I had bookmarked Stowe Boyd’s write up on a Nerdvana IM client sometime back. His idea is to consider the Buddy List as the center of one’s social universe. . Over the past week I have reading about Knowledge Networks in MOSS 2007, the opportunities that WPF and Apollo bring in and the UniveRSS client. All of these may have implications on the idea of a generic communications interface which has people at the center as opposed to impersonal information sources. With this in mind, I revisited Stowe’s article.
The buddy list on my IM client is linear – a one dimensional rendering of my complex social web. Social webs are not static. It gets reorganized based on things like how frequently I interact with people in my network. Stowe had initially envisioned a static classification of the social universe into the “Inner Circle”, “Outer Circle” and “The World”. The challenge is to manage movements across these zones. People may move from “The World” into “Inner Circle” and perhaps back into the “The World”. This is essentially about social distance and has to be dynamic based on my behavior. While my focus may be tilted towards the enterprise, this should be equally applicable to the consumer internet space as well – given that federation of Enterprise IM systems and public IM systems are becoming a reality. Building on Stowe’s ideas, here is what I would look for in a generic communications interface.
- The client should represent the richness and changing nature of my social web. For instance, enterprises standardizing on the Microsoft stack could use the Knowledge Network functionality in MOSS 2007 with a WPF interface . The interface should show social relationships and the strengths of those relationships based on my behavior (frequency of interaction for example) and an intuitive interaction mechanism.
- A YackPack or perhaps UniveRSS like interface. The nodes on the UniveRSS interface are impersonal information sources as of today. An ideal interface would be people centric and each node would have the photograph of the person pulled in from their public profiles.
- The client would morph into a generic notification interface. Whenever someone of interest in my social web does something that is relevant to me – I get notified (A node glows – YackPack style). It could be a new blog post, a comment on my blog post, a voice mail or perhaps an email. [A far more visual and interactive rendering of Stowe’s initial UI].
- The client should allow me to import my buddy list or address book to populate my social universe
- The position of various nodes in my social web should indicate the social distance of people from me – There could be some default to start with. This should implicitly reflect Stowe’s notions of Inner Circles, Outer Circles and The World.
- These nodes would get dynamically reorganized in 3D space based on my changing behavior in my social web. This will be as a result of people moving in and out of various zones.
- I also believe that the result of doing a people search should be a visual network indicating how far the person searched for is on my social network and how and through whom I can reach him. [A Visual Thesaurus like system to navigate my social web – This should be possible with the Knowledge Network feature in MOSS 2007 and WPF]. Visualization of social networks and an intuitive navigation mechanism would bring SNA to the rest of us.