Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations



Here is our draft paper entitled smarter, simpler, social: an introduction to online social software methodology (~10k words) as a 264Kb PDF file.

It is partly based on seven years’ experience trying to develop meaningful online applications that have a real world purpose or that support existing communities of people, and partly a response to recent debates around the idea and practice of social software.

We would be grateful for feedback and ideas before we publish the paper, so if you have something to add then please mail it or jot it here in the comments box below. Thanks!

16 Responses to README.DOC

  1. By F. Matthes on April 26, 2003 at 10:23 pm

    I just spent 15 min. browsing your text and bookmarked it as an interesting subject for future investigaiton.
    I would propose to omit the Section “Software becoming bigger, more stupid”: ERP-software and “classical” enterprise information systems address different problems than the kind of networks you want to establish with “social software”. Therefore, claiming that these “old” systems are “bad” doesn’t make social software “better”.
    The only effect is that some of your readers may be inclined not to read on.
    Thumbs up

  2. By Livio Hughes on April 28, 2003 at 4:09 pm

    Hello Professor Matthes and thank you for your comments.
    The issue we’re trying to address is not whether ERP systems and social software are easily comparable – clearly, they’re not as their historical business and technical development have followed very different paths.
    We wouldn’t like to claim that “old” systems are “bad”, or infer that social software is “better” as a result, but if this is the conclusion you have drawn from our paper we will need to take a closer look to avoid misunderstandings (this is precisely why your contribution, and that of others who have provided it via email, is so valuable).
    What we’re trying to highlight is the experience of many organisations, in both the corporate and governmental sectors, whose approach to large-scale enterprise software deployments has demonstrably been poor in both human and financial ROI terms (we see human and financial returns as inextricably intertwined). Often, such deployments follow a top-down management view of ‘process’ followed by a technical implementation and a proscriptive ‘change management’ programme (which, from the users’ perspective, can often be characterised as “re-learn how to do your job with this new tool, which you’ve had little or no part in developing; and if you feel alienated or threatened by it, well… we’ll send you to a training course if it’s in the budget for this year”). This has – for example – been the experience of many e-government implementations in this country, and I know there are documented comparisons elsewhere.
    We would argue that, in order to improve this record, there is a clear need to re-think organisational approaches to ‘technical implementations’ by focussing more clearly on actual user needs, motivations, ‘really-existing’ human interaction processes – and moulding software development priorities around these, rather than force users into a pre-determined ‘black box’.
    In this context, social software tools and techniques have much to offer in each stage of planning, development, deployment and ongoing uptake.

  3. By Luigi Bertuzzi on May 7, 2003 at 10:36 pm

    i could only afford to read through very quickly … with a sense of urgency … because here is …at long last … a paper which says what needs to be said …
    however, i cannot see how it can be delivered … 1) to decision makers who can only listen to elevator statements …
    2) to people who have grown accustomed to expect ready made off-the-shelf solutions …
    so, my old-but-young-hearted-guy wish … pictures your paper coupled with a progressive … learn-by-doing … experience, starting from scratch, … with an approach … so down to earth … to be naive

  4. By Luigi Bertuzzi on May 15, 2003 at 9:14 am

    Post Scriptum (to my comment of May 7)
    i see weblogs as some kind of social system outlet .. so … if i comment a post and i happen to produce a wrong or misworded argument … i’d like to get some kind of diagnostic back … to give me a chance of recovery from my own mistakes … if any …
    wouldn’t that be a form of *positive feedback*?

  5. By Susanne Dickel on May 17, 2003 at 6:07 pm

    First of all, let me say that I found this paper very informative and I certainly agree with its main proposition (I would anyway as a usability person, wouldn’t I?). I just think that some of the fundamental ideas presented here and in relation to the ‘Social Software’ concept have been around for decades (e.g. Terry Winograd and the idea of looking at what’s going on in organisations simply in terms of people and their conversations – 1986 Understanding computers and cognition) and obviously the participatory design school from Scandinavia (as far as the project set-up suggestion and stakeholder involvement is concerned). So my question, I guess, is: what is – if any – the truly new aspect of the Social Software concept? My feeling to date is that what is new about it is its notion of back-scaling and sustainability which can compensate for increased development costs and time that have always been a problem for participatory or ethnographic design methods. I still think it’s a hard-sell tho’.

  6. By Lee on May 19, 2003 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks Susanne,
    Your are right of course, none of it is new. However, I think the difference is that the necessary pre-conditions for social software to become a reality are now starting to fall into place, so we can put the vision of Winograd and others into practice.

  7. By Glacial Erratics on May 26, 2003 at 2:36 am

    Social Software As Tool

    The people at HeadShift have released a paper called [ Smarter, Simpler Social] that’s being discussed [ here and there]. It’s an overview of SocialSoftw…

  8. By Unbound Spiral on May 28, 2003 at 1:23 am

    Individually Social Software?

    Smarter, Simpler, Social is a great paper on social software. Many will have wished they had written it. I’d like more clarity on the individual. The PKM aspects of this social revolution.

  9. By Unbound Spiral on May 28, 2003 at 6:44 am

    Trackback Wiki

    Over the last week the Headshift Paper has continued to make some real press.  Yesterday I received a trackback from Glacial Erractics on an earlier post.  See the comment from both Lee Bryant and Chris Dent believe that people…

  10. By Chris Macrae on June 1, 2003 at 1:21 pm

    Great stuff – come and discuss how we can open up collaborative innovation communities (win-winnings for humans and economics) the fast and lifelong learning exchanges the net and its architectures were supposed to socialise and make intrapreneurial at our EU sponsored debate

  11. By Bruce Wang - I like what i write on September 24, 2003 at 9:39 am

    smarter, simpler, social

    smarter, simpler, social Amazing article about social software, must read….

  12. By Many-to-Many on November 21, 2003 at 11:52 am

    Selling Social Software Event in London

    Selling Social Software: December 3rd in London. All pivotal internet technologies move from being the preserve of a small, committed, technically literate subculture towards mainstream cultural acceptance and commercial exploitation. With over a milli…

  13. By keno on December 22, 2003 at 8:37 am

    Interesting read, keep up the good work

  14. By Headshift on April 28, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    Technical details of this web site

    A technical overview of the inner workings of this website.

  15. By Headshift on May 8, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    Updated: Social Software Reader

    Social Software reading lists are coming thick and fast