Thursday, March 27, 2008

human factors

The Scobleizer is always quick with the industry low-down, that's why I enjoy reading about his meanderings and elbow rubbings. But a recent post has me wondering about how technological fascination often clouds rational thinking.

Consider the following from his post: "When a new social network comes along (say your company turns one on this morning) I’d love it if it noticed that 15 of my friends who join up there are also on Twitter, etc. Why is that important? Because if there were some way to bind these social networks together they could do a lot more for you. For instance, I know that Scott Beale is on almost all of my social networks listed above. Why don’t the systems know that? If they did, we wouldn’t have a need for FriendFeed, or Profilactic, or SocialThing (those systems are attempting to glue all those social networks together)."

Well, sure. And if the many systems noted did "know" about all that activity, we would never have a need for making personal choices based on human factors such as motivation, determination, jealousy, envy...

This silver bullet back-end for the entire range of applications that fall under the social network umbrella is not likely to happen. I'm confident saying this having spent too many years watching altruistic software development efforts get compromised by revenue digging. I'm no economist (or futurist), but I can't imagine the financial model that motivates a range of popular and not-so-popular social networking apps to expose interfaces to some back-end data sharing process. And please don't anyone say anything about the online advertising model.

I guess I'm just bothered by the ease in which human presence in online environments is re-positioned by system functionality and feature sets. I am, perhaps, sounding a little like the anti-online learning faculty that ignorantly compare assess-in-seats learning to online learning. And yet, there is something to the argument that something gets lost when we forget that the "experience" is ours, not the system's. What that something is, I'm not quite sure, but at times it feels like a little slice of humanity.

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