Semantic Social Media Construction

The social media landscape will get simpler. It has to. There’s a jumble of tools, as Rachel Happe reminded us today, and most ordinary people (beyond the early adopters) will want a single input form for posting information. Facebook’s announcement that they were changing to a “What’s on your mind?” hints at the problem. The question is still too vague. Without the ability to organize by activity, Twitter and Facebook feeds remain a cacophony of messages (they encourage people to send what I call flam– Friends’ Lovingly Annoying Messages). They’re mainly used for social fun, but it’s no way to run a community of practice.

We should start by defining a standard model for Semantic Social Media Construction (SSMC) By “Construction” we are limiting our scope to the initial creation of a media message, to be shared with one’s social network, and not any processes for responding to it.

There are three simple elements to the SSMC: the activity (what is being posted), the context (what it refers to), and the shareability (who to notify).

Activities

Truly, there’s any number of questions that should prompt the user:

  1. What are you thinking?
  2. What are you feeling?
  3. Where are you going?
  4. What are you working on?
  5. What question would you like to ask?
  6. What event would you like to promote?
  7. What original work would you like to share?
  8. What are you reading / listening to / watching?
  9. Are you witnessing something happening live?
  10. Is this an emergency?
  11. Are you just punning around?

A few weeks ago, I suggested that this activity could be further qualified by an urgency specific to it, and that this could be compactly coded (cf. the Star Priority Notation. *T0 would indicate; *Q9 would indicate a very urgent question.) Obviously, for this to gain wider usage, the codes could be filled in through a series of selection boxes.

We can extend the questions further.

Context

Twitter encourages users to code an event or theme with a tag preceded by a hash (a hashtag) . Del.icio.us users can specify any number of tags, and often suggests them for the user.

In theory, a social media client could pull a relevant ontology given a particular tag (for example, a conference could list sessions; a product could list features).

For an event, the poster can be prompted for date/location information.

Any post of “currently working on” could well tie into a project management system.

For reviewing other media works (articles, books, movies, etc) it seems natural to prompt the user to rate what they have posted (This had driven the hReview microformat).

Shareabiliy

Posting to Twitter effectively stuffs the inbox of all followers. The consequence is this limits the number of people one can follows. Why not give the poster the option to choose whether to broadcast it or not? Similarly, setting an urgency could be handled differently by each follower.

On the other hand, sometimes you want to bring special attention to a recipient. Facebook and LinkedIn both allow posters to explicitly name recipients. Twitter does not; one has to craft an additional message to contact people.

Questions have the most potential; the user may choose to submit them to networks such as LinkedIn. I’ve found that LinkedIn, for the average user (without thousands of followers) can broadcast questions to a much more diverse community.

In addition, how about supporting anonymous posts, as Craigslist does? Obviously, that goes against how Facebook and Twitter have been conceived. But the social media process is bigger than any single vendor has so far imagined it.

Quality

What do you mean when you say you’ve made a bookmark? Do you mean that it could be helpful to you at a later time? Or is it the sort of thing you want people to read now? Or is it because you are criticizing the content at the link? These are addressed by the Quality Tags, which includes 3 scales: positive, negative, and remedial reactions.

Implementation

Obviously, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Twitter will be laying claim to this area. But any vendor in the BPM or “Enterprise Social Media” space should also contribute to a standards effort ought to play a role as well. These are elemental social processes, so they should underlie any business processes.

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