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Google Friendship & Romance

photoactive [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, March 22, 2007
13 years ago3,981 views

I have this idea for a new Google service, to be called (along the lines of Docs & Spreadsheets) Google Friendship & Romance. Along the model of Google Docs, Spreadsheets & Presentations, it could at some later point be expanded as Google Friendship, Romance & Breakups.

The idea is this. I'm struck by the usefulness of the affinity measure in the contact picker that's being rolled out in Google products (as Ionut, /pd and others have pointed out, you can see the data by viewing the XML). It's all very reassuring. My girlfriend, for instance, has an affinity of 718, which is 3.5 times higher than my next closest contact, a work colleague. This is exactly as it should be, and I take it as a sign that our relationship is pretty healthy.

But it occurred to me that a whole lot more could be done with this affinity measure, using a simple visualisation tool.

1) The bright, breezy visualisation would show all your contacts as circles on a page. Their distance from you, the central circle, would give you an instant way of seeing how lax you've been about keeping up friendships. If, for instance, my once close schoolfriend, Bobby, appeared in the far corner of the screen, I would be shocked at how far our communication had fallen off and could resolve to do something about it.

2) This visualisation tool could be made more sophisticated if the affinity measure were broken down into two separate values, one representing frequency/volume of communication, and one that reflected how long the contact had being going on, irrespective of its frequency. My schoolfriend Bobby, for instance, would have a low current_affinity but a high affinity_over_time. The ratio between these two figures could be visually represented on a colour scale including green, amber and red. My mother, who I haven't seen for a month, might be amber, telling me I really ought to drop her a line. Bobby would appear bright red, telling me that I'd better fix things up immediately, before he forgot about him entirely. This could even be tied neatly into Google Talk: a red circle would invoke a chat bubble that *forced* me to start talking to poor old Bobby.

3) The next step is the big ask. It would depend on Google making available to us other people's affinity networks, but it would radically improve the service's functionality. Obviously this is a privacy concern, but since Google has (by mistake) made other people's XML contact data available to us before (for a few hours), there isn't a technical obstacle here. If this was done, I could click on the circle representing my girlfriend and see all the other circles move around to represent *her* affinity with all my contacts. This – the Relationship Checker – would be an incredibly powerful tool. I might, for instance, see that she has a much higher than I expected affinity with Bobby, the schoolfriend I no longer see, whom she has always professed to hate. I would instantly know something was wrong; it might, indeed, be evidence of an affair. I think Google should take care to issue a disclaimer with this service, something along the lines of: "This data is provided for personal entertainment use only, and may not be passed to third parties, especially divorce lawyers."

4) If the privacy advocates win out, and I can imagine they might, Google might have to pull the plug on the Relationship Checker service. But I believe that they'd be failing in their duty of care if they didn't use their own algorithms to monitor the affinity networks of their vast and growing and increasingly loyal user base. We want something back. I'd recommend a system that automatically detects where relationship problems might be in danger of taking place, and acts accordingly. If Google sensed that my girlfriend might be on the brink of having an affair with Bobby, I might receive subtly nudges: such as ads for Interflora or swish local restaurants appearing alongside my searches on Valentine's Day or her birthday. These subliminal hints might just help me save my relationship.

5) When Google finally admits that Docs, Spreadheets & Everything Else is an office suite, and renames it Google Office, they could continue the simplification and rename the service I've described as Google Big Brother. The tagline could be: "He has your best interests at heart."

David Hetfield [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

You already have Google Romance ;

(please note its a joke.. :P)

photoactive [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

Yes, I remember it. A mere pip to what Google could achieve if they really put their minds to it...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

> If Google sensed that my girlfriend might be on
> the brink of having an affair with Bobby, I might
> receive subtly nudges: such as ads for Interflora or
> swish local restaurants appearing alongside my
> searches on Valentine's Day or her birthday.

Beats talking to each other face to face ;)

Seriously, I think a contact network visualizer – just for your contacts though, not contacts of contacts (as you mention, it's a huge privacy issue) – is a very cool and seemingly feasible idea.

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

[put at-character here]David Hetfield
Is a 04-01 fool's day joke for 2007?

David Hetfield [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

its 2006 joke :)

here: ...

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

Is 2007 joke as Kaifu Lee will leave Google and Join Yahoo?

David Hetfield [PersonRank 10]

13 years ago #

yeh... and Steve Ballmer will leave MS and join Google :P

Inferno [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

If they make something like this maybe millions of people will be at their mercy. Everytime they are dumped they will spend the next whole day using Google for the next date.

One more thing, suppose a boy is looking for a girl (obviously). And then he finds the right girl. As google knows what she likes & dislikes Google could provide relevant ads of foods, clothings, hotels, holiday spots. They could also arrange a way to carry out their marriage... all online. (Then what?) ;) :P

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