The Real Life Social Graph

Session Title

The Real Life Social Graph


Paul Adams, Google

Session Type: Presentation

Many of people’s most valuable communication interactions happen offline. Away from computers, and often away from mobile phones. To build truly compelling social user experiences, we need to understand and support people’s real life social eco-systems. We need our digital tools to merge seamlessly with people’s non-digital tools, and our digital interactions need to reflect the differences in people’s relationship types, from intimate ties, to “people who like the things I like”, to strangers. This talk will speak about things we have learned from over two years of research into people’s online and offline relationships, and how our current web tools do not come close to mapping the social graph that exists beyond networked computers.


I currently work as a User Experience Researcher for Google. I focus on sociability – how people communicate with one another, and how we might shape social tools to meet their needs.

Before Google, I worked in UX consultancy for clients including BBC, the Guardian, Vodafone, UK Government, London Underground, Betfair and Standard Life, and as an Industrial Designer for Dyson and Faurecia.


  1. Johnny
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Will your talk be available online after the event?

  2. Bob
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Paul is a fantastic presenter and always brings new insights from his research. Looking forward to this!

  3. Jenny Gove
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 2:05 am

    This is interesting work, in being substantial research that speaks to the disconnects between social networks as they are structured and used on the web, and social networks as they are realized in real life. How can we better support the social interactions in a non-online world? How too, might we understand how maintaining social connectedness via online tools, might be changing the dynamics of off-line social relationships?

  4. Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for the comments folks.
    Jenny speaks to a core part of this talk – that our social web tools are still very crude and map badly to the many complexities and nuances of our real life relationships.
    This talk is about addressing this problem and will focus on concrete actionable recommendations.

  5. Posted September 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Will you be presenting ideas or questions to spark brainstorms and ideation for how to address this gap between the current tools and the real world? Sounds like an interesting talk and would love to hear more about the info and then what to do with it.

  6. Posted September 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Erin!
    I’ll be presenting research findings on:
    - how people use current digital tools to communicate with different people
    - how and where current tools don’t meet people’s needs for communication/socializing online

    I’ll also be presenting ideas for how to use this data to design better online experiences.

  7. Posted October 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

    It’s not often I hear about merging what we do in UX with the physical world. The industrial design connection is apparent. I would be very interested in this presentation.

  8. Posted October 1, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Sounds like a great talk. I would love to hear the research bits about where you’ve found disconnects between current tools and needs, and whether your research has shown certain interactions that just can’t be modeled in software.

  9. Posted October 1, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I’m very interested in the reality of how people live, not the skewed view we tend to get when so many of our friends work (and seemingly live) online.

    I’ve discussed this very idea with clients who seem to think a Web site or content strategy or social network will transform their businesses. Too many appear to have difficulty with the idea that online social interactions are a slim slice of one’s life, and not where the focus needs to be.

    Can you discuss some of the “digital meets non-digital” tools that you use in your work to support real-world interactions and relationships?