Introduction to social software

Lee Bryant has compiled a fantastic introduction to social software: Smarter, Simpler, Social.

Social Software is reaching early stage critical meme mass, and is sure to be fueled by the current Etech conference being blogged right now. One thing I've noticed is that there aren't that many connectors between the social software community and the user experience community. This strikes me as a bit odd, since social software is all about the user's experience. Maybe I'm wrong and those connections are prevalent, but so far I haven't seen a lot of them.

Matt Jones has discussed social software. Lou and Peter wanted to put more social things in Polar Bear 2. Many IAs blog. My point isn't that UX people aren't interested in socialware, but that socialware folks don't seem to be reaching out to UX. Last week, in a small group of social software developers, someone said "I think we have pretty much all the major players here" which totally blew me away.

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Valuable, or Just Neat?

RE>since social software is all about the user's experience.

Really? How's that? I'm no Luddite - I've been blogging and wiki'ing for years (incidentally, are these really social or just different ways to publish?) - but the social software crowd seems to value 'connections' above experience, as if connections have intrinsic value as opposed to just being catalysts to experience. It's almost completely bottom-up whereas UX is top-down.

I think there's tons of potential in social software, but right now there's just a lot of neat experiments going on and the UX folks probably haven't seen much of value.

Besides, to play requires programming skills which many of us don't have.

missing connectors

I'll say there are a number of missing connectors. Sometimes they sound like a lot of groups who are defining their fields but ignore a rich history of research and experience that's gone before them.

tanya: very very true

see essay by tom coates "the excesses of social software", and forthcoming notes on etcon from me... these chasms of discipline and history have to be crossed... i think it's happening...

our team has been looking into work by terry winograd, and fernando flores amongst other stuff from the recent past, and working with ethnographers and social researchers to drive the design.


Social Software in germanation mode or here

I did not see a direct connection between social software and experience design until it was brought up here, but then again I was thinking of social software as still in a germination mode. There is much experimentation being done with SocSoft just as there was with Open Source desktop apps a few years ago. The development process often does not concern itself with ExD as the technical and interactive components need to be tested and improved or there will be little to skin. Looking at what Apple has done with KHTML in Safari we see a clunky Open Source application that has a user experience envelop the app.

One app that has incorporated some social software and P2P in a decent wrapper is

This paper is a MUST READ

I read the paper Smarter, Simpler, Social with a strong feeling of "This is what I'm doing right now - it all makes sense - and what I've been doing for years is converging on this nodal point of understanding".
I am enthusiastic about this.

Social Software may be a new term - a neologism.
Social Software may become a buzzword in the sense that at some point in time the marketing guys will take it and render it useless by abuse.
Social Software may be in a phase where "definition" is threatening to kill it even before it gets off the ground.

But Social Software holds real promise, and it IS happening right now.

I urge you all to read this paper, and think of RSS feeds, of Drupal (which this site runs on - with RSS feeds for all users and all topics, and which my site runs on with RSS feeds for all topics.), of Faceted Metadata, Topic Maps and of all the other things happening in the field.

Then look at all the "Big Business" fields like Enterprise Content Management, Document Management, E-learning, Knowledge Management.
These are great fields with real application in the real world.
I know most of these fields from the inside. They all suffer from the same syndromes: Too Bloated, too resource demanding, too self centered, too hard to understand, too top-down.

The reason for the success of these fields is the percieved business model, which says that one company must have "one size fits all", that this is a centralization project, and that it is a strategic decision which must be handled as "process". This boils down to: Management turns to micro management. It is all perfectly understandable. When companies started out there were no known and widely accepted "standards" for metadata in content management or e-learning or in knowledge management for that matter. Thus the companies had to go for a proprietary format - which meand hiring the big consulting firms to implement solutions for their company.

I say that next generation e-learning, content management, knowledge management an so on - must embrace a bottom up model, to liberate the
thinking and communication of the users. It will not work top-down.

But then there's Microsoft. They might pull it off top down.

Gunnar Langemark
Langemarks Cafe