Social Spreadsheets

Phil Windley writes from Supernova:

These are some comments and thoughts from a panel called “The Network is People.” Esther Dyson, Ray Ozzie, Mena Trott, and Christopher Allen were the panelists.

Spreadsheets were amazing because they sit in the middle, between calculators and the corporate accounting system. They let people not just change the numbers, but to change the models and to build new models. The power of the spreadsheet is the power to persuade people (some might say “beat them into submission”). Spreadsheets are as much about group interaction as presentation software is.

Social networks have a problem in that they let you record relationships, but they don’t give you power to control interactions. They provide too many opportunities for “friend inflation.” They don’t accurately reflect people’s real social networks. What we need is a “wiki for transactions.” We need a way for users to manage their workflow in a flexible way–a spreadsheet for social interactions.

Would you rather have ten networks with 700,000 people in them or 700,000 networks with ten people in them? This is an interesting question. Linked-In is the first. Blogs are the second.

Additional views of the panel from Fast Company’s blog and eWeek.

Marc Canter adds: “Esther’s idea for a social software spreadsheet are right on. She wants someone to be able to author their own sequence of events to ‘script’ their own social software actions. Sort of like roll your own LinkedIn.She said this right after folks were attacking the entire premise of explicit social networking – saying that it was too artificial for expressing real-life relationships.But I say that without explcit social networking – we’ll never be abel to deliver Esther’s social software spreadsheet.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.