Two interesting ideas from Don Park in the context of social networking:
Friendship Circle: “Friendship Circle is a way to express types and depths of friendship with minimal effort. A Friendship Circle is basically a nested rings of people (represented by icons with miniture photo and name) around a person. To use the Friendship Circle, the user drag and drops icons from a palette of friends to the circle. Note that this can be done using DHTML+CSS. Distance away from the center represent depth of friendship. So the innermost ring is populated by family members, relatives, and best friends. The outermost ring is populated by people whom you don’t really care about (i.e. connection-addicts). Angle of placement on a ring is used to express types of friendship. To help the user, the rings are divided into four lightly colored quadrants: red, blue, green, and yellow. Red and blue quadrants will most likely be used to hold people with personal and business relationships.”
A community without communication is a dead community and friendship is more than just a wall of faces. Connections between people are born out of interactions between them and strength of connections are primarily based on the amount and frequency of interactions.
So it is communication that binds people and communities together…Communities have topics, but topics are little rooms one must make effort to enter and compartmentalized conversations within a group setting do not encourage others to join in uninvited.
To get around these problems. I think permachats should be created centered around individuals and communities. A permachat is like IRC except conversations takes place over much longer period, days even. Visibility of permachat should be limited to friends or friends of friends only. Amount is determined by rate of actvity. To promote interaction and to encourage the sense of conversation, sense of time is removed, leaving only faces and names next to each entry. Amount of activity within past 24 hours should be displayed in the ‘view network’ and ‘my communities’ pages using color hints (i.e. red for hot).
Permachat allows people who know me to communicate with me as well as others who know me. This in turns allows them to become friends over time instead of using more explicit introduction based social networking. It also allows interaction without spammy messages invading private spaces and deteriorating sense of friendship.
For communities, permachat serves as the single thread that binds the community. Topics is too focus-oriented to serve this function. Permachat allows casual conversations, encourages interaction, and informs every member with minimal effort. And, most importantly, permachat allows new friendship to be born out these intereactions among community members just as conversations among friends of an individual helps them form new friendships.