Notes: Thomas Vander Wal on Beyond Simple Social

Recently I attended this thoroughly informative talk sponsored by Salesforce UX at their offices in SF Downtown, led by Thomas Vander Wal, a social platform strategist. Thomas, by his own account has been on the social scene since 1996, including a longtime community manager for a CompuServe forum for lawyers. His professional career trajectory has included three major turns of “social” in digital media: Groupware (1990s), Knowledge Management (1990s-2000s), and current Web 2.0 Social (mid-2000s). Below are my key takeaways…Enjoy!

(Here are the slides posted on SlideShare: )

* What’s more fascinating than “Likes” and “tweets” are the algorithms that drive social connections and interfaces: the social science, the analytics, what it all means for a company and the individual.

* Again, beyond the “simple social” of likes/tweets, consider the structured symbolism and cultural valence of an activity like the archetypal Tea Ceremony, as a social exercise that has history, context, utility, and meaning for the participants and observers. That’s truly “being social”.

* When evaluating a social situation (in real life or digital medium), consider these 5 questions about what’s impact the social-ness of the moment: Is it the person? Is it how the people are being social in that moment? Is it cross-cultural influences? Is it organizational constraints? (public vs private, govt agencies, etc.) Is there some issue/quality of the service or tool being used for the social encounter?

* In a social encounter, there are “social scripts” that we either intuitively follow or learned to follow. Based upon observation, interaction, interpretation, etc. Guides our reluctance or eagerness to engage with others.

* Beyond “trust”, consider the notion of “social comfort”— how are people comfortable with a) people, b) tools, and c) content towards enacting social relationships.

* Elements of Social Software: Wonderful diagram illustrating the relationship amongst social objects, personal identity and the various elements that go into a social product, from artifacts to actions to higher-order elements like conversations and collaborations


* Social perspectives: In any social interaction and software situation there are multiple perspectives at play that warrant attention – Personal – Collective – Community/Groups/Teams – Collaborations – Newbie – Service Owner – External Developer

* Social progressions: There’s an evolution of social interactions from small to large – Spark: something that is sent out, posted, liked, tweeted, to get attention going – Campfire: a small community, comfortable space, maybe temporary, then dies out – Bonfire: more conversation, interaction, followers/joiners, distributed and spreads – Torch: what to strive for, a controlled focus that guides, directs, easy for people to participants to “be around” and engage, dims and glows accordingly, etc.

* Gotta think about striking a balance of social objects/conversations vs social participants, what’s the ideal trajectory to keep people engaged, interacting, conversing/sharing, but not out of controls (burdensome) or ghost town (minimal participation)

* These thoughts help one develop and create a mature social tool that becomes a complex, sophisticated social system, not just the “simple social” of current social apps. Enriching the social fabric of an organization, etc.

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