Friday, August 25, 2006

Object Based Sociality or your first box?

'm actually off sick at the moment which has enabled me to catch up on a lot of reading that was getting put off due to pitches and all the fun work stuff I need to do to keep things rolling.

Consequently there is a lot I want to comment on:

This post from James Cherkoff pointed me at an Essay by Jyri Zengestrom in which he talks about Social Networking sites and why some work and some don't. His solution is for sites to be centered around objects in order to succeed and he calls these Object Based Sociality. Personally I agree with James that this is a horrible term and somewhat meaningless. My offer would be to call it 'toys' but thats another conversation.

The point is that the web in its earliest form was a group of communities with disparate people coming together and meeting in various villages online. Those villages had names like Usenet, and IRC and in their earliest forms brought people together based on topics of discussion. The stronger the topic of discussion was or the more niche and 'otaku' oriented it was the larger the traffic and greater the take-up became. This is why such seemingly impossible communities as alt.vampires grew to have such a huge presence online with many many subscribers contributing daily. On the other side of the coin alt.scuba (I could be getting the name wrong here but you get my point) became another highly sought after community with many people sharing ideas on scuba diving equipment and dive destinations which had not been possible pre web. Divers are not on average short of a few quid and also tend to be very obsessive about their hobby and so this ticks all of the main boxes for a successful community.

Meanwhile over on IRC people were getting together in virtual cafes to share life experiences in these little communities. Here though it didn't seem to have a toy to base things around instead it was more about entertaining each other in the best way you could with the best stories you could. To me this is sounding a little like blogging communities and Livejournal, but the IRC communities typically took this a few stages further with real time communication, friendships and relationships forming and all brought together under this virtual roof of a cafe. I don't think its exaggerating things too far to say that members of these communities were transplanting themselves and their online lives into soap operas and I am wondering just how much of today's reality TV schedules owes it's inception to these IRC communities.

My point is that human beings will naturally try and find something to talk about and so sometimes using a toy is going to be a false dawn and maybe even detract from what could have happened if things had been left alone. I also think that social gatherings change place by nature over time. Ten years ago I was hanging out on IRC, today I write a blog and am not sure if I even have an IRC client loaded on my machine (I checked and yes I do but I have never used it).

Social Networks if they are to stay relevant need to constantly adapt. Yes MySpace is the flavour of this month but in Internet terms this month doesn't last very long and so will need to keep adapting to what its users want, not what it wants to give them. 'Toys' will not be the answer to the problem overall, however letting the users create their own 'toys' will be. Music is currently a great toy and users are exploring this toy on MySpace very well, but what happens when people get bored of that toy and want another one? Im not actually disagreeing with Jyri through this, I'm just remembering watching children on Christmas day open the really big present and instead of playing with what is inside, they spend the next month playing with the box. Do you remember your first box?

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At 3:38 am, Blogger Terri said...

I think that I was there when "LOL" was invented. And the IRCs were the place to hang out. And virtual cafes were not populated with 12-20 year olds who think THEY invented "LOL"... Sometimes I wish the internet was a happy little secret shared by a few netheads sharing intrigue in the cafe. But, then again, that would put a lot of people out of business, now wouldn't it? Cheers, and a belated happy birthday to you!

At 10:42 am, Blogger Aaron Savage said...

Hi Terri

Thanks for stopping by. Yes I think you were there when most of Social Media ws first conceived and Id love it if you wrote up those thoughts and experiences for some of the 'experts' to read. As with most tihngs net related there is a hell of a lot of twaddle talked by people who were not there at the time and who post rationalise events.

The Cafe lifestyle was one village on the early web but the basic make-up of it is a model that still holds firm today in amongst all the acronyms and marketers spouting off about UGC, Social Media and OBS.

Personally I think you should be speaking at some of these conferences at the moment, I think there are a great many people who would learn more from you than panel fulls of speakers I have heard recently.

Lovely to hear form you and thanks for the birthday wishes. :-)

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