Why, Why Now and the Game
Clay Shirky on Why Social Software?
...One of the things we know from history is that social and technological issues cannot be separated from one another when dealing with many-to-many interaction. Group use of technology is different from personal use, and the phrase social software provides way of viewing interesting effects, from mailing lists to SMS groups to Happenings, as part of a larger a category that reflects the importance (and oddities) of that many-to-many pattern.
Johnathan Peterson on the Why Now of Social Software?
...While knowledge working has become an ever-larger component of industrialized nation economies, knowledge work itself has proved remarkably resistant to automation....
...The tools for knowledge management haven't appreciably improved in the last 20 years; email integration and shared folders are the only significant features Outlook delivers that Sidekick didn't have in 1984. And while tons of VC dollars have been spent on intranets and portal creation software, the whole concept of centralized knowledge management feels wrong to me...
...Knowledge work tools (and processes) have almost overwhelmingly been designed around project TEAMS. But more and more work is being done in more casual WORKING GROUPS.
At the end of Etech I had a great conversation with Andrew Phelps, who runs a blog on gaming at Corante, and was kind enough to buy me a beer.
Recall when I provided a framework for Social Networking Models, I left virtual worlds for a future post. The reason was I was searching for a common pattern of how connections are made.
What's interesting about virtual worlds is how when people meet each other in them their real identity is the least explicit of all the models. But gradually as they observe how each other acts in the game and chat, more clues are revealed about who they really are and trust increases. Modes of communication outside the gaming environment are commonly used and occassionally real world relationships are cemented by in-person meeting. Andrew pointed out that the ultimate test of trust is to hand over logins to someone else so they can literally walk in their virtual shoes. Kind of like giving the keys to your car and house in absence of insurance or rule of law.
Andrew also gives a great example for how social structures transcend gaming environments:
...as guilds get bored or outstrip the content of their favorite games, they look for places to move en masse. The colony is looking for a new hive. This means that when I enter a game, I *have* a social structure already - I *know* who the leaders are, who I turn two for organization of raids and distribution of loot. I *want* a game in which, regardless of game power, my position in the guild community is maintained...
There is a common challenge for all social software developers -- code creates rules that constricts what social context is portable to other modes. There is an incentive to raise switching costs and capture as many methods of participation within the environment. But users are intolerant of switching costs (bloggers are recently raising a stink about how difficult it is to move their archives from one tool to another, the one point in the Tiernan Ray article I subscribe to). Users also defect from environments that attempt to constrain them to use ad hoc tools. The game for developers is how much freedom to give their users, not only in their environments, but to transcend them.