Friends and Contacts, (another mashup post)

flickr friends feed


I call this post a ‘mashup’ because it has been more than two weeks since my last post, (forgive me father) and I am throwing alot of the ideas I had intended to do a single posts about into one. The best of all possible posts really.

First of all I should mention, I may have found Jeff Macloud. yesss! It seems somebody (finally) happened across my earlier post which was essentially a message in a bottle, (could it have been the man himself?) and posted jeffs number in the comments. One of the advantages I have of being an underground blogger is that I can still keep my comments and trackbacks functioning with relative little interest from s p a m m e r s. Curiously, looking at my logs, and the submitted email address, the comment came from the east, maybe TO and not from Calgary at all, although I have a sneaking suspicsion…

I still have not called the number yet, but will be doing so this weekend, when I have a moment to breath. I’m excited! šŸ™‚

So this ties in to the images I have been working on, which is a collage of labels that many social software sites use for the people that you are connected to, or have bookmarked. My pal Jeff is a ‘friend’, a good one in the real word. Even though we have been out of touch for awhile and he doesnt participate in any online socializing of any kind, that i know of. Having recently finished a big conference, my linkedin identity is gaining many new ‘connections’. via the business cards i gave out and individuals I spoke to throughout. I doubt I will ever have any trouble finding any of these people.

Social software has been built upon the capability for users to link to each other, forming networks of relationships on an adhoc, and open basis. There are rarely any barriers to adding someone to your collection, thus the early friend collecting that went on, and likely is still going on in friendster … booooring. They all work relatively the same, but differ in terms of the user experience around how those connections are framed semantically. Adding ‘friends is one of the most common terms of reference, while others use the more general, and less commital term ‘contacts‘, or ‘connections‘ which is the norm for email and IM lists as well. Flickr does use “contacts” as a general term, (even tho the folder in the url says friends) then allows you to assign users as “friends” or “family” status beyond that. Others go so far as to make you link to ‘your favorite people’. Regardless, you may or may not actually know these individuals, let alone have met them, yet there they are in YOUR list.

My question is, what are the social protocols that are forming around the process of adding friends (or whatever)? Is it rude to add someone as a ‘friend’, or whatever willy nilly, or should there be some shared context? If someone adds you as a friend, is is also rude NOT to add them? Why all the focus on the positive, why not add enemies as well? aquaintances? people i passed on the street?
Since none of my research has looked into the world of online dating, I am probably missing a huge chunk of how people negotiate these kinds of interactions, but I have always been slightly anxious adding somebody, particularly someone that I knew of, but who had no idea who I was. In almost every case I have come across, you cannot add someone to your list without them knowing it, so there it is a fairly bold and non-voyeuristic act. This is all very curious to me, and it will be of interest as I continue exploring.