Critics on social software

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Bill Thompson on BBC News criticizes social software.

Technology analyst Bill Thompson does not think social software will induce
any radical societal changes over the next year and a half, and thinks that
people should arm themselves against its overhyped promises. However, he
argues that the issue of social software has value, because it is
encouraging people to discuss the Internet as a tool for relating to each
other rather than focusing on its purely technological aspects. Thompson
writes, “it is now possible to have a serious debate about the social impact
of the Internet without mentioning protocols, packets or programming, and
that in itself is significant progress.” Unfortunately, he criticizes the
way that people consider the myriad products and services that facilitate
network interaction as a single instrument, which he calls a Western trend
that favors simplicity over the comprehension of complexity. Thompson makes
the even more lamentable observation that the people talking about social
software have a complete disregard for the last two decades’ worth of
research into human-machine interaction, not to mention the research into
psychology and human-to-human communications that has gone on over the last
century. “This lack of awareness of what has been done before means that, by
and large, the ongoing debate about social software is generally
uninteresting, intellectually shallow and largely irrelevant,” Thompson
charges. He blames this on the wide availability of online publishing
programs, the push to cross-link all comments and debates, and an absence of
a historical or research-based viewpoint.