Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is Microsoft trying to patent all social software?

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A co-worker sent me a link to a patent on the PeerToPatent that Microsoft is attempting to get. The title is "Recommending contacts in a social network" and has the following in the Background section of the application:

A social network consists of individuals and their relationships to other individuals. ... The distance (number of relationships) between two individuals within a social network is commonly referred to as their “degree of separation.” ... Because social networks can have hundreds or thousands of individuals and direct relationships, social networks can be very complex. It would be a difficult and time-consuming task to identify individuals and all their relationships within a large social network.

Fortunately, the identity of individuals and their relationships with other individuals can be automatically derived from data stored by computer systems. Many individuals use their computer systems to store indications of relationships to other individuals. In particular, many software applications allow a user to explicitly store names of others with whom the user has a relationship. .... The ... other users are stored in address lists for electronic mail programs, in contact lists for instant messaging programs, in invitation lists for event organizing programs, and so on. In addition, the names of the other users can be derived from data that is not an explicit list. For example, the names of users can be derived from the to, from, and cc fields of electronic mail messages, from meeting entries within a calendar, from letters stored as electronic documents, and so on. Each of these other users has a relationship, referred to as a direct relationship, with the user regardless of the “closeness” of the relationship.

Hmm.. a system that can analyze my social data, my email, and my chat transcripts to figure out how I am interconnected to others within the company... Where have I heard that before... ???? Oh and the system also gives me a visual path to others I may not know? Hmmm... I swear I've heard this story before!! Seems to me like Microsoft is trying to patent Atlas for Lotus Connections. Hopefully, IBM can take some action before Microsoft steals yet another IBM/Lotus idea.

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