Social Refresh and Rebuild

A short post to ponder. Everyone talks about building services on top of graphs — social graphs, interest graphs, professional graphs, and the like. We haven’t really yet entered the world powered by these services, which allegedly are supposed to give us more personalized, timely, and better information and/or incentives.

However, there’s one potential problem in this promise — that we have built the truest graphs. Every graph so far is explicit. Some are symmetric, others are not. And, in the rush to connect with everyone and follow everyone online, most of our graphs are messy. If those graphs are messy, doesn’t it follow that any services built on top of them will also not be optimal?

To solve this, I’d propose that the big social networks — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Quora — allow users the option to easily unfollow and rebuild their networks to their real tastes.

The system could save original settings and allow the user to restore them if something happens. I realize that this may not be in these networks’ interest in the short-term, but in the long-run, giving the user this type of control, especially as to how it impacts their newsfeed, will increase the likelihood that developers building on top of it will provide better services in the future. As a point of reference, I did this on Quora (which was overly aggressive in auto-following in December 2010) and have found that rebuild has dramatically improved my experience on the site.