2009/04/18

Social Web Foo: Standards for Public Social Web

Small but useful #swfoo session.  My idea was to try to give public social data formats, protocols, and standards some quality time, since (a) privacy and ACLs introduce many difficult problems that eat up lots of discussion time; and (b) there are many key use cases that are totally public, and might be easily solvable if we remove the distraction of privacy controls. @niall, @dewitt, and @steveganz attended, but per Foo rules, I won't attribute specific quotes.

Examples of this include public blogs, update streams, and feeds; and public following/friending relationships.  Typically following (one way) seems to be more likely to be public than friending, for social reasons.

Some random notes:  
  • Public content, once published, should be assumed to be "in the wild" everywhere, indefinitely, until the heat death of the universe.
  • PubSubHubHub (prior session) is a great example of a proposed open standard for improving the performance of public social data.
  • Problem:  How does an author prove authorship of data that's "in the wild" or syndicated?  Conversely, how do readers determine authenticity of an authorship claim?
  • Blogger's import/export facility currently "wrings the identity" out of the data, because we don't have any way to detect tampering with the supposed author/post/comment data between export and import.
  • There was a suggestion that signing a subset of fields in an Atom entry with Google's public key could provide authorship attestation for that data (content, title, author, etc.), in UTF-8 only, which would then let us solve the import/export and syndication attribution problems without having to deal with DigSig.
  • Great example of a situation where a hosting web site needed attestation from a chain of 3 parties before allowing possibly copyright-infringing content to be uploaded; no standard exists for doing this online.
  • Would like to be able to link to a real world identity (vouched for) or to at least a profile provided by someone like Google; there are lots of pieces of data that would let Google vouch for identity of a profile owner, but no standard way to express this publicly.
  • Google for example could also do more general reputation which could also be public.
  • A public social graph consisting of following relationships is both useful, and potentially honestly mine-able, assuming users opted in with full knowledge that data was public and mine-able; this is very different from private relationships.
  • Public social graph is also potentially a way to determine public reputation; it's possible to game this, but difficult especially if the relationships are publicly visible on the open web so that subverting them believably would take months or years of stealth work.
  • Being able to verify past employment, educational credentials, etc. (data that a user chooses to make public and verifiable) would be very useful.