“Social” is really nothing new at all

“Social” has really taken off in the past year, hasn’t it? Everything seems to be social these days – no matter if it is networking sites, blogging communities or even Enterprise Software. I think that it was our team around AlignSpace, now ARISalign, who broadcasted the term during CeBit in 2009 in a big press release where we announced that we’d be building a Social BPM platform. A few other guys had similar ideas at around the same time and within months the term was established firmly in the market. Gartner has even published some brand new research on it.

Are we really seeing something new here? What does “social” actually mean and did we have it before the term was used all over the place?

Let’s start with a quote from the Wikipedia definition: “The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not […].

OK, in our context, let’s focus on the bit where the definition talks about interaction. Interaction can happen in many ways: Face to face conversations, telephone calls, email exchanges, sharing documents and editing them together, participating in discussion forums, instant messaging, etc. Does any of this sound like it has been just invented within the last couple of years? Not really. All of the above are mechanisms for interaction that have been used for a long time already – no matter if the context was personal matters or business topics. Human interaction or “social” is a natural thing for us to do and this is certainly not going to change.

The only thing that is new is the fact that platforms have emerged that try to bundle various interaction mechanisms and to make them really easy to use so that anyone can participate.

No matter if you like the term “social” or not – you are already part of what it means and you might as well use mechanisms that make interaction with others as easy and effective as possible in order to achieve your goals.

My goal for today is to set up a visit at a friend of mine in Amsterdam. Tomorrow it is going to be a brainstorm with colleagues about the next development sprint. I will absolutely use “social” for both.

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