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i-Technology Viewpoint: What Are the Drivers of Social Software's Success?

Is social software more powerful than any other form of software, and if so why?

Have you subscribed yet to Dion Hinchcliffe's "Web 2.0 Blog"? Just in case you haven’t, let me say that it's a weblog very much worth while subscribing to. In a recent post for example Dion writes that it's time we start understanding the “exact underlying reasons why [social software] is so compelling” if we would want to apply it to the business world.

Check out the graphic he has shared because it will certainly help understand a thing or two. At the end of his piece, Dion asked an open question: “Do you think network effects will make social software more powerful than any other form of software?“

I thought I would venture to give my own take in trying to help find a good answer to his great question.

The short answer is: Yes, I very much think so - I think that the network effect will cause social software to eventually take over most of whatever other forms of software that may be out there.

My reasons for thinking this will happen are threefold. All three are related to those network effects as key components to make it all work out the way it was first envisioned:

Passion: There's no doubt that passion is, perhaps, one of the key network effect components that will seduce more and more people into trying out new social software, especially once it has been proven that it works from a personal perspective because then it is ready to go into the business world. In one of the comments to Dion's blog referenced above, there is talk of having reached a critical mass and I would agree with that. One of the best ways to boost and increase that critical mass is just by augmenting the passion some of those folks already have, so that it becomes contagious to get busy using that social software. That is what has happened to most of the Web 2.0 offerings that are out there, growing really fast at the moment. They are passionate about using that offering and even more they are sharing that passion with others. That would be a key connector to the business world.

Trust: This is the other most significant component of every network effect. Ee are all social creatures, but we are social creatures who need to create bonds with those around us in order to benefit from those social connections the most. One of the best ways of doing that is by having enough trust built up across the board and help spreading it around as widely as possible.

We all know that in every working business environment people are more willing to share what they know if they have a sense of trust of those with whom they are going to collaborate closer. And there's no denying that one of the most powerful options to help build up on the trust skills is by making use of social capital. In short: Social Software again. Examples so relatively simple as using different icebreakers, sharing favourite links, pictures, music, podcasts, etc. are just a few of the capabilities that social software is putting together and which help increase trust in whatever the business environment.

Involvement: Finally, to make it all work and to make social software more powerful than any other form of software, we would need to ensure that people are motivated and involved enough to want to make a difference. To want to come out, stand up and share what they know, because they actually want to do it and not because they may have been told to do so or because they may be getting in return whatever the incentive. Involvement is one other key element that will help people understand that through their passion and trust in each other they can let themselves go and get further involved with the task at hand - sharing what they know and collaborating with each other.

More Stories By Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is an Education Specialist working in the
Community Building programme from Business Consulting Services, Learning
and Knowledge, IBM Netherlands. He has been involved with Knowledge
Management for the last six years and has developed a passion for
everything that relates to Knowledge Management and related tools,
Communities of Practice, Remote Collaboration, Social Networking and
related tools including Web 2.0 / social software. You can read and find
out much more by heading over to either one of his Internet weblogs:
http://www.elsua.net (elsua - A KM Blog) or
http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/km/elsua (elsua - The Knowledge Management
Blog).

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Most Recent Comments
DataPoint 03/11/06 07:25:01 AM EST

Wikipedia reminds us that the term "social software" also arose in the late nineties to describe software emerging out of alliances between programmers and social groups whose particular kinds of cultural intelligence are locked out of mainstream software.

[from Wikipedia]
"In this understanding of the term, the social is understood to also have a political and aesthetic sense, not simply acting as a kind of glue for a collection of normatively understood 'agents' whose inter-relations are formatted by software. What both positions share is an understanding that particular design decisions and the grammar of interactions made possible by each piece of software is socially significant.

As the term has become more important to the computer industry, this earlier use of the term has often been edited out of memory."

Social Software 03/09/06 07:52:14 AM EST

Anyone seen Clay Shirky's Clay grid relating increasing community freedom on the X-axis and increasing annoyingness (suscepitiblity to common group problems) on the Y? The curve was steep and sudden. As freedom grows, so does trouble.

He proposes development of a pattern language - a tool adopted from architecture for describing issues and strategies or problems and solutions without being overcontrolled.

Social Software 03/09/06 07:52:01 AM EST

Anyone seen Clay Shirky's Clay grid relating increasing community freedom on the X-axis and increasing annoyingness (suscepitiblity to common group problems) on the Y? The curve was steep and sudden. As freedom grows, so does trouble.

He proposes development of a pattern language - a tool adopted from architecture for describing issues and strategies or problems and solutions without being overcontrolled.

Web20 Is Here 03/09/06 06:47:02 AM EST

The three reasons are spot-on. Passion is all too rarely mentioned as a driver, yet it's probably the key one.