Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Turning down friends

In the immortal words of Britney Spears, "Oops...I did it again". Yesterday, I turned down another friendship link. I had previously rejected Marc Canter, but I didn't feel so bad about that one. I know of Marc Canter, as does likely anyone interested in social software, but it is more of a knowing in the sense of a planetary body moving between the stars.

I really didn't want to turn Liz down. In exploring, I had seen her "around" -- in a couple of the tribes I either surfed or joined, I saw her as a member, saw some postings, surfed her profile, testimonials, and friends list. "Cool", I thought to myself, "Looks like an interesting person". She seems funny and smart, has written some articles for Apple's "Web Development and Mac OS X" section....I really didn't want to turn this link down.

But, I'm sticking to my guns. Only people I actually know, or know of through a chain of people I know. Here's the conversation that bounced back and forth between Liz and I after I declined her invitation:

Hey Liz -- thanks for the invite. I am one of those strange people that is experimenting with these social networks, and one of the things that I'm trying to stick to is only adding people that I actually "know". I have a whole rant about it if you're interested.

In some ways, that's why I like the "tribes" concept here -- I had actually noticed *your* profile in several areas, surfed some of your friends and testimonials, and thought to myself "Sounds like a cool, interesting person".

So, tribe-mates for now. Stop in if you're passing through Ottawa.

To which Liz replied:
No problem - I completely understand. My network is made up of a bunch of people I know in real life, and a bunch who I think I would like. A few have even accidentally turned out to be people I knew years ago but lost touch with.

It looks like might tighten the rules soon. If so, then people like me (semi-casual connectors, prolific tribe creators) will move on. It's a trade-off.

And my response:
Mmm...interesting. Where did you see this comment about tightening up?

I was just saying the other day that the very fact that you can, potentially, connect with anyone is a very good feature. Especially this message passing as well, since you don't have to sacrifice a "real" email/IM/other address. Of course, anonymous IM with tribe acting as a proxy would be excellent, too. Probably faster than using this sucky "compose" box...

And then Liz something that really piqued my interest:
Marc Canter (the guy with about 150 friends) posted something that implied that. When I asked him in a private message, he just said they were working on a policy of some kind. So it was in no way a for-sure thing.

I was thinking about your rant on my way to run an errand just now. I've got a counter-argument, of sorts. I've got friends in real life, lots of whom I've known for years, if not decades. Lots of their interests have diverged wildly with mine. I went for being an urban geek, some others did too, Some had kids and moved to the 'burbs, some went full-on burning-man slacker loadie, some stayed in crispy world-traveler-academic mode, etc.

So I wonder. On friendster, my list is only real-life friends. And I see lots of friend-posts I don't care about. On, my list also includes strangers who I've selected, and who share many of my current interests. Which group will have information that is more relevant to my life right now?

That last sentence -- Which group will have information that is more relevant to my life right now? -- is the kicker. That is why the groups/tribes concept works well. People like me can join tribes and interact with people with similar interests while at the same time only forming, umm, direct links (I was going to call them "strong" vs. "weak", but that doesn't seem right). Liz uses the same method -- joining tribes -- to identify people, and can freely mix direct and casual linking.

So, the experiment continues. I've started inviting people to tribes if I think they might be interested in similar topics. I will also freely accept any tribe invitations -- it's much less of a commitment (in my view), and is a way of testing the waters.

The one other item that I wanted to mention was's concept of "bookmarks". You can bookmark a person, whether or not you are linked to them as a friend. I suspect this is there to help people with very large networks, but I am using it to keep track of people that I don't necessarily know, but suspect I might get along with them if we were to ever meet in real life. So, for me, I would love it if showed me listings etc. that are currently only associated with friends for "bookmarked" people as well.

When not hanging out in a social network somewhere, Liz can be found at her co-authored blog, Cracking Foxy.

Addendum: So I go to Liz's blog, look at a couple of back entries, and notice that she not only posted about a live Bjork concert, she went and created the tribe about her! Tell me again why I turned down her invite?