Social technology has been hugely important to me since 1991. I met Linda on a Prodigy bulletin board. Blogging is crucial to my business. Mailing lists have led Linda and me to two vacations, most of our computer gaming, multiple TV shows (especially Buffy/Angel), and a whole lot of books. I find LinkedIn useful at times, and for the past few weeks I’ve been Twittering up a storm. My love life, work, and entertainment all are rooted in technology that gets people communicating with each other.
I’m not just saying that for street cred. My experiences also illustrate two important points – people use many different kinds of social technology, and social technology is very important to them. When you feel or hear negatives about MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blog reading or whatever – those are indictments of particular services or technologies, not of online social networking in general.
If you think about it, most criticisms of social technology boil down to the same thing, namely Sturgeon’s Law – the famed observation that 90% of everything is crud. (Emphasis his.) Indeed, when you add up inane ramblings, stale jokes, Facebook “cocktails,” empty repetitions of “Hi! How is everyone?”, and those horrible songs people feel compelled to put on their personal websites, 90% seems like a low figure.
The first keys to successful social technologies are obviously that they be engaging and easily accessible. But even if they pass those tests, they will fall under their own weight without sufficiently good filtering mechanisms, and I don’t just mean for spam. Usenet and chat rooms collapsed in a pile of crud. MySpace and Facebook (which I don’t use) are thought to be going the same way. Twitter already has people complain about spam and filtering their follow lists – and it barely has grown past its core geek niche.
I’m working on a blog post just about the metadata and filtering mechanisms needed in Twitter. It looks apt to get quite long. The complicated issue of portable identities isn’t just about what you disclose; it’s about what you want to see, and from whom. The technology of social networking is a huge data management challenge, and most commentators on the subject don’t seem to have realized that yet.
- Filtering technology for Twitter (CEP would do the job)
- Microsoft/Yahoo synergies (section on social networking)
- Federated social networking (walled gardens aren’t needed), and a followup