announcing “Operating Manual For Social Tools”

While i was traveling, a new site that i’ve been helping with launched: Operating Manual for Social Tools. Stowe Boyd, David Weinberger and i are exploring what the issues are critical to consider in the process of building social tools. This is a topically-driven blog that is sponsored by ZeroDegrees. [Given the crap i’ve gotten about this, i’ve written an explanation in the extended entry.] We will be covering various issues relevant to the social tech space and this may be of interest for those of you who really liked my “connected selves” blog that got rolled into my main one.

I should note that i’ll probably repost some of my blog entries from there here for my own searchability.

An explanation…

OMST is using blog software. It is not trying to be a journalistic project; please don’t evaluate it on those terms.

I work as a consultant. I give talks for money. I write reports for money. I do research for money. Usually, these activities are private and directed at a small group of people in a particular company. OMST is a public project. ZeroDegrees is sponsoring it; i am consulting for Stowe, who is running the project. What i post on OMST is not dependent on ZD at all. I know nothing about what ZD is doing. They simply want bright people to actually put some of their brains towards public production of ideas around social tools. I often do this on my own as it is (and i often get pressure from folks on my blog). Frankly, supporting me to blog about this stuff motivates me to get off my toosh and write entries that are of value to ZD and any readers interested in social tools.

Apophenia is my venting space where i write what i feel like and i get very very cranky when people ask me to write about the things that are of value to them. This is *my* space and i feel a deep need to maintain those boundaries. OMST is a service to the community and to ZD and i very much respect ZD for being willing to make it a public project and not just a set of reports that are for their private consumption. My hope is that it will make everyone a bit more aware.

This project is in no way connected to any of my other consulting or internship work nor to my responsibilities as a PhD student. What i write on OMST is what i think is best for people interested in this topic including ZD, not what i think ZD wants to hear. In other words, i am operating as a consultant and a public intellectual not an advertising whore.

I hope this clarifies.

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8 thoughts on “announcing “Operating Manual For Social Tools”

  1. Eric Rdz

    Hi Danah:

    Your absolutely right !

    I support you 100 %

    Bloggers are not just Online Journalists !


    I´ve been doing some research in the last 5 months about how to profit from the Blogosphere and my conclusion is the following:

    My proposal is to implement a New Business Model where Bloggers can be paid to Blog without conflict of interests.

    In the current Definition:

    A Blog is a wonderful Internet Publishing Technology and a Blogger is a respected and influential Online Journalist.

    In short, the whole meaning of the term Blogging for Business is about a powerful Disruptive Internet Strategy:

    “The New Online Media” against Traditional Media.

    In the proposed Definition:

    A BLOG is also a technology platform to “share knowlege in the network”.

    The concept of BLOGGER will be modified from an ONLINE JOURNALIST to an ONLINE BUSINESS CONSULTANT.

    An Online Business Consultant is an expert giving companies online real-time advice about 3 main subjects:

    1. Viral Marketing
    2. Strategic Alliances
    3. Business Development

    – The new meaning of Blogging for Business will be about a powerful Disruptive Internet Strategy:

    “The Online Business Consultant” against the Traditional Business Consulting Model

    As you can see, our thoughts are very similar.

    I would really appreciate your professional opinion about this idea.

    You can read the entire post in my blog if you like.

    Best Regards

    Eric Rdz
    Strategy Business Consulting

  2. zephoria

    I have no doubt that you can be an online business consultant through blogs but a blogger is not inherently an online business consultant. I also don’t think that it is as simple as old media vs. new media… i think that dichotomy is missing the deep relationship between the two.

  3. Eric Rdz

    Thanks Danah for your comments.

    You`re correct, the concept of Blogger is broader than an Online Business Consultant.

    But the point here is to compare 2 kinds of emerging Bloggers.

    Bloggers as Online Journalists vs Online Busines Consultants.

    I�m totally sure that the concept of the Consultant will be more powerful in the long term.

    With respect to the convergence old media and new media that you mention, I think there is a missing point.

    Both have very different business models:

    – Traditional Media:

    Mass Markets – Branding for Companies.

    – Online Media:

    One to One Markets – Relationships with customers.

    Besides the deep relationships of both of them, only time will tell us if a New Profitable Busines Model can successfully emerge in the new Old Media – New Media world.


  4. Jude Yew

    Hi danah,

    I am a masters student from the School of Information at the University of Michigan. I have been reading your posts at various places and also missed the opportunity to speak with you at CSCW in Chicago.

    I am currently involved in a group project that is looking at assessing the Information Architecture of a wiki. Don’t laugh. And the process of doing so is getting very difficult. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts about how we can go about assessing the use of Social tools like wikis. I think that there is a case to be made for how we can improve the tools to better serve the community that it supports.

    Jude Yew

  5. zephoria

    I definitely wouldn’t laugh at anyone trying to assess social tools like wikis, but i don’t know what you mean by assessing the Information Architecture.

    Asking how to assess something is equivalent to asking what methodology is best, yet to know what methodology you should use, you must first know what questions you’re trying to answer. Although folks love to throw user studies, surveys or ethnography at everything, these methods of analysis are only good to answer particular questions.

    If i were to help people re-design a technology, i would start by trying to understand how the technology fits into someone’s life. This means understanding their life, what their concerns are, how the technology fits into their needs, etc. Very little of it is about the technology itself and how they use it, but how it fits into their practices. I would also look at how they solved problems before they started using this technology and why they changed their habits. My goal would be to figure out what tools are appropriate to meet this person’s needs. This is the ethnographic approach to design. It gets at the root of the value of the technology, but it doesn’t tell you whether to place the button on the right or left. This approach doesn’t help me better understand the usability of the tool, but how the tool makes sense in people’s lives. I use this to create personas, to try to be in someone’s head as i make design advice. Thus, you’ll often hear me say, “From Jennifer’s perspective…” Of course, the value of coming from someone’s head comes not only in getting them, but being able to connect their approach to the theories of social behavior. Through this, i can see how Jennifer’s approach is connected to a wider range of approaches.

    If i were to study wikis, i would start with an ethnographic approach. Even though the interfaces are hideous, some people are using them because they obviously fit into their needs. What are those needs? How does the wiki suit that need? Etc.

  6. Jude Yew

    Hi danah,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to me. I found your response insightful and correct about design methodologies that suit the users needs. However, I am afraid that the group is a position of being restricted to using IA methods, and adapting only these to our client. Hence any thoughts about developing methods will have to wait till a time where we can fully explore ethnographic methods.

    My personal feeling is that Wiki’s, in some ways, are like webpages of yesteryear; nobody thinks it needs any structure or organization to be good — you just use this amazing new technology and it works.

    However, I would be more than inclined to contribute to a discussion about how we can make some social software easier and more intuitive to use whenever that happens.

    Thank you again for your comments, they have indeed been helpful and are much appreciated.


  7. Many-to-Many

    announcing “Operating Manual For Social Tools”

    Oops! I just realized that i announced Operating Manual For Social Tools on my blog (with some commentary) but forgot to announce it here. Stowe Boyd, David Weinberger and i are exploring critical issues to consider in the process of…

  8. phil jones

    “My personal feeling is that Wiki’s, in some ways, are like webpages of yesteryear; nobody thinks it needs any structure or organization to be good — you just use this amazing new technology and it works.”

    Jude, I think this misses the point. Because it’s so easy to get started in, and so simple and so flexible, wiki allows the users to continuously experiment with and evolve the information architecture that suits them. As opposed to having a team of information architects decide up-front what’s the right structure. It takes time to sort itself out, but you learn a lot about what architecture a community really needs, by observing them trying to build it.

    You may be interested in this :

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