ETCon 2004: Robert Kaye on Social Networking-Based File Sharing Networks

Robert Key advocates Bluetooth this year

Robert Kaye (slides) is describing social network file sharing systems. The primary purpose of the social group is to share, discover, and protect network. He proposes a hierarchy or tribes, chiefdoms, and states with leaders at each level and "tribal elders" who set the policies about who gets in. This sets the trust network.

Strict policies limit search horizons, large search horizons limit security. Social networks can grow quickly. The trick is to balance growth and security. Weak ties from social networks are stronger that random P2P connections. The networks lets you explore your strong and weak ties who are more likely to share your tastes and interests that strangers. Social network-based file sharing systems trade off quantity for quality.

Discovery includes ratings and recommendations from people in your social network to help guide and strengthen search results.

Robert likes a two-part system with a central server architecture. Algorithms for authentication are difficult to do in a decentralized system. The central server offers a Web service interface that allows user to build any kind of social network application. The server has no knowledge of what clients are doing and thus clients are protected. The central server also solves the P2P bootstrapping problem of how to get clients linked-in.

For the client, you can start with an open source client like Gnutella, although the standard routing query protocol is problematic, so something like the canonical identifiers from Bitzi, MusicBrainz, and IMDB's distributed hash table-based content searching system. Include the BitTorrent swarming P2P system for file transfer.

Using the network requires and invitation, port changing, and make sure everything goes over an ssh tunnel. Although, if you're going over ssh, you don't need an ssh tunnel since no one can tell what's going on anyway (except maybe through traffic analysis).

When the network is compromised, the attacker can see the same thing that a single network can see. So the damage, depends on how powerful individual nodes are. That goes back to the policies set by the "tribal elders." The idea is that this a toolset for building social networks, not the network itself and the elders use the toolset to create a network that follows their policies. When two tribes trust each other, they can connect and interact, expanding the search horizon.

Robert recommends "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond, "Smart Mobs" by Howard Rheingold, and "Urban Tribes" by Ethan Walters.