Social Design Opens Wide

Posted on Sep 4, 2005

It seems that every week there’s a new web application or service that allows you to organize another facet of your life online – then share it. Whether it’s collecting bookmarks or books, photos or events, new social software sites and web applications are popping up that let you take your offline habits online, play show and tell, talk, mingle, socialize, and explore.

While sociologists once predicted that the Internet would cause greater isolation and separation among people, the current trend online towards more fluid social spaces seems to provide a good counterpoint. The current wave of web applications and social networks appeal to our human instincts – to express ourselves, to seek empathy with others, to collect and categorize our own memories, to play.

In this context, designing for and allowing a sense of experimentation is almost more important than a polished or highly controlled product. These days, web apps are launched and proudly branded Beta and you can count on fresh news and open dialogue from the creators through a blog (whether it’s a team of techies in SF or one dude in Denmark). We’ve finally opened up the design and development process to true user testing and feedback, allowing our users and customers to see our process and participate in it. eServices and social spaces with this level of transparency, coupled with a unique feature set and a non-existent or low price point, are providing a new model of web applications and attracting multitudes of people who are eager to experiment and extend their personal lives online.

I’ve written about some of these sites and their features, and recently, much of the buzz has been about the underlying technologies of AJAX, Ruby on Rails, or XMLHttpRequest, but it’s also this fundamental design shift towards both individual control and collaborative sharing that will shape how we choose our services and ultimately, how we interact with each other.

For some examples, take a look at:
Plazes for location mapping.
Upcoming.org for browsing and managing events.
Libary Thing for cataloging your books online.
GeoURL for finding URLs by their proximity to a given physical location.
Kiko for online calendaring.
Last.FM for personal music lists and sharing.
Rojo for news and RSS reading and sharing.
del.icio.us for social bookmarking.
RawSugar for searchable bookmarking.
Flickr for photo sharing and community.

4 comments

  1. Mike on September 05, 2005 at 06:45 PM:
    Great point!  I would have to completely agree with you that sharing and online collaboration seems to be the key theme of the day.  Given your interest in AJAX and social learning, I thought you might want to check out our new site http://www.blinklist.com.  If you get the chance to check it out please let us know.  Cheers, Mike
  2. Emily on September 06, 2005 at 02:15 AM:
    Mike, thanks for the comment and invite to check out your site.  I signed up, imported my delicious bookmarks and am having a great time in blinklist. How many users do you have? I like the My Tags toggle and the Ajax paginate.
  3. sikander on September 15, 2005 at 08:14 AM:
    oooh that last.fm is a great website. thanks!
  4. Mike on September 15, 2005 at 07:54 PM:
    Hi Emily.  Unfortuantely, we do not disclose the number of users on BlinkList.  We are still small but we are seeing healthy growth since our users are very enthusiastic and keep telling their friends.  Really glad to hear that you are having a great time on BlinkList!  Stay tuned for more cool improvements and if you come up with any ideas or suggestions on how we can make BlinkList more fun, please let us know.  Mike