Elsewhere

Socialogy: Interview with Gordon Ross

Social Contract: A New Series

I am writing a new series at CMSWire called Social Contract, exploring the themes of our ‘social rights’ in social space online, including the nature of identity, issues related to privacy and publicy, and the relationship of the individual to companies, social platform owners, and the state.

Here’s the first two installments:

Foundations of ‘Social Rights’ in a Scale-Free World | 16 July 2013 | Our basic “social rights” are self-evident. We exist in social space, and from that arises everything else.

A New Social Contract | 9 July 2013 | We need a new social contract, one that establishes the rights of the individual in a world dominated by gigantic corporations.

I also wrote an earlier piece at CMSWire in June, not in the series but related in thinking:

Curation in the Enterprise: Imagining Increased Social Scale | 10 June 2013 | The current social business architecture — a social collaboration layer sitting “on top” of non-social functional enterprise applications, like CRM, HR, ERP, a social frosting on a non-social cake — is not going to meet the needs of 21st century business.

Karen McGuane, Don’t Let Paper Paradigms Drive Your Digital Strategy

It’s not just paper paradigms we need to avoid, it’s the paradigms of the pre-social web. Here’s a talk I gave in 2010, anticipating liquid media’s future dominance: Social Media Blur | Blogs, Networks, Streams. A quote:

Now, we are headed into the fourth phase of social media, where the growing market impacts of streams will begin to impinge on computing in general, so we will see streams become primary design elements of operating systems for computing and mobile devices. As this advance spreads, the premises of the earliest phases of social media can begin to be considered as layers in an architecture. Old school blogs and other publishing models that create static web pages will increasingly be treated as an archive, or as a source for social objects referenced by URL, but where the URL is used to fetch the content and display it in the stream, just as today photos are being resolved in Twitter clients. In the near future, all media types will be resolved in place, in the stream. This will create interesting issues with advertising revenues and other media control issues, but in the long run, ads and other metadata will be pulled along with the context-free slow media into the socially-embedded context of streams.

These are the chunks McGuane is alluding to, and the OS-based streams are finally appearing in iOS 7. It’s coming on.

How many business relationships are soured because we don’t understand each other as PEOPLE? All the business collaboration tools are focused on “productivity” and “file sharing.” What’s more important - a powerpoint or a picture of your cute kid? Or that mountain biking trip you took last weekend? Or an open invitation to lunch? What gets to the heart of collaboration - the business objects or the social objects?

We live in a world where the hours and places we work - even the collaborators we engage are abstracts of what we recently considered normal. In order to succeed, we’ll have to embrace a new form community, a closeness bred by social tools that are truly social - not masking themselves as collaborative enterprise tools. It’s time to bring your identity to work and feel good about it.

Sol Lipman, Bob Gurwin

The obsessive fixation on productivity that seems to dominate social tools in the business context can be ramped down by balancing the utility of coordinating cowork with the aspirational side of cooperation.

We are doing our work as an outgrowth of our deepest drives: to find meaning and purpose through mastery of our craft and connection with those we respect. The files and tasks and comment threads are artifacts, props, like the backdrops and fake swords at the opera, or the punctuation marks in a great work of fiction. The experience is what matters, not the gizmos.

Yes, Sol is right. We need to embrace — or actually create — a new form of community, one that is undergirded by our propensity for cooperation, and social tools that move past the rigidity and inflexibility of 20th Century ‘collaboration’. We need cooperative tools, where human connection and Maslow’s transpersonal — putting the safety, strivings, and happiness of others first — is placed at the center of our ethos. As Maslow said

The fully developed (and very fortunate) human being working under the best conditions tends to be motivated by values which transcend himself. 

This is the identity that I think Sol is talking about.

Thomas Friedman Is Blaming Social Tools For Our Social Ills

Thomas Friedman is doing his ropa-dope again: blaming the victims — us — for the terrible political world we are subjected to. And all because of social networks:

Thomas Freidman, The Rise of Popularism via NYTimes.com

In 1965, Gordon Moore, the Intel co-founder, posited Moore’s Law, which stipulated that the processing power that could be placed on a single microchip would double every 18 to 24 months. It’s held up quite well since then. Watching European, Arab and U.S. leaders grappling with their respective crises, I’m wondering if there isn’t a political corollary to Moore’s Law: The quality of political leadership declines with every 100 million new users of Facebook and Twitter.

The wiring of the world through social media and Web-enabled cellphones is changing the nature of conversations between leaders and the led everywhere. We’re going from largely one-way conversations — top-down — to overwhelmingly two-way conversations — bottom-up and top-down. This has many upsides: more participation, more innovation and more transparency. But can there be such a thing as too much participation — leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?

The answer, Mr Friedman, is no.

And, oh, by the way, when you talk about the participative nature of the social web, consider the term many-to-many instead of two-way. We, the people, are involved in a conversation among ourselves, and if curmudgeons like you or our self-obsessed political leaders want to get involved with that, fine.

Friedman springs a relatively interesting term on us:

Indeed, I heard a new word in London last week: “Popularism.” It’s the über-ideology of our day. Read the polls, track the blogs, tally the Twitter feeds and Facebook postings and go precisely where the people are, not where you think they need to go. If everyone is “following,” who is leading?

Leadership today is — as always — linked to having a following, Mr Friedman. And before you can lead the people somewhere you have to start where they are.

Friedman goes on with the craziness:

And then there is the exposure factor. Anyone with a cellphone today is paparazzi; anyone with a Twitter account is a reporter; anyone with YouTube access is a filmmaker. When everyone is a paparazzi, reporter and filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. And, if you’re truly a public figure — a politician — the scrutiny can become so unpleasant that public life becomes something to be avoided at all costs.

Wait a second: are we all public figures now? What’s with the shift to ‘real’ public figures? What point have you made? Did I miss something?

Alexander Downer, Australia’s former foreign minister, remarked to me recently: “A lot of leaders are coming under massively more scrutiny than ever before. It doesn’t discourage the best of them, but the ridicule and the constant interaction from the public is making it more difficult for them to make sensible, brave decisions.”

Oh, now I see. Because we are looking more closely at what our ‘leaders’ spassive ay and do they are having a hard time being brave. So we should go back to being a mass audience, watching TV, and not whispering among ourselves.

So it’s our fault that our fearless leaders are no longer fearless, and our fault that they can’t rein us in to work together to save the world, and our fault that we don’t have extraordinary leaders.

Yes, let’s blame social tools and the spin they have on human society. Let’s not talk about the precarious of a flattened down world that you championed, Mr Friedman, where offshoring is treated like a law of nature, and the externalization of true costs is a first order predicate in the economics that led to the econolypse we are still living in.

The problem we have isn’t that our leaders are afraid to tell the truth. Our problem is that our leaders have accepted inequity and injustice, and we, the people, can apparently find no way toward solidarity. But don’t blame social tools for our social ills: they are a lot older and deeper that Facebook and Twitter.

(via underpaidgenius)

Nerdvana: A Better Tool For Communication (I Can Dream, Can’t I?)

[originally posted on Get Real]

I have used literally thousands of communications tools over the past 20 years, and although there has been an increase in commmunication speed and media, we have yet to see the “nerdvana” of tools that I have dreamed about for so long.

I have long championed other media as inherently being better than email, such as instant messaging, so, as you can imagine, the tool I am dreaming out incorporates the basic metaphor of IM: the buddy list. But it goes beyond IM, as I will show you.

How can I so baldly state that other media are better than email, in such an absolute way? Simple. Email is designed as a lowest-common denominator communications system, where everyone is treated equally. All emails, more or less, are the same (leaving aside issues of rich text v HTML and so on, which is not the thrust of my argument), which is stupid. The reality is that my relationships with people — whether I know them or not, how well I know them, and how involved we are at any given time in regular communication — is foremost in my mind when involved in communications, and as a result, the various artifacts of communication should be treated differently based on the context for their existence.

Basically, email is pretty good at communicating with people when you don’t know them well, or people you don’t know at all. All you need is their email address and your emails will be treated pretty much like anybody else’s. But as a result, email doesn’t really do very much to help with the highest valued communication: communicating with the known. That’s where the paradigm of buddies, and the gated communities of instant messaging networks excel.

But even technologies that I think are more useful in remaining in close contact with your circles of friends and colleagues don’t necessarily work together very well, if at all. So I am forced to read and write emails in one tool (yes, I do email, despite my dislike for the medium), IMs in another (actually, two IM clients), and read blogs in yeat another. Coordinating appointments and to-dos that involve others is managed in yet another app. And an address book app is used as the repository of some of the information about people (like email address, IM handles, and phone numbers), while their blogs RSS feeds are stored elsewhere.

So, I decided to mockup an example of what a good unified client might offer someone like me, so I could sit in one tool all day long, choosing the appropriate communication, collaboration, or coordination channel based on the context.

The Nerdvana Client

Just for laughs, I have dubbed the mocked up client “Nerdvana” after the Dilbert strip where Dilbert proclaims, after he’s cleaned up his PC’s desktop, compacted his drive, and deleted unnecessary files, that he has reached “Nerdvana”.

Basically, Nerdvana takes the IM concept of a buddy list and extends it to include all sorts of media. I have chosen to partition my world into three groups, Inner Circle (folks I interact with daily), Outer Circle (folks I interact with regularly), and The World (everyone else). This is largely for simplicity: there could be dozens of groups. And, oh, by the way, contacts can appear in multiple groups, and groups can include subgroups with no limits on level of nesting.

In the first image, I expanded only the Inner Circle — note I did not include any icons to represent expand/contract because I am a lazy designer. I have a small number of contacts in this group, although in the real world my Inner Circle category is more like a dozen folks. Each contact has four numbers associated with them, which represent ‘of interest’ blog entries, emails, IMs, and appointments, respectively. By ‘of interest’ I mean whatever the preferences are currently set to: for example, I may have configured things to display unread blog entries, unread email, open IMs, and future appointments, to suggest only one reasonable group of settings.

Also note — since this is all in the world of conjecture, so I can get whatever I want — that the Nerdvana tool is extensible, so is possible to add on as many services as you’d like. For example, the IM service could expand to be Jabber, AIM, and Yahoo. Or completely different services could be included, like podcasts, to-do lists, geolocation, and web conferences. Presence is indicated by the green/yellow/red lights on the contacts.

In the second graphic I have expanded Greg Narain’s content, and see various categories of communications going on.

In the third graphic, I have fully expanded Greg’s content, showing the blog entry’s title, the subject line of the emails, the title of the IM session, and the subject of the upcoming appointment. This is displayed two different ways, based on two different sets of preferences or different commands used to expand the content: with and without category headers.

Clicking on any of these fields could lead to extremely variable behavior, based on what sort of client you think Nerdvana should be.

  • In a open API sort of environment, clicking on any of Greg’s content could lead to opening the appropriate tool of choice for that sort of interaction. So, for example, clicking on an email could lead to popping that email in Apple Mail (I am running OS X), and likewise, selecting the IM topic could pop the active IM session running in Fire (the multiheaded IM client I run to stay in contact with Jabber, Yahoo, and MSN users).
  • Clicking on the blog entry could lead to either opening the entry in the browser or popping an RSS reader on my desktop, depending on configuration settings in Nerdvana.
  • In a totalitarian software world, Nerdava would include all the functionality needed: it would be an email client, RSS reader, IM solution, and calendar tool. But such tools are generally not best at any of the things they aspire to be, and wind up discarded as a result, because users want some cool feature in their mail or IM client, or just don’t want to imagine dropping their chosen RSS reader.

Obviously, my preference is the former: for Nerdvana to act as a primary organizing interface for existing communication tools, taking the buddy list concept as the core principle for all communication strategy, and supporting cross tool integration.

For example, your IM solution might not support the concept of an appointed time to start an IM session, but with Nerdvana you can do so:

  1. Define a time and a subject for an appointment, using the Nerdvana interface, but actually managed in your native calendar app, like iCal.
  2. After it exists, select the appointment in Nerdvana, and create an association with some other sort of communication — in this case an IM session.
  3. When the appointment occurs, Nerdvana will create the pending IM session.

The same technique can used to link writing an email with an appointment, or queueing up future blog entries.

Alternatively, you could imagine a structure where important communication events — such as long IM sessions, or time spent reading blog entries — could automatically be journaled on your calendar, as a means of tracking time, or simply being able to use the calendar as a way to search back for communication activities and content on a timeline basis.

Conclusions

I have always maintained that if you are going to dream, dream big. So I have big hopes for Nerdvana. Maybe someone out there is trying to do something along these lines — at least in part — and if so, I want to hear about it. There is lots of innovation going on in the various specialized communication areas: better RSS readers, IM clients, and innumerable social networking apps. But I haven’t seen much going on in bringing it all together, based on something like the buddy list metaphor.

I could also start in on how Nerdvana could play in an open social networking system — where the aggregation of communication channels, like blogs, IM, email, with specialized services like Flickr, Last.fm, Plazes, and so on, for photos , music, and location — could not only lead to multifaceted digital identities, but a coherent way of bringing together the disparate threads of identity into a manageable tool framework. This starts to look something like Mark Pincus has been looking into in his PeopleWeb thoughts. But I will leave that for the next installment of the Nerdvana series.

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