As anyone that knows me heard, I've become a believer that a social computing experience resting upon a semantic web style infrastructure (RDF, OWL, SPARQL, etc.) has the potential to deliver an Internet first: a full featured information worker social computing experience -- a "web workers" dream come true.
As I've said before, the best bet to date appears to be Twine. But then Twine is still in closed beta, and I can't get in. Actually, that's the point of this post. You see, Nova Spivack, one of the men (maybe the man, but that's rarely the reality of it) behind Twine has suggested a way to the top of the beta invite list. Blog about Twine and you could move to the top of the list. Well, well. Done that before, and doing it here again. The request seems a bit over the top, but what the hell.
What should a service of this type do? It should provide me with unrestricted intellectual airspace. I, along with other people with related inclinations (I have learned recently to be suspicious of an unrestricted focus on peer relationships or any type) would be able to explore the web of people and ideas with a precision and fidelity hyperlinks and search algorithm's can't touch. Bring on the unknown unknows, and the serendipitous discovery -- I have desires that can only be met by ties of the weak kind.
We do get at a taste of that with services like Del.icio.us. Social bookmarking gets us part of the way there. But the social bookmarking services seem to have stopped innovating. It's almost like they've hit some sort of barrier and they've been either unable or unwilling to pass. Could it be one of conception?
And the big social networking services are heading in another direction altogether. I recently attended the Graphing Social Patterns conference and it's as if the players there believe there's only one social network per person -- the one called friends on Facebook -- and that no other valuable social graph does or can exist. Of course I'm overstating the situation. The smart ones know full well that every person is a part of many quite disparate networks. No doubt it's the potential commercial value associated with your "friends" networks and the mega millions engaged there (oh yeah, and the ability to actually address that market), that has them rapt.
And good for them. I wish them all the best. I have a ton of fun with Facebook. I just see the landscape differently. I believe the Facebook/Myspace/Bebo/etc. style services are among the first settlements to appear in the frontier and will not be the last; to me they are more a general consumer introduction to social computing rather than an end game. By way of contrast let me point out that I know the feeds in my RSS reader represent, and by a very wide margin, my most professionally valuable social network.
I can imagine what should come next, but I can't find much heading in that direction.
And then there's Twine.