I like social networking sites (definition of social networking aside), and I even consider myself a social networking success story, but there is still something very lacking about the currently implemented concepts.
Multiply is the new one, I guess, although I haven’t been paying too much attention lately, and it has some nice features that [orkut](http://orkut.com Now way too slow to be useful, if you ask me) lacked, including things like a variety of relationship titles, and section to add content. Of course, many other places have have sections for content, be they Livejournal or flickr. Multiply also has the fields for business/professional networking, going so far as to include a resume, of course, LinkedIn is doing that sort of thing as well.
They are all great tools, for the most part, but I feel consistently put off by a few traits they all seem to share.
Profile information is worthless. How many people’s profiles do you read? I know I’ve read at most the first sentence of maybe a maximum of 30 “About Me” pages. How can anybody care what you write in that field? It’s the elevator pitch for your business idea that no investor wants to have to hear ever again. I think Ze hit it on the nose with, “in his picture he’s wearing a fedora, and in his about me statement it says, ‘Sometimes I like to wear fedoras.'” Nobody cares.
Just as bad as the very existence of the field is the obligation to put something in it. How do I want to describe myself, what can I say about myself that I think accurately reflects my personality while still keeping the fashionable high ground? The social anxiety swell I get from having to describe myself, somebody who already has an arrogance/modesty complex, is enough to make me want to swear the things off altogether. I can describe my friends, explicitly define my relationships with them in an open forum, but self-description feels like a public display of affection with myself.
Synchronization and Integration
I use Subversion and CVS to keep my projects in sync, del.icio.us to keep my bookmarks in sync, AddressBook to keep my phone numbers and email address locally, Proteus for my instant messaging contacts (AddressBook, too, thanks to integration), iPhoto to manage my photos, ecto to make content for the web, irssi for my irc contacts, Mail to keep track of who I am sending messages to and send myself notes about projects, iCal for my todo lists and events, and NetNewsWire to keep track of my reading lists. And every one of them (excepting del.icio.us which is a web based system) is better than their web-based counterparts
What. The. Fuck. Why hasn’t anybody solved this issue yet? Websites are great, but they are still too slow. I don’t want a website where I can add everything I want about anything, I want an application where I can add everything I want about everything and then publish it to an online community. Sure, FOAF wants to pretend it has the answer to this, but I certainly don’t want to deal with FOAF files, nor do I know many people who do.
The vision for PyRack was a back corridor between all those applications I just mentioned, a place to tag and relate every bit that runs around in my computer to other ones. Why shouldn’t Proteus add an AddressBook entry every time I add a new contact, and why shouldn’t my AddressBook know what the last email I sent to a person was, or that last instant message? Why doesn’t NetNewsWire keep track of all the links published by any feed over time and let me annotate them, and why shouldn’t my commits to Subversion show up in iCal?
The Next Step
When all this information is flowing freely between applications, what would prevent me from publishing some of it to the web in a way that was easy to re-integrate on another system, to have tags or feeds that NetNewsWire could read to import the data you are interested in from somebody else’s publication. It is a p2p network of contacts and interests based what you do, not what you funnel into some rule-choked social networking site, and the magic sits on your computer, fast, portable, and free.