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Social networks with a purpose.

They have a social graph even if we didn’t notice.

GitHub describe themselves as “the best place to share code”. But its users know it’s much more than a collaboration platform: it’s a social network [*] for developers.

GitHub offers a rich set of social interactions, actually much richer than a typical social network. Users can “follow” other users, but they can also “star”, “watch” and “fork” repositories (code). They can also open “issues”, comment on issues, and of course, do a “pull request” (think of it as a real-world gift).

Contrary to Facebook or LinkedIn, GitHub is not a social network for the sake of it. I mean, GitHub would be a useful service to you even if you were the only developer using it. GitHub, has a purpose, and this underlying purpose —sharing code— is why social interactions can be richer and, in my opinion, more valuable.

It’s not just GitHub. I could think of other services that have developed a social graph as a side effect, too.

Take Airbnb for example: people connected because they’ve lived in the exact same place, or even shared an appartment for a couple of days. That’s a really strong connection —compare it to most of your hundreds of Facebook friends— there must be some value in it.

I’m not saying it’s trivial, but I believe there is a lot of untapped value, both for the users and the services, in these social graphs. “Social networks with a purpose”, could be a big thing, if their underlying social graph is treated as such, and we are given the tools to get the most out of the connections we make there.

[*] I believe they should be called social networking sites, because they are the container, not the network, but that’s a debate we can have here.

Originally posted on Medium: Social networks with a purpose.