Theory of Social Software

Tim Bray is wondering how blogs and wikis can be lumped together, because they are different. Dave Johnson counters, saying that there is already integration to be seen, pointing out that his Roller software indeed does support wiki-like markup.

Having written JSPWiki, which is the wiki engine running this weblog, I see little difference in the technologies. You can get an RSS/Atom feed out of my weblog, and the wiki (where the wiki feed consists of diffs). They both work similarly - they are both a collection of pages (or entries, if you will), which are then rendered through a rendering engine (or a templating engine). On a Wiki, you get a single "entry" per page, a web log just aggregates the latest few changes on the front page. There's an awful lot of stuff in common under the hood. (There's more information about how JSPWiki does this.) For example, I wrote this entry as a separate Wiki page, and am now including it in my blog as an entry.

However, regardless of the underlying technology, I've always considered Instant Messaging, Weblogs and Wikis to be different facets of the same thing. Here's a small table of some social software technologies:

Technology Stability   Ordering
Instant Messaging transient temporal
Web logs permanent temporal
 Wikis transient  spatial
Static web pages permanent spatial

IM is transient, because once discussion scrolls off your screen, it loses importance to you. It is rarely archived in public, and it mostly consists of responses to whatever was just said. It resembles normal discussion most.

Wikis are transient, because anyone can change anything later on. They are also organized in a spatial manner, pages are grouped together by meaning and relation instead of their creation dates.

Web logs are permanent in the sense that an archive is created, and all entries, once written, stay in the public eye. The Permalinks achieve this, and I believe that permalinks are the key feature of any weblog, just for this reason. Permalinks and public archives make weblogs different than any other web page. They facilitate discussion among weblogs.

I included static web pages, even though I am not quite certain what I mean by it (and they are not social software). I mean the millions of "home pages" out there in the void of Internet, which were once created and never changed. Or say, corporate web pages. Or the developer sites, like Forum Nokia. Information rarely is changed or deleted, new stuff just gets added.

But other than how the information is organized and used, no, I don't see much difference in between any of these. They all can have RSS feeds (which is a way to make anything resemble a permanent-temporal weblog).

Care to think what an IM-Wiki integration might look like? I've used some, and they are really rather interesting. The IM becomes a discussion, and the Wiki page gets constructed in a collaborative fashion, directly in something that could be described as the DocumentMode.

Or say, I would really like to see Subethaedit-like features in a Wiki. Or Wiki-editing in Subethaedit.

Weblogs and wikis - that's the easy and obvious thing. But the others? That should be interesting...


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"Theory Of Social Software" last changed on 06-Nov-2004 23:13:45 EET by JanneJalkanen.
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