Technical Blog

Groups on the Open Web

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Groups seems to be a very popular concept on the social web.  Facebook, Myspace, Orkut,, Ma.gnolia, FriendFeed (rooms) : everyone has groups.  How do we think about these groups in the context of tearing down walled gardens?  Do we think of places like Ning that replicate all this functionality in a more open ecosystem?  Or do we push further into a more decentralized way of thinking and collaborating?  Try the following links out:

What do you think?  Besides being a bit rough (some unrelated data sneaks in), this seems like a very good snapshot of what is going on in and around DiSo : better, perhaps, that any of the “official” sources.

I would maintain that on the Open Web we can see two different kinds of groups: ad-hoc and gardens.  Both could be maintained by the same software (which I would love to build, but will not be upset if the lazyweb beats me to it!)  Ad-hoc groups are the simplest: let a user choose one or more defining keywords and then display content from all over the social web that fits that tag (with options to filter by blog, microupdate, bookmark, event, etc).  Done.  A group is born that you can track and reply to and interact with (with appropriate links back to the original service, of course, no extra comments layer like we see in FriendFeed if we can help it).

Gardened groups would be a step more formal, and would be the open variant of existing walled-garden groups.  Group administrators (“gardeners”) could choose a group name/shortname and keywords.  They could then choose to have the group not follow certain services (for example, if no photos would be relevant, not track Flickr) and could also add other relevant feeds/respose links (ie mailing list RSS feed with mailto: links for the “reply” function, code repository commit feeds, etc) and links to relevant pages that are static content (wikis).  Content coming in from all sources could be pruned to hide content that matches the keyword(s) but is not relevant.

Feeds and OPML files should be provided to go along with groups, interaction links should make it into the footers of feed item bodies.

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