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Thoughts on Intimacy

I spent some time over the weekend polishing up ol' Moomai and have finally gotten around to writing some proper Help pages. Still far from complete, but at least the ratings system is finally explained a little. The important snippet:

In their most simple form, moomai ratings are simply a compilation of all the ratings you've received from other members. The moomai grammar engine looks at your numbers, and generates a sentence describing you by combining words from our phrase library. As you can imagine, the sentence generated depends greatly on what kind of numbers you receive; if your wealth rating is below 5, you won't ever see words like "billionaire" or "oil tycoon." The rating system is friendly enough that, without knowing anything more about how moomai ratings work, you could simply sign in, have your friends rate you, and end up with a reasonably accurate sentence describing yourself.

Of course, because the hamsters at syndeo::media never stop working, there's a bit more to the rating system than just that. In real life, after all, not all opinions are created equal; you'd care a lot more about your best friend's opinion of you than the opinion of some random guy you just met the other day. And since moomai tries to simulate real life, it should work that way here as well, right? As it turns out, it does, and we call that concept "Intimacy."

On your friends page, there's a scale beside each friend that defines how close (or more specifically, how "intimate") you are with that particular person. The scale ranges from 1 (Introduced) to 10 (True Love), and the way you set this value will define how significantly that person's rating of you will impact your overall rating.

The Intimacy concept is something I'm really interested in, as I think it has the potential to solve a lot of the signal-vs-noise issues that more established social networks tend to have. I'm one of those people who blindly accept any friend invites I receive, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that respect. So because I'm "overly-friendly" online, the value of being called my "friend" has diminished to almost nothing, simply because I'm friends with practically anyone. The Intimacy idea allows you to define the degrees by which all of these random friends can actually involve themselves in your online life, so you could continue friending everyone you like, but they'd all still just be acquaintances.

In real life, the average person will probably only have a handful of close friends, and potentially hundreds of acquaintances and associates and the like. The Intimacy concept actually allows him to represent his online friends in that same manner. Practically every module in moomai is built around this notion. For example, you can restrict contributrions made to your photo gallery to just "buddies" (intimacy level 5), but accept stories from "acquaintances" (intimacy level 2). Essentially, if we do our job right, Intimacy can become both a solution for profile-privacy and a means by which to better manage our online relationships.

The big question right now is whether people will use it, and if they'll use it in the manner that we're hoping they will. If it takes off, there are a dozen other related areas to apply the idea; consumer product recommendations would be enriched significantly if you could combine the ratings of the reviewers you trusted, with each rating properly weighted based on how much you trusted each reviewer. And try to imagine how that would work when applied to a social-news site like digg, or a massive content site like YouTube. Something to think about, definitely.


Reader Comments (1)

Wow, that's actually pretty brilliant. I had no idea the intimacy level had any effect on the rating system.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and simply assume people will use regardless of the implications just because it's a fresh way of "organizing" your friends.

January 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

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