The W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking Position Papers

picture by Salvadore Dali

I am in Barcelona, Spain (the country of Dali) for the W3C Workshop on the Future of Social Networking. To prepare for this I decided to read through the 75 position papers. This is the conference I have been the best prepared for ever. It really changes the way I can interact with other attendees. :-)

I wrote down a few notes on most paper I read through, to help me remember what I read. This took me close to a week, a good part of which I spent trying to track down the authors on the web, find their pictures, familiarise myself with their work, and fill out my Address Book. Anything I could do to help me find as many connections as possible to help me remember the work. I used delicious to save some subjective notes, which can be found on under the w3csn tag. I was going to publish this on Wednesday, but had not quite finished reading through all the papers. I got back to my hotel this evening to find that Libby Miller, who co-authored the foaf ontology, had beat me to it with the extend and quality of her reviews which she published in a two parts:

Amazing work Libby!

70 papers is more than most people can afford to read. If I were to recommend just a handful of papers that stand out in my mind for now these would be:

  • Paper 36 by Ching-man Au Yeung, Laria Liccardi, Kanghao Lu, Oshani Seneviratne and Tim Berners Lee wrote the must read paper entitled "Decentralization: The Future of Online Social Networking". I completely agree with this outlook. It also mentions my foaf+ssl position paper, which of course gives it full marks :-) I would use "distribution" perhaps over "decentralisation", or some word that better suggests that the social network should be able to be as much of a peer to peer system as the web itself.
  • "Leveraging Web 2.0 Communities in Professional Organisations" really prooves why we need distributed social networks. The paper focuses on the problem faced by Emergency Response organisation. Social Networks can massively improove the effectiveness of such responses, as some recent catastrophes have shown. But ER teams just cannot expect everyone they deal with to be part of just one social network silo. They need to get help from anywhere it can come from. From professional ER teams, from people wherever they are, from infromation wherever it finds itself. Teams need to be formed ad hoc, on the spot. Not all data can be made public. Distributed Open Secure Social Networks are what is needed in such situations. Perhaps the foaf+ssl proposal (wiki page) can help to make this a reality.
  • In "Social networking across devices: opportunity and risk for the disabled and older community", Henni Swan explains how much social networking information could be put to use to help make better user interface for the disabled. Surprisingly enough none of the web sites, so taken by web 2.0 technologies, seem to put any serious, effort in this space. Aparently though this can be done with web 2.0 technologies, as Henny explains in her blog. The semantic Web could help even further I suggested to her at her talk today, by splitting the data from the user interface. Specialised browsers for the disabled could adapt the information for their needs, making it easy for them to navigate the graph.
  • "Trust and Privacy on the Social Web" starts the discussion in this very important space. If there are to be distributed social networks, they have to be secure, and the privacy and trust issues need to be looked at carefully.
  • On a lighter note, Peter Ferne's very entertaining paper "Collaborative Filtering and Social Capital" comes with a lot of great links and is a pleasure to read. Did you know about the Whuffie Index or CELEBDAQ? Find out here.
  • Many of the telecoms papers, of which Telefonica's "The social network behind telecom networks" reveal the elephant in the room that nobody saw in social networking: the telecoms. Who has the most information about everyone's social network? What could they do with this information? How may people have phones, compared to internet access? Something to think about.
  • Nokia's position paper can then be seen in a different light. How can handset manufacturers help put to use the social networking and location information contemporay devices are able to access? The Address Book in cell phones is the most important application in a telephone. But do people want to only connect to other Nokia users? This has to be another reason for distributed social networks.

    I will blog about other posts as the occasion presents itself in future blogs. This is enough for now. I have to get up early and be awake for tomorrow's talks which start at 8:30 am.

    In the mean time you can follow a lively discussion of the ongoing conference on twitter under the w3csn tag.

  • Comments:

    This is all very interesting, and much appreciated for those of us that could not attend.

    We are planning a concept that hopes to boost individual or organisational publicity, whilst also enhancing privacy.

    Your summary from 75 papers gives us great validation, as well as plenty of food for thought.

    Thanks. ;-)

    Posted by Pavan on January 15, 2009 at 06:48 PM CET #

    Thanks for all your great questions...looking forward to more chats about semantics for accessibility.

    Posted by Henny on January 16, 2009 at 06:34 AM CET #

    Hello Henry,

    Thank you for mentioning our paper!

    Just a little favor to ask you. Could you use my URI in the hyperlink "Kanghao Lu" for reasons I described in . Just like "kennyluck" in this comment :)

    By the way, I just discovered I could use my URI as my OpenID. I sort of blogged it in . I hope this use of URI is compatible with FOAF+SSL. That is, a server should be able to choose either OpenID or FOAF+SSL authentication from my URI, which is unique.

    For this comment form, I claim that my URL = my URI <> my homepage's URI.


    Posted by kennyluck on January 16, 2009 at 03:42 PM CET #

    Hi Kennyluck, I changed the URI to what you asked me.

    It would have helped of course if your name in your position paper had been hyperlinked to that URL :-), and even better if that paper had been written up in xhtml with RDFa markup.

    As far as linking openid and your foaf, I would tend to suggest using the URL for your foaf:PersonalProfileDocument, and having a statement in that document to the effect that

    :me foaf:openid <> .

    And yes, foaf+ssl works fine with OpenId. It could even be used as a backup solution for logging to services if one could for some reason not use foaf+ssl.

    Posted by Henry Story on January 17, 2009 at 05:36 AM CET #

    Hi Henry,

    In fact, we do have a XHTML version (no RDFa though) , but for some reason we submitted the pdf one.

    Tim and I do think you should be able to log into a service using your URI. He even invented the term WebID ( ). Of course the server side could then use FOAF+SSL authentication. Any implementation like that so far? (I mean logging into a Web site)

    I personally think if we are going this direction then if your OpenID is different form your WebID, it would be confusing which one to use when logging into Web sites.

    Posted by kennyluck on January 17, 2009 at 03:22 PM CET #

    Tim and I do think you should be able to log into a service using your URI. He even invented the term WebID ( ). Of course the server side could then use FOAF+SSL authentication.
    WebId is a very good term. I have not spent a dime on marketing foaf+ssl, and there may be better names. foaf+ssl does not depend on foaf. It just depends on WebId. But foaf will be the most used implementation intially and it trigger the right social networking intuitions.

    Any implementation like that so far? (I mean logging into a Web site)

    No logging into a web site implementation right now. But it should be easy to do. Check

    I personally think if we are going this direction then if your OpenID is different form your WebID, it would be confusing which one to use when logging into Web sites.

    You could have your web id be the same as your OpenId for sure. But there is no need to. With foaf+ssl the browser asks for your certificate, which you get to choose by name. You don't even need to remember your URI. Apparently people just don't remember their OpenId URIs. They just don't get that. Foaf+ssl bypasses that problem too.

    Posted by Henry Story on January 17, 2009 at 08:17 PM CET #

    This stuff is gold, i can't explain how thrilled i am to find this blog. I actually understand foaf now, and i'll be coming back to learn more. Wish I could've made the trip to europe to network and hear everyones fresh and fancy ideas.

    Posted by kenny on January 28, 2009 at 02:53 AM CET #

    Hi Henry,

    This might be out of topic question, but can I ask what is "Position paper", what makes it different from other papers submitted to conferences?


    Posted by Iris on March 28, 2009 at 11:38 AM CET #

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