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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Orkut and Ranking Friends

Jeremy Zawodny reports the Orkut social networking website (still in Beta) introduced a finer ranking for friends. Until now it was the either-or situation of friend, or no friend. However we all know there’s many shades in-between that.

Orkut’s Five Ranks (the Current Situation)

Google now offers five different values (visible only to you, the one who set them):

I believe there’s an inherent flaw in that scale: “Haven’t met” suggests “haven’t met in real life” and is the lowest on the friendship level in their options. Yet you can have great friends online, sometimes friends you consider closer to your heart than most people in meatspace. On the other hand you might have enemies which you meet all the time (e.g. at work).

There might even be cultural and individual differences to be concerned about here. Some people might consider a “friend” a person they have known for years, someone they would trust with anything. Another person might think of a best friend as the one he likes to hang out with currently. For example I once met a man from USA who addressed me “my friend” after one hour or so, whereas in Germany, it would take years to call someone “Freund” – this might or might not point at a cultural difference but it does point to a difference in wording, as the direct translation of “Freund” is indeed “friend”.

Ranking Alternatives (the Near Future)

Instead of a ranking like this Google might fare better to allow for a completely abstract scale – a “level of friendship” from 1 to 10, leaving open what this means. You could then easily say “Fred is a better friend than Joe, and Joe is closer to me than Susan, and Mark I like best, so I have Mark 10, Fred 9, Joe 8, Susan 7”.
This approach could be alternated by asking one to sort friends. You would then have to put everyone you know into a specific order.
Or one might just ask for facts – “have met in real life”, “have known for over 2 years”.
A fourth option would be to ask for levels of trust by giving real-life examples: “Would you trust this person to take care of your child?”, “Would you lend money to this person?”, “Would you trust this person to sign a contract for you?”, “Would you trust this person to pass fair judgment on you?”

Automated Ranking (the Distant Future)

Whatever scale is chosen, if it allows for enough details tools might start to automatize our FriendRank.
The more emails I exchange with someone, the more often I visit someone’s blog, the higher this person’s FriendRank assigned by me. Which would naturally tend to favor your enemies as well, if you have heated debates with them. Then again isn’t love and hate close together in the real world too?

Strange German Yahoo! or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the English

German language, especially when it wants to convey a modern feeling, is full of English words. Yahoo! Germany makes no difference though you start to wonder why it’s been translated in the first place...

Yahoo! Germany

German "Page" on CSS Zen Garden, Zeldman

German’s biggest design magazine Page covers CSS (issue 4/2004). Even though they try to pretend stylesheets are somehow a new trend or technology (those who wanted to try it had the chance to for the last 6 years or more), and even though they get some technical issues wrong (“every CSS document is automatically using the XHTML standard for its markup”), it’s a good introduction to the topic. Among the people covered in the article are Dave Shea of CSS Zen Garden and Jeffrey Zeldman of Also the CSS-relaunch is mentioned (note are the guys who keep saying “you can not see our css files”).

SEO Bestiary

A while ago All Your Web Are Blog To Us published the SEO Bestiary. People who do search engine optimization fall into different groups. Like the newbie, who played around with Geocities in the mid-90s and now asks questions like “I was in Google, but now I’m out!” (weaknesses: lack of knowledge). Or the Wizard (“I’ve found the key to the algo”).

Google Merges Words

Interesting – I entered “Google Flash” into Google and it also returned a page containing nothing but “GoogleFlash” (one word). The word however was highlighted in both result list and cache. This hints at new Google functionality which merges separate words entered when performing the search.


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