Actions speak much more clearly than definitions. It was D’Arcy at the UBC Social Software Salon who described it something like being removing or downplaying the “software” portion of online social interaction.
Whatever your way of describing what “social software” is how, submitted below is a nice example of the informal way the web, blogs, maybe even RSS play a role in collectively building something in a way not previously possible.
At the 2006 Northern Voice Conference, I got an early seat for Nancy White’s session on Seven Competencies of Online Interaction (I very much liked the discussion approach she had organized for the Mossecamp session the day before).
Brian Lamb convened the session with a quick intro, and someone asked if it was being recorded, and there was no answer. Since I had in my bag my handy little iRiver MP3 recorded, I quickly fished it out, and started recording. Placement was tricky as the internal mike tends to pick up noise, at first it was on the floor under Brian’s chair, and then we moved it to the table edge near where Nancy was speaking, hoping there would not be too much fan noise from the projector.
It was a fabulous session if you were there. Typically at a conference, the session ends when it is over, and if you were not there, at best you may get someone’s blogged notes or perhaps a fat PowerPoint to download. I have yet to download a presentation file from a session I did not attend and get more than maybe a URL from the download. A presentation file is not a presentation experience.
Since the next sessions were of lesser interest, I decided to get the audio quickly posted- doing a bit of quick and dirty Audacity editing (fade in and fade out, plus a bit of levels adjustment), uploaded the 24 Mb MP3, and posted it to my blog. (see Nancy “Snow” White: Seven Competencies of Online Interaction).
The day after my audio was blogged, Beverly Trayner writing from Setubal, Portugal, posted her own “selective” notes and commentary from the audio file, providing a concise set of highlights from the session.
In less than 36 hours, from Seattle (?) Nancy herself posted the images form her slides, not as the big old fat PPT, but cleverly by creating a photo set on flickr.
In the next 24 hours, Nick Noakes, likely following the blog activity via RSS from Hong Kong, grabbed the images, downloaded the audio, and combined them into a synchonized Windows Media file (112 Mb!) he posted on the Internet Archive (see http://www.archive.org/details/ConferencePresentation).
Doesn’t this set of unplanned, network-enabled collaborations add so much more valuable context to the experience? Let’s follow the geographic trail- starting from a session presented and recorded in Vancouver BC, audio loaded to a blog in Arizona, images uploaded from Seattle, a movie produced from Hong Kong, and a distilled session summary from Portugal!
None of this was done via any snazzy, Ã¼ber-cool-logo IPO seeking Web 2.0 software. It would not happen inside a singular, expensive, closed wall enterprise-ware application. None of it was designed, planned, or directed. It just happened, almost in its own?, as do many meaningful social interactions. ‘Social Software’ has less to do with software than the internet protocols that allow it, and everything to do with the “social” end of it.