Social, Interest and Purpose: The Three Graphs

Nathaniel Whittemore wrote last week about the intersection of the social graph and the interest graph. He argues the two graphs are so different that businesses should craft different strategies for them. There’s a third graph; I’ll add that in a moment.

Whittemore’s four points:

  1. The Interest Graph is Different than the Social Graph. The social graph is the people you know, existing relationships, usually based on prior experience. The interest graph are the people who share an interest with you, whether you know them or not.
  2. The Interest Graph and Social Graph are good for different things. The social graph helps you cultivate your relationships. The interest graph helps you pursue your tastes, passions, and topics that matter to you.
  3. The portion of both your Interest Graph and Social Graph that you care about is much smaller than the whole. Sorting out who matters to you in which context is not easy at scale.
  4. The Interest Graph is going to reshape your Social Graph. People from your social and interest worlds cross over in both directions; some people live in both.

Talk with people in our networks can be a good thing in and of itself. It’s part of how we think aloud, but with others. It’s how we leave our mark, in a small way. It may be how we keep friends and belong and learn and make sense of our world.

imagePermit me to suggest a third graph: Purpose.

You’ve been on mailing lists with a lot of talk and no action. Friends who can’t muster up the focus to grab drinks. Work groups that never arrive at a decision. Fan clubs that talk about their hero but never got their web site up. We make fun of talk’s inconsequence, like in the beautiful My Favorite Tweets song.

And then… Sometimes talk leads to action. Volunteering. Giving money. Signing up for a project at work. Doing the laundry. Inviting that cute someone to dinner.

Purpose is the third dimension. Having someplace to go and the will to go there. Purpose, goals, common cause, intent, drive. Purpose is an human attribute or attitude that turns talk of shopping into buying, flirting to dating, griping to protesting. Purpose turns talk into results.

As you explore the future of work, look at your purpose graph as the people with whom you share a purpose. Some will be people who share your interests. Others you will know and trust. The folks in your purpose graph are the people with whom you can work to accomplish your goals. Collaboration starts with intent.

People who design tools for getting things done should be looking for the indicators that people want the same things and are prepared to do something to get them. The better you match people, the sooner you give them the tools to turn their drive into action, the more active you’ll see their purpose graph.

There’s more to it, of course. What’s the next step for you?


    Posting and blogging and chatting and tweeting
    While both pretending we’re part of this meeting
    I friended you and then you followed me
    We began networking socially

    Sharing and commenting, poking and liking
    Even while showering, even while hiking
    Having no message won’t stand in our way
    We tweet to say we have nothing to say

    Facebook and Flickr and YouTube and Twitter
    Our productivity’s gone down the shitter
    FarmVille and Fish Life and Mafia Wars
    Now we’ve become social media whores!

    Posting pictures… sending quizzes…
    Seems it never ends
    And when we both post fifty times every hour
    We really piss off our friends!

Is our common purpose to have your customers collaborate compellingly? Chat with me on Skype. Call me at +1-510-316-9773, follow on twitter @SkypeJournal (just the posts) and @evanwolf (everything). Visit our Skype Journal private technologist roundtable, one of the longest running public Skype chats.

About Phil Wolff

Phil Wolff is strategy director of PDEC, the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium, a Small Data NGO. Wolff is a director of the DataPortability Project and co-author of the project's model Portability Policy. He's had management, technology, and marketing roles at Adecco SA, LSI Logic, Bechtel National, Wang Laboratories, Compaq Computer, the City of Long Beach, the State of California, and the U.S. Navy Supply Systems Command. On LinkedIn, ORCID 0000-0002-7815-4750, Quora top 250 of 2012. He holds the PDQ Bach Inauthentic Identity Fellowship at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. Phil lives in Adams Point, Oakland, California.