Thoughts on social software

Social is a popular adjective in software these days (along with cloud and mobile); so, I thought I’d capture some of how I view social in light of enterprise software and customer experience.

Footprint in the sand

When I think about “social software” I think about how experiences are impressionable (e.g. customers can leave impressions causing other direct/indirect participants to learn/benefit/dialog/collaborate). To me, “social” means allowing users to leave impressions such that impressions are mined for context and understood in context. Software that embraces this notion of sociability becomes more context-sensitive as a whole much like a piece of UI might present or hide itself depending on context (e.g. user’s role, workflow state, etc.) or a different service is invoked depending on context (e.g. SLA).

To me, “social software” isn’t about simply sprinkling social artifacts into existing systems (e.g. adding tags, ranking, etc.). It’s about ensuring that software incorporates sociability into its equilibrium as presented to customers.

One hears “less is more” and “more is more.” I find that both can be true, and the user will ultimate indicate the truth. In the case of providing more context, a user action to exclude is social to the underlying system, if that system is built to recognize it as such. That is, being exclusive is part of being social; excluding (and including) is a form of engagement. “Social software” must promote engagement–for relationship-based business benefit.

Being social can mean being friendly (i.e. sensitive to past expressions of preference, a form of context, as well current inference of the task at hand in a framing goal). A context-sensitive platform should go beyond just facilitating “one degree of friendliness.” It should anticipate the implications of deeper…collaboration. When a compelling experience and frictionless interaction is delivered to one, it can become a beacon for many subsequent experiences and interactions. So, how can this downstream effect be understood up front? How should context-sensitivity adjust, pivot, etc. to optimally understand this potential (reality)? “Social software” get this at its core.

Social is about collaboration–with purpose. To understand/infer purpose requires being sensitive to context.[1]

My definition of being social is as follows: a software system that allows any user to leave an impression, expecting that the system will recognize it, understand it and subsequently bring it to bear on the resulting experience, across space and time (i.e. same customer and/or different customer(s), immediately and/or in the future). This is just one of the traits we’re building into our enterprise platform at Adobe.

[1] For more on context, you may want to check out what my colleague Ben Watson has started over at Contextography.com.

-Craig
http://craigrandall.net/
@craigsmusings