According to David, Eric Schmidt from Google said: “Social networks will get better as we figure out what problem they’re intended to solve.” In an attempt to learn from last week, i will try really hard to not take that literally and imagine that he meant to say that “social networking TOOLS will get better…”
But even still, there’s a bit of backwards logic here. Why are we asking: what can social networking tools solve? Why aren’t we asking: what problem do we have that social networks give us insight to? I remember when i first got involved in technology creation, there was always a technology-first, problem-second approach. A technology was created and then everyone was rushing around trying to put it to use. I find it very entertaining that social networks (which weren’t invented, but modeled) are being put to the same process.
The thing is that social network representations require nuance. We can either try to solve the nuances universally (not going to happen) or try to figure out what problems we’re trying to employ social networks in and figure out how to negotiate them there IN A CONTEXT. The latter is going to be far more successful. Haven’t we already learned that each YASNS models a different social network anyhow (and no, FOAF is not the answer here because the different models are often because people are segmenting their networks differently in order to represent different facets).
I don’t believe that social network tools will get better as we find our problems. I think that social networks will get embedded into tools simply because they help us solve specific problems. The focus won’t be on the network, but on the problem solving.
(::cringe:: I’m almost approaching activity theory here. Must stop.)
Clarification based on good question:
Q: What’s the diff? Either way you’re holding a hammer and looking for a nail, no?
A: The difference is key. When you are focused on building social networks just to build them, you make very different design decisions than when you are trying to design a tool the utilizes social networks as a concept employed to solve a task problem.
The difference has a lot to do with the amorphous discussion of what social network TOOLs are and what social networks are. They aren’t the same thing. RIght now, there’s no hammer. Just the shadow of a hammer, which doesn’t solve the same problems.
Furthermore, when you have a hammer, you try to find nails. You turn things that shouldn’t be nails into nails. This is a really really really bad thing when you’re dealing with people and their relationships. Instead of accidentally breaking the wooden post cause you thought it was a nail, you break people, their relationships, their trust and their willingness to participate.