Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Campfires are better than Social Objects

The term Social Object—in the context of social media—is gaining popularity; however, the term still causes difficulties for the general public and many social media professionals.

Many of us have a basic understanding that a social object is something that gives a focus to social interaction, but the word object—in its everyday sense—obfuscates* the meaning and can even throw the uninitiated off the path completely.

Few have the time or inclination to delve deeply into the intricate work of John Searle or Bronisław Malinowski. And, even through the likes of Jyri Engström have done a sterling job in communicating the essential aspects, the inherent problems remain.

In order to overcome this we have chosen to use the campfire analogy instead. The concept is not entirely new, but for the purposes of explanation, it is much better. People can immediately grasp how an internet service can act as a campfire: bonding users together and giving a focus for communication and interaction.

So whenever we create a social media application, we are very concerned as to the nature of its campfire: how will the dancing flames attract users, keep them warm and encourage social interaction.

* Obfuscate is a great word that delightfully demonstrates its meaning: "to make something less clear and harder to understand, especially intentionally" (Cambridge Online Dictionary)