What The Heck Is Social Computing?

social-computingThe term ‘Social Computing’ has been bandied around for the past few years, and blogging is a big part of it.

The problem is with terms like this, is that most of don’t know what the heck it means. Like Web 2.0. the term ‘social software’ came into more common usage over the past few years, and it pays to keep abreast of new terminology to understand the part of the market we are operating in.

So – what’s the definition?

Social computing is commonly described as being software that supports group interaction’.

This means that, rather than the traditional web sites and static content, you are opening up your marketing for two-way discussion, rather than just telling people about your product. By enabling services such as commenting and discussion on your blog, you’re working to promote Social computing.

This occurs by you inviting feedback, rather than just presenting your services to your existing and potential customers.

The discussion revolution

When you talk about ‘groupware’, people think of the hard-to-use, under-adopted Lotus Notes software category that was taken up by many corporate companies in the last decade.

In the mid-90s, groupware and knowledge management were used for software that represented the taylorization of knowledge work – the idea that you can automate knowledge work into pre-defined workflows and ‘capture the assets’ in people’s brains.

Often, the ideas sounded good to managers, but the tools did little for the people using them. There were fancy schemes intended to ‘incent participation’, because the tools didn’t do much for the people using them. Email had massive adoption, and more complex tools often gathered dust.

Meanwhile, the term ‘virtual community’ became associated with discredited ideas about cyberspace as an independent polity, and failed dotcom ideas about assembling community in the shadow of a mass-market brand such as forums on the Coca Cola site.

The birth of blogging

Several years ago, in the depths of the tech recession, there were signs of creative life in weblog and journal communities, conversation discovery with Daypop and then Technorati, the growth curve of Wikipedia, mobile games, photo and playlist sharing.

The liveliness was about the communities, and also about the culture of the tools being used.

Many of the attributes of social software -– hyperlinks for naming and reference, weblog conversation discovery, standards-based aggregation -– build on older forms. But the difference in scale, standardization, simplicity, and social incentives provided by web access turn a difference in degree to a difference in kind.

How social computing grew to be a mainstream part of our lives

These forms grew without being forced.

People naturally interact, and blogging is an instinctive response to being given a platform to showcase our products and personality. People are compelled to write blogs and journals to share, to contribute to Wikipedia and open source software projects for the joy of building things with other people.

There are some lessons about social patterns and social affordances that this generation of social software communities and tools get right, are worth understanding and building on.

Is ‘social software’, which just now gaining wide acceptance, destined for the same trash heap of uselessness as groupware?

And, if so, what impact does the changing of this terminology have on the field of social software itself?

Only the future holds those answers.

What is your view of Social Computing, and how has it changed your business?

Let me know…please share your views in the comments below. Thanks.


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9 Responses to What The Heck Is Social Computing?

  1. Luqman August 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Social computing has become an important concept for use in business and it is a great avenue to communicate with people around the world. It help business and individual person to express there business, service and product in lots of ways.

  2. Dennis Edell August 25, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    Just another catch phrase that we do not need.

    C’mon now, we’ve had “social computing’ since the first damn BBS bulletin board back in, what, 1988??


    • Andrew August 26, 2010 at 9:53 am #


      I love catch phrases!


  3. Jason August 25, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    I never heard of that term before LOL. At first I thought you were referring to measuring social media marketing results (metrics), then after reading, I just smiled and thought of “computing” not “computation” LOL.

    Well, “social computing” made its mark not only on the internet, but through business circles as well. I believe that it gave persona to businesses who are now aware of the power of having an online presence.

    It helps a lot, and it’s obvious. Not just through interaction with customers, but it also expands the potentials of local businesses, in which others benefit through international market, partnerships and diversified services/products offered.

    • Andrew August 26, 2010 at 9:55 am #


      I think the interaction with customers is essential for businesses today.

      It’s amazing how many small businesses are not on-line.


  4. Joe Boyle August 26, 2010 at 2:47 am #

    I thought you were talking about something more like remote-access to computers, but like a few of the other commentators have said, I’ve never heard the term “Social Computing”.

    Thanks for teaching me what it actually meant! 😀

    • Andrew August 26, 2010 at 9:58 am #


      I think we all have different definitions for these types of phrases, don’t we?

      Imagine asking 50 people what SEO is – get 30+ different answers?


  5. Andrew August 26, 2010 at 9:57 am #


    I think as bloggers we are very much the social masters…on-line.

    Off-line…that could be completely different!


  6. Linda October 14, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Social computing is new to me. When i first encountered this word from your blog, i thought it’s all about securing your social networks with plugins from hackers, spywares and malwares just like the term Safe Computing.

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