Blog Post

When Social Web Tools Get Creative

A social network like MySpace can help you express yourself and communicate. A bookmarking tool like del.icio.us can help you save and share stuff. A wiki can harness teamwork to build a webpage about whatever it is you care about.

But these social, accessible, dare-I-say-web-2.0 tools can be brought to another level to enable you to make something you can bring back to your offline life. Then they’re not just social, but collaboratively creative. Think Ze Frank’s the ORG or Instructables or Tabblo, which was bought by HP today.

Here are a couple examples. Their user bases are relatively small, but I’d like to think that their utility will give them lasting appeal, especially on a mainstream level.

Exhibit A: Social bookmarking for the home. MyDesignIn, in addition to providing a social bookmarking tool for collecting prospective sinks and couches and whatnot, has built a Flash floorplan tool, where you can drop the items you’ve bookmarked into a diagram of your space. It’s pretty functional considering the Marblehead, Massachusetts-based company is still working on raising its first round of funding.

You can play around with the plan, get recommendations based on users with similar tastes, and eventually get dynamic pricing information. Having a social bookmarking tool just for home-related stuff is not all that appealing, but transforming those bookmarks into a representation of your own home makes the hassle of a separate account worthwhile.

Exhibit B: Social networks for creating music. If social networks are the new shopping mall, as some have proposed, then it follows that much of the activity is about as productive as Mallrats. Not to take this metaphor too far, but perhaps this particular mall could have a recording studio, where musicians can remotely collaborate.

That’s an idea that’s occurred to a lot of people: see Splice, Jamglue, Indaba Music, YourSpins, Mix2r, Rype. In most cases, these sites offer some kind of web-based tool for remixing and collaborating on music.

I think they’re onto something here, though I’m not sure it’s a business. In various interviews, the people running these sites told me they were differentiated because they were targeting professional musicians, or instead amateurs, or even kids goofing off — or because they’re signing deals to license content for their users to sample, or rather all user-generated.

“It’s almost become a dating site — ’emo girl looking for emo boy,'” said Matt Rubens, co-founder of Seattle-based Jamglue, which has 6,000 registered users, and 50,000 unique visitors per month. “The social currency of the site is to remix a song.”

P.S. Let us know what other sites you’ve used and liked in this category.

12 Responses to “When Social Web Tools Get Creative”

  1. Hey, I’ve also come across a great social network for ‘fun’ poker players called http://www.gaambol.com, with a really interesting blogging tool called the Gaambol Tracker that allows you to upload your hand histories (post game)and in one click it will illustrate the round played and allow you to blog and add commentary. Great fun.

  2. One of the problems out there is that it is very difficult to create, share and collaborate on rich, unstructured content. In other words, how do you arbitrarily and amorphously collect/integrate different types of content (e.g. for research)? This can include Media, Websites, Text, RSS Feeds, HTML Snippets, Search Results, Painting, and even your own handwriting! Further, how do you quickly and easily personalize the collected content?

    Check out ZCubes (http://www.zcubes.com), a pure browser based platform that attempts to solve these problems. The ZCubes platform can be used for a variety of applications from social networking to academic research to media integration to painting/sketching and much more.

  3. At our site http://www.decornextdoor.com we’ve explored how a social network that combines experts – interior designers – with the public at large can operate. The feedback we’re getting is that our site is delivering a good deal of the value of a professional design consultation with our simple photo-posting and quick advice. The elaborations that we’re not doing – yet – like floorplans and shopping collections, are very good for delivering a higher-value experience for those who will invest the time. But we find that in our estimation more than 75 percent of the people coming get positive, actionable advice out of an investment of between 10 minutes and half an hour. Since the internet provides infinite ways of pulling on our attention, we are focused (initially) on turning out value for a small commitment of time.

  4. HighFivez.com is a new site for bloggers to submit and read the best posts in the Blogosphere. We also enable users to access their favorite blogs from a central location.

    Check it out and let us know what you think.

  5. One site that I like in particular is the family of sites from Robot Coop in Seattle, with their central site being 43things.com.

    From a lifestyle-entertainment site it fits my personality, but also through my work with One Economy, a nonprofit that uses technology to connect low-income people to anti-poverty resources, it makes sense too.

    I am shading to the old codger side of 2.0 stuff (that is 30+), and so am not enamored of the “personality” side of social networking. My interest is not connecting my personality with other personalities on the web, but rather am more interested in finding people who can help me accomplish my big, small and frivolous life goals.

    The idea of mutual support appeals to me personally, and I can see its applications in the work I do. Today most content for low-income folks is either incredibly bureaucratic (think signing up for healthcare) or not very localized or daily relevant. Even my own Beehive (www.thebeehive.org) site is dependent on experts writing down content in response to community needs.

    Social networking of the mutual support quality…or what is the loose term that is including a lot these days…can be boiled down to basically answering people’s questions; about having a granularity and relevance that makes interactions among web users truly useful.

    While the sites you reviewed were fun and interesting, the hallmark for me was about finding actionable connections of mutual purpose rather than the fuzziness of attractive personalities.

  6. Sean M.

    One interesting site that I’ve run across is operator11.com – they’re basically doing collaborative video and very very basic editing via a sequencer. The interesting thing is that multiple people via webcams can log in and participate in a show. The software seems to be very rough but you can still get the idea.

  7. I just wanted to throw out another site worth checking out – http://www.esnips.com. They recently launched music widgets – http://www.esnips.com/CenterWidgetAction.ns, which essentially allows any musician to create a widget of their music and upload it to any site, blog or social network.

    The great part: its free and eSnips, a social sharing site for all your creations and passions, gives you 5 GB of free storage space to upload whatever kind of file type you want. (video, audio, jpegs, files, etc)

    Using eSnips music widgets, you can share, distribute, and even sell your music wherever you choose. Check it out. http://www.esnips.com/CenterWidgetAction.ns

    Renee Blodgett
    (disclosure: I do some external consulting for them)

  8. My guilty pleasure is using Stylehive to collect (I mean, social bookmark) images I like on the web. I can go to my homepage on Stylehive (www.stylehive.com/thisgirlangie) and see a visual representation of all that I have collected. It’s kind of like reading a magazine and ripping out the good stuff.

    “But these social, accessible, dare-I-say-web-2.0 tools can be brought to another level to enable you to make something you can bring back to your offline life. Then they’re not just social, but collaboratively creative.”

    I don’t know. A lot of social bookmarking tools just allow for personal archiving, and tag clouds and visual displays of information are often just.. shiny.

    “But these social, accessible, dare-I-say-web-2.0 tools can be brought to another level to enable you to make something you can bring back to your offline life.”

    I don’t know. Web 2.0 makes your online life darn sticky, but it doesn’t really help my offline life except giving me more Bubble 2.0 networking parties and event options to attend (and entourage on Upcoming.org)

    I can’t help it. I have to promote Women 2.0, because I think we have an awesome website which informs, educates, AND connects young women interested in entrepreneurship, tech, and business online AND offline.

    Women 2.0 lives online at http://www.women2.org

    ~ang*e

    P.S. Yes, I am a graphic/web/UI designer. I like good visual design.

    P.P.S. Why is there no preview-before-submit option so I can see if you accept HTML in comments?