The Amish are kicking our ass. They’re building large, complex, multi-use platforms using a process that requires a high level of expertise and many different skill sets, and they launch these platforms in a day. That’s something the we (technologists, tech users, and tech businessmen) still can’t do, in most cases. Why not? Because we are isolated, separated, spread out. Our communication tools have become more advanced, but they’re disconnected from the work processes we use them to discuss. We are delayed by the many small waiting periods that total together, because people aren’t working together, they’re combining the work they do apart. What we need, is true social software.
The Path to True Social Software
A few notes on the above image…
- Seamless Software: “Location-independent”? This means that regardless of what device you’re using at which location, you have access to the software, and all data related to that software, that you own. Over at a friend’s house, or in a co-worker’s cubicle? You can still pull up the same Open Office document/Photoshop image you were working on earlier at home. And when you get back home, any changes you made while at other locations are intact.
- Seamless Software: “Smart Syncing”? You work on a document online, then some more while offline, and perhaps even some more online at another location, before the earlier offline work has been incorporated. How does the software sync these three versions correctly?
- Each instance should have timestamped logs, so that the software can create a timeline of which changes were made when, and try to reconcile different versions based upon the order in which changes were made.
- After a certain number of times using the software, it should understand your workflow and preferences based upon stored behavioral data, helping it to understand the likelihood of your intended end result for things like formatting, positioning, paragraph length, etc.
- Easy reversion/reconciliation display. The software notifies you if it’s reconciled multiple versions with significant differences. It displays what changes were made in which areas, thanks to storing data for changes in discrete chunks, and offers you easy options for reverting to a specific version, or only reconciling specific parts of each version.
- XFN/FOAF? These are two different standards for making your relationships machine-readable online. They’re also the two standards being used in Google’s Social Graph API.
What Does True Social Software Do?
True social software rejects the premise that software is for a person, and opens up the possibilities of software made for multiple people. It can accept data you offer it about your social network, or create new connections based on your use of the software. Some examples:
- Software, games for example, that search your network for friends who have indicated they want to let friends know they also own this software.
- Real-time chat and collaboration features for everything from word processing to image editing to software development. Multiple “network profiles” allow you to transition between co-workers, friends, and location-based networks, as well as adding/removing access to individuals at any time.
- On-the-fly file sharing networks for music playlists, document templates, Photoshop brushes, game maps, program plug-ins, and much more.
The benefits of this are huge. It improves the accessibility of information, increases collaboration, improves workflow, and frees up your time to focus on creating.
Social Networking Services and Software
While eventually these kind of integrated social features will be standard, understood, and expected, at first it will be in both software companies and SNSs’ interests to use existing SNSs as the method of display and connection between owners of specific software. SNSs have already made the leap from being a social listing and communication tool to platforms for applications. While those applications are currently merely games, small utilities, or connections to larger services, they will evolve and make more full use of the social platform they are built upon.
Part I of my Social Networking Services of 2010 series was about reviews and recommendation integration… done right.
What true social software application would you most like to see?