29 August 2008

Social Realms: Sharing and Publishing Become One

There is an increasing recognition of the importance of 'social realms' within the context of social networking. Some social sites started out as "walled gardens" where only friends could see social content a user posts. Other sites started out with all content posted being public like a graffiti wall. Social site builders are now recognize there should be many fine graduations of control over viewing and sharing social content. These social realms extend out from the user in concentric circles, from the being able to see their own content ("me"), to friends, to friends of friends, to networks or groups of friends, and finally to the public.

Blogging was always seen as a form of publishing. The new systems emerging now are centered around "social blogging" or "social news feeds" and are called by various names. Facebook merged their "wall" application and their "mini-feed" application in a single feature called The Wall, an example of one of these new forms for facilitating social interaction between small groups of friends in an asynchronous manner (as opposed to chat or telephony). Like Twitter and Jaiku, they enable "social peripheral vision" or seeing what your friends are doing and passing brief notes back and forth to keep in touch or coordinate activities. These posts are not publishing in the traditional sense and are not considered publishing, since in theory, the posts are intended for friends (although some sites offering these services create a kind of public feed everyone can see).

The Wall on facebook has all the elements of Jaiku or other similar sites, a series of blog-like posts limited to a brief snippet of text in reverse chronological order with the ability for users to comment on them. What makes them social is that the posts are seen by your _friends_ who are the only ones who can comment. So you could post about going to the farmer's market on Sunday and a friend could comment by asking you to pick up some tomatoes. Another friend could comment they will be at the same market and will meet you there. Comments are an important feature because they enable individualized topical conversations. If friends could only post to the "circle of friends" feed, the conversation would become disjointed. Social posts are the start of conversation.

This just emphasizes the need for social realms that determine the scope in which social content is accessible. Facebook offers several social realms for Wall posts, your own, your friends, your friends of friends, your network of friends, the public.

The last is interesting, because it brings us full circle. Most platforms were publishing platforms before the social networking craze, then there emerged platforms for social sharing but without any publishing. Now the two platforms are converging into a single platform for sharing with granular control over the social realms into which any piece of content goes, from sharing with a circle of friends to publishing to the whole world and every gradation in between.

Publishing has a completely different feel to it than social sharing. It requires different tools, ones which facilitate authorship, but have no need for defining the social realms in which the works of authorship will be consumed. I had watched the emergence of Twitter and Jaiku but failed to see their signficance, since their posts were so brief. I saw them as being limit blogs, and idea I had toyed with in the late 90s, but bloggers were more interested in longer and longer posts, being literary types. They were interested in publishing. It was finally understanding the social use of these short-message systems (it is no accident the popularity of SMS correponds with the popularity of these small message blog-like systems) to keep people in touch socially that I understood their usefulness. It makes little sense to critcise the inane or brief posts to Twitter as not contributing to human knowledge or letters, the purpose of these sites, as it is said of Jaiku, to maintain social peripheral vision (something I didn't even know I needed and still feels uncomfortable in the "buddylist 24/7" way it is presented). Maybe someone should start a site called "Tome" for long posts of intellectual brilliance contributing to the total of human knowledge, a mirror image of Twitter. Or perhaps that was what Blogger was supposed to be.

The convergence between sharing and publishing, which began with the original c2 wiki and the lowering of barriers to a read/write web, is emerging as a powerful new metaphor for interaction. Publishing will come to be seen as just sharing with everyone. All content, all media will be social and social realms determine the intended audience.

At farmfoody.org, we will be moving quickly to provide our users with this kind of close-knit interaction, which eschews the private message metaphor derived from email and the blog metaphor from publishing. A graffiti wall is too public and random to be of much use, private messages are stultifying and open to abuse since anyone can send a private message across social realms. The blog was intended for publishing, the feed for syndication, but this new format, the social feed or blog, converges sharing and publishing into a form easily digestible and controllable by users.

05 August 2008

Micro Four Thirds: The New "Rangefinder?"

Olympus and Panasonic have announced a new camera format based on the 4/3 image sensor format and compatible with the Four Thirds lens mount. Without a mirror and using half the normal flange distance, Micro Four Thirds cameras have the potential to be incredibly small, very similar to the 35mm rangefinder cameras popular in the late 1970s. Read the announcement of Micro Four Thirds at dpreview.

The new cameras will employ a live view LCD screen and electronic viewfinder. The shorter lens flange will mean smaller lenses. An adapter for existing Four Thirds lenses is envisioned.