To avoid confusion, read Stewart Butterfield at Sylloge posting about my post on the Social Software Seminar. He picks me up on a few points.
Mea culpa. What I meant to say wasn't what I wrote -- I was being lazy. I'm really only considering technologies that are currently used for/ will be designed to be used for directed, goal-oriented interaction.
Having said that, I think evaluating technologies afer-the-fact is the right way to go. There's a lot out there -- the WorldWideWeb application is massively successful in 2002, Hypercard isn't. What can we learn from that?
Likewise, email wasn't designed as a social environment in which decisions and arguments can be made towards a common goal. But it's good at that (well, goodish), and used for that. But MUDs aren't. I know it sounds like a too-simple question to ask, but why do most people have an email client open all the time, but don't invite clients to join them on the company MUD/MOO server?
Perhaps by extracting the secret properties of email that makes it useful for making certain classes of decision, social software can then be deliberately written.
Another perhaps. Perhaps one of the secret properties is that a command-line interface is too high a barrier to entry to hit critical mass in any cross-discipline group of people, and that's why MOOs never took off for business. Perhaps, with investigation, we'll find that's completely wrong. Graphical MOOs... well that's a different kettle with a whole load of different fish.
Social environments | This is something I'll come back to again because it's symptomatic of a lack of shared terminology: what is a social environment anyway? Quoting from Sylloge a little:
"The web is closer to a providing something we could call a social environment, but even that seems a little dodgy - I'd be more inclined to say that the web is a medium for lots of smaller social environments, but one that is still generally parasitic on social environments (and cultures) that exist elsewhere (Limp Bizkit webrings don't spring up in the absence of Limp Bizkits)."
The www is like a city?
Firstly I reckon that because people are cross-media, at least some communication in any given media draws on culture elsewhere. Saying the www is parasitic is a little strong since the specific www culture is beginning to backwash into other environments: campaign websites, filtering and making news, freeing information. I don't think it's a necessary requirement for the interactions in a social environment to in the main be concerned with experiences had within that same space.
Second, we have a definitions of terms problem. I've previously regarded social media as being a synonym for social environments. That is, because the www is a medium that can contain social interaction, it is therefore a social environment. Something for me to think about.
Last point. Systems don't need to have specially designed to be social. Haddock.org/directory has a Recent searches panel down the side, and last June Phil and I spotted someone leaving messages in there and we ended up having a very short conversation -- the logs of which are now online.