In a rebuttal to Ryan Carson’s piece on the lack of utility in social software (and Nick Carr’s concurring recent post), Fred Stutzman has a thoughtful post on the topic which ends up distilling the true value of social software – that it allows communities to flourish. He summarizes:
We are enabled to share by social software, and we share for the
communtiy. In doing so, we enter a feedback loop and are complimented
by our sharing. Ultimately, it is all about the affection of the
community – we just have to find the communities appropriate to our
Sharing and communication are tremendously strong basic urges. Humans, as social animals, need to interact. Evolution made us experts at physical interaction. A few hundred years with the printing press has made us semi-adept at distant one-to-many interaction. In the connected age, we are beginning to learn about distant one-to-one (and many-to-many) interaction. Experiments in social software are only tools to aid us in this process.
UPDATE: Stowe’s also written a good post on the topic.