Building Blocks Of The Social Web
In a brilliant post on nform.ca, information architect Gene Smith of the Atomiq.org blog outlined the 7 building blocks of social software. This pulls together the work of various people including Matt Webb and Stewart Butterfield and provides a framework that I think is valuable in thinking about social software.
The 7 building blocks are:
- Identity – a way of uniquely identifying people in the system
- Presence – a way of knowing who is online, available or otherwise nearby
- Relationships – a way of describing how two users in the system are related (e.g. in Flickr, people can be contacts, friends of family)
- Conversations – a way of talking to other people through the system
- Groups – a way of forming communities of interest
- Reputation – a way of knowing the status of other people in the system (who’s a good citizen? who can be trusted?)
- Sharing – a way of sharing things that are meaningful to participants (like photos or videos)
The article also presents a graphic demonstrating how social media sites have different emphasis, and act in different ways.
One aspect that I think is maybe missing from this model is the concept of equity, maybe social equity but that might be redundant. I think potentially reputation may accounts for some of the equity participants build in these social networks, but it doesn’t quite cover some of the key motivations in social networks. Think about yelp or myspace, the way you build equity in those networks is through collecting, collecting friends on myspace, collecting reviews and friends on yelp (sure reviews are contributions and they are part of your reputation). I think the way people build equity and reputation in social networks is what makes a community sustainable, it’s almost the equivalent to the concept of corporate culture or “the way we do things around here”. Analysis of corporate culture may provide a nice parallel when thinking about social networks and communities. Believe it or not the analysis of corporate culture is not as dry as it sounds and involves, heros, myths, stories, norms, and values.
I don’t know about you but i’ve worked at companies that believed they could “create culture” by telling the right stories, providing hero figures, instilling values etc. There are some that would say creating culture is not possible, but possibly you can influence it. Is Tom a heroic figure of myspace? Brookers on youtube? Nish on Yelp? Is the elite badge on yelp a symbol that is creating culture?