A tool to manage virtual spaces across social media platforms

Do you have friends who are not on Facebook? Do you have children who think Facebook is old-fashioned and don’t use it anymore? How do you cope with the 20+ social networking sites that exist online? How do you communicate with real friends who are not on the same social network as you? If you are interested in the answer, read on.

Vegar Engen and Jørgen Ekeland.

Vegar Engen and Jørgen Ekeland.

Social media companies are normally interested in creating what we call “walled gardens”, meaning, “if you want to communicate, you need to join us!” On the other hand, we see dozens of online communities popping up every year. Most of these communities are specialized, either around a topic, a profession, an age group and so forth. For instance, my daughter does not anymore use Facebook. She uses Tumblr. But I don’t have a clue about how to use Tumblr.

We have been working with the issue of online social media fragmentation for a while now. We developed a tool called UbiShare that tried to provide a unified API for Android app developers so they could access social media regardless of where it resided. Now Vegar Engen and Jørgen Ekeland have developed UbiNomad that allows you to create and manage spaces across social media. UbiNomad allows you to do the following:

  • Browse spaces and places across Facebook, Google+ and Foursquare. Each space is shown with the icon of the originating social media.
  • Create a new space in UbiNomad, which will create it in all the three social media sites. UbiNomad keeps the link among the created spaces so you know that space A is space A-F in Facebook, space A-G in Google+ etc.
  • Allow basic conversations among the members of a space regardless of which social media they use.
UbiNomad showing aggregation of spaces across social media.

UbiNomad showing aggregation of spaces across social media.

This is a first small step. It has nevertheless shown us how complicated the task is. Different sites have different definitions and properties for spaces and places. Some are also conceptually different from others. We also see that the value resides in not only the sharing of the space itself but also, and probably more importantly, in seamless communication among the members of such spaces.

You can find the thesis report in the menu Documentation, Student theses. Look for Ekeland and Engen. The code for UbiNomad is on github under Apache 2.0.

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