What is to be done?

01Oct08

Okay, welcome to usersarehumans. This blog will focus on the design and business of building social software, particularly with regards to large and risk-averse corporations.

Our title above, “What is to be done”, comes to us from more than 100 years ago courtesy of a fellow named Vladmir Lenin. Younger readers may not be intimately familiar with Mr. Lenin, but he was trying to figure out how to run a just society. Didn’t really work out. Let’s just say he has been figuratively and (as statuary) literally consigned to the scrap heap of history.

So why initiate my blog with this perhaps inauspicious quote? Because I also don’t know the answer. How do you build a just (polite, mutually beneficial, profitable, sustainable, fun) computer-mediated society? Has Facebook done it? MySpace? LinkedIn? Probably not quite, although they’ve all gotten this, and that, right. I can offer you 15 years of experience building social software, and I am capable of self-satisfaction as much as the next social-media guru. But my objective with this blog will be to raise questions as much as give answers. So, here are some questions I have around social software.

  • Does lack of control and hierarchy inevitably breed anarchy and abusiveness?
  • Does control inevitably breed inactivity and staleness?
  • Is there still a place for an authoritative voice?
  • Is conversation and end in itself?
  • Is it okay if most of us are silent followers?
  • Is it dishonest to suppress non-germane ephemera in social media?

You get the idea. I’ll try to mix the theoretical with the practical, the prescriptive with the helpless shrug. Once in a while I’ll probably, unwisely, give out IP that I should keep to myself. And occasionally I’ll shill for my company, SelectMinds, because I think what we’re doing is pretty interesting. Feel free to keep me honest.

Thanks for reading; more to come.

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2 Responses to “What is to be done?”

  1. 1 Pete Wendel

    Thanks for the new discourse, Steve. I like the idea of raising better questions. Going back to my (and your) past, design–and design for social media in this case– makes me consider the area of purpose and intentionality. If rhetoric is the art of persuasion through invention, and invention is the creation of a specific design, product or service, is the design of a specific product an argument for how we should live our lives?

    It seems there are vastly different arguments out there that fit different needs and contexts. Has anyone diagrammed or mapped out an architecture of social media types and their purpose? Just curious.

    Cheers,
    -Pete

  2. 2 Steve Kuhn

    Hi Pete. Great comment, thanks.

    Coincidentally, I have up on our whiteboard at SelectMinds a kind of categorization of the types and purposes of different social media. I did this as an exercise to figure out where, in a very competitive space, SelectMinds should concentrate its resources. I’ll get into this categorization in a future post, but also, at your suggestion, see if I can figure out if anyone else out there has done this kind of categorization exercise.


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