New: Site Update: Contact, Links

I updated the site's Contact and Links pages.

A few months back, Gavin Bell gave a talk at work. He mentioned in passing how various folks are using hCard to say "this web page is about a person" and using XFN to represent the relationships between people. Then he got on to the point of his talk: data-mining social networks. And figuring out how you could use them to get interesting reports on friend activities vs. separate reports for your friend's photos on flickr, status updates on twittr, etc. And the privacy concerns.

As so often happens at these talks, I was surprised by the part that I was supposed to already know. I hadn't heard of hCard nor XFN and the "excitement about microformats" had not yet caught my eye. (Maybe it hadn't caught yours, either. That's why I tried to summarize what each of those formats is for.)

So I set up my home page, contact page, links page, and blog page to point at each other with links that say rel="me". That says, "If you think of a web page as representing a person, then all of these pages represent the same person." (Of course, not all pages represent people--but some do--personal personal home pages, personal blogs, profile pages...) Then I set up some hCard info on my Contact page to say "Yes, indeed, there is a person associated with this cluster of pages." That page now links to some of my profile pages on social networks, each link marked with a rel="me" to say "That's me, too."

My Links page is mostly links to other people. But not all. Can I link to the dog-trainer continuing education page and say "That is Veronica Boutelle."... with a straight face? Not really. Anyhow, I gave some of those links, which were definitely about people a rel="met" tag, meaning "That's a person, and I've met them." For those pages where people gave their names, I also added some hCard information, saying, "This link is to a person named 'Kiem Sie'."

This is, of course, a silly thing to do. A very small fraction of my friends have publicly-visible web presences for which they declare their names. Many of them don't want lots of public "social" information about them out on the net. Some of them have been stalked. Most of this "social" information about people is locked up behind Access Control Lists, and that's probably a good thing.

The hard part about making these relationships visible to computers isn't the data structures, it's the permissions. If I have a private account on two sites and I want to consolidate their information somehow, I'm not likely to convince either site to send information to the other--they're probably competing.

Oh, there's more to say, but I gotta go soon. I guess the short story is:

I've been wasting time with links and social networks.

But the interesting part is that I found out that I know the guy who made the Machinima animation for that "Code Monkey" video. How cool is that?

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Posted 2007-11-25