I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the recent talk about how to classify relationships online and how that translates, at least for me, into actual practice. The truth is that as interesting as it would be to have hard data documenting exactly what kind of relationship I have with someone (be they a an old college roommate, an ex-girlfriend, a current coworker, a close friend, etc), that doesn’t really have a lot of functional use for me. I mean really what happened yesterday between me and someone else is already in my head and I don’t need a code to represent that. Besides often that isn’t a static piece of info, relationships change and who wants to be constantly updating that? I’m not saying it’s not important for a lot of reasons (I certainly understand the idea of letting this group of people have access to this group of info, and that group having access to a more limited amout of info), what I’m saying is that really what is more interesting for me is looking at tomorrow and how those people and relationships impact my daily life.
Depending on the kind of relationship I have with someone they have different priorities in my life at different times. If a business contact e-mails me during the week I’d like to see that relatively quickly, where as if they e-mail me on a Saturday I’d be perfectly happy not even knowing about it until Monday. If my family calls me I want my phone to ring, if the dry cleaner calls I’d prefer if that went stright to voicemail. If a friend IM’s me I don’t mind being interupted, however if someone I’ve only just met pings me I’d like them to see that I’m busy and will be back in touch later. What kind of relationship I have with these people isn’t really as important as what priority I’ve placed on their contact with me.
I realized while talking with someone about this the other day that what I really want is what already exists for so many other kinds of info but just hasn’t been applied to people yet. I can rate songs in iTunes and then tell it to only play songs with a 3 star or higher ranking at certain times. I can sort RSS feeds in Google Reader and chose which ones to read when. Why can’t I do this with my contacts? So that is what I’m wishing for – I don’t want something that better describes what kind of relationship I have with someone so much as I want something that helps me prioritize incoming contact from them. I want 5 star contacts to be able to reach me any time any where, and 1 star contacts to leave me messages I follow up on when I have a chance. Half of me feels like this is a horrible thing to ask, but in reality that’s what all this sorting is headed towards just in a much more round about fashion.