My post last week generated a number of interesting comments, all of which raised important points. They also caused me to realize that I hadn’t done a particularly good job of explaining what I was proposing specifically or where I was coming from philosophically. With those comments in mind I had initially planed to write this week in elaboration of my previous post, but have hence decided to take a different approach. I still plan to return to the issue in a more formal fashion but will leave that for another post. What I do intend to do is leverage the connective, communicative power of the internet to provide those so kind as to read this with some insight into the foundations of my thinking on the issue.
For those who don’t know me well, I am something of an podcast addict. I am perhaps one of the few individuals who actually purchased their iPod with the express purpose of listening to podcasts. After my most recent iPod's purchase I went month without cluttering its small drive with music files. While I had no intention of becoming a podcast connaisseur I have, to some degree, simply because of the volume of Podcasts I go through. On the average week I estimate I consume somewhere between 10 and 15 hours. For those ready to click away in disbelief, I should inform that the vast majority of this auditory consumption is due to my weekly commute from London to Toronto, with the remainder lost to many hours running the trails and streets of both cities. These many hours of listening have significantly shaped my thinking on any number of issue, including the role and function of social networks. While many of the podcasts I have listened to are lost in a haze of sweat or highway, thanks to iTunes I have been able to identify a number who’s contents weighted heavily on my mind as I composed my last post.
Venture Voice 40 - Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn :
This interview with Ried Hoffman was perhaps the most important of the podcasts I’ve listed in shaping my views on the use of social network. Hoffman talks about how demographics are important in the operation and construction of social networks. He explains that what people need out of a social network can change dramatically based on a great many things including age or life stage. He also explains how by properly structuring a social network one can meet a communities needs in ways that often would not be possible in more generic structures.
Inside the Net 35: Digication:
Digication is just another example of a social network that has been constructed to meet the needs of a specific community. In the interview one of Digication's founders also explains how important the simplicity of single purpose tools are to their adoption and use. This is also an interesting example for libraries because the target audience for the Digication software is schools and other educational institutions.
Inside the Net 5: 37Signals:
This is an interview with Jason Fried of 37Signals the company behind the popular productivity applications BackPack, CampFire and perhaps most importantly BaseCamp. In truth I could have selected any number of podcast interviews with Jason Fried because his message is quite consistent. He firmly believes that most software is too complex, which hinders both its use and adoption. He believes that the success that 37Signals has had recently is due to the simplicity and focus of their products, a success he thinks other could share if they adopted a similar approach.
Web 2.0 Show - David Heinemeier Hansson - Episode 19:
This podcast is a little more technical then the others, focusing on the actual creation of the software that drives social networking sites. Hansson is an employee of 37Signals and the programmer that developed their initial product BaseCamp. During the initial development process Hansson started to put together a software framework to help speed and standardize many of the technical steps involved in putting together a web application. The framework he created has since been dubbed Rails and works in conjunction with the programming language Ruby. In the interview Hansson explains how much easier the Ruby on Rails framework has made the construction of web application and how that has contributed dramatically to the Web2.0 explosion. While technical skills are still required, Ruby on Rails has drastically reduced the time, effort and cost of taking an idea from the planning to implementation and deployment stages. While I’m not sure my fundamental opinions would change in the absence of Rails, I am certain my confidence in the ability of libraries to actually achieve what I suggest would be significantly reduced.