A common complaint overheard at the recent Graphing Social Patterns, ETech, and South By Southwest conferences has been that increased friend invites on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has devalued the word friend. Today, this condition is unique to the the early-adopter, hyper-connected crowd at tech conferences but as social networks replace our broken email inbox as the primary tool for communication, there is no reason this problem will not impact everyone who uses these platforms.

“Not a day goes by when I get invited to one more social something or other.”

Two things will change:

Management of friend requests will become such a chore that Twitter’s unrequited “follow” command or Doppler’s “Other’s you might know” method of building your social network will become the norm. Asking for an email username and password will be phased out as bad practice at best and a security risk at worst. Thingfo, a new social network service around objects, is doing cool things with the MyBlogLog API to jumpstart it’s community based on your existing social network on MyBlogLog.

Tools will evolve to slice and filter your social networks for greater relevance. One unexplored vector is filtering by physical location. A conference hack that the MyBlogLog team put together that experiments with location-based relevance is at m.mybloglog.com. This hack allows you to claim your unique laptop or cellphone bluetooth ID and bind it to your MyBlogLog ID. Once you’ve done this, the polling app at this site will periodically scan for other bluetooth devices in your area and when it identifies another opt-ed in MyBlogLog member nearby, their avatar will show up on your dashboard.

MyBlogLog Meetspace

At a panel discussion this afternoon, Ben Cerveny threw out the concept that with all the tools for managing our friend networks at our disposal, we will have varied “focal depth” to our online and offline friendships. I look forward to the next round of tools that will act as temporary lenses on our world. It’s not as simple as an algorithmic keyword search engine – this new set of tools will need to leverage inputs such as location, time, and interest. The technology is in place but, as with all new technologies, the social norms need to catch up and inform future development of these tools.