blogtalk: danah boyd on social software
Social software defined as only new things, largely because of a few events – one on social software, then consolidated when E-tech set down a separate group for social software. Left out listserves, email, MOOs, and the many other kinds of pre 2002 collaborative technology.
In this talk, danah’s going to use “social software” in the limited sense that means “things that are new”, things created in the post-web bust era, web 2.0, because she thinks these things are in fact quite different. E.g. blogs, wikis, social network sites.
Significant changes: design, spread of participation, change of behaviour.
Engineering perspective – hone somehting, then release it, tweak it, etc. Social software just hacked stuff and put it out and saw what happened. Friendster one of the first sites to just stay in “beta” – was still in beta after two years with over a million users. Myspace – no spec, no legal, no usability, etc. So maybe they just got lucky? No – they shipped it, kept asking the early adopters what they wanted. Weren’t even going to hire a quality assurance team – they just watch what people do. They launch two-three features a day by directly hacking the webservers (which is utterly horrifying from the perspective of a large company like Yahoo or Google or Microsoft). Cons: Produces horribly unstable code, voodoo magic, not very extensible. Therefore you have people like Tom sitting till four am (she keeps dropping first names of the founders, says everyone knows them, I suspect this is not as true as she thinks – see for instance
Values are built into the software. Tech-centred mentalities. An example of something that went terribly wrong: Orkut. Norms always set by social spaces – we’re socialised.
Example Friendster: originally three core groups – gay men in New York, bloggers or Burning man participants. You took on the role of whichever cultural group you had joined through, and you would tend to think your group was the whole context. As it spread beyond original social context this became a problem. E.g. in MySpace teenagers are just being teenagers – but the thing is they’re being teenagers as teenagers are with other teenagers, not as they are with their parents or teachers –> moral panic. Inversion from MUDs/MOOs to social software – social software started as people centred rather than place/system centred. (Did I get that?) Your friends build the context – used to be your INTERESTS that drew the process/growth, but now it’s your friends. This doesn’t actually scale well – or rather, it does, but when it does, it causes the context to collapse. Monetization causes some of this problem – simply want more more more people. E.g. Facebook, just opened up for everyone – people don’t actually WANT everyone to see their pages.
Blogging’s an exception because they’re based on individuals – unlike with social software, you CAN avoid the people who are not like you. Con: you may not even be aware that there are bloggers of another persuasion than you.