Mapping the friendship grid

One of the values of special networks that people have not emphasized that much is the way the online networks and identity sites can deepen and help solidify weak ties you have with a real world acquaintance or friend of a friend. For me, the best use of these networks is to reestablish contact with someone from my (often professional) past, or a colleague or friend of a friend I’ve met, heard about, but don’t exactly know. Often, these online connections lead to a phone call or a coffee; just as often, the phone call and the coffee lead to nothing more concrete that a stronger sense of who that person is, and a higher value on the virtual tie now that there’s been some offline contact as well.
Social networks also have value in suggesting people you might want to know. who have common interests and who share–and sometimes are writing about–similar concerns. I’ve met some very smart people in this fashion, people who continue to affect and sometimes influence my thinking to various degrees.
By exposing the connections–at least some of them–those people hold–sites like Ryze and Tribe give me ideas about whom my friends and colleagues know, and help me consider what I might have in contact with these folks (or not).
Projects like PLINK or the PeopleAggregator provide a similar service of showing connections, minus the blog or networking tool. As Jeremy Zawodny points out in a recent post (thanks, Kevin), a tool that shows the friendship grid would be very useful.
Jeremy describes it as FriendRank, or depth of connections between people, but it’s also a way to map reputation, something Kevin Burton is interested in as well. I’m eager to see these kinds of tools move forward, to add more relevance to the social networks,and also to provide a more behaviorally-based alternative to them.
PS Marc Canter has some interesting comments on Jeremy’s post as well–also check out the comments on his blog for this entry.