What is social software anyway?

What can we say social software is?

A lot of words and concepts can form a whole lot of meanings of “social software” it’s an unclear, expansive, blurry word. Social software does not have an objective and exact definition, so after a whole lot of close observation I was able to come up with few definitions.

Personally, I am very passionate about the subject and feel like diving deep into exploration of the essence, roots, validity and practicality of what social software entails as a concept.

To start with, we are going to look into how Webopedia defined social software...

A type of software or Web service that allows people to communicate and collaborate while using the application.

or (from Techpedia )...

Social software is a category of software systems that primarily functions to allow user collaboration and communication.

If that exhausts your interest, fine. Enough for "TL;DR" version. The most superficial and obvious explanation. Do you want to go deeper? Read on...

What is communication and collaboration?

Humans have this unfortunate hallucination, commonly called "self". Some animals - great apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies have it too. In a nutshell, "self" is an evolutionary feat of our brain that works as an adaptive mechanism that connects different sensations, trying to make sense of them. For developed brains it's important to identify with body and feelings in order to care about potential dangers. Yep, our self-awareness is driven by fear. Our I-ness is a defence mechanism.

Some humans actively try to shake off that identification and reach their true Self. The lucky ones get to accept that their essence is not independent and not separate. We are one.

This is amazing and empowering, but the small-s lingers, and we must deal with our- “selves” somehow.

Now we are on the exciting part, when we get to that point where we have to test if an animal is self- aware, we simply want to know if the animal has an awareness of its existing separately from other animals and environment. In other words, self-awareness is a feeling of separateness.

We will see that this is exactly what throws us into disharmony. But our inner being craves and calls for oneness. We have this instinctive yearning to relate to something extraordinary than the horde of fears and instincts.

And without the need to hide from it, it slips into our desire to communicate, to connect and to unite.

When mind is silent we can connect from within. More often, however, we have to connect externally. And so, we develop mechanisms for external connectivity. First, through language of signs. Then, through verbal communication. When distance becomes an obstacle we use mediums like text. Further on, our intelligence figures out how to overcome other barriers - we create communication tools. Technology that "connects" us with other humans, animals, environment, phenomena.

We also found that communication enriches our understanding of the environment. We get to know more. We can leverage that knowledge. We can also collaborate - agree and act upon something along with other beings.

Therefore, we can say communication and collaboration are defined as compensatory attempt to associate with Self (capital “S”).

And what is software?

Yet another mechanism of adaptation. Our minds don’t want to labor and toil and ascribe self-doubt to human, which makes us find solace and comfort in the use of external instruments to achieve rapid advancement in all we do.

Tangible tools like mattocks, pencils, airplanes). Informational tools like tips, recipes, handbooks, and eventually - virtual tools.

We realised that tools can be used not only to do laborious physical tasks, but also repetitive "thinking". So we made computers that understand instructions. Those instructions can't be touched, so we gave them an amicable name - "software". In the real sense this software is not soft so to speak and are not hard either, we just can’t afford not to ascribe them a name that will not be too far from limitedness of our self.

Data and instructions that are electrically stored are called software. This is one of the primary uses of software, to aid communication and collaboration.

Drumroll for the long-form definition...

Social software is...

Intangible instructions for tangible tools that assist with external effort to unite with universal Self through communication and collaboration with other beings.

Examples, please!

You could say that the whole of Internet is social software. Or, even without internet - computer OS when used for writing a letter or a book is a de-facto social software. Protocols and drivers that quietly manage our emails are a part of social software apparatus. It is a highly voluminous spectrum of tools, because our motive to communicate is what led to the invention of computers in the first place

To improve our focus we will summarize the whole point into down to top –level application (for the web, desktop or mobile) and those services that end users see as tools of communication.

Such tools would be: Messengers, Chats, Social Networking Sites, Mail Clients, Wikis, Forums, Commenting plugins, Sharing plugins, Groupware and all the platforms that can be used to create those.

This is the social software that I am going to "observe" and talk about on this blog. Stay tuned!