Though I did find an old highschool friend in Orkut. That was nice. And I know several people who’ve found true love in online dating services. Anyway, in a reply to a comment to this post, Stewart argues that the reason Friendster was popular was not that it allowed social networking per se, but that it became immensely popular, and allowed a lot of people their first experience of representing their identity online. Nothing new for those of us who’ve been hanging around the net for a decade or more, but huge for newcomers. Perhaps he’s right: perhaps that is the appeal. Perhaps the minimal opportunity to represent yourself is one of the problems with most courseware systems – though Torill’s discussion of Classfronter vs. Orkut and MUDs in terms of territoriality is also definitely onto something. FOAF is definitely tryinng to be non-territorial. Perhaps that doesn’t work.

3 thoughts on “territories and XML

  1. Ian

    FOAF isn’t really a decentralized way of tracking social networks. It’s just an XML schema that describes someone’s contacts with URI pointers to more FOAF files.

    So, until we sit down and come up with a use for social network applications that would benefit from a generic data format, FOAF is just a technology fetish. It’s like a typology with no criticism 😉

    Which means everyone should just sit down and come up with some uses for social network software instead of pinging the scab of this wound with a jillion blog posts.

    Or comments, for that matter. Off I go…

  2. Ian

    Lol, I meant *picking* the scab. Talk about a Freudian slip. Can someone write a scab pinging script for me so I know when my skinned knee feels better?

  3. lostlog

    Human Ping
    Jill had a post earlier today about Friend of a Friend. I once saw a theory going something like this:

    If I make a list of my friends, and then ask them to make a list of their friends, and their friens make a list of…etc., you’d only need to do 1…

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