You’ve no doubt played the game before: Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Name an actor and connect him to Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less.
For example: Mae West. She starred in “She Done Him Wrong” with a very young Cary Grant who was in “To Catch A Thief” directed by Hitchcock who directed a very young Shirley Maclaine in “The Trouble With Harry”. Maclaine was in “Terms of Endearment” with Jack Nicholson who was in “A Few Good Men” with Kevin Bacon.
Around the office, we play a version of the same game, All Roads Lead to Zappa. Stick with us for a moment, non-music fans: Members of Frank Zappa’s or The Mothers of Invention bands have included, Roy Estrada (Little Feat), Henry Vestine (Canned Heat), Aynsley Dunbar (John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers i.e. Clapton), Ian Underwood (Quincy Jones), Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, George Duke (Miles Davis), Captain Beefheart, Adrian Belew (King Crimson to Nine Inch Nails), Chester Thompson (Genesis), Terry Bozzio (w/Tony Levin of Peter Gabriel fame and Korn), Vinnie Colaiuta (Sting, Joni Mitchell), Steve Vai (Whitesnake)…as you can see, this game can go on forever, and members of his bands have played with everyone.
Why are we sharing our games with you? The idea of the inter-connectedness of us all was first mentioned in a story in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy. Stanley Milgram of Yale tested it in the 1960’s. He found that there are about 6 intermediaries, or degrees, separating all of us.
According to Facebook, the number of links between everyone is 4.74, and in some cases 3 “hops”. Scary, isn’t it? The way Facebook is now linking to other media outlets (outside of the Social world) this number is growing even smaller.
Most of our business relationships make use of Facebook. Many of them also use Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+. All of these services are using tools to share their users activities. When you look at the Facebook Timeline, you’ll see that Charlie read an article in The Washington Post, Lisa likes a video on YouTube, Meghan is listening to Lady Gaga, and Scott is the Mayor of Chick Fil A.
Sites like The Washington Post, YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, FourSquare, and others are now encouraging their users to “log in” with their social network credentials. Facebook calls this “Open Graph”. This allows Facebook to track user activity, program related ads, and share their material on the user’s network. This way Charlie will see the video that Lisa watched, Lisa will listen to the Lady Gaga track, Meghan will get hungry for Chick Fil A, and Scott will get curious about The Washington Post article.
See how it works?
From a discovery standpoint it’s pretty cool. Charlie is pretty up on current events so what he reads is important to us. Lisa has a great sense of humor so we would no doubt enjoy the video that she watched. Perhaps Meghan can get us out of Zappa for a while to enjoy something else.
But is this a good thing? The idea behind Open Graph is to allow frictionless sharing. Your web habits are smoothly shared with your social network. But do you really want to use Open Graph Sharing to share everything that you do on the web? Perhaps we’ve read an interview of Sting in Playboy. Suddenly everyone knows that we’ve been into Playboy. Perhaps curiosity gets the better of us and we cue up a Lady Gaga track. Can we withstand the ridicule of our Zappa-minded friends? Should there be a certain degree of separation between us?
Before you think that this is so much paranoia, take a look at this. We got invited to participate in an alpha test of StormDriver. What is StormDriver? It’s an application that adds a social layer over all of your other social layers. Much more than a Hootsuite, it links the web, so that everyone that is in your friends, followers, circles, et al are shown to you. You see who is where, reading what, and where they go. It uses algorithms to curate your tastes and reactions to content to offer suggestions.
And we thought tracking shoppers through their cell phones was too Big Brother.