Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sharing Tool Wishlist

The following is an edited version of a wishlist I had been keeping on the side. The main idea is to define what would be, in my mind, the “ultimate social bookmarking system.” Which, obviously, goes way beyond social bookmarking. In a way, I even conceive of it as the ultimate tool for sharing online content. Yes, it’s that ambitious. Will it ever exist? Probably not. Should it exist? I personally think so. But I may be alone in this. Surely, you’ll tell me that I am indeed alone, which is fine. As long as you share your own wishlist items.

The trigger for my posting this is that someone contacted me, asking for what I’d like in a social bookmarking system. I find this person’s move quite remarkable, as a thoughtful strategy. Not only because this person contacted me directly (almost flattering), but because such a request reveals an approach to listening and responding to people’s needs that I find lacking in some software development circles.

This person’s message served as a prompt for my blogging this, but I’ve been meaning to blog this for a while. In fact, my guess is that I created a first version of this wishlist in 2007 after having it on my mind for a while before that. As such, it represents a type of “diachronic” or “longitudinal” view of social bookmarking and the way it works in the broader scheme of social media.

Which also means that I wrote this before I heard about Google Wave. In fact, I’m still unclear about Google Wave and I’ll need to blog about that. Not that I expect Wave to fulfill all the needs I set up for a sharing tool, but I get the impression that Google is finally putting some cards on the table.

The main part of this post is in outline form. I often think through outlines, especially with such a type of notes. I fully realize that it may not be that clear, as a structure, for other people to understand. Some of these bullet points cover a much broader issue than what they look like. But the overall idea might be fairly obvious to grasp, even if it may sound crazy to other people.

I’m posting this to the benefit of anyone who may wish to build the killer app for social media. Of course, it’s just one man’s opinion. But it’s my entitled opinion.

Concepts

What do we share online?

  • “Link”
  • “Page”
  • Identified content
  • Text
    • Narrative
    • Contact information
    • Event description
  • Contact information
  • Event invitation
  • Image
  • Recording
  • Structured content
  • Snippet
  • Access to semi-private content
  • Site’s entry point

Selective sharing

Private
  • Archiving
  • Cloud access
Individually shared
  • “Check this out”
  • Access to address book
  • Password protection
  • Specialization/expertise
  • Friendship
Group shared
  • Shared interests (SIG)
  • Collaboration (task-based)
Shared through network
  • Define identity in network
  • Semi-public
Public
  • Publishing
  • Processed
  • Reading lists

Notetaking

  • Active reading
  • Anchoring text
  • Ad hoc list of bookmarks
  • “Empty URL”
    • Create container/page
    • Personal notes

Todos

  • To read
  • To blog
  • To share
  • To update
  • Projects
    • GTD
    • Contexts
  • Add to calendar (recognized as event)

Outlining/Mindmapping

  • Manage lists of links
  • Prioritize
  • Easily group

Social aspects of sharing

  • Gift economy
  • Personal interaction
  • Trust
  • Hype
  • Value
  • Customized

Cloud computing

  • Webware
  • “Online disk”
  • Without download
  • Touch devices
  • Edit online

Personal streaming

  • Activities through pages
  • Logging
  • Flesh out personal profile

Tagging

  • “Folksonomy”
  • Enables non-hierarchical structure
  • Semantic fields
  • Related tags
  • Can include hierarchy
  • Tagclouds define concept map

Required Features

Crossplatform, crossbrowser

  • Browser-specific tools
  • Bookmarklets
  • Complete access through cloud
Keyboard shortcuts
  • Quick add (to account)
  • Vote
  • Bookmark all tabs (à la Flock)
  • Quick tags

Related pages

Recommended
  • Based on social graph
  • Based on tags
  • Based on content
  • Based on popularity
  • Pointing to this page

Quickly enter links

  • Add in place (while editing)
  • Similar to “spell as you type”
  • Incremental search
  • Add full link (title, URL, text, metadata)

Archiving

  • Prevent linkrot
  • Prepare for post-processing (offline reading, blogging…)
  • Enable bulk processing
  • Maintain version history
  • Internet Archive

Automatic processing

  • Tags
  • Summary
  • Wordcount
  • Reading time
  • Language(s)
  • Page structure analysis
  • Geotagging
  • Vote

Thread following

  • Blog comments
  • Forum comments
  • Trackbacks
  • Pings

Exporting

All
  • Archiving
  • Prepare for import
  • Maintain hierarchy
Selected
  • Tag
  • Category
  • Recently used
  • Shared
  • Site homepage
  • Blogroll
  • Blogs
Formats
  • Other services
  • HTML
  • RSS
  • OPML
  • Widget
Features
  • Comments
  • Tags
  • Statistics
  • Content

Offline processing

  • Browser-based
  • Device based
  • Offline archiving
  • Include content
  • Synchronization

Microblogging support

  • Laconi.ca/Identi.ca
  • Twitter
  • Ping.fm
  • Jaiku

Fixed/Static URL

  • Prevent linkrot
  • Maintain list for same page
  • Short URLs
  • Automatically generated
  • Expansion on mouseover
  • Statistics

Authentication

  • Use of resources
  • Identify
  • Privacy
  • Unnecessary for basic processing
  • Sticks (no need to login frequently)
  • Access to contacts and social graph
  • Multiple accounts
    • Personal/professional
    • Contexts
    • Group accounts
  • Premium accounts
    • Server space
    • Usage statistics
    • Promotion
  • Support
    • OpenID
      • As group login
    • Google Accounts
    • Facebook Connect
    • OAuth

Integration

  • Web history
  • Notebook
  • Blogging platform
  • Blog editor
  • Microblogging platform
  • Logbook
  • General purpose content editor
  • Toolbar
  • URL shortening
  • Address book
  • Social graph
  • Personal profile
  • Browser
    • Bookmarks
    • History
    • Autocomplete
  • Analytics
  • Email
  • Search
    • Online
    • Offline

Related Tools

  • Diigo
  • WebCitation
  • Ping.fm
  • BackType
  • Facebook share
  • Blog This
  • Link This
  • Share this
  • Digg
  • Plum
  • Spurl
  • CoComments
  • MyBlogLog
  • TwtVite
  • Twistory
  • Windows Live Writer
  • Magnolia
  • Stumble Upon
  • Delicious
  • Google Reader
  • Yahoo Pipes
  • Google Notebook
  • Zoho Notebook
  • Google Browser Sync
  • YouTube
  • Flock
  • Zotero

Relevant Blogposts


Social Systems Online (Old Draft)

Wrote this a while ago, left it in my draft folder in Windows Live Writer. Posting it as-is. RERO!

Was sent here (long after the post was submitted) by a friend of mine who knows my interest in using social science to deal with online issues. When eBay changed its feedback policy (and before this piece was posted), there was some discussion about both the perceived relevance of eBay and about alternatives to the feedback system. These are all very interesting, especially to those who frequently buy and sell things online. Here, the main point seems to be: eBay isn’t the only way to trade goods and money and eBay may even have failed, so we’ll look at what happened. There’s still room for selling and buying things online, and eBay can now be an example of what didn’t work.
Fair enough.

But the mention of Wikipedia and the “crowd control” angle bring about a broader point about social systems.
Social scientists in general (including economists, game theorists, etc.) are well-aware of many of the issues which are now being addressed with disillusion. And while several of those who were “illusioned” into thinking the ‘Net would change all the rules of social behavior are themselves social scientists, the disillusion depends less on any characteristic of social behaviour than on people’s expectations.
The same principle applies to both eBay and Wikipedia: people have been extremely optimistic and are now disappointed by what they perceive to be broken promises.
The notion that time may be a factor merits consideration. Not because of “biological time,” IMO that’s going a bit far. But maybe because of scale. The time needed to make decisions about a purchase, to write feedback about somebody else, to assess the value of an encyclopedia entry, to discuss things… That kind of time “doesn’t scale well.”
There’s a related issue, in terms of scale: the number of people involved. When some issues with Wikipedia’s management started surfacing, a year or two ago, and people started using Wikipedia as a proof that “crowds” aren’t self-regulated, some people (including those on CNET’s Buzz Out Loud) commented on scale. These comments were, IMHO, very insightful. Wikipedia was, in fact, a pretty decent example of self-regulation. But self-regulation doesn’t scale well and this dimension of the site “collapsed.” At least, that’s one way to put it.
The broad principle of scale is well-understood by technologists. What can work with some measure X (number of chips, number of visitors, etc.) may not work at 2X and is even more likely to fail at X^2. Seeing social systems in the same way may be a step in the right direction. It’s still misleading, because we’re talking about diverse human beings, but it’s a start.

In ethnography, we have quite a bit of experience with small groups of people which can be said to approximate the self-regulating ideal. Not really crowds. Loosely-joined group of maybe 30-40 people who get together through part of the year to accomplish some general tasks related to their survival. The technical term is “band” and foraging societies (of which very few remain, nowadays) could often be described using the “band” model. Some people (ethnographers and others, including Marx) have even been so taken by those “band” structures that they wanted to apply the same ideas to broader groups. One reason they failed is that these groups were not only self-regulating but also self-forming. Creating that kind of group from scratch is unlikely to result in the same type of self-regulation. Another reason is that the model doesn’t scale well. It’s easy to “grok”: a city neighbourhood is very different from a large village of the same population. They’re different models.
So, scale is an important factor to consider. eBay and Wikipedia have possibly been among the largest groups in human history to regulate themselves. People who were dependent on these sites for actual survival were few and far between. But the overall structures were still quite big. Maybe these sites just reached a break point. “Peak People,” if you will.
Or, maybe, other issues were at stake.
Size does matter, in a social system. But other things matter too. Including the internal structure of the group. “What kind of a group is it?”
Apart from being hierarchical or “fairly egalitarian,” groups can be goal-oriented, clustered, open, inward-looking, etc. All of these dimensions cut across one another: you can have a very hierarchical, closed, highly clustered, outward-looking, goal-oriented group with millions of member or with twenty.
Those group characteristics matter a lot, in terms of adaptation.
So, going back to Wikipedia (because it’s a better-known case of this than eBay). One reason the self-regulating dream didn’t come true might have to do with group structure. People interpreted the group to be extremely large, quite egalitarian, unclustered, open, outward-looking, and goal-oriented. It turns out that there was, within Wikipedia, a comparatively small, rather hierarchic, highly clustered, semi-closed, and inward-looking group acting as if they were survival-oriented (not oriented toward a specific task or goal).
Wikipedia worked for a while. More than many people seemed to realize, Wikipedia.org had succeeded at creating an actual “community”: a group of people who interact with one another on a fairly regular basis. This community included the “core” group of editors, those Wikipedians who seem to get a primary identity from their participation in Wikipedia. That community was quite large, but still fairly limited, in comparison with the number of people who use Wikipedia or who may casually edit some entries, on occasion.
From the outside, Wikipedia looked different from this. It looked like a fully-open model in which “anyone can edit,” out of their own interests, and nobody is “more equal” than the others. At that level, the difference with the reality wasn’t that significant. It was true that (just about) anyone could edit (just about) any entry. But the Wikipedia’s overall “social structure” included a “behind the scenes” group of people who took a stake in Wikipedia. Mostly through their time, passion, interest, instead of money or survival. But still, a group of people who were deeply invested in Wikipedia. Their behaviour was radically different from that of casual Wikipedians and, even more, from the Wikipedia-reading general public.
The difference was primarily one of social structure. The “in-group” wasn’t like other people associated with Wikipedia.
Probably a year or so ago, all those stories broke out about the apparent “cabal” which seems to regulate (and badmouth) some individual editors, and about the cultish aura surrounding “Jimbo.” Regardless of the factual accuracy of those stories (and I have little reason to doubt them), they showed how people perceived Wikipedia. Since then, people probably became disillusioned by Wikipedia. Utopia and dystopia might be just one step from one another.
One thing which would merit a lot more discussion is the assumption that the system itself can be self-regulating. It might be useful to look back at Adam Smith’s critique of the “invisible hand” concept, but there are many other ways to look at this.

 

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Crowd control at eBay