Ersatz relationships

Today I got several LinkedIn requests to connect someone I don't know to someone else I don't know because a friend of a friend in each direction knows them. I blew it off. Why should I be making this connection?

David Weinberger saves me a lot of time thinking. I agree with him so often, it's easy just to adopt his ideas wholesale. He recently offered his take on what he calls Artificial Social Networks (ASNs):

First, ASMs attempt to recreate our social network by making us be explicit about it. But our social bonds are necessarily implicit. Making social relationships explicit uproots them, distorts them and can do violence to them. Just try describing your child to someone, with your child in the room.

Second, ASNs make us be precise about that which is necessarily messy and ambiguous. This not only leads to awkward social moments (Am I a friend yes-no of some person I met once and don't know if I like?), it also reinforces the worst idea of our age: The world is precise, so our ambiguity about it is a failure.

Third, they inculcate the stupid belief that relationships are commutative. LinkedIn is especially guilty of this. I have been C in a five-term series that A initiated in order to contact E, which means someone I don't know asked someone I marginally know to introduce him to someone I kind of know who maybe knows someone I don't know at all. The formal name for this is "using people." (See my first paragraph.)

Fourth, the fact that they require explicitness in public about relationships guarantees that they will generate inordinate amounts of bullshit. For example, some ASNs let you write "testimonials" about your friends, a feature destined to encourage flattery and sucking up. Worse, they don't let you refuse testimonials as part of your profile, so I've had to to explain to a handful of people why I'm not accepting the sweet sentences they spent time putting together.

Yes! That's it.

With David, there's always more.

Look, I want to say to the Friendsters of the world, we already invented a social network for friends and strangers. It's called the Internet. Why are you privatizing it? Why do we need a proprietary sub-network to do what the Internet has already done in an open way? ... I don't like this thing coming along that implies that the existing social networks on the Internet my social networks, the ones that constitute my social world are so inadequate that some badly designed system with a derivative name (enoughster with the "sters" alreadyster!) sweeps the Net like photos of Janet Jackson's poppin' fresh wardrobe malfunction. What's a matter, the Net wasn't good enough for you?


A fellow left a message on the Internet Time Group answering machine this morning. He wasn't into this relationship stuff much. He explained that his group could produce any sort of eLearning I wanted...for only $15/hour. Uh huh. He didn't realize I sub out my dogs as coders for only $2/hour. And they're cute.


Posted by Jay Cross at March 29, 2004 09:39 PM | TrackBack
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