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White Papers

Social Interaction Design White Papers

Summary: These white papers are a series of social interaction design guides, design frameworks and approaches, and studies (with some some screenshots) on the design of content in social software and social media sites. Papers tackle a variety of issues familiar to the development, information architecture, navigation, UI, user experience, interaction design of social media, online communities, web 2.0 applications, badges, widgets, and so forth. The papers describe what appears on the screen, how it structures content and provides for social navigation and member presence, how users and communities take shape and how their contributions become social practices of a new kind. The white papers apply to social software design, software research, and the design of social media, user generated content sites, and web 2.0 in general.

Attributes of Online Social Systems (Draft)

Download Attributes of Online Social Systems Draft 2005, 130k pdf. A big picture look at some of the ways in which social practices emerge on social software systems.

Excerpt: From the introduction

Common Attributes of Social Systems

Social software systems vary by their thematic type. Themes, in turn, inform the system's predominant activity. LinkedIn is a popular career networking system and so serves those either looking for work or looking to hire. We would say that it's theme is jobs (careers, employment), and its activity is networking. Tribe is a cultural community organized around shared interests. Members can browse one another, partake in discussions, post classifieds, events, and so on. We would say that its theme is community (tribes, cultures, subcultures) and its activity is social networking. Friendster is a relations-based dating system. It's theme is dating (interpersonal relations from short to long-term, from friendships to partnerships) and its activity is flirting. Many more kinds of social software systems exist, facilitating activities from education and distance learning to P2P networks and file-sharing.

The social interaction designer's first step is to identify a social software system's overall theme. Any given theme will define a social networking site only insofar as participants adhere to thematic guidelines. Thus we are best advised to consider themes as a continuum, rather than as a strict set of social rules or definitions. For example, a career networking site may be more impersonal and professional in tone than a dating site, and more serious than an online community—its structure, features, layout, and tools favoring professional networking—but personal interactions (flirting included) can still happen and often do.

Each of the following thematic attributes describes a continuum: from personal to impersonal, from fast to slow, and so on. Our interest in laying out this rough anatomy of thematic organization is in making distinctions among some of the high-level system characteristics that shape social practices. In other words, we are not describing individual user practices, but rather the social framework that often guides user practices.

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