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December 04, 2007

Socialising our Applications

In addition to the travels that Andy mentioned, we've also been grappling with the disruption caused by a relocation to a different office, so I seem to have accumulated a number of half-written posts which I'll try to find the time to get out this week.

For now, a brief pointer to a nice post by Roo Reynolds in which he compares the character and functionality of the UK government's Hansard Web site (which provides access to the "official" " edited verbatim report of proceedings" in the two houses of the UK Parliament) and two independent sites, TheyWorkForYou.com and The Public Whip, which take advantage of the availability of that data to provide more "social" functionality around the same information:

While the text is the same, the simple addition of some additional markup, links and photos brings it to life. The addition of user comments turns the whole thing into a social application, allowing us to discuss what our MPs and Lords are shouting across their respective aisles at each other every day.

In addition, Roo highlights the importance of underpinning such applications with an entity-/object-based approach - what I would probably call a resource-oriented approach:

Social software designers talk about the 'atoms', (or objects, or entities) of an application. For example, YouTube’s atoms include videos (of course) but also comments, playlists and users. Flickr’s atoms include photos, comments, users, groups and notes. TheyWorkForYou’s atoms are speeches and comments. Don’t get the impression that ’speech’ necessarily means a long speech. It could be a question, an interruption, an answer or a statement. Sometimes even standing up to speak is enough to get an entry in Hansard.

In his discussion of The Public Whip, Roo emphasises that  such entities include people and also 'abstract resources' such as 'divisions' and 'policies'. I guess I might add that such entities aren't necessarily 'atomic' in the traditional sense of that word, indicating something 'indivisible': a collection or list of other entities/resources can also be an entity/resource in its own right, and indeed such entities are visible in those services.

But it's a good post, highlighting very simply and clearly the value of open data and what the "social" dimension can bring to an application. 


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