Social Networks as Data Networks

Social network is a network where nodes are people and connections are positive relationships — I guess negative relationships can also be used to build social networks but they are not very useful.  Current upswelling in the interest about social software can be divided into two:

  1. Forming new connections and nurturing old connections
  2. Sending and receiving data through social connections

Companies like Friendster and LinkedIn are focused on the first.  Bloggosphere is all about the second.  I tend to favor the second because the first reminds me of the sneaker net and because relationships are easy to stress and difficult to create.

Seeing social networks as a data networks like the Internet or intranet helps me see new opportunities.  One I recently thought about involves distribution of favors, Favor Network if you will.

Think of what you need, whether its information or something more tangible, turn it into a packet of bits and send it to the immediate nodes in a social network using whatever communication medium you share like e-mail or IM.  Each of the receipients can take whatever action on the favor request including ignoring it.  Some will choose to forward it to appropriate immediate nodes.  In the end, it will get dropped or reach people who have the desired information or objects.

Rising up a level and looking at the Favor Network again at an angle, it's like Google over social network, a search engine that uses people as servers or routers.  Interesting.

Accounting of favor giving and receiving will promote such use of social networks.  So the sender rates his request in favorpoints which places a value on the favor.  The final receiver who fulfills a favor receives majority of the favorpoints.  Those who participated in routing of the favor to that person shares the remainder.

To prevent abuse, each node's balance of favorpoints must be recorded somewhere and provided on request or attached to the favor request.  If a person asks favors all the time, people will learn not to do any more favors for that person.  If a person does a lot of favors for others, others will be more likely to help that person out.  Favorpoints received are added to a person's favorpoint balance.  Favorpoints spent are subtracted.

Will it work?  I'll do you a favor and find the answer if you got a few million dollars.  ;-p