Ice Cream Social Computing

My background in blogging and communities is one of the things that got me my current job. I work with (among other things) the team behind the user community site for my company. My role is in usability, but because of said background I often chime in in community related topics. It is a team after all.

In addition to my work with the community team, I’ve been asked to give talks to the usability group (~30 people) over the next few months on, generally, Social Computing. My first talk was on the upcoming changes to the File Exchange aspect of the user community. The talk seemed to be well received even though it wasn’t directly related to anything anyone else is doing. Out of the 30 of us there are only two web-related usability people. Lots of good questions, which is always a boon to any presenter.

The next talk I’ve been asked to give will be about the “three coolest things in social computing.”

Now you, like me at this point, are probably wondering just WTF that might mean. As the Wikipedia article mentions, Social Computing is a rather broad term. So while I get the meaning behind the request to talk about the three coolest things, I am not sure what to focus on. My initial thought, even before I read the definition on Wikipedia, was to focus on apps or features that are currently “supporting “computations” that are carried out by groups of people…” Specifically I am interested in web applications that enable and/or enhance collaboration in the “computation”-space.

I have a request: hit me up with some interesting web applications that do just that. I’ll be compiling a list on my own, but more brains are better than one in this case. It would be even better if I could find apps with the “softer” meaning of Social Computing: “friending,” reward systems, rating systems, chat, good design (you know, web2.0 stuff :P ), etc. I’d hope that sites/apps which create the full package as it were would be very interesting to look at, especially from a success and longevity point of view.

Which brings me to the ice cream. When you create a virtual space for people to gather, exchange ideas and work, network, heck even date, the only way it can survive long-term is to also provide a real life counterpart to it. Let me restate that: you can get by just being virtual, but your community will do things on its own to take things real life. Why not be there to facilitate that? Why not be the one (the person or company) to provide space for people to gather, exchange, network, and find dates? Okay, perhaps not the last one (unless you are an online dating site) they’ll do that on their own anyway.

Start small. Go local and find a place big enough to hold the 12 people that will show up, though obviously plan for 112. And since it’s summer (as of today), make sure there’s plenty of ice cream. Why? Because ice cream is good. That’s why there are ice cream socials. Though ice cream usually doesn’t mix well with computing…

See, this is the problem with titling your post before you write it. Ice cream and keyboards don’t mix, people. Unless you have a dishwasher.