Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


Reading up on Social Software

The other day Lloyd was asking me whether I had a definition handy for Social Software. I started searching the site here (social software category here) and realized that while I had talked about various aspects at length, I never put a definition down. Blame it on me having internalized the meaning without actually bothering to come up with a succinct definition.

So, appropriately enough, Seb's Open Research points me to Ross Mayfield's Social Software Reader -- a collection of links to stories and articles describing and analyzing social software.

Read on for my pick of a definition.

I think I like the Meatball Wiki description the best and most readable, although many of the other articles are worthwhile to get a sense of the space. Here's a quoted quote from the Meatball Wiki:

However, many have realized that in fact these definitions aren't the right answer, weighting the "software" part more than the "social." MattJones? observed that:

Usenet and groupware apps were designed to scale from a technical and business point of view, not from a social point of view. That's why they sucked, because they didn't look at how humans work on social scale. That's what's new now I think, is that we're looking much more to the real world being helped by software than software simulating a perfect system that we adapt to.

So that's my definition: software that focuses and tries to assist the way people work, as opposed to the other way around. It's nicely broad, and encompasses the theory or goal. Whether this is really implemented in practice is another question. Perhaps "More Social" is a better term, at least until we get smarter chips that are better at dealing with the vagaries inherent in human interaction.