User behaviour and needs in social networks

Even though social networks are attracting every day more and more participants world-wide, we cannot say that they have been established in accordance with user requirements. Social networks are rather created and further developed on the basis current trends in the respective area.

Barabasi-Albert Model

The Barabasi-Albert model of network evolution. (Click on image to see animation. Figure by Árpád Horváth, GNU Free Documentation License)

Privacy, as an important issue related to social networks, is probably the only example of a relevant user requirement, which has been extensively considered within the research community. However, despite thoroughly taking into account technological, societal, and legal aspects, privacy issues of social networks have not yet been resolved. In other areas, an extensive analysis of the user requirements in regard to social networks still needs to be done.

As an example of such an open research topic, I would like to mention filters which  automatically select, for example topics, posts, connections or members. The idea is that these filter will appear in the social network portal, when a user logs in, and which are selected by the user’s choice. Another example could be the need to participate in multiple social networks by maintaining one user profile which is then adapted to different networks and portals.

The central question is: what other user requirements for social networks could we identify and what could we learn from the users’ behaviour in the existing networks?

This and other questions on future developments in social networks have been raised in a position paper by the NEM Initiative on “Social Networks, Social Media and Platforms for Collective Awareness and Action”, which was published in November 2012 and which I co-authored. Comments on the paper are welcome.


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