Dynamic Groups - Improving Social Networking Sites
12 Feb 2010

Social networking sites could be vastly improved by introducing dynamic grouping of contacts, rather than treating them as one vast amorphous network. Dynamic groups would better reflect real social systems.

ABIG PROBLEM WITH SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES is that a member's contacts are either part of his or her network, or they are not. This, however, does not reflect real social structure which consists of dynamic groups or categories of friends and family with only relatively weak social connection. In real social situations, these groups are relatively dynamic, and although individuals may be members of several such dynamic groups, they find their group memberships may change over time — new groups form to which they may or may not be a part, old groups die, and membership of existing groups may change for example with new friendships or the death of old friendships (such as in divorce etc.).

But social network sites, as they tend to be structured at present, do not understand the dynamic grouping of contacts, so that your tamer friends and family can read about your wild night out, and neither can your boss. And of course you don't want your boss reading private family interactions.

A better way to do this would be for social networking sites to introduce dynamic grouping or categorization of contacts that better reflect real-world social systems.

First of all, contacts would need to be categorized. For example, a new contact might be placed in "family", "close buddies", "school buddies" or maybe "acquaintances" categories. These categories have to have some collective objectivity, but the name of the category would be customized from the perspective of each person who is a member. (Perhaps with the advent of smart computers, this categorisation process would become optionally automated.)

The interesting bit would be how to automate the dynamics of these categories. For example, if you fall out with a friend, or a relationship amicably breaks up, then each party might respectively demote each other, maybe, to the "acquaintance" category. Now if you are the person who is the primary connection between that person and a group of friends (maybe you brought them in or you are the primary person they contact or view), then a weighting system can decide whether to automatically demote that person from the group. If that person is dropped from the group and some members of the group wish to remain in contact, there would be an option to create a new group with those particular individuals.

By having dynamic grouping of contacts, like this, social networking sites would better reflect real-life social interaction.