Thursday, February 14, 2008

Social Operating Systems

As has been reported elsewhere, the 2008 Horizon Report is out. The report describes a qualitative research effort that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations. The meta-trends are described in more detail on the Horizon Project wiki where anyone can participate in the discussion.

One of the items item that caught my eye was on Social Operating Systems:

The essential ingredient of next generation social networking, social operating systems, is that they will base the organization of the network around people, rather than around content. This simple conceptual shift promises profound implications for the academy, and for the ways in which we think about knowledge and learning. Social operating systems will support whole new categories of applications that weave through the implicit connections and clues we leave everywhere as we go about our lives, and use them to organize our work and our thinking around the people we know.

The emergence of anytime, anywhere access has led to the growth of social computing and social networking in both teaching and learning. (Although, the report also indicates a widening gap between the student and teacher in understanding technology and the expectation of how it is used.) While some may view social networking as more of a fad rather then a trend, I believe social networking will continue to be a major influence in our knowledge seeking patterns.

There are two issues I have with the current state of social networking affairs:

Profile Management. It seems that each of my social networks have chosen to use a different system to build their network. As a result, I have profiles on many social networking-type sites including Ning, Facebook, LinkedIn, and our local expertise system. I can't be the only one that is getting tired of creating profiles for all the various sites and then remembering to change the photo on all of them when I change it on one.

The solution may be a default profile standard that can be used so one can plug into the various services. This profile standard is an approach that Tim O'Reilly blogged about. O'Reilly also indicated that to happen, applications like Facebook will have to focus on interoperability with other providers of social graph data. The concept calls for a profile system that is independent of the social networking service providers. I must not be the only one that looks forward to the day I have an open portable identity (OPI?).

Unconnected Networks. Since many of my networks and profiles exist in different systems, I have to remember to visit each one to keep in touch. This is not very efficient and in essence creates a network of unconnected networks. Can you say The Department of Redundancy Department? My ability to utilize the power of each of my networks should not require these multiple touch points.

Creating a social network around a single service provider also creates a single point of failure. Such a social network would fail if the service it relies upon goes offline. Social networks not tied to a single service have no single points of failure. If one service fails, other members of the network can remain in contact using other communication paths. Sphere: Related Content

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