The Elements of Social Architecture

by Christina Wodtke

23 Reader Comments

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  1. This stuff is interesting. I watched a movie called ZeitGeist Addendum, and it talks about social architecture. I really think the most important part about all this new-fangled social media is the fact that a new form of monetization will emerge, and our society’s media sector will transform.

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  2. I can’t decide whether it’s good or bad that this sounds like the Facebook feature list! That’s not a criticism of the article (in case it sounds like one). I’!ve just spent a lot of time recently thinking about the way different social networking apps appeal to different people, and it always comes back to Facebook! More specifically, the fact that its success seems to come down to a ‘Jack-of-all-Trades’ approach – offering non-portable, cut-down versions of services like Flickr, Twitter, etc.

    People familiar with the web (probably including everyone here) are happy to go out of their way for the advantages of these more open services. But my old college mates, distant family, and whatever are more likely to sign up to one service that does everything adequately.

    I just find all this interesting to look at in the context of the article’s ‘main streets and backwaters’ metaphor. Although I’d like to share my Tweets and Flickr content with everyone I know, I have to ask them to ‘travel’ right out of their way. And often, that just isn’t happening. A centralised identity would obviously help here – being able to use an OpenID (for example) to accumulate reputation between services and make signing up to a new service quick and simple. In a small way, this idea has been taken on by the current generation of games consoles – using a single profile to collect ‘acheivements’ and maintain a single identity between all games, as well as giving external access to that data through APIs and the like.

    Anyway, thank you for a thought-provoking extract. I’ll definitely be picking up the book very soon.

    I really think the most important part about all this new-fangled social media is the fact that a new form of monetization will emerge, and our society’s media sector will transform.

    Well, I think that is something that happened years ago. Also not sure what you mean by a new form of monetization – looked very much like the old sort! Get people in one place, looking in direction, and then put ads there :)

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  3. The psychology behind the dynamics of social architecture are fascinating. I think its vitally important to understand how social interactions happen offline, to better understand how online social behavior lives, breaths and dies.  Understanding the interaction points will help us design better websites from the side of the consumer, and also increase conversion rate for the business by giving the consumer what they want.

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  4. A nice summary for the major points for social architecture. But it is difficult in such a short article to fulfill every single brick, which is important for the complete house.
    You article comes right to “Webciety”, which is spotlight of this years cebit.

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  5. I think this is an oustanding article and I’ll even take things one step further.

    When designing social sites I think it is vitally important that there be a consistent architect, whether that is a person or a “voice”.

    There is nothing worse for first time tourists than a city with 30 different areas, all constructed independantly of one another.

    To translate that to the online world (specifically design), a rule that applies on one area of your site should also apply on another area. People come to rely on the tools you initially give them as structure and an orientation mechanism. Even if you think a separate page of your site should be able to have different rules catered just to that page, one must keep in mind the entire user experience, and the behaviour those users are expecting.

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  6. Great and very useful article. I think the social architecture and the psychology behind is ver interesting. I introduced myself in the world of the social networks for a quite long time already and this article does a very close overview. I have a project called Cine25.com and it’s a vertical social network site of cinema (in spanish). When i started the project i was very inmature in this “social world” and didn’t have in mind some of the basic points that this article exposed. But the project evolved, as i evolved with him, specially with articles like this one. I still have a lot of work trying to lead this project to the correct path, but that’s the beauty of it i guess.

    (sorry for my bad english)

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  7. There is so much of psychology and dynamics sytudy at play behind social architecture. The social architecture is prompts the users to bring out their personalities in the online world without even them realizing that they are revaling too much of themselves. Good social architecture can go a long way in making the web a safer place!

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  8. This article is so interesting to ponder. Where will we be in just a few short years? We’re having so much fun watching the social media landscape change while we play in the Cloud Computing space.  Keep writing…please, and we’ll keep architechting!

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  9. As Andri Farr had said, “Get people in one place, looking in direction, and then put ads there”

    It is basically what most Web 2.0 entrepreneur aim for.

    To clarify Web 2.0, it is bringing people together, and having those people generate content for you.

    This is one of the “core” concept to “The Elements of Social Architecture”.

    It as if we were Car engineers.

    And to quote Chris Meeks take on the element: “People come to rely on the tools you initially give them as structure and an orientation mechanism.”

    Not only do we give them a tool, we give them a environment, a isolated place where anyone can reach and have one common interest.

    Thus:

    “Bring People together with a common interest, give them something that is in common with them, and see what happens”

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  10. I was excited to find this. Inspired by Doug Schuler’s work on a pattern language for communication (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//009356.html), I recently started gathering notes and thoughts for a social web pattern language. It’s great to see that someone’s already done some of this work. It would be worthwhile to create an open project around it, similar to Schuler’s (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns/) but focused on the social web.

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  11. Articles like this one I bookmark and pass to people I know who are developing social netwroking sites.

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  12. Thanks for sharing this information. The psychological impact of a website and how the appeal can vary so greatly between users is very interesting. I have built a social networking site that is quickly approaching 1,000 members. Some of the stuff you mention here, I have done correctly—- but there are a few things I could add that I believe may encourage more growth.

    Thanks for giving me some new ideas and pointing out some of the seemingly small things that will make a huge difference.

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  13. I really love this article. I was reading How Buildings Learn and was so surprised to see how the insights was applicable for web design. I think this article deserves a sequel :)

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  14. I really like the idea of Web 2.0.  The fact that users can help contribute to the content of a website is one of the very best things that has happened to the Internet, in my opinion.

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  15. This is an interesting article, with I feel one important flaw.

    In the introductory paragraphs Ms.Wodtke says, “While your designs can never control people, they can encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior”

    However nothing in the article and nothing in these comments that discuss the ethics and social responsibilities of those that set up social sites.

    Take for example, the ongoing controversy about what Facebook thinks it can do with information that people post on their pages.

    There is the question of copyright. It is ironic that when there is a great hoo-ha about downloading music from the net and the infringement of copyright law that this implies, the owners of Facebook believe that what you put up on the site belongs to THEM to do with whatever they wish. And it is not just Facebook, you will, for instance, find a clause expressing a similar view in the terms of use of Gmail.

    Are we to trust “social achitects” because they know what is best for us ? Or are they like bankers, a race apart who know best and reap the rewards, looking down on the common herd – who pay ?

    I think this concern needs to be addressed precisely because much of the information that is gleaned from social networking sites is used to perfect the algorithms used in the manipulation of information and, by inference the people that access it.

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  16. Very interesting article—I just put “Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web” on my to-read list. Thanks!

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  17. Hey Christina,

    haven’t read the book yet, but it seems pretty good, so I just added it to my wish-list ;)
    anyway, sometime ago, I’ve presented at Web2Expo Berlin a presentation on social design patterns, the idea was to identify and categorize design patterns that aid or foster social interactions and see what consequences each and everyone of them has in the community where it’s deployed, reading this excerpt I couldn’t help by feeling that these are somehow complementary to that study so I just leave here the address for that presentation:

    http://www.slideshare.net/pecus/online-communities-design-patterns-255635

    Anyway, thank you for sharing ;)

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  18. Very interesting. This reminds me of “Designing for the Social Web” by Joshua Porter. A critical part of IA is understanding the user’s needs structure. The analogy is brilliant. Psychology is to architecture what motivation is to web design. Good job!

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  19. The best part of the new web 2.0 and the new social architecture is that the user shows what they need.

    We look at what they are talking about. the hot topics and then try to provide them more of it.
    This way the users of the system self regulate what they want and reveal their demands.

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  20. Social Architecture – - A term which have been used with increasing frequently is “social architecture,”? particularly in the context of explaining an area of expertise. To some, social architecture is best thought of as a cross between three elements: interface design, social media functionality and user engagement strategy.
    Great article!

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  21. The need for effective “social architectures” within organisation is critical if we are too ensure that we develop future leaders, to drive innovation and to create an organisation that has a great legacy. If we examine our leadership, I’m sure we’ll find that meetings are where we do much, if not most, of our leading.

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  22. Fantastic article on social media and why it is what it is. I’m not altogether convinced that twitter/facebook/whatever is anything more than a fad as nobody has yet been able to think of a suitable revenue model, maybe this will be what “web 3.0” will fix?

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  23. Superb article. Makes one think carefully and brainstorm about what activities one could incorporate on a social networking site, and how to ‘bind’ various communities together.

    I am currently working on a social networking site, and it has given me some food-for-thoughts as well as a host of ideas regarding where to take the site next. Nice.

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