There a fair amount of buzz around messaging sysems, be it microblogging or direct messages. There is also discussion about broadcast social media (share this with all your friends!). One use case keeps cropping up for me: sharing content with individuals or ad hoc groups. I will focus here on sharing links, but much of this applies to any media richer than one raw text blob.
If I want to keep a URL for later – I use bookmarks. This was de facto for a long time. Then, one day, someone decided it might be cool if not only they could read that page later, but everyone else could too! Thus, the birth of social bookmarking. Today, if I want to share a link with all my contacts I simply bookmark it on my Ma.gnolia, and if they care, they’ll see it.
Then, groups. If I want to share a URL about copyright issues with the Waterloo Students for the Information Commons, we have a Ma.gnolia group. Interested parties subscribe, and the stream is also syndicated to the main page of our wiki for general interest. (Aside: if a discussion with the group is to take place around a link posted there it sometimes happens on our mailing list… I’ve recently begun experimenting with Friendfeed rooms for this. While commenting on FF in generally seems dumb, in this case many of the shared links have no comments themselves and the commentary would only be interesting to other group members anyway.)
One extension of groups really : ad-hoc groups. I don’t want to create a new group somewhere and invite everyone who might be interested every time a topic comes up breifly. It needs to be easy (like, one step, no more than three short fields) and not require people to sign up for anything to contribute/subscribe. Then it can die out later naturally. Stronger (more organized) than hashtags, but less formal and permanent than groups. This is analogous to the cc-everyone chains that develop because people are too lazy to make a small, temporary mailing list.
Alright, now to the big one: point-to-point. While 1:1 communication is usually not the answer (and this has partially sparked my ideas about ad-hoc groups) – sometimes you just read a page and go “so-and-so would be interested in this”. This has, in the past, caused me to email URLs to people. This feels like the wrong solution. Even Twitter dm doesn’t seem quite suited to this. First I will describe my ultimate UX, then I will describe what seems to exist today.
I want a button in Firefox (or whatever browser I end up using in the future – Firefox for now) that opens a dialog allowing me to simultaneously save the link into my bookmarks (on Ma.gnolia or wherever), share with an arbitrary number of groups, and with an arbitrary number of contacts. You can take a peek at my mockup if you like. This is very different from how, say, Ma.gnolia or Pownce does link sharing. Note that all of these (my bookmarks, some groups, some contacts) should be optional – I may not want to use all of them each time. When people send me links this way I want an RSS feed of the links. If they get emailed to me it is not much better than the original solution. If they are delivered into some “private message” box we have YAI, and that’s worse.
Tie in to DiSo: wouldn’t it be extra neat if I could type not just, say, Ma.gnolia or Pownce usernames, but could type URLs? System asks their provider how they prefer to recieve links and then sends it that way. I really don’t want to make people sign up for whatever service I happen to use.
So what can we use today? Well, there are a few options.
- Emaling/dming/@heyyouing URLs can work – but it’s not ideal for one key reason: there is no simple way to get a “list of recent links”. I don’t want to go through every recent email or tweet to find a URL. Some people prefer this because it facilitates discussion around the link somewhat.
- Pownce. Using, say, http://pownce.com/send/link/?url='%20+%20encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)%20%20+%20'¬e_body='%20+%20encodeURIComponent(document.title)%20));">a bookmarklet, one can add links to Pownce and send them to contacts or even “sets” (not-quite-ad-hoc-groups). The key issues here are that if I also want to bookmark the link (I usually do) I must do that separately with a separate form and bookmarklet. I must also re-post to Pownce for each contact/set I want to send it to. There is also the issue that people would have to sign up for yet another social media account in order for me to share links with them – Pownce doesn’t have OpenID support just now.
- del.icio.us for: tags. This is not too bad of a solution if all your contacts are on del.icio.us… and if you use it yourself. I really need to get that Ma.gnolia-to-del.icio.us bridge project finished.
- Ma.gnolia groups. This is a hack really, but it’s working for myself and a contact of mine. We have set up Ma.gnolia groups whose sole purpose is for others to share links with us. Anyone with an OpenID can just log in and start sharing links with us, which we then get from the groups’ RSS feed. The problems here are: it’s a hack and sharing with more than one group at a time is still a pain.
Enough from me for now. Think about it.