Golden age of graph innovation

If you’re interested in things local and social (e.g., Zope Corporation‘s customers) you should read Chris Dixon’s excellent (and short) blog post about graphs.  As Dixon points out a graph is the real “secret sauce” at Facebook.

Example person-friendship graph

Example person-friendship graph

This graph lets us reason about Steve, Mary and Joe (they all know one another and are all friends).  They likely have something in common.

This graph also invites some inference.  Two of Joe’s friends are Sally’s friends.  In the algebra of social networks that suggests Joe and Sally might be friends.  This is (in an oversimplified way) how and why Facebook makes suggestions about people you might want to befriend.

Despite the only relationships in the graph above being “Friend” and “Possible Friend” this is all good stuff.  Moreover, the graph of human relationships is arguably the most valuable one.

BUT… it is not the only one.

Local media organization like suburban newspapers, radio stations, and tv stations are the switchboard for graph information in their community.  Consider the following graph:

Example community-everything graph

As you look at this graph see the Facebook graph extended with a day or week of news coverage and advertising in your community.  Imagine this graph growing every day for a year.  Now imagine how we might be able to reason about relationships between people, organizations, places, merchants, and schools.

Local media organizations are in THE best position to capture this graph.

Dixon ends his blog post with a hint at the value of social identity (via Facebook Connect and OAuth) and I think he’s right on:

Besides creating graphs, Facebook and Twitter (via Facebook Connect and OAuth) created identity systems that are extremely useful for the creation of 3rd party graphs. I expect we’ll look back on the next few years as the golden age of graph innovation.

Stay tuned.

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