Hedgehog Dilemma

Beyond Social Networks As We Know Them.

Imagine being in complete control of your data on a mesh social network.

When formalized social networks started in the post-Orkut era, people flocked to them because of their simplicity of use. Since then there have been issues related to privacy and an increased complexity in the user experience - but to anyone with a freshman's knowledge of content management systems (CMS), the social networks are not too complex to build with a solid CMS and some sturdy hosting. The trouble now, for some of us, is the plethora of social networks that we're involved in. Speaking for myself, on a personal level I'm on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a few others that don't immediately spring to mind because they are new. To combat this issue of complexity within the user experience, third party applications have sprung up because the complexity has been deemed necessary by a great number of people - even Google+ will be allowing it 'soon'.

The main issues with social networks remains privacy/data ownership, transparency of social network application programming interfaces (APIs) and their updates, and their business models. It's hard to make a business model for a social network now without some form of advertising or accumulation of marketing data involved. TANSTAAFL.

As I constantly wrestle with the conceptualization of the Hedgehog Project idea, based on Schopenhauer's Hedgehog Dilemma, Google+ circles have created a trend to something similar, but don't allow for attenuation of things one thinks are important - such that if you follow me on a social network you won't have to suffer the things that you're not interested in but can get the things you are interested in. Where social networks and social media believe in specialization, many of us are generalists: We exist in more than one sphere.

A localized instantiation of a content management system with PGP encryption on its RSS feeds would do much the same thing as present social networks and could be a pathway to assuring much the same - as visible as you want to be, as private as you want to be, with complete control of connection to people(or entities) with similar systems. A true node on a secure network. Since PGP encryption on a server could be processor intensive, why not have it on our devices themselves? Your Android, your iPad, your desktop PC, your laptop and maybe even your digital watch in the future.

To assure content transition from one device to another, the cloud makes sense.

While technically possible, it's too complicated to do for the average user right now. Can it be made simpler? I think so. But it goes against the present logic of moving things from the desktop, where individuals can control their data instead of trusting others to do so. Imagine being in complete control of your data on a mesh social network.

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