The Social Graph: Identifying statements by the same person on the web

11. February 2010 – 14:55 by Bengt Feil

In a recent post I argued that it is very promising to look at the distributed opinion expressed by people on the internet in eParticipation and other projects. One of the major challenges in doing so is to be able to know which of the many statements one can found all over the web have been made by the same person. The Social Graph helps to overcome this problem.

A Social Graph includes all the websites and relationships between websites related to any particular web user. The Social Graph for me would for example state that I am an author on the PEP-NET weblog, my Twitter account is, my Facebook name is bengtfeil and so own. The Social Graph also includes information on the people related to me as friends on the different sites. Of course only publicly viewable information can by included into the graph.

Using the information of the Social Graph can be used to relate the different statements of persons about a topic to each other and help to draw a much clearer picture of the distributed opinion on the web.

So how is it even possible to produce such a Social Graph for a particular person? In recent years hyperlinks have started to be improved by adding meta-information about the link. Two types of meta-data are most important here:

  • The „me“-link: If a hyperlink for example from the PEP-NET site contains a link to my Twitter account contains this information it is clear that Bengt Feil on Twitter has something to do with Bengt Feil on PEP-NET.

  • The „friend“-link: A link from my Twitter Account to containing the friend information would mean that Bengt Feil on Twitter has some kind of relationship to Rolf Luehrs (somed) on Friendfeed.

With this information and the fact that these kinds of connections can also be made using indirect connections a Social Graph can be drawn. The graphic below (by Google) illustrates this process:

As only public information can be used to produce a Social Graph and search engines are trying their best to crawl all public information on the net, it makes sense that Google offeres a Social Graph API which can be used as a tool to draw and analyse these relationship networks. The following video explains how it works:

To get a better understanding of the concept of the Social Graph and to see your own I suggest taking a look at the example applications using the Social Graph API.

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