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February, 2005

DLA Should Get You Laid

[Editor's Note: I'm not really sure that this thing goes anywhere, or makes any points, it's a lot to think about and I did my best. Sorry if it's useless and boring.]

The other day I promised to think more about Digital Lifestyle Aggregation (DLA). Well, I've given it some more thought . . .

I think the first step in creating a DLA is figuring out how to successfully take social software off the computer and move it into the real world. Services like YellowArrow and Dodgeball are early attempts to bring social software into physical space with the help of mobile phones. But I think before we even begin with DLA we need to have a better picture of just what the goals of social software are. Obviously, Friendster has far different objectives than del.icio.us does. But are there any fundamental truths that exist across different kinds of social software?

I recently read an entry from October from Adina Levin titled "Social Software: What's New". It includes some great points and is well worth reading, but there were two big aspects of social software that Adina covered especially well:

1. "What's new [in social software] are the design patterns that build community and sense at a variety of scales at once."

2. "Social software tools make it easy to create content in little, addressable chunks, and they add semantic meaning (wikis names) and social meaning (the weblog of a person or group)."

I'll address both seperately:

1. In theory social software does more than just connect you with other people. We have lots of other tools for that, including email and IM. (In fact, thinking about it now, this may be my problem with Friendster . . . but that's a story for another time.) Good social software allows users to create a community while at the same time giving them something in a way they couldn't get it elsewhere. For instance, using del.icio.us allows me to publish links and share them, but it also allows me to make better sense of these links using the collective intelligence of the group by looking at things like tags. (I may be completely wrong about what Adina meant, but I think this is it.) Thefacebook does this by taking an already close-knit college community and giving them the tools to interact and communicate in new ways. It's different than Friendster because it takes communities that already are grounded in physical space (a college campus) and provides them with new tools that capitalize on existing networks. Thefacebook is more than just about talking to one another, it centralizes a number of useful services (like group email lists) and uses that information to help users interact with their physical space (in this case, the college campus). (Alright, I know that's not really clear . . . but I'm still working on this stuff, I'm thinking it out as I write, so cut me some slack.)

2. By creating addressable links, social software allows you to annotate your digital life. Audioscrobbler handles my musical side and Flickr handles the pictures. When you put all the pieces together you have a fairly accurate representation of me, broken into bite size, directly linkable, chunks.

I think the goal of social networking sites is to become the center of this digital existence. Essentially Friendster or Thefacebook want to be your whole public self, linking to these other pieces that make it up. They want to be online DLAs. Unfortunately, none have really been able to become this.

One reason for this is the usefulness of most social software. A recent Many-to-Many post included this insight:

“How will this software get my users laid� should be on the minds of anyone writing social software (and these days, almost all software is social software).

“Social software� is about making it easy for people to do other things that make them happy: meeting, communicating, and hooking up.

Immediately I thought of an entry I read on Cult of Mac Blog a while back titled "ITunes Gets You Laid". Apparently Tony Fadell, who runs the iPod group, gets a lot of emails from college-aged people thanking him for helping them get laid.
"When they publish their playlists to Rendezvous networks in their dorms, other students surf those playlists to get an idea what people are like.

So, late at night a guy sitting in his dorm may hear a knock on the door and, opening it, find a girl who loves their playlist. Tony gets mail from guys thanking him for this hidden feature in the iPod."

Out of this, I believe, comes two other important features of social software.

1. Give people something they really want (like helping them get laid).

2. Make it simple to find (if people can't use it, how will it help them get laid?).

So now I can finally get back to the DLA. What it needs to do is take all this information spread across all these digital networks, aggregate it in one place and make it portable. Once portable users need to be able to use that information without complex interfaces to help them get laid.

It all seems so simple when it's written out.

If only I could figure out how to do it.

February 17, 2005
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.