Social software: The smaller the group, the more immediate value in the relationship. That's one notion behind an emerging phenomenon called ``social software,'' products that help groups work with each other more effectively.
At the annual PC Forum conference in suburban Phoenix this week, we got a glimpse of what Clay Shirky, an acute observer of the technology scene, called the latest in ``lightweight, bottom-up and Internet-enabled'' tools. I've had an early look at several such products, several of which I'll highlight here. Look for more in my weblog in coming weeks and months.
``Socialtext'' (www.socialtext.com) is all about a Web you can write on as well as read. It expands on technologies that have been around for some time, and lets people work from browsers to collaborate in remarkably efficient ways. The key is simplicity.
Among the base technologies are online chat and something called a Wiki, an extremely lightweight but writeable Web page. Once you're inside the Wiki, you can edit any page yourself, using tools that make it simple to create new links and annotations. It sounds like potential anarchy, and it could turn into a mess without limitations on who can participate in a given group. But I've participated in several of these conversations/collaborations lately, and I can attest to their potential effectiveness.
SocialText isn't the only such idea around, and the tools are still rough-edged. But it illustrates one way toward a goal we all crave -- to share our ideas, organize ourselves and generally make better use of this vastly collaborative new space that combines the real and virtual worlds.
``Meetup'' (www.meetup.com) is a brilliant idea -- using online technology to get people together and coordinate a real-world meeting, not the virtual kind. Yes, in person.
People organize everything online first, including voting on where to meet in some cases. Check out the Web site for the variety of meetings.
Using the Net to be truly social. I love it.