In several different contexts (climate change organizing, local political blogging, marriage equality organizing), I keep coming across situations where individuals participate in multiple social networks, and want to organize across social networks. Distributed organizing feels like a potential use case for distributed social networks. Here’s how it might work…
I have an OpenProfile someplace. Perhaps it is on my blog. Perhaps it is on my local group blog or environmental club. I can “friend” people who belong to this site. I attend a “creek cleanup” and that is visible in my activity stream. This OpenProfile may be hosted along with my OpenID. (If not, my OpenID registration at the site asked me for an OpenProfile link)
When I join a new cycling site, and log in with my OpenID, it asks me if I want to share my OpenProfile with the site. It gives me a couple of coarse-grained options, or it allows me to share my profile, item by item on this site. I can see my profile in this cycling site, too. The cycling site lets me add a type of bicycle to my profile. It asks if I want to share this information with other communities. I say no because I don’t think it would be interesting to my other friends. Several of my environmental friends are on this site and also chose to share their profiles. I can see they are here too.
The cycling club is sponsoring a “bike to work day”. I join. It asks if it’s ok to let my other communities know. I say yes. The information appears in my activity feeds on my blog and other communities. I can see who is already participating in the bike to work day. I want to tell more of my friends, including friends in the environmental club. An invitation form lets me choose which people to invite. I can choose from all my friends, including those I know from this site and the environmental club.
Elements of this system:
* I have a core profile. I can chose whether to share this profile with other communities
* When I share a profile with another community, my relationships are visible there to others who have chosen to share
* Additional profile elements can be added by other sites. I can choose whether to share these elements offsite.
* Activities are part of my activity feed. Activites are shared by default with the local community. I can choose whether to share them with other communities (all communities, or some communities)
I can’t see Facebook connect meeting this need. Groups like the environmental club and the cycling club want more control over member contact than Facebook gives them. But atomized social networks keep the environmental group and the cycling club from easily spreading the word and inviting new people. Distributed social networks could help people connect, while preserving local privacy and reducing social spam.