Howard Rheingold links to an interesting look at social networking services in Unraveling the Taste Fabric of Social Networks. Short version: the authors describe a mechanism for describing people's interests as a fabric of tastes with some browsability components.
If you have been following automated recommendation systems from the days of Ringo, you'll recognize the authors (Hugo Liu, Pattie Maes, Glorianna Davenport) of 'Unraveling the Taste Fabric of Social Networks' (PDF). Abstract:
Popular online social networks such as Friendster and MySpace do more than simply reveal the superficial structure of social connectedness--the rich meanings bottled within social network profiles themselves imply deeper patterns of culture and taste. If these latent semantic fabrics of taste could be harvested formally, the resultant resource would afford completely novel ways for representing and reasoning about web users and people in general. [snipped by Jack]
[picked up via the Corante Web Hub, of which I am a member]
I'll admit to skimming the paper, but it does look to have an interesting set of concepts around the data contained in the various social networking services. Imagine being able to navigate your interests as a network graph (a la ThinkMap's visual thesaurus / or browse.delicious) - and then attempt some calculations to find "similar" people. And of course, you will want to have control over how much of this information you share, so their IdentityMirror is a visualization of identity from various distances: far away, only the barest details; nearby, lots of detail. Presumably, you would get to control how close people get to you. Maybe you could even control which dimensions of your taste fabric people would get to see. (See also the friend-of-a-friend (FOAF) project is a similar effort to do this with "who am I" and "who do I know" data that is intended to be shared publicly.)
If there is a KM connection, it is in the vein of social network analysis + expertise locators. Within corporations, expertise information is available via a variety of methods, while personal information is generally hidden or only provided as-needed. (I'd say this is generally true outside the organization too.) Enhancing internal systems with connections and this kind of visualization could help people see into the data that is already available.
26 Sept 2007: Corrected reference to Visual Thesaurus above.