social software

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What is social software?

Social software encompasses a range of software systems that allow users to interact and share data. This computer-mediated communication has become very popular with social sites like MySpace and Facebook, media sites like Flickr and YouTube, and commercial sites like and eBay. Many of these applications share characteristics like open APIs, service oriented design, and the ability to upload data and media. The terms Web 2.0 and (for large-business applications) Enterprise 2.0 are also used to describe this style of software.

The more specific term collaborative software applies to cooperative information sharing systems, and is usually narrowly applied to the software that enables collaborative work functions. Distinctions among usage of the terms "social", "trusted", and "collaborative" are in the applications or uses, not the tools themselves, although there are some tools that are only rarely used for work collaboration.

Social technologies or Conversational technologies used in organizations, in particular a network-centric organization, are other terms used to describe knowledge creation and storage that is carried out through collaborative writing. Constructivist learning theorists such as Vygotsky; Leidner & Jarvenpaa explained that the process of expressing knowledge aids its creation and conversations benefits the refinement of knowledge. Conversational KM fulfills this purpose because conversations, e.g. questions and answers, become the source of relevant knowledge in the organization. [1] Conversational technologies are seen as tools to support work units and the individual knowledge worker.[2]

Many advocates of using these tools believe (and actively argue or assume) that they create actual communities, and have adopted the term "online communities" to describe the resulting social structures.

* 1 History
* 2 Debates and design choices
* 3 Tools for online communication
o 3.1 Instant Messaging
o 3.2 Text chat
o 3.3 Internet forums
o 3.4 Blogs
o 3.5 Wikis
o 3.6 Collaborative real-time editor
o 3.7 Prediction markets
o 3.8 Social network services
o 3.9 Social network search engines
o 3.10 Deliberative social networks
o 3.11 Commercial social networks
o 3.12 Social guides
o 3.13 Social bookmarking
o 3.14 Social citations
o 3.15 Social libraries
o 3.16 Virtual worlds
+ 3.16.1 Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)
+ 3.16.2 Non-game worlds
+ 3.16.3 Economies
o 3.17 Other specialized social applications
* 4 Emerging technologies
o 4.1 Peer-to-peer social networks
o 4.2 Virtual presence
* 5 References
* 6 See also
* 7 External links

[edit] History

Christopher Allen supports this definition and traces the core ideas of this concept back through Computer Supported Cooperative or Collaborative Work (CSCW) in the 1990s, Groupware in the 1970s and 80s, to Englebart’s “augmentation” (1960s) and Bush’s “Memex” (1940s). Although he identifies a “lifecycle” to this terminology that appears to reemerge each decade in a different form, this does not necessarily mean that social software is simply old wine in new bottles.[citation needed]

Early manifestations of social software in early Internet apps for communication and collaboration such as email, newsgroups, groupware, virtual communities and the like and point out its augmentation capabilities. In the next phase, influences of academic experiments, Social Constructivism, and the open source software movement. In the current phase, these collaborative tools add a capability “that aggregates the actions of networked users”. This points to a powerful dynamic that distinguishes social software from other group collaboration tools and as a component of Web 2.0 technology. Capabilities for content and behavior aggregation and redistribution present some of the more important potentials of this media.[citation needed]

In 1945 Vannevar Bush describes a hypertext-like device called the "memex"[citation needed]

In 1962 Douglas Engelbart publishes his seminal work, "Augmenting Human Intellect: a conceptual framework". In this paper, he proposes using computers to augment training. With his colleagues at the Stanford Research Institute, Engelbart started to develop a computer system to augment human abilities, including learning. The system was simply called the oNLine System (NLS), and it debuted in 1968.[citation needed]

The initial concept of a global information network should be given to J.C.R. Licklider in his series of memos entitled "On-Line Man Computer Communication”, written in August of 1962. However, the actual development of the internet must be given to Lawrence G. Roberts of MIT.[citation needed]

In 1971 the MITRE Corporation begins a year-long demonstration of the TICCIT system among Reston, Virginia cable television subscribers. Interactive television services included informational and educational demonstrations using a touch-tone telephone. The National Science Foundation refunds the PLATO project and funds MITRE's proposal to modify its TICCIT technology as a computer-assisted instruction (CAI) system to support English and algebra at community colleges. MITRE subcontracts instructional design and courseware authoring tasks to the University of Texas at Austin and Brigham Young University. Also this year Ivan Illich describes computer-based "learning webs" in his book Deschooling Society [3].

Seymour Papert at MIT publishes "Mindstorms: children, computers, and powerful ideas" in 1980. (New York: Basic Books). This book inspired a number of books and dissertations on "microworlds" and their impact on learning. BITNET, founded by a consortium of US and Canadian universities, allowed universities to connect with each other for educational communications and e-mail. At its peak in 1991, it had over 500 organizations as members and over 3000 nodes. Its use declined as the World Wide Web grew.

In 1986 Tony Bates publishes "Computer Assisted Learning or Communications: Which Way for Information Technology in Distance Education?", Journal of Distance Education/ Revue de l'enseignement a distance, reflecting (in 1986!) on ways forward for e-learning, based on 15 years of operational use of computer networks at the Open University and nine years of systematic R&D on CAL, viewdata/videotex, audio-graphic teleconferencing and computer conferencing. Many of the systems specification issues discussed later are rehearsed here.[4]

The first version of CSILE installed on a small network of Cemcorp ICON computers at an elementary school in Toronto, Canada. CSILE included text and graphical notes authored by several kinds of users (students, teachers, others) with attributes such as comments and thinking types which reflect the role of the note in the author's thinking. Thinking types included "my theory", "new information", and "I need to understand". CSILE later evolved into Knowledge Forum.[citation needed]

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, then a young British engineer working at CERN in Switzerland, circulated a proposal for an in-house online document sharing system which he described as a "web of notes with links". After the proposal was grudgingly approved by his superiors, he called the new system the World Wide Web.

CAPA (Computer Assisted Personalized Approach) system was developed at Michigan State University was developed in 1992. It was first used in a small (92 student) physics class in the Fall of 1992. Students accessed randomized (personalized) homework problems through telnet.

* is founded in 1994. In 1998 *'s initial public offering posts the largest first day gain in US history.[citation needed]

In 2001 Ryze founded by Adrian Scott. In April of 2002 Jonathan Abrams creates his profile on Friendster.

2003 introduced the world to the launches of Hi5, LinkedIn, and MySpace. Facebook was launched in February of 2004.

Levin (in Allen 2004, sec. 2000s) acknowledges that many of characteristics of social software (hyperlinks, Weblog conversation discovery, and standards-based aggregation) “build on older forms”; nevertheless, “the difference in scale, standardization, simplicity, and social incentives provided by Web access turn a difference in degree to a difference in kind.” Key technological factors underlying this difference in kind in the computer, network, and information technologies are: filtered hypertext, ubiquitous Web/computing, continuous Internet connectivity, cheap, efficient and small electronics, content syndication strategies (RSS), and others. Additionally, the convergence of several major information technology systems for voice, data, and video into a single system makes for expansive computing environments with far reaching effects.

[edit] Debates and design choices

Social software may be better understood as a set of debates or design choices than any particular list of tools. Broadly conceived, there are many older media such as mailing lists and Usenet fora that qualify as "social". Most users of this term, however, restrict its meaning to more recent software genres such as blogs and wikis. Others suggest that the term social software is best used not to refer to a single type of software, but rather to the use of two or more modes of computer-mediated communication that result in "community formation".[5] In this view, people form online communities by combining one-to-one (e.g., email and instant messaging), one-to-many (Web pages and blogs), and many-to-many (wikis) communication modes.[6]. Some groups schedule real life meetings and so become physically "real" communities of people that share physical lives.

Common to most definitions of social software, is the observation that some types of software seem to facilitate a more egalitarian and meritocratic "bottom-up" community development, in which membership is voluntary, reputations are earned by winning the trust of other members, and the community's mission and governance are defined by the communities' members themselves[7].

Communities formed by "bottom-up" processes are often contrasted to the less vibrant collectivities formed by "top-down" software, in which users' roles are determined by an external authority and circumscribed by rigidly conceived software mechanisms (such as access rights). Given small differences in policies, very similar software can produce radically different social outcomes. For instance, TikiWiki CMS/Groupware has a fine-grained permission system of detailed access control so the site administrator can, on a page by page basis, determine which groups can view, edit or view the history. By contrast, mediawiki avoids per-user controls, to keep most pages editable by most users, and puts more information about users currently editing in its recent changes pages. The result is that TikiWiki can be both used by community groups which embrace the social paradigm of mediawiki, or for groups which prefer having more content control.

Social software, by design, reflects the traits of social networks and is designed very consciously to let social network analysis work with a very compatible database. All social software systems create links between users, as persistent as the identity those users choose. Through these persistent links, a permanent community can be formed out of a formerly epistemic community. The ownership and control of these links - who is linked, and who isn't - is in the hands of the user. Thus, these links are asymmetrical - you might link to me, but I might not link to you[8]. Also, these links are functional, not decorative - you can choose not to receive any content from people you are not connected to, for example. Wikipedia user pages are a very good example, and often contain extremely detailed information about the person who constructed them, including everything from mother tongue to their moral purchasing preferences.

[edit] Tools for online communication

The tools used in social software applications include communication tools and interactive tools. Communication tools typically handle the capturing, storing, and presentation of communication, usually written but increasingly including audio and video also. Interactive tools handle mediated interactions between a pair or group of users. They differ from communication tools in their focus on establishing and maintaining a connection among users, facilitating the mechanics of conversation and talk. Communication tools are generally asynchronous. Interactive tools are generally synchronous, allowing users to communicate in real time (phone, Net phone, video chat) or near-synchronous (IM, text chat).

We can add to this distinction one that describes the primary user experience of each: communication involves the content of talk, speech, or writing; interaction involves the interest users establish in one another as individuals. In other words, a communication tool may want to make access and searching of text both simple and powerful. An interactive tool may want to present as much of a user's expression, performance, and presence as possible. The organization of texts, and providing access to archived contributions differs from the facilitation of interpersonal interactions between contributors enough to warrant the distinction in media.[citation needed]

[edit] Instant Messaging

An instant messaging application or client allows one to communicate with another person over a network in real time, in relative privacy. Popular clients include Gtalk, Skype, Meebo, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, Pidgin (formerly Gaim) and AOL Instant Messenger. One can add friends to a contact list or buddy list, by entering their email address or messenger ID. If they are online, their name will be listed as available for chat. Clicking on their name will activate a chat window with space to write to the other person, as well as read their reply.

[edit] Text chat

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and other online chat technologies allow users to join chat rooms and communicate with many people at once, publicly. Users may join a pre-existing chat room or create a chat room about any topic. Once inside, you may type messages that everyone else in the room can read, as well as respond to messages from others. Often there is a steady stream of people entering and leaving. Whether you are in another person's chat room, or one you've created yourself, you are generally free to invite others online to join you in that room. Instant messaging facilitates both one-to-one (communication) and many-to-many interaction.

[edit] Internet forums

Originally modeled after the real-world paradigm of electronic bulletin boards of the world before Internet was born, internet forums allow users to post a "topic" for others to review. Other users can view the topic and post their own comments in a linear fashion, one after the other. Most forums are public, allowing anybody to sign up at any time. A few are private, gated communities where new members must pay a small fee to join, like the Something Awful Forums.

Forums can contain many different categories in a hierarchy according to topics and subtopics. Other features include the ability to post images or files or the ability to quote another user's post with special formatting in one's own post. Forums often grow in popularity until they can boast several thousand members posting replies to tens of thousands of topics continuously.

There are various standards and claimants for the market leaders of each software category. Various add-ons may be available, including translation and spelling correction software, depending on the expertise of the operators of the bulletin board. In some industry areas, the bulletin board has its own commercially successful achievements: free and paid hardcopy magazines, professional and amateur sites.

Current successful services have combined new tools with the older newsgroup and mailing list paradigm to produce hybrids like Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups. Also as a service catches on, it tends to adopt characteristics and tools of other services that compete. Over time, for example, wiki user pages have become social portals for individual users and may be used in place of other portal applications.

[edit] Blogs

Blogs, short for web logs, are like online journals for a particular person. The owner will post a message periodically, allowing others to comment. Topics often include the owner's daily life, views on politics or a particular subject important to them.

Blogs mean many things to different people, ranging from "online journal" to "easily updated personal website". While these definitions are technically correct, they fail to capture the power of blogs as social software. Beyond being a simple homepage or an online diary, some blogs allow comments on the entries, thereby creating a discussion forum. They also have blogrolls (i.e., links to other blogs which the owner reads or admires), and indicate their social relationship to those other bloggers using the XFN social relationship standard. Pingback and trackback allow one blog to notify another blog, creating an inter-blog conversation. Blogs engage readers and can build a virtual community around a particular person or interest. Examples include Slashdot, LiveJournal, BlogSpot

[edit] Wikis

A wiki is a web page whose content can be edited by its visitors. Examples include Wikipedia, Wiktionary, the original Portland Pattern Repository wiki, MeatballWiki, CommunityWiki, and Wikisource. For more detail on free and commercially available wiki systems see Comparison of wiki software.

[edit] Collaborative real-time editor

Simultaneous editing of a text or media file by different participants on a network was first demonstrated on research systems as early as the 1970s but is now practical on a global network. SubEthaEdit, SynchroEdit, ACE, Moonedit are examples of this type of social software. Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Zoho allow for joint editing, but other users will only see changes after saving.

[edit] Prediction markets

Many prediction market tools have become available (including some free software) that make it easy to predict and bet on future events. This a more formal version of social interaction, but it nonetheless qualifies as a robust type of social software.

[edit] Social network services

Social network services allow people to come together online around shared interests, hobbies, or causes. For example, some sites provide dating services where users post personal profiles, locations, ages, gender, etc, and are able to search for a partner. Other services enable business networking (Ryze, XING, and LinkedIn)and social event meetups (Meetup).

Some large wikis effectively become social network services by encouraging user pages and portals.

Anyone can create their own social networking service using hosted offerings like Ning, or more flexible, installable software like Elgg.

[edit] Social network search engines

Social network search engines are a class of search engines that use social networks to organize, prioritize, or filter search results. There are two subclasses of social network search engines: those that use explicit social networks, and those that use implicit social networks.

Explicit social network search engines allow people to find each other according to explicitly stated social relationships such as XFN social relationships. XHTML Friends Network, for example, allows people to share their relationships on their own sites, thus forming a decentralized/distributed online social network, in contrast to centralized social network services listed in the previous section.

Implicit social network search engines allow people to filter search results based upon classes of social networks they trust, such as a shared political viewpoint. This was called an epistemic filter in a United Nations University report from 1993 which predicted that this would become the dominant means of search for most users.

Lacking trustworthy explicit information about such viewpoints, this type of social network search engine mines the web to infer the topology of online social networks. For example, the NewsTrove search engine infers social networks from content - sites, blogs, pods, and feeds - by examining, among other things, subject matter, link relationships, and grammatical features to infer social networks.

[edit] Deliberative social networks

Deliberative social networks are webs of discussion and debate for decision-making purposes. They are built for the purpose of establishing sustained relationships between individuals and their government. They rely upon informed opinion and advice that is given with a clear expectation of outcomes.

[edit] Commercial social networks

Commercial social networks are designed to support business transaction and to build a trust between an individual and a brand, which relies on opinion of product, ideas to make the product better, enabling customers to participate with the brands in promoting development, service delivery, and a better customer experience.[citation needed]. an example of these networks is Dell IdeaStorm.

[edit] Social guides

A social guide recommending places to visit or contains information about places in the real world such as coffee shops, restaurants, and wifi hotspots, etc. One such application is WikiTravel.

[edit] Social bookmarking

Some Web sites allow users to post their list of bookmarks or favorites websites for others to search and view them. These sites can also be used to meet others sharing common interests. Examples include digg,, StumbleUpon, reddit, Netvouz, and furl.

[edit] Social citations

Much like social bookmarking, this software is aimed towards academics, and allows the user to post a citation for an article found on the internet or a website, online database like Academic Search Premier or LexisNexis Academic University, a book found in a library catalog, and so on. These citations can be organized into predefined categories or a new category defined by the user through the use of tags. This allows academics researching or interested in similar areas to connect and share resources. Examples for those services include CiteULike, Connotea, BibSonomy and refbase.

[edit] Social libraries

This applications allows visitors to keep track of their collectibles, books, records, and DVDs. Users can share their collections. Recommendations can be generated based on user ratings, using statistical computation and network theory. Some sites offer a buddy system, as well as virtual "check outs" of items for borrowing among friends. Folksonomy or tagging is implemented on most of these sites. Examples include, and LibraryThing.

[edit] Virtual worlds

Virtual Worlds are services where it is possible to meet and interact with other people in a virtual environment reminiscent of the real world. Thus the term virtual reality. Typically, the user manipulates an avatar through the world, interacting with others using chat or voice chat.

[edit] Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)

MMOGs are virtual worlds that add various sorts of point systems, levels, competition, and winners and losers to virtual world simulation. Commercial MMOGs (or, more accurately, massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs,) include Everquest and World of Warcraft. The Dotsoul Cyberpark is one of the more innovative non-commercial worlds, with the look and feel of Second Life and Active Worlds, but an adamantly anti-corporate stance. Other open-source and experimental examples include Planeshift, Croquet project, VOS and Solipsis.

[edit] Non-game worlds

Another development are the worlds that are less game-like, or not games at all. Games have points, winners, and losers. Instead, some virtual worlds are more like social networking services like MySpace and Facebook, but with 3D simulation features. Examples include Second Life, ActiveWorlds, The Sims Online, and There.

[edit] Economies

Very often a real economy emerges in these worlds, extending the non-physical service economy within the world to service providers in the real world. Experts can design dresses or hairstyles for characters, go on routine missions for them, and so on, and be paid in game money to do so. This emergence has resulted in expanding social possibility and also in increased incentives to cheat. In the case of Second Life, the in-world economy is one of the primary features of the world.

[edit] Other specialized social applications

There are many other applications with social software characteristics that facilitate human connection and collaboration in specific contexts. Project management and e-learning applications are among these.

[edit] Emerging technologies

Emerging technological capabilities to more widely distribute hosting and support much higher bandwidth in real time are bypassing central content arbiters in some cases.

[edit] Peer-to-peer social networks

A hybrid of web-based social networks, instant messaging technologies and peer-to-peer connectivity and file sharing, peer-to-peer social networks generally allow users to share blogs, files (especially photographs) and instant messages. Some examples are imeem, SpinXpress, Bouillon, Wirehog, and Soulseek. Also, Groove, WiredReach and Kerika have similar functionality, but with more of a work-based, collaboration bias.

[edit] Virtual presence

Widely viewed, virtual presence means being present via intermediate technologies, usually radio, telephone, television, or the internet. In addition, it can denote apparent physical appearance, such as voice, face, and body language.

More narrowly, the term virtual presence denotes presence on World Wide Web locations which identified by URLs. People who are browsing a web site are considered to be virtually present at web locations. Virtual presence is a social software in the sense that people meet on the web by chance or intentionally. The ubiquitous(in the web space) communication transfers behavior patterns from the real world and virtual worlds to the web. Research [9] has demonstrated effects [10] of online indicators

[edit] References

1. ^ Helen Hasan & Charmaine C Pfaff. 2006. "The Wiki: an environment to revolutionise employees’ interaction with corporate knowledge" ACM International Conference Proceeding Series; Vol. 206, pp.377-380.
2. ^ Helen Hasan & Charmaine C Pfaff. 2006. "Emergent Conversational Technologies that are Democratizing Information Systems in Organizations: the case of the corporate Wiki" Proceedings of the Information Systems Foundations (ISF): Theory, Representation and Reality Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, 27-28 September 2006.
3. ^ Illich, Ivan (1971). Deschooling Society. New York, Harper & Row ISBN 0-06-012139-4
4. ^ Computer Assisted Learning or Communications:
Which Way for Information Technology in Distance Education?
5. ^ Stowe Boyd, "Are You Ready for Social Software?"
6. ^ Clay Shirky, "A Group is Its Own Worst Enemy"
7. ^ Matt Webb, "On Social Software"
8. ^ Trustlet, Definition of trust network
9. ^ Sheizaf Rafaeli & Noy, A. (2002), Online auctions, messaging, communication and social facilitation: a simulation and experimental evidence, European Journal of Information Systems, September 2002, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 196-207.
10. ^ Sheizaf Rafaeli and Noy, A. (2005). "Social Presence: Influence on Bidders in Internet Auctions". EM-Electronic Markets, 15(2), 158-176.

[edit] See also

* Comparison of wiki software
* Customer engagement
* Folksonomy
* List of social software
* Motivations for contributing to online communities
* Online identity
* Online deliberation
* Participatory Media
* Pseudonymity
* Social bookmarking
* The WELL
* Usenet
* Wiki software
* Wikipedia's implied constitution
* Enterprise 2.0
* Web 2.0
* Online web community
* Commons-based peer production

[edit] External links

* - Exemple of Social Software
* Tracing the Evolution of Social Software
* Social Bookmarks Script Generator
* Social Protocols: An Introduction
* Tom Coates' Definition of Social Software and Revised / Simplified Definition of Social Software

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