Ridiculously easy group-forming matters because the desire to be part of a group that shares, cooperates, or acts in concert is a basic human instinct that has always been constrained by transaction costs. Now that group-forming has gone from hard to ridiculously easy, we are seeing an explosion of experiments with new groups and new kinds of groups.
– Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, pg. 54
Today Socialtext launched Socialtext 4.0. Core to this release is Collaborative Groups. Groups, and the ease in which they are formed, are not new to Socialtext, as we were the first to adapt wikis into the now common workspace construct. But the way in which this new capability is implemented tickles my inner social software geek.
Weblogs have a potential for group-forming like no other medium.
However I’m convinced that much of it to this day remains untapped. I’d
like to explain an idea that I have been bouncing around for a while.
It might well be a reformulation of what others have said previously. I
believe that implementing this properly would give a nice boost to the
blogosphere’s social aggregation capability.
Basically the goal is to push the threshold for group creation to an unprecedented low. I think Reed’s Law should be refined to state:
The value of a group-forming network increases exponentially with the number of people in the network, and in inverse proportion to the effort required to start a group.
4.0 makes it ridiculously easy for anyone to form a group, assemble needed tools and set the right privacy. Groups and their activity streams are discoverable. However, if I was to further amend Reed’s Law, it would include “…and manage the noise it generates.”
Take groups on Twitter. The strength of hashtags is easy group-forming and discovery. The weakness is noise in and around the hashtag. Lists are relatively hard to form and discover, but I bet that will improve. Lists have relatively less noise unless you subscribe to them, and are more noisy as people-centric constructs.
Twitter doesn’t have Groups, but when you have a large scale enterprise microblogging deployment, you decidedly need them. Groups need to be public, private or hidden. Simple affordances let you have people-centric groups (e.g. a workgroup) or topical (e.g. innovation). But the real strength is filtering microblogging and activity streams. And if you miss something in real time, be able to leverage rankings and search that delivers results in context.
Thanks for letting me get my social software geek on.
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