Last week, I attended a panel/discussion about implicit social graphs, hosted at Union Square Venture’s (dope!) new offices by Ro Gupta (Disqus), Marc Leibowitz (StumbleUpon), Shaival Shah (Hunch), Mark Coatney (Tumblr) and Eric Friedman (Foursquare). 

Implicit graphs are something we think about a lot as we build  In particular, there are a few points that have stuck out in my mind lately:

1. The “Like” button as an endless currency:  If you have an infinite amount of “likes,” then what do they even mean?  Personally, I only really like a select amount of things online.  To that end… 

2. What does a “Like” even mean? Mark Suster brought this up on Twitter recently (and posted about it). Some use a “like” or “favorite” to actually like it, but some just use them to “save the item for later.”  I used to “favorite” Tweets with video links to watch them later - until came along. ;)  

3. Overall UX demands simple inputs: I argued back to Mark that it doesn’t matter what the input is really meant to do, it’s open to the interpretation of the user. Product developers could offer multiple inputs - like and dislike or 1-5 stars - but that just gets noisy and creates a horrible UX. Good product design demands simple interactions and data inputs.

4. Which nodes mean the most? During our discussion, we talked about what it means to like something that is “mainstream” and probably liked by ‘everyone.’ Sure, you and I may both like a video that everyone likes, but if we both like a video that is really freaking obscure, doesn’t that say much more about us? This idea always comes back to me when traveling, too. An another American isn’t interesting to me when I’m here in NYC, but if we’re both in China, you bet I’m going to appreciate anyone who speaks my language. That’s the irony of diaspora.

5. The temporal element of likes: Should stuff I liked 5 years ago impact what I like now? In some cases yes, and in some no. Tastes change. Just because I liked a sports highlight on YouTube once doesn’t mean I should only see recommendations for more sports highlights for the rest of my experience. Just think about your music collection… you may have given that song in iTunes a 5 star rating once, but is it still a favorite now?

These are clearly deeper questions that are worth more discussion and to that end, I think I may do a series on these questions as it’s worth discussing for a lot of us.

What I loved about the event was there was some actual discourse among the crowd instead of just panelists speaking the entire time. Nice work by the hosts to get the discussion going. I’ve already been talking with Eric about ideas for the next one. Looking forward to next time and participating in the group!

Here’s some more worthwhile discussion from other attendees in blog posts by Chris Kurdziel and Eric Friedman.

Bonus! My friend David hacked this together based on the conversation. maps food preferences to location history.