Social Computing symposium

I posted a comment over in Scobles blog about a social symposium comming up. Kevin responded to my little bitter rant in his blog. Well first I don’t know if you should consider my response as representative of the community as a whole. I’m pretty out there. 🙂

I do find it interesting that the last 2 (or 3 if you count that foo camp that O’Reilly had) social computing conferences I’ve heard about, they’ve all be invitation only. I’m sure social computing is interesting. I’m sure I’m interested in social software, heck I’ve got a 6 digit ICQ number. I haven’t met many people with a 6 digit ICQ number. My feeling is that, no matter how much research the researchers do or how many focus groups the industry guys hold, the best social computing is user driven.

I guess my point is the best resource that the researchers and industry people have is people, regular people. Rather than trying to build software and guess what the users would like to use they should examine how the current and past tools have been used. Most of the social networking tools that have been put out recently all seem to be geared towards gathering information about the users but not providing a lot back. That’s the problem, I think that social computing is a solution in search of a problem. Before the internet was big, BBS’s performed much of the same functions, but on a smaller scale. Most of the social connections I made through my BBS have persisted through to today. No one designed BBS software to be a social networking too, that came later when people who already knew each other decided to post their friends BBS numbers and decided that they wanted to share their message boards with their friends.

I think that the successful social software of the future will be:

  • ubiquitous
  • allow for easy exchange of data elements common to people
  • built in to a tool that people use every day
  • be entirely user drive. No FOAF, no automatic inclusion, you add the people that you want to add.
  • work on a local rather than national or global level
  • a big surprise to everyone
  • have absolutely no business model

I posted my initial knee-jerk reaction to Orkut on my other blog.

  • I largely agree with you. That’s why I think that having an active research community is important — they are all about evaluating and learning from what real people do. There is svery strong social science component to the social computing research community, meaning that they run studies on everything. One of my big hopes from this symposium is that it will be a path to disseminating their results to a broader set of people. And in the opposite direction, help the researchers understnad what research they could do that would be most helpful to the people out there trying to build products.

  • Hi, Scott. Just my .02, but it seems to me that most of the significant “social software conferences” these days have actually been open to all comers, not invitation only. O’Reilly’s Emerging Technologies, for instance. SXSW/Interactive. Assn of Internet Researchers. BloggerCon 1 and 2. BlogTalk 1 and 2 (in Austria). Media Ecology (upcoming in June). All of those were or are open to all comers.

    I think in any emerging field with lots of growing interest, business or academic, there will inevitably be a mix of gatherings. Some public, some private. And it’s certainly the case that there are interactions and outcomes that you can have more easily in a small group than in a large one. The problem, as always, comes in when you decide how to constitute the small group.

    My sense in this case (full disclosure: I’m going) is that there was some real care taken to have a mix of voices, to have it not be just the same echo chamber voices, and to make it private in terms of attendance without being secret in terms of existence or content. I’m greatly encouraged by Kevin’s post, in which he says that videotapes will be publicly available, and live blogging encouraged.

    I think your observations about useful directions for social software development are right on, btw. 🙂

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  • Good points. My ICQ number is 163561, by the way. What’s yours?

  • Wow, your ICQ# is the lowest I’ve come across to date. Mine is 797958, I’m also on MSN Messenger

  • Liz,

    When Kevin clarified the intentions of the symposium (a meeting of the minds) the guest list made a little more sense. While I’m sure the videos and blogging will help, I don’t think that the organizers are opening up the echo chamber, they are just making it transparent. Like a big glass dome, to carry the metaphor to an absurd extreme.

    You’re right about some of the other conferences you mentioned. I’m still not used to thinking about SXSW as a “social computing” conference as much as I think of it as a “BIG ASS music festival”, I mean if I were to attend it lemme tell ya I’d spend a LOT more time at the clubs than in a conference room. 🙂 Bloggercon I’ve always thought of as a social gathering on the other side of the country with interesting people and discussions.

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