Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Advances in Social Computing

Activities once reserved for those rarely-bathing dungeon-masters among us are now leaking into the realm of social acceptance. Many seemingly normal people are beginning to rely on the internet for communication, entertainment, and a general social outlet (this entry being an example).

Online dating may have started as a logical extention to classified ads, but now it has progressed into a place where more than just 'furries' can meet each other. Young and old, people are finding that match.com and eharmony.com are able to hook them up with more compatable individuals than the traditional bar scene. As our eyes open to online dating, we all seem to be realizing that not only is it here to stay, but it honestly is a better way to meet people.

Even luddites are making the seemingly unavoidable switch to digital cameras this holiday season. They will find a need for easier photo printing and online sharing. With 4 Megapixel digicams being par for the course, finally we seem to have disposed of the "email me your pictures" method of distribution. How will the plug-and-play folks deal with this newfound presentation challenge? Even for those who don't own a digital cameras, the wireless phone industry is pushing them upon us more and more with each wave of mobile phones. Much like the Platinum visa or mastercard, you'll have one eventually whether you like it or not.

Blogging has now become a household term, with anyone worth their weight in chum insta-publishing their latest thoughts to the half-dozen friends that read the thing. In our busy lives the blog method is here to stay. What's the alternative - bjerkelike mass mailings that share information whether we want it or not?

Photos, social networks like friendster.com, blogging, and online photo organization like flickr.com are merging more and more each day. The heterogeneous synchronization of data is no longer work for the enterprise, now it is something that each information savvy guy or gal must face. RSS feeds are paving the way for more seamless XML based information exchange, but we've got quite a ways to go. Open source tools are flooding the network, more rapidly adjusting to this information munging trend than their commercial counterparts.

In my opinion Microsoft should pay attention to this trend. They can keep their market share if they embrace the interoperability model and build new and creative ways of using the information. Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and GMail should at least have features ready to help users build these networks. People are using Livejournal, MovableType, and Wordpress. They want to link those blogs into their Netflix RSS feeds, and latest uploaded pictures. People want to build social networks by linking all these pieces of information together. We are in the information age now more than ever and I see huge potential advances in calendaring, billpaying, contacts, and digital signatures. For the love of god can we get rid of the fax machine yet.