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February 5, 2004
Stowe Boyd, Dave Pollard on the evolution of social software
Arguments in favor of rethinking social software with an eye towards decentralization and interoperability are in the air, though it is far from obvious at this point who will do the hard work of building standards and consensus. Here are two strong recent pieces that touch upon that theme.
Boyd, in "The Barriers of Content and Context"
The immensity and complexity of converging and managing relationship content from private and public sources argues strongly for a federated and standardized representation of relationship, a la FOAF. My bet is that social networking services will resist standardization until they see the benefits of converging all sorts of private and public network information, and realize that no one company can create and manage all of it. At this point, in an immature and segmented marketplace, we are unlikely to hear anyone admit that they can't do everything all by themselves, thank you very much. But at the point of market maturation, everyone will climb aboard that bandwagon.
Boyd follows with considerations on the tricky issue of managing one's multiple contexts - a central theme of (lowercase) boyd's research
Pollard insists on the user-centric perspective in "What's Wrong with First-Generation Social Software"
. He proposes a four-word mantra which I like: Simple, Personal, Decentralized, Just-in-time
. He takes care to point out that, for all its faults, the current generation of social software helps us see where the grass has been worn away
, making it possible to lay sidewalks with much more confidence that the effort is appropriately directed.
(I should point out that all this obviously ties into recent discussions of distributed social software
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