17th level Hacker

Social Computing

I’m moderating a panel tomorrow on social software. It looks like the impetus for the discussion might have been a recent article in the MIT Technology Review about Social Computing. The panel participants and I have been emailing this week talking about what the discussion points for the panel should be. It’s pretty obvious that “Social Networking” has become a pretty corrupted term meaning just about any software that involves a community of users. I know that I’m personally jazzed about continuous/ubiquitous computing and the transformation in online services that accompanies access to information at the decision point instead of just on the desktop. I’m also pretty happy about the decomposition of the silos of information that made up the previous versions of online services into services which include APIs as major components of their offerings.

So along those lines what issues are currently on my hot plate in terms of influencing that environment:

  • Merging of services. VOIP has allowed relatively easy voice communication from a computer instead of a telephone, and Google Talk and Userplane turn that into a feature within another service. When these remixes happen both sides of the equation tend to expose more developer control points. VOIP services have turned telecom into a programmer platform much richer than previous versions of voice communications.

  • Ad-hoc standardization of intersystems communication. Think microformats, but I don’t really care if it’s a microformats.org stanndard or something from somewhere else. The main point is a simple but evolving and flexible method for exchanging rich information between tools as well as people. There’s a lot of activity around events and calendaring right now, I think it’s great.

  • Location based services are the ultimate situated software. And I don’t just mean GPS systems here. Any time when your computer/mobile can figure out where you are and what you’re doing, and tailor the interface and information you receive based on that (should you choose to have it do so). This I think is one of the major answers to the small screen problem. It’s hard to drive rich user interaction from a one-hand operated mobile device, so you have to scavenge context in any way you can to make that user interface simpler.

  • Group action. Recommendation systems, group authoring and self moderation, social browsing, realtime rating services.

If you have your own hot buttons you would like to see us cover please leave a comment or email me at miker at bitsplitter dot net.