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Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Survey of User Profile Fields

Last month I did a comparison of the various ways social networking sites handled user icons and profile images. This time, it's how they handle user attributes. It's the sort of tedious stuff that profile interchange mechanisms are made from. It's also useful if you're rolling your own social network and want to know what other people have done. The table I was using got to be too big for a blog posting, so I moved the spreadsheet over to Google Docs and linked to it from the image below. The chart is not quite complete, but then again it's never going to be quite complete, so I've gone ahead and published it. I'll be updating the underlying spreadsheet occasionally, you can either check back here or subscribe to the RSS feed after the link. If you want edit access to the spreadsheet, just ask.

Thoughts so far:
  • The "last name/first name" vs "full name" thing is going to be painful.
  • There are a wide variety of "genders" beyond the traditional male/female.
  • Same goes for "relationship status". This suggests interchange will be tricky.
  • Putting the GMT offset in timezones is ugly.
  • Not everybody has zip codes, or event state/regions. Fully handling that is a pain.
  • If you put your religions in a dropdown, do you leave off the Satanists?
  • The choices for "field/profession" in MySpace should include "fireman" and "astronaut".
Reading through the list, I was struck by how the choices offered the user defined a whole worldview. Reading through the mutliple-choice questions was especially enlightening. There's a sort of diffuse, unfocused attempt to define what it means to be a person in our culture going on here, revealed through the ways we're allowed to define ourselves. But that's a whole different blog post.


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Blogger Bill Smith said...

> If you put your religions in a dropdown, do you leave off the Satanists?

That depends on who you want to participate. Perhaps a fill-in-the-blank "Other"?

7:06 AM  

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