Posts Tagged ‘Social Object’

Hyperlocal – Key Technologies

February 14, 2010 3 comments

This is the fourth in a series of posts on key dimensions of Hyperlocal. Other posts in this series are:

In this post we consider key enabling technologies that many of the hyperlocal platforms mentioned in previous posts will leverage.

Key Enabling Technologies

The initial post in this series identified the following key enabling technologies for Hyperlocal solutions:

  1. Identity and Personalization
  2. Social Media/Social Web
  3. Real-time Web
  4. Geolocation
  5. Search
  6. Mobile
  7. Machine Learning
  8. Structured Data/Semantic Web

Let’s explore each in turn.

*** Update January 5 2010 ***

It looks like ReadWriteWeb concurs with my identifiation of key enabling technologies for emerging web-based applications. See ReadWriteWeb’s Top 5 Web Trends of 2009. I think leaving out Geolocation is a fairly important omission on RWW’s part. I didn’t make reference to the Internet of Things in my list, but have referred to Web Meets World (another name for the same thing), and its impact on HyperLocal, in previous posts.
*** End of Update ***

Identity and Personalization

Identity is a key part of any online platform these days. Not only does Identity represent one’s online presence, but it’s the basis for relating to other in the context of one’s social graph.

Chris Messina has some great insights into the emergence of Identity as a platform – here’s video of his Identity is the Platform presentation from October 2009, and the slideshow accompanying his talk.

The two key players positioned to dominate the Identity Platform space are:

Identity forms the foundation by which to deliver and manage personalized content for a user. I’m not going to discuss Personalization strategies in detail here, but ReadWriteWeb has an excellent piece on the topic.

Social Media and Social Web

I’m not sure too much needs to be said here. Obviously, Social Media and Social Networks, or what’s often referred to as the Social Graph, is a key feature of the Web today. If you’re going to host and service a Community on your website, you won’t get very far if you don’t design your website for the social web.

Interestingly, the Identity Platforms mentioned in the previous section – OpenID and Facebook Connect – allows you to import the Social Graph from external platforms into your Community site. Alternatively, you may also want to promote your content on other sites on the Social Web – including Twitter and Facebook.

Another important concept to be aware of in the context of the Web and HyperLocal is that of the Social Object. The Social Object is any piece of Content or information that a community might potentially socialize around. So for example, Twitter posts, news articles, photos, business listings, videos, URLs, movies … all are potential social objects that a community might share and discuss.

Social Media is any form of publishing that facilitaties social collaboration and sharing of information, content, and conversation. Social Networking sites, Blogs, Wikis, Microblogging platforms etc. all fall under this category.

The following are just a few of the more popular platforms on the social web:

It’s important on your website to enable key forms of social behavior, including sharing and bookmarking content, commenting, rating and reviewing, and so on. These are features that any social website should support, and the key community platform players, such as Jive, Pluck, and Lithium all support.

Real-time Web

With the viral adoption of Twitter, the real-time web has really taken off of late. To understand the state of the Real-time Web heading into 2010, see the following:

The Real-time Web can be viewed from a number of different angles. Three are:

Real-time Feeds/Sreams

This is the core of the Real-time Web – the underlying real-time feed protocol. Please see:

Real-time Search

Here, see:

Real-time Geo, or Geo-streams

Here, see:

For more on real-time geo and geolocation trends, see the Geolocation section that follows.

Managing the Real-time Firehose of Information

With the Real-time Web, information bursts furth as a massive stream – or firehose – of information, which is then filtered or consumed according to one’s particular social filters and interests. It can be overwhelming at first, as Nova Spivak discusses here.


… This post is a work-in-progress. Please return later to view the completed post.


Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications – Part 3: Social Objects

November 13, 2009 11 comments

This is the 3rd post in a series on Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications. As with the other posts in this series, the content is largely borrowed from Joshua Porter’s book Designing for the Social Web. Porter’s book is a gem, and if the topic of social web design is of interest to you, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Click on the following links to access previous posts in this series:


“Social object” is a term founded by sociologist and Jaiku foun­der, Jyri Enges­trom. Engestrom is currently a product manager at Google. Engestrom coined the term “social object” in this blog post in 2005, and it since become a core concept in social website design. I’ve blogged previously on Engestrom and social objects here, which includes a link to a presentation given by Engestrom at Web 2.0 Expo 2009 in San Francisco.

So what is a Social Object?

“Social Objects” are the things in this world that we share in the context of our social experiences. More specifically, a social object is some “thing” we share with others as part of our social media experience on the social web.

If you look around at the dominant Web 2.0-styles websites – YouTube, Flicker, Yelp, Wikipedia, Netflix, Digg, Amazon, Slideshare, etc. – each site facilitates social experience around some particular social object. Here’s a nice visual from Porter’s book that lists some of the Web’s most successful applications, and their associated social objects.

Social Objects

Social objects, says Porter, are often overlooked in the attention given to Social Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He quotes Jyri Engestrom from a 2005 blog post on the topic:

The term “social networking” makes little sense if we leave out the objects that mediate the ties between people. Think about the object as the reason why people affiliate with each specific other and not just anyone. For instance, if the object is a job, it will connect me to one set of people whereas a date will link me to a radically different group. This is common sense but unfortunately it’s not included in the image of the network diagram that most people imagine when they hear the term “social network”. The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people.”

Identify your Social Objects

So the next step is to identify the key Social Objects in your social application – photos, listings, news stories, products, or even knowledge itself, as in the case of Wikipedia.

Give Social Objects a URL

This is somewhat more of a design concern that a functional requirement of the application, but each individual instance of a social object should be represented by a unique , user-friendly URL. Porter lists the following reasons for given each object a URL:

  • URL’s make object shareable
  • URL’s make objects easier to find and re-find
  • URL’s allow people to link to an object directly
  • Search engines like URLs

So now that you’ve identified the core social objects in your application, it’s time to identify the core features that your application must support. This will be the topic of the next post.


Also in this series

Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications – Part 2: The Framework

November 12, 2009 6 comments

This is the 2nd post in a series on Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications. Click on the following links to access previous post in this series:


This post will present a general approach for defining requirements for Social Web applications. As with the other posts in this series, the content is largely borrowed from Joshua Porter‘s book Designing for the Social Web. Porter’s book is a gem, and if the topic of social web design is of interest to you, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

The single most important factor in specifying requirements for any product or application is to focus on how your users will use the application. This includes both the core use cases (or user scenarios), as well as the key requirements for user interaction.

Chapter 2 of Porter’s book introduces a framework for Social Web Design. He starts out by emphasizing the importance of staying focused on the “core” use cases for the social application, and being careful to avoid scope creep, and saddling your application with a whack of non-essential features. This involves prioritizing the overall feature list, and focusing on the essentials.

The AOF Method

Porter provides a very nice framework for identifying core social application requirements which he calls the AOF method, where AOF stands for Activities, Objects, and Features.

The AOF Method is comprised of 3 key steps:

  1. Focus on the primary Activity
  2. – The first question you must answer is what is your audience doing?

  3. Identify your social Objects
  4. – Once you’ve got the activity down, you have to identify the objects that people interact with while doing that activity.

  5. Choose your Feature set
  6. – From the activity and objects you can derive a core feature set, answering the question: What are the actions people perform on the objects, and which are important enough to support in the web application?

Focus on the Core Activities

Porter communicates that a common refrain when doing requirements analysis is “know your users?” He points out, however, that more important that knowing all about the people who will be using a social application is having a deep understanding of the specific activities that the solution will enable.

Actually, Porter advocates focusing on a “single” core activity – for example, with Amazon, it might be “shopping for books”, with Flickr it’s photo sharing, and so on. But I’m going to allow for some leeway here, and allow for a small set of core activities that the site might support.

Once you’ve defined your small set of core activities, you should focus deeping on the tasks your users will take to succeed in accomplishing these activities.
Quoting Porter:

We should know all the steps taken in performing the activity, the decisions people need to make at each step, the influencing factors in those decisions, and what types of roles people are in when making them.

Goals, Tasks, and Activities

Porter writes:

It’s helpful to distinguish between goals, activities, and tasks. Goals are end conditions people are striving for. Activities are the set of tasks people do to achieve their goals.

Many times we focus too much on tasks instead of the larger activity. Instead of focusing on the task of “purchasing goods”, it is more beneficial for design purposes to focus on the activity of shopping, as it better describes what’s really going on.

Thinking on the level of activities allows us to focus on both the details of tasks as well as the overall goals of the people who use are software. Activities also allow us to take into consideration the social interactions we participate in when we solve problems, whether getting recommendations from trusted people or asking perfect strangers what they would do.

Here’s a nice chart provided by Porter that distinguishes between goals, activities, and tasks for some popular social websites:

Goals, Activities, and Tasks

While Porter is talking about identifying key social application activities here in the context of developing applications, the same analysis should go into acquiring packaged applications to deliver valued user experiences. If you don’t carefully consider the key activities that your application must support, and the user experience of how those activities are fulfilled, there’s very little chance that you’ll deliver experiences to your users that delight them.

Next up, Social Objects

Having established a method for defining user requirements for your social application, the next post in this series will delve into the heart of the matter – identifying and describing your Social Objects.

Stay tuned.


Also in this series

Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications – Part 1: Overview

November 12, 2009 9 comments


I’m going to be posting a series of posts over the next couple of weeks around defining requirements for Social Web applications.

My posts will almost entirely reference the book Designing for the Social Web, by Joshua Porter. It’s an absolutely wonderful treatment of designing applications for the social web, and if the topic is of interest to you, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

My slant will be ever-so-slightly different from Porter’s, in that I’m specifically interested in defining requirements for social web applications. And every-so-often, I’ll slightly tweak his presentation of the material. But the difference in emphasis is so minor, that it’s pretty much a mute point.

Here’s an overview of some of the topics I’ll be covering, based on Porter’s book:

  1. The Rise of the Social Web
  2. Defining Requirements for Social Web Applications – A Framework
  3. Understanding Social Objects
  4. Defining core Users Actions around Social Objects
  5. Motivations for User Participation
  6. Defining requirements for Collective Intelligence
  7. Defining requirements for Sharing

Setting the context – the rise of the Social Web

The (somewhat obvious) premise of this series of posts is that the rise of Web 2.0-style applications such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Yelp, and so forth has profoundly changed what users expect from a web application. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has been on the web in the past several years.

Here are a just few important ways that users’ expectations and behavior have changed with the emergence of Web 2.0-style social applications, as outlined in Porter’s book (wording changed slightly as appropriate for the context):

  • Web 2.0-style sites don’t always provide the most valuable information on their site
  • – Instead, users contribute content, reviews, comments, and other rankings, and these appliactions provide them the tools for doing so.

  • People contribute their content without getting paid
  • – There is (typically) no monetary reward for uploading content and providing feedback.

  • People are not being managed in any tangible way
  • – This incredible contribution of user-generated content is no being managed. Individuals are acting independenly of one another, and together provide an amazing resource.

  • People interact with this user-generated content in a social context
  • – They look to the opinions of their friends, people of similar interests or who are “like” them in some way, and to strangers they will never meet.

  • People openly identify themselves

The point being, the Web has changed since the days of the dot com bust. The Web has become social.

Future posts will elaborate on what this means for the capabilities that users expect from social software, and suggest techniques for capturing these requirements.


Also in this series

Social Objects – Jyri Engestrom

October 14, 2009 2 comments

While the concept has been floating around in the mainstream for several years now, I just recently came across Google’s Jyri Engestrom‘s notion of a Social Object. For an introduction to the notion of a Social Object, please see Hugh MacLeod‘s Social Objects for Beginners.

Engestrom has given a number of presentations on the topic of Social Objects over the years. The presentation below is from Web2.0 Expo San Francisco in April 2009.

Here’s the slide presentation on Slideshare.

And here are Engestrom’s 5 Principles for Building Object-centered Social Sites:

  1. Define your object
  2. Define your verbs
  3. Make the objects shareable
  4. Turn invitations into gifts
  5. Charge the publishers not the spectators

The “social object” concept is very powerful. It’s somewhat obvious after you encounter it, but it’s nice to put a label to the concept.