It's Clay Shirky's Internet, We Just Live In It

I’m with Carr; I call bull. Here’s why:

Have you ever been driving down the road, doing your usual five or ten miles per hour over the limit, and then noticed that there’s some dipshit tailgating you, and he’s so close that you can’t even see his hood ornament. And then that guy, who is very clearly in a hurry, finds a spot to pass you and charges off into the distance at a thoroughly unsafe speed? And have you then caught up to that guy at the next stoplight and been mired in the same traffic he is, all the way to the next destination?

I won’t bother embarrassing anyone by asking if they’ve ever been that dipshit. Almost every driver has.

Which is the real issue. Creating user content on the Web is, by and large, much like that tailgating and passing and speeding. It makes the person committing the actions feel like they are doing more to accomplish their goals, and they tell their friends that they accomplish more because they “don’t follow the rules like those sheep”. These people do not, however, get to their destinations any faster or create anything more memorable than dime store bumper sticker slogans.

I agree with Shirky’s premise about “cognitive surplus”, but I think you could class the vast majority of Wikipedia content on the “dissipation” side, instead of the “harnessed”.

Because these days, almost all software is social software.

I’ve noticed an increased trend among the companies that I develop software for, and that is that they are all asking for ‘collaboration features’ to be added to them. I mostly develop corporate intranets or websites and features that are increasingly popular is blogs, wiki pages, rss, podcasts, rich media content and even live chatting.

I believe Chris D0herty is right in saying that all software is not social software, but if you narrow it down to software developed for the web, I believe that quote is becoming more and more true. It’s hard to find a popular site theese days that are not centered around collaboration and contribution.

I believe that quote would be more correct if it said something like

I’m pretty sure that World of Warcraft is getting very few people laid, and they seem to be doing pretty okay with that.

I’m pretty sure that World of Warcraft is getting very few people laid

Tom Slee had a great review:

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“The questions then become ones of what kind of structures will form and persist in the online world, and if you are going to talk about these questions then you have to address the economics of the problem.”

Actually, MMPORGs do a huge business in getting people laid. The significant others of the people playing the MMPORGs as they get new relationship nookie with someone who doesn’t have their head in a computer screen.

Going off on a tangent here, Jeff has a tendency to be melodramatic and to exaggerate.
Here’s the latest example: “these days, almost all software is social software.”

Seriously, Jeff, do you really believe that? I mean, seriously believe that?

Is the majority of software written is social? Obviously not.
Is the majority of software BEING written is social? Extremely unlikely.
Is the majority of software USED is social in nature? Almost certainly not.

It’s hard to take you seriously (I know I don’t) when you make such large, unfounded, exaggerated statements.

My thinking is that social software just makes more NOISE in certain communities than other kinds of software (of course it also makes money, but that’s hardly unique).

Back to your regularly scheduled discussion.

“… And that message – I can do that, too – is a big change.
This is something that people in the media world don’t understand.”

I’d take that point further and assert that there are some very big people in the media world who do understand, and it scares the crap out of them. They want to actively prevent people from thinking “I can do that, too”. It breaks their monopoly on defining what ‘culture’ is, and what technology is ‘supposed to do’. Hence the unending efforts to impose DRM, make the open internet into the new TV (net neutrality, anti-P2P initiatives) and other barriers of entry into modern creative media and participatory culture in general.

Anyway, end-of-rant :confused:

I prefer the term “hopeful romantic”; don’t you?

Thank you, yet again you introduce me to another perspective of the web that I hadn’t considered.

I am amazed at how much social software, especially the idea of anonymous internet communities has caught on. I guess everyone loves to have a say but we are stuck with the old saying “empty vessels make most noise” or to be more blunt about it, how do you stop the stupid people contributing (me included).

This obviously raises an interesting question of who are the stupid people :slight_smile: Read over the comments on this piece and identify the stupid ones, I’ll bet its completely subjective, not only to the reader but also to the mood/motivation of the reader at the time of reading.

If social software is to progress then I believe that this is the immediate challenge.

Another thought occurs: Even in actually social software, sometimes it’s a bad idea.

Look at YouTube. Sharing videos? Good. (even if I’d like to be able to save them and have less opaque links, to remove the sheer fragility and user-hostility of the content and URLs.)

YouTube comments? The actual “social” part? BAD.

My God, I feel like I lose twenty IQ points simply by glancing at them.

(And don’t even get me started on “Wikis, Wikis, everywhere”, especially “See our Documentation Wiki!” - the latter translates to "we have no god-damn documentation, but we’re gonna pretend we do.

But I’m not bitter.)

You’d be surprised at how many couples (myself included) play WoW together.

News flash: it takes two to make a couple.

How will your social software get your users laid?! Hardly the thing to ask if your site targets children and tweens… I sure hope clubpenguin, webkinz and their ilk aren’t thinking about getting their visitors laid.

@M and others
re: “these days, almost all software is social software.”

Isn’t any software that you create and share with a person other than yourself “social software”? Whether or not you intend the software to create a community or connect groups of communities, they will none the less be created around your product either online or offline. Consider this: If I make a specialized utility for my organization to edit come data in our CRM system. Even though I haven’t created my software with the intent of being social, there will almost without fail be a small group spawned who talk about the software comprised of users and bystanders. This little group will share insight, observations and critiques about my app, in much the same way that social/network software does in the “traditional” sense. My little LOB app just became social without me trying. Now that doesn’t mean that they’ll form a Facebook page around my app, but there is indeed a “social” aspect of my application now.

The MATLAB community is big, but I wouldn’t call MATLAB “social software”.

The people who use comp.soft-sys.matlab and, well, about the entire first page of results for might actually disagree with you.

I know I, for one, get far better support for any kind of software from the community than I ever did from the manufacturer, producer, or designer.

re: “Isn’t any software that you create and share with a person other than yourself “social software”?”

No. It isn’t.

That reasoning sounds like wishful thinking to me, or at least very much bending the definition of social software and communities. By that definition, anything you do is a social act that forms communities.
Wearing a T-shirt saying “I hate this job” (which IS a social act) to work would certainly cause some people to snigger, maybe make them mad, or happy. But that doesn’t make it an actual community.

There are communities (MANY!) around Linux, but the Linux kernel is not social software, nor is GCC, even though they are created by communities.
Also, you use the software at the ATM all the time, but I wouldn’t call it “social”. Nor is the software (lots of it) in your car.
Microsoft Office is pretty big, makes a lot of money, and is in use by millions of people, but it’s not social software.
The MATLAB community is big, but I wouldn’t call MATLAB “social software”.

I hope I’ve made my point, at the very least.

"There are communities (MANY!) around Linux, but the Linux kernel is not social software"
I’m not sure that you’re right. Sure, individual coders may not be thinking socially, but from the perspective of the guys at the top who manage the kernel, and have to take the millions of submissions and filter them to produce the finished product, there’s a massive social aspect to the software that needs considering. It’s certainly not just a pure technical issue of making it easy for people to deliver files. They’ve also got to inspire people to volunteer time and energy for this work, for borderline nothing.
And even at lower levels, there’s a lot of collaboration and peer review, especialy for anything important.

Actually, I was wrong. I AM sure that you’re NOT right.

For what it’s worth (and it’s probably not worth much), the US cover actually looks much better in person than it does online.

The reason for this is that there is some very subtle embossing indicating network connections between the people shown on the cover, which reinforces the core ideas of the book much more than a bunch of buttons.

I like it.

You guys are conflating (a real word, look it up!) two different things: “social software” and “software with a society around it”.

You should have read my comment more carefully, Jeff. Indeed MATLAB community is large, as I said. But MATLAB is not social software. It is a software for engineering, profiling, calculations. It DOESN’T CARE about sharing, other people, internet. It cares about matrices.

The Linux kernel community is a large social effort. The Linux kernel is not social software.

Mediawiki? Social software.
Lotus Notes? (Anti)social software.
MATLAB? Engineering software. (and not social engineering either :slight_smile:

Look at it from another perspective: if ABC_AnalysisLib is social software because there’s a large developer community, then does that mean that XYZ_BlogAndWiki software is NOT social because it’s being developed and deployed by one user?

Social software is software for social purposes. Unless, like I said, you are willing to expand the criteria so that it includes virtually everything (thus becoming useless).

I agree with M.

Sometimes through reading these different blog posts, it seems like you are alluding to the non-existence of programming outside ‘internet social sites’.