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April 20, 2005

Aberrant social software

Judith at the Social Software Weblog points out what Silicon Valley Watcher says about Flickricious communities; what happens when users stop behaving how the site owners want them to? And how many users do you need for it to happen?

This is particularly interesting in the context of an LMS - can an institution lose control of its system when students actually start using it? Or is it such a tightly controlled environment there is no possibility of "aberrant" behaviour? Could an institution countenance providing a system which, depending on your viewpoint, is at the mercy of the mob, or guided by the wisdom of crowds? if the answer is "no", then the likelihood of educational systems getting as lively as open social software probably isn't very high.

The H2O system at Harvard is a possible example of an educational system that could exhibit spontaneous evolution, given that it allows anyone to join or create a 'project', submit syllabus changes, and so on. Browsing the projects at H2O shows a lively mix of formal and informal activities; apparently the H2O team are interested in what can be learned from social software site 43Things.

Its interesting to see how 43Things have made the 'suggestion box' for the site into, effectively, another piece of social software, 43Ideas. The question is, when the vast majority of users back an idea for a feature, can the site owners refuse to implement it? Well, yes, but at what cost to credibility? I wonder if many LMSs will implement such a feature...

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