I tend to segregate my social networks, creating small walled gardens of friends and colleagues around different purposes. So, for example, Facebook holds personal friends, while LinkedIn is for professional colleagues. There are probably half a dozen services that I populate with different kinds of content (status, text, photos, reviews), each accessible to different groups.
Maybe it seems a bit obsessive, but it keeps private things private and avoids showing status messages to colleagues and exposing geolocations to strangers. There’s nothing worse than having a professional contact inquire about my health based on my book recommendation to a troubled friend (yes, it happened).
In the last few weeks, I received service upgrades from Skype and Windows Live, and cautiously opened some of their recommended linkages to Facebook, Linkedin, and other media and social services. The idea is a good one: bring all of your friends and content to a single point where it can be access by mobile devices. I see the value of being able to bring up contacts and photos, references and mail, from across my network without having to hunt through them, remembering who and what I put where.
My phone contacts multiplied from 40 frequently called numbers to hundreds of never-called people. There were conflicts to resolve among e-mail addresses. The phone chirped constantly with new status messages, things I would have skipped on Facebook ,but that now arrive with SMS urgency.
Sorting and filtering are going to have to get much better. This may require me to tag individuals or create groups to set their access priority: people who can interrupt me vs. people I only want to ask about; people who’s personal details are of interest vs. people that I only want to know if they change jobs.
It seems daunting to set access at that level across hundreds of people. We’ll need semi-automatic methods,. perhaps based on the source of the contact or the frequency that I interact with. Maybe it just needs a ‘tell me more’, ‘tell me less’ button for each ‘push’ from someone.
The links allow information to flow directly between sites, with status and updates on one service propagating to others. As they copy, they inherently lose privacy and context. Eventually, they emerge onto the general Internet where details can be indexed, abstracted, and served to a much wider audience than ever intended.
The only solution seems to be to block the export of personal information across the links, not allowing sharing of personal information with applications in general and prohibiting access or broadcast of information across services. The alternative might be to restrict aggregation to a single blackboard under my control: other applications would only access this hub and not one another.
I already manage my personal narrative on FriendFeed a bit like this(Yoono is another) and like the general idea of being able to review what’s shared. Once I have control and transparency, then I’m able to filter the feed by subscriber at a service or individual level.
Art from Visual Complexity, cataloguing visual representations of complex information.