This is yet another comment which got long enough to be a post on its own. This one is in regards to Scott Hanselman’s post entitled The Developer Theory Of The Third Place. It got me thinking about the future of the web and where I ended up surprised me.
First of all, I agree with Scott that Facebook just doesn't feel much like a community. A gentleman by the name of Abdu writes in the comments:
One problem of the web is the fragmentation of where people keep their stuff online. Photos on Flickr or PicasaWeb or Yahoo Photos...etc videos on YouTube or the like, whereabouts on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce... etc tags on Delicious.. etc, Personal page in Facebook, Myspace... etc, their blog in one of the gazilion blogging sites. It's a mess.
I think online users should maintain a single page with consolidated links to all their stuff. Something like pageflakes.com is practical.
Abdu recommends having a consolidation point and I firmly agree. In fact, I used to carry around a TiddlyWiki on a thumb-stick for quite some time with all of my useful info on it and links to my digital life.
This is clearly one of the key issues that FaceBook attempts to address with it’s application system but the social aspect still seems strangely flat whenever I go there. It has many of my friends and interests but something is missing. Even when there is activity it just isn't all that exciting.
Jeff Sodeman writes about the decline of the chat room:
As someone who is the only coder for the company, and works from home, and doesn't have any other developer friends it can get really lonely sometimes.
Back in the old days when MSN chat was free and popular a few of us hosted a web dev chat room and that was our third place. Chat rooms slowly died off for some reason (maybe it was the spammers) and we moved over to hosting a web forum. It took a long time to build that community and eventually one of the others admins took it over and tried to make money off it. The rest of us branched off to started a new add-free home (webradiance.com), and it's now the place I go to celebrate some coding victory or commiserate about my problems.
I sympathize with Jeff about the death of chat rooms but I don’t think that they hold the answer either. The problem with chat rooms was that although they solve the disconnectedness issue they go way too far to the point where now you need to be online with your friends at the same in order to have a conversation. It leads proponents of the technology to flicking emails back and forward just to decide when to meet up.
I think there needs to be an answer somewhere in the middle. I'm looking forward to the rise of more social browsing tools such as Me.dium which would allow me to introduce myself to and talk to other people who are browsing the same site that I am. This has the benefits of a real-time chat whilst at the same time allowing me to talk to people who obviously share similar interests and (importantly) tend to be online at the same times that I am. This would obviously have to come with a fair amount of security built into the system so that I couldn’t be hunted around the net by crazy people.
There was another system in the works a few years ago (I can't find it at the moment) which allowed you to rate websites and see the average rating etc. This and the ability to make comments would turn the Internet into the ultimate social experience. It would stop being a collection of random thoughts and ideas and become a flow of interaction.
I look forward to the day when I go to a Search Engine home page (where else would we all hang out) and notice a huge crowd off in the distance. I trek on over there and discover some amazing new technology being demoed for the first time. Maybe it’s a press release written in black Times New Roman on a white background. Maybe it’s a Virtual Reality experience complete with Evangelist whipping the crowd into a frenzy of excitement from a podium. It won’t matter. The important thing is that I will have been there with other people and we will have shared a connection.
That’s my 2 cents worth anyway. What does everyone else think?
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