Whenever I talk about knowledge work and the role of social software in doing knowledge work in complex environments I always say that the key to social software is it’s emphasis on relationships above information. Whatever you do with social tools, always it will be clear who is the source of information and what your relationship is to that person. It is also the relationships, the social context that allows you to judge information and put it to work for yourself. It’s the social context, through its multi-subjectivity and feedback loops that allow me to detect patterns and filter information.
When you tell me something it is therefore different to me than when I read the same information in the newspaper. You are that difference. The fact that you care enough about something to tell it to me, gives a different perspective on that information, adds context to it and thus increases the relevance of that information to me. The relational context of the information is more important than the information actually shared. Social software supports that.
In my presentations I always give an example to underline this point, that I never actually shared here in the same way. Last Tuesday over dinner with Lilia and Robert, Lilia asked me to blog it. So here it is.
Anjo Anjewierden created this picture a while back, that depicts the relationships visible from analyzing a number of blogs, not on links but on content. It depicts rather nicely the mental picture I have of part of my network of relations that emerged from my blogging in the past three years. In my presentations I always show this picture and say that I am no longer worried to loose my blogpostings and comments of the past 3 years, as long as I am able to keep this mental picture of who is in my social network. Yes I would be sad to loose all that texts, thoughts and conversation, but as long as the relationships survive it never is really lost. It has become part of our shared context, experiences and consciousness.
It usually makes those in the audience still hooked on information as neutral and objective entities gasp.
To me this is the strongest personal proof that blogging indeed breeds community:
I can loose my blog, as long as I can keep in touch with my relationships it’s ok.