One thing I’ve been learning more and more is how much people are affected by their relationships. What people do, say, and buy is all effected by their social network. It is less important what the world thinks about what is or is not popular. It is important what your friends think are popular.
It seems like Amazon.com has always had user reviews. You could find some book, scroll down a bit, and there would be a flurry of reviews about whether the book was good or not. But who is writing these reviews? It’s some random Joe. What if Random Joe and I have different taste in books?
I have a few friends who are always finding great books. I trust them. When they say, “go buy this book.” I buy the book.
I have a couple friends from school who are always finding great new beers or wines. If they call me up and say, “hey Justin! You have to buy this wine.” I go out and buy the wine. I know that they know their wines. I could care less about what the wine critic for the Washington Post thinks.
My car broke down a while back. I was new to the Northern Virginia area. I didn’t know which mechanics were the ones I could and couldn’t trust. My first instinct was to call my friends in Northern Virginia to see which mechanics they use.
What’s more interesting about Digg.com is finding out what stories your friends digg or submit. I don’t care what the whole Digg.com community thinks. The whole Digg community thinks that Jessica Biel Bikini Photos is a big story but I don’t care. I will follow a few people. I may find one person in Digg who finds good stories. I could choose to follow him/her.
My friends and online relationships affect what I do, say, or buy. We need to make our social Web apps not just to show what the whole world thinks but what a smaller social network thinks. This will help users identify what new content they may or may not be interested in.