In Social Networking Class with Amazon – Shared User Profiles

Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek gave an interesting commentary on Friday’s Marketplace podcast on the concept behind his book “The Numerati.”  Baker used a meeting with a search engine optimization expert as a starting point to describe how we now establish our relevance and ranking to machines, with the Numerati being those people who tell the machines what to look for.

I was at Amazon reading reviews of the book when I noticed a social networking function I hadn’t seen before. While I don’t think I’ll buy Numerati, I’m definitely sold on Amazon’s mouseover reviewer profile popups.  Maybe they’ve been around for a while and I haven’t noticed, but it’s yet another of Amazon’s smart moves into social networking.

Then I started thinking about the cloud and cloud-based mechanisms like OpenID authentication. In many online communities, shared membership functionality like OpenID is the way to go.  The user profile popups increase Amazon’s pull and stickiness as a social network, but I’m interested in how it would add value to the cloud.

As a developer, I would quickly tap into this through Amazon’s API to provide similar functionality on client sites. We’d need to be able to customize the popup contents, of course, but my thinking is that shared Amazon profiling would be a win for both Amazon and anyone who leverages it externally. For external communities it would serve as a centralized profile management system to enhance local profile management. Users would be more likely to provide basic profile information on Amazon if they knew it was distributed than they would be on, say, DBVT.COM.  There would also be activity-based profile data like the Amazon Contributions data shown above, which could be customized to reflect activity in the local community, like that user’s number of comments or total points. For Amazon it’s an obvious win in traffic generation and brand dependency.

I haven’t investigated the technical aspects of making this happen. I don’t know if a user email address would be enough to perform the Amazon profile lookup, or if it’s already supported in the Amazon API, but consider me a customer.

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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.