Dennis McDonald describes the knowledge management perspective on Google's OpenSocial offering last week. Google OpenSocial, Collaboration, and Expertise Location - Managing Technology:
Using social networking techniques to make it easier to locate and share knowledge and expertise has long interested me.... Actual adoption of such systems so far has been spotty.
Dennis lists a number of expertise-locator-specific applications (or functions thereof) that could be created or become easier with the advent this functionality. The first several have to do with opening/limiting access to information across the network. This already exists in many of the social networking platforms today, but with OpenSocial, the ability to traverse networks becomes a reality. This gives the entire network greater access to other resources, regardless of which specific social networking platform they use.
And this is good because when I have a question, I just want an answer. I don't want to have to think about going to Orkut or Facebook or LinkedIn or [insert social network service here]. And if the question is of any complexity, what I really need is a connection to people who can help me figure out the answer.
On the other hand, opening up networks in this way means that the artificial walls will come down (maybe in a limited way). This means that activities that were afforded because the walls existed may be exposed in ways that we don't want them to be. I'm not talking about illegal / immoral activities. Let's say I choose to use Network A primarily for business and Network B primarily for pleasure. If these two networks become visible to one another, there is opportunity for confusion about how to deal with cross-network requests. I'm sure this has been discussed more deeply by others.
As I write this, I realize that much of this is already available - in a way. The blogs (and other sources) I choose to read provide information that I'm specifically curious about. When I have a question, I refer to them preferentially via a my-sources-limited search in Lijit (they call it "network search"). My network can be just about anything that Lijit can scrape: blogs (any RSS feed), Facebook, del.icio.us, MyBlogLog, etc. Once OpenSocial gives an API into many more social nets, it will be possible for Lijit to have a peak at a much wider network. Of course, this quickly leads back to my comment above: I probably will want to set up different versions of my own network for different searches (different interest areas).
Dennis also mentions the very useful, non-technical overview of OpenSocial by Jeremiah Omyang, Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives. And here is the OpenSocial page at Google for all the gory details.