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Programming Social Applications by Jonathan LeBlanc

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Avoiding Irrelevant Social Graphs

One major issue you might face with a social platform hosting applications that leverage a user’s social profiles, friendships, and activities has to do with the nature of the social graph these applications are building.

As a social platform creator, you want your users to add friends or connections that have some relationship significance to them. In other words, you want to be able to use a user’s relationships and connections to grow the platform; for example, by:

  • Increasing the number of actionable activities that a person posts

  • Increasing the number of group interactions through activities

  • Promoting features or items through user relationships (i.e., word of mouth)

Basically, you want to gain as much as possible from a user’s simple interactions with his friends and with the platform itself.

Now, if you don’t have these relationships to begin with and you start introducing social games that require players to add friends to progress, then you get into a particular predicament. A user who lacks the existing relevant connections will seek out other people who play the game but may otherwise have no shared interests or relationship to the user. This creates a graph that’s relevant within the game itself (since the users have direct interactions in one way or another every time they play) but almost entirely unusable for the rest of the platform.

To complicate matters, it’s difficult for a user to move from an irrelevant graph to a relevant one by adding ...

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