One of the rebroadcasts of my blog feed goes through the Beijing Linux User Group, with whom I am somewhat affiliated. (Hello, Bluggers!) Through them I received feedback that I was talking too much about Microsoft and not enough about Linux in my blog.
Which was funny because my cousin Robert was noting that I was too quick to criticize Microsoft.
But the Blugger's comments didn't care whether I criticized or loved Microsoft, merely that I was talking more about corporate (closed source) stuff and not so much about Open Source stuff.
My initial response was ... I write about social networking and social media. But that wasn't good enough.
When you look at the earlier period of this blog, I talked a lot about Open Source issues but I've largely stopped. Why? Because I seem to be more articulate about social media. But why not Open Source social media?
This made me take a look at what I'm using right now and why. I came to the conclusion that there is both a perceptual and an actual channel of openness in software. They look something like this:
Users value the freedom of mobility as very close to what coders value as the freedom of source code access. The only reason there is a real gap here is that closed source systems, like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., don't actually allow you freedom of movement. It merely feels like that because the application is free and, fiscally speaking, the barrier for entry or exit is zero.
Time investment is a very different story. Users spend a great deal of time setting up their social networks in the applications and don't want to lose that investment (whether or not it is a sunk cost). So the applications become sticky - even if they provide marginal value.
A major part of my writing has been to introduce more freedom of movement (an open source ideal) into the social networking sphere. But Freedom of movement is a very tricky concept here, with a lot more than just giving people access to their buddy lists. So many posts delve into how people relate, how we might use existing applications and where the shortfalls are.
Not knowing these things will make future improvements to social application development meaningless.