Some possible best practices for social design

bokardo.jpgJoshua Porter, who specializes in Social Web Design and with whom I’ve debated in the past around the perennially boring topic of “Information Architecture vs. Interaction Design, Which is the Best Discipline EVAR!?!?,” has culled an interesting list of social design best practices from Google’s documentation of its new “OpenSocial” API collection.
The interesting (to me) recommended practices are the following (re-paraphrased, somewhat, from how the practices are labeled in Google’s document, using some of Joshua’s verbiage where I found it clearer):
> * Enable self expression via personalization
> * Show what friends are doing
> * Let people explore friends and friends of friends
> * Provide commenting features
> * Expose multiple areas of similarity
> * Solve real world problems through social connections
(The other recommendations were interesting too but they seemed to be more about good widget design and good web experience design in general and not particularly about social, let alone open and social.)
The last item, of course, was the theme of The Power of Many.
The browsing-friends-of-friends one is questionable, too. At LinkedIn, that’s an option. I guess it goes to openness, but it also cuts against privacy. I don’t necessarily want everyone viewing my address book or using me as a step-ladder to meet someone else. To me that’s not social – it’s antisocial. More importantly, I believe in leaving those decisions in the hands of the user as much as possible.
Porter sees some other important issues here:
> [W]e’re clearly seeing a set of practices emerge across all social software that centers around getting people started quickly, allowing for self-expression, engaged in real-life tasks, yet also allowing for flexible discovery and play…. [S]ocial networks have changed the way we look at software in just a couple years.
>
> [O]nly two or three of the best practices are necessarily part of “social networking” software. They could be used in any kind of social software, be it productivity software for groups or even e-commerce sites that help people find the right product.
>
> That, to me, is the essence of social design. It isn’t relegated to social networking, even though the rise of social networking is what helped to clarify and refine the ideas. It’s about building software that takes advantage of social connections to provide enhanced value.
Good food for thought.

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