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Building Social Web Applications by Gavin Bell

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Chapter 10. Social Network Patterns

People want to interact with one another. We are a social species. Solitary confinement is, after all, a punishment. Doug Ruscoff put it beautifully at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference in 2008: “Contact is king.” Content and context are important, but social contact drives our society. So, if we are inviting people to our websites, we should give them something to do that encourages social contact. Simply installing a message board is not enough. Talk is fine, but its transitory nature can make it a weak glue to bind a community together.

Sharing Social Objects

As we have discussed throughout this book, social objects provide a focus around which people can interact. Even sites that cover the same general subject will have a very different feel depending on which objects receive focus. Flickr, for example, started out as a place to discuss photographs, not a place to discuss photography. Unlike its predecessors, it wasn’t a photo gallery, either.

The photography site Photo.net is a great place to discuss photography and a good example of early content-driven social software. The site was founded in the late 1990s. On the site, the links between the photographer, his discussions on the forums, and his photographs are present, but the photographs tend to be shown in galleries rather than as a regularly updated stream of photos. The same can be said of PhotoBase and other gallery-led sites: they offer photographers the ability ...

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