On Facebook, nothing is negative: You can have friends, but not enemies. You can like something but not dislike it. Not satisfied with this status quo, Dean Terry from the University of Texas in Dallas has created EnemyGraph, a Facebook app that lets you add persons and things as enemies to your profile.
The idea of adding “negative links” may sound counterproductive to a social network, but in fact, there are good reasons to allow the negative “enemy” and “dislike” links in addition to the positive “friend” and “like” links:
- It better reflects real-world relationships: In the real world, not everything is positive. Many relationships, both between people and things are negative. If an online social network wants to reflect the real world as best as possible, it better support enemies and dislikes.
- Product recommendation gets better: Facebook can recommend things you like to you, while filtering out what you will not like. Without negative feedback, Facebook will not know that you don’t like certain things or persons, and will continue to recommend them to you.
- It makes filtering easier: By removing things and people you don’t like from your newsstream, you Facebook wall will be more interesting to you.
- It works. In fact, negative feedback is already implemented at a few places in Facebook. For instance, you can already remove individual persons and individual advertisements from your newsstream. Integrating these as first-class features would make it easier for users to understand what is going on.
- Everybody does it: Netflix, Amazon and many other websites allow you to give ratings one a rating scale from one to five stars, effectively giving a spectrum of ratings from “unlike” to “like”.
- Test the principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” in practice.
- Allow better social network analysis: Negative links have been used in studies on social networks.
- Solve the spam and fake account problem. For instance on the website Slashdot.org, users can mark other users as friends and foes, which makes to possible to automatically detect trolls.
- Let people connect by common dislikes. In fact, many groups in Facebook are created only for people that dislike a specific item, e.g. this.
- A quick introduction to networks with negative links on my blog, and the associated paper
- My paper about friends and foes on Slashdot.org