Before he created the awesome bookmark site Pinboard, Maciej Ceglowski was known primarily as a writer of incredibly good essays. For example, he recently wrote about the Arabic language, and in 2005, famously wrote the definitive essay criticizing the space shuttle program.
Yesterday, he wrote a post on the Pinboard Blog criticizing the concept of the social graph. This paragraph really nails the inadequacies of computerized models of our human relationships:
This obsession with modeling has led us into a social version of the Uncanny Valley, that weird phenomenon from computer graphics where the more faithfully you try to represent something human, the creepier it becomes. As the model becomes more expressive, we really start to notice the places where it fails.
I love this bit on the awkwardness of actually constructing our personal social graph as well:
There’s no way to take a time-out from our social life and describe it to a computer without social consequences. At the very least, the fact that I have an exquisitely maintained and categorized contact list telegraphs the fact that I’m the kind of schlub who would spend hours gardening a contact list, instead of going out and being an awesome guy. The social graph wants to turn us back into third graders, laboriously spelling out just who is our fifth-best-friend. But there’s a reason we stopped doing that kind of thing in third grade!
There’s a reason everybody is talking about this essay. It’s profound and important.
On a closely related note, check out the blog post from last week everyone was talking about — Zach Holman’s Don’t Give Your Users Shit Work.