the people in my (social software) neighborhood

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In my earlier post, I accidentally attributed Matt Webb's posts on social software to Matt Jones. My bad, and I've fixed it. (Thanks, Stewart, for catching that...) It wasn't a completely ridiculous error to make, however, since both Matts are from London, and often write about social software.

So who are the people in my social software neighborhood? I recently told a colleague that I'd collect some key links for him and post them to my blog, so that's what I'm doing here. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, and I'm sure I'll leave someone out and offend them in the process. C'ést la vie. Use the comments to supplement my list if you feel the need. But if you do, I'd appreciate it if you'd also provide a brief explanation of why you think that person belongs, so that this can become a living annotated resource for those interested in the topic, okay?

Here are some of the people whose blogs and other writings I read regularly, and who have given me serious "food for thought" as I mull over the whole concept of social software and where it would fit into our graduate program.

Sébastien Paquet
Séb's blog is one of the most-linked-to sites on this topic, and for good reason. Like me, he's one of Gladwell's "mavens," someone who can be counted on to find the interesting and useful things being discussed and developed across the 'net. His focus is not just social software--he also spends a lot of time on the larger topic of "knowledge management." Interestingly, we have some faculty here in our department working on a knowledge management degree, but there haven't been many conversations with them in terms of how what they're doing relates to and could share components with the the emerging social software direction. Maybe that will start to change soon. :-)

Tom Coates
I'll be damned if I know what Tom's day job is...he doesn't say much about it in his writings. But he writes regularly on topics related to web design and online community. He wrote a great essay recently entitled "The Excesses of Social Software," in which he says "but the innovation must come with the realisation of how to fulfil a need - and to do that we have to look at how those needs have been met to date and where there's scope to bring our insights to bear."

Matt Jones
Matt's a web developer in London. Most of my web design students from last quarter know this, too, because Matt was gracious enough to share a wonderful document describing the BBC web site redesign process, which I in turn had my students read. Matt also writes about social software ideas in the context of the web. He has a great post up right now where he expands on someone else's line from a recent IA presentation: "We talk about navigating when we mean understanding." Now that's a line that will quickly make its way into my teaching!

Matt Webb
The "other" Matt is the one who is currently pulling together many of the threads and writings on social software (and, I think, adding a great deal to them himself). I like his content, though his site drives me nuts in terms of navigation.

the socialtext crowd
It's probably not fair to lump all these folks together just based on their connection to socialtext (a new company focused on the development and implementation of social software tools), but I'm doing it anyways. Let's start with Ross Mayfield. Like Séb, Ross collects and points to a wide variety of ideas and writings on social software. He also writes a good bit himself. In the post cited above, Matt Webb points specifically to this post by Ross on social networking models. Another socialtext principal, Jon Lebkowsky, provides some comments on and "deconstruction" of Ross' post. Another socialtext player weighing in on the conversation is Adina Levin. And one more name from the same crowd is Pete Kaminski, who wrote a lovely post a couple of months ago on weblogs as front porches.

Update: section added 5:11pm
the "emergent democracy" crowd
Clearly I need to put Stewart Butterfield on retainer as my fact-checker, since he's once again spotted an embarassing error. Jon Lebkowsky is not a socialtext principal, although he does provide some comments on and "deconstruction" of Ross' post. Jon is a member of the emergent democracy working group that Joi Ito put together, though, which is also how I got to know the socialtext folks...thus the confusion. :-) Good thing I'm not getting paid for this, huh? (Or am I? Hard to tell sometimes...) Several of the folks on this list have been participating in that discussion, actually. And there are a few others from that group whom I should add to this "social software" list--like George Por, Flemming Funch, and Kevin Marks.

Stewart Butterfield
Stewart--whose company, Ludicorp, is developing the MMORPG Game Neverending--is based in Vancouver. His recent post on social software was another one pointed to by Matt Webb. In it, he provides some comments on other writings on the topic, and proposes an interesting working definition of what social software is.

Andy Phelps
This is perhaps unnecessary to point out to the colleague I'm writing this for, but for the rest of you, it's worth noting that my colleague Andy Phelps has done an excellent job of pointing out the overlap between "social software" and "game development" in his new Corante blog Got Game. (A nice segue from Stewart to Andy, no? ;-)

Jill Walker
Jill's dissertation (almost done now) is on "interactive narratives," but she also writes regularly on topics related to social software. She's one of the few academics I know of who's actually published a conference paper on weblogs, and her comments are always well-written and insightful.

Alex Halavais
My "partner in crime" on the blogging/microcontent grant proposal, Alex is a professor just around the corner at SUNY Buffalo's School of Informatics. Like me, he's both a participant in social software contexts and a professor who uses social software in classes and teaches his students about it.

My super-librarian alter ego has discovered grumpygirl's real name, but I will not reveal it here. Suffice it to say that she's a very talented (and very funny) grad student in Australia who regularly provides insight into weblogs and their uses using comic-strip style conversations between herself and her friend "the questioning ant." See, for example, this, and this, and this. While not a broad look at "social software," her thoughtful commentary on the uses of weblogs are valuable to anyone looking at weblogs as an example of the genre.

Jon Udell
InfoWorld columnist Jon Udell maintains a weblog in which he talks about things like how tools like weblogs can/will change corporate cultures.

I know I'm missing people, but grading calls, and I need to answer. As I said, feel free to supplement this list in the comments section.

Damn. How could I forget the godfather of P2P and social software, Clay Shirky? In particularly, his influential essays like "Social Software and the Politics of Groups," and "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality"?

7 TrackBacks

Liz provides a really good annotated list of people blogging about social software and socialtext. I don't think I've ever really used these words but perhaps this is indeed what I'm working on these days? Well, apart from the thesis... Read More

Reading the web from [ S K A I H I G H ] on April 5, 2003 6:54 PM

I found this GREAT link at Jill's. I have been following linkes for about 2 hours now, just reading articles Read More

Reading the web from [ S K A I H I G H ] on April 5, 2003 6:55 PM

I found this GREAT link. at Jill's I have been following linkes for about 2 hours now, just reading articles Read More

bingo! from prog.log on April 6, 2003 6:45 PM

This post from mamamusings, Elizabeth Lane Lawley's blog from RIT, is a terrific place to start reading and following links about what she call social software. (She also has a great entry explaining track backs.)... Read More

making the news from woolgathering... on April 9, 2003 11:13 AM

Dan Gillmor, who brought us journalism 101, and a discussion of the ways that journalism is moving from lecture to... Read More

Elizabeth Lawley has a good list up of people working on blogging and "social software". Read More

Social Software from miscellany is the largest category on April 11, 2003 11:59 AM

Belated post of a great list of links by Liz Lawley on "social software." Like Jill, I wonder if "social software" is the term I've been needing - although not so much in terms of blogs, but rather MMoRPGs (massively Read More


Liz- thank you so much for this post. Social maps like these are a blessing to everyone, and especially newcomers. Everyone benefits from better knowing who's there and what they care about.

Actually, I don't think Jon is part of the SocialText crew - though he's in close contact with them, and lives in Austin as does Adina.

Another listing of people with an interest in SoSo (as I sometimes call it) is linked from this social software wiki page (and everyone is welcome to edit it).

Editor's Note: I've edited Seb's comment to make the wiki page a link, rather than just the text of the URL.

Even for those of us 5 doors down from Liz, we appreciate the map of interesting things. Thank you for this, I find more daily.


Thanks, Seb. Always nice to know when people find things here useful! And I've already corrected the misinformation on Jon. :-)

Andy...likewise, I'm sure! I've really been enjoying GotGame, since I don't generally surf the gaming blogs, and you're pointing me to things that I might otherwise miss. Now how many more faculty can we drag into our "reindeer games," I wonder?

I still haven't mastered the one-sentence-explanation, but this may be of interest to some ;)

My PhD research looks at the historical development of 'social computing' (I would say it has gone by many names over the years) from the early days of the 'Net to its most recent applications in mobile and ubiquitous computing.

I'm interested in how 'sociality' is being defined, and in what types of social interaction are subsequently possible, in particular cases of social computing. Right now I'm most interested in mobile/ubicomp applications for urban spaces (digital cities) and massive multiplayer games.

The ultimate objective of my thesis is to use these case studies to outline a critical theory of practice for social ubicomp and mobile computing.

I also ramble like this - and sometimes more intelligibly - at I hope to be done my dissertation sometime next year ;)

I highly recommend "Collective Intelligence" by Pierre Levy. ISBN 0-306-45635-4




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on April 4, 2003 12:28 PM.

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