One of the things that’s always bothered me (and many other people) about social networking sites such as Orkut, Friendster, or any other *ster meme-of-the-moment is the binary nature of their setups — either someone is your friend, or they aren’t. That’s it. Those are your only choices.

My world just isn’t that black and white, sorry.

I was grumbling about this in #joiito last week sometime when Tantek pointed me to XFN, which looks very interesting. Essentially, it takes advantage of a little-used link attribute — specifically, the rel attribute — to define the relationship between the linker and the linkee. Various values have been defined, such as ‘friend’, ‘acquaintance’, ‘met’, ‘spouse’, etc.

For instance, while linking to Dad’s site, I can include the value ‘parent’ in the link (<a href=“” title=“The Hanscom Family Weblog” rel=“parent”>like this</a>); linking to Kirsten’s site I can use ‘friend’ and ‘met’ (<a href=“” title="geek*muffin" rel=“friend met”>like this</a>), linking to Mike I can use ‘acquaintance’ (<a href=“” title=“” rel=“acquaintance”>like this</a>), and so on.

Now this, I like.

Of course, now I have to figure out how to work it into my site. It’ll be easy enough on posts such as this, of course, as I can code the relationship values in as I’m creating the post. What I need to figure out, though, is how I want to attack my blogroll.

Hey, Anil, Mena, Ben, et al — any chance of putting XFN into TypePad‘s People TypeLists? That would be enough to coax me back away from Blogrolling, even if I lose the recent-update highlighting! Currently I’m using the Blogrolling service, which has some definite advantages (easy to update, automatically highlights sites that have been updated recently, etc.). ~~However, there isn’t a way for me to add XFN values to the links there, so if I want to add XFN to my blogroll, I’m going to have to go back to updating it manually. A bit of a bummer, that (not least because quite simply, knowing me, I’m more likely to leave it as-is and forego the XFN niftyness).~~ [As it turns out, you can add XFN to a Blogrolling blogroll if you have a paid “Gold” account. Just go to the ‘edit links’ screen, and for each item, add rel=“whatever” to the ‘Extra Link Attributes’ field. Thanks to Dori for pointing that out in the comments!]{.underline}

Still, at the very least it’s worth playing with, and I’ll do my best to remember to do so on all future posts.

And if that weren’t enough, Jonas pointed out that Tantek and Kevin Marks have proposed another use for the rel attribute called VoteLinks: using values of ‘vote-for’, ‘vote-abstain’, or ‘vote-against’ when linking to an article or post on the web to indicate your opinion of the resource being linked to.

Currently, any automated indexing application (such as the robots/spiders that Google or Technorati use) only see a link as a “vote” in favor of a particular resource — i.e., Site A links to Site B, therefore Site A believes that Site B is useful or provides an important resource of some form or another. While human readers can draw upon the context of a link to decide whether that’s actually the case (while I might link to a page about George Bush, for example, it’s extremely unlikely that I’d be saying anything favorable), the spiders aren’t able to do that — and that’s exactly what VoteLinks aims to correct.

Now all I need to do is come up with some simple “thumbs-up” and “thumbs down” graphics. With those, I can work VoteLinks into my CSS so that links that I’ve designated “vote-for” will get a thumbs-up appended after the link, and links designated “vote-against” will get a thumbs-down appended after the link. Will I do this? Who knows. ;)

Some very interesting toys to play with, each a worthy attempt to add a little more value to everyone’s travels around the web.

iTunes: “She and Mr. Jones (Uncensored)” by Lords of Acid from the album [R]Ejected Tracks (1998, 4:52).