The Britney Twisty Puzzle Contention

There are two problems in contention for resource discovery in social networks. One is that there are cases where you want to create partitions in the network to allow for diversity of ideas . The second is that you want to make it easy to find esoteric subjects. The first I will describe in terms of Britney Spears fans and fetishists: the fans and fetishists problem. The second I will describe in terms of twisty puzzles: the esoteric resource discovery problem.

The Fans and Fetishists problem is the desire to create partitions of the social network so that diversity can exist. Take for example two groups of Britney Spears devotees: fans and fetishists. The fans are mostly young people who actually enjoy the singer's music. These fans want a place to discuss Britney and engage in other such wholesum, fan related actvity. The fetishists on the other hand are mostly adults who have impure thoughts about the pop-icon. They are instead in discussion and activities not appropriate for the majority of the fans. The goal is to allow both to exist, guard against the fans from accidently stumbling in to a fetishist discussion group, and (probably) increase the difficulty for the fetishists to find a fans group.

In meat space, the separation between fetishist and fans is largely accomplished by performing resource discovery in the social network. The fans are unlikely to accidently end up hanging out with a bunch of fetishists because they are not connected to the adult network that the fetishists exist in. Similarly, adolescent fan social networks are inaccessible to the fetishists; they would find it difficult to know when and where the fans meet to trade gossip.

The twisty puzzle probliem is much simpler to describe. Simply, avid twisty puzzle fans are a disperse and disconnected group which would like to have a common discussion forum. A single forum is desired beacuse there are only a small number of true twisty junkies and they are physically and socially distant. This type of situation is not solved well in meat space but is handled fine on the internet. A short session with google will find you the twisty fan sites and mailing lists.

The contention between these two problems is the of ease of resource discovery. It should be easy for twisty and hard for Britney. For the Britney problem, we can borrow from meat space and allow a Britney group to be discovered only by reference from someone in your online social network. For the twisty problem, one common solution is to have a searchable directory interest groups. One could provide an option in group creation as to whether or not it should be listed in the directory. My issue with is I don't trust users to make the right choice when deciding to have their group listed or not. For me, the challenge is to find an approach that is "natural", requiring the user to make no choices about how resource discovery works.

A note about central directories.

There is a general problem with central directories. Over time, popular topics tend to have a poor signal-to-noise ratio. This can be seen in what happened to usenet news as the internet expanded. It seems largely, the answer people took to this change was to create mailing lists and move off usenet. Since there was no central directory of mailing lists, they are harder to find and there are often multiple ones per topic. I think both these factors help to increase the S/N ratio for mailing lists over usenet, but of course, again, at the cost of making it harder for esoteric groups to form.

Posted by moore at 23.09.03 09:31