PP2SS - From the Psychology of Programming to Social Software

Marc Eisenstadt

Social Software is software which amplifies or otherwise leverages human social behaviour. Common examples include message boards, reputation- based music file sharing, photo-sharing, instant messaging, blogs, wikis, and generic social networking hubs such as Friendster, LinkedIn, and Tribe.Net. Interacting with other people not only forms the core of human social and psy- chological experience, but also lies at the centre of what makes the internet such a rich, powerful and exciting collection of knowledge media. We are especially interested in what happens when such interactions take place on a very large scale – not only because we work regularly with tens of thousands of distance learners at the Open University, but also because it is evident that being part of a crowd in real life possesses a certain ‘buzz’ of its own, and understanding the nature and power of group interactions poses a natural challenge. Different nuances emerge in different user contexts, so we choose to investigate the contexts of work, learn- ing and play to better understand the trade-offs involved in designing effective large-scale social software for multiple purposes.

How does the Psychology of Programming fit into this? Right now, it doesn’t: but it should. I believe that PPIG has much to offer the Social Software community, and vice versa. In this talk, I will outline four ways in which a symbiotic PP/SS relationship could grow:

  1. SS -> PPIG: Existing social software tools can at the very least ‘service’ the PPIG community. Community members can provide mutually-referential blog entries describing their research, group wikis, and use RSS newsfeed aggregators and trigger alert services to act in a primary news dissemination capacity. Rapid interchanges can take place using a variety of synchronous social software tools. Right now, such tools are regarded as ‘fringe’, which is absurd: in the rest of the world, they are mainstream.

  2. PP -> SS: Psychology of programming ideas can be of great benefit to the social software community. For example, current software environments un- derlying blogs and wikis are often extremely frustrating to use, typically be- cause the deploy the wrong affordances or clash with the user’s own mental models of the underlying virtual machines. This is ‘home territory’ to PPIG, and is therefore a ripe area for cross-fertilization.

  3. PP(SS): Social software usage (as opposed to tool design) is a great domain of study for the PPIG community. For example, discourse patterns across ‘duelling blog entries’, and the ebb and flow of conversation in blogs, wikis, and instant messaging, is a ripe topic for investigation.

  4. SS(PP): Applying a social software perspective to the very act of program- ming is another means of fostering synergy. Indeed, collaborative program- ming environments and paradigms, popular in the open source and MOO worlds, already familiar to many in the PPIG community, could be re-examined in the light of the latest tools and interaction styles emerging in the social software world.

The talk will conclude with a view of what a PPIG workshop ought to look like in 2010. 

Type of Publication: Paper
Conference: PPIG 2005 - 17th Annual Workshop
Publication Year: 2005
Paper #: 26
TitlePP2SS - From the Psychology of Programming to Social Software
Publication TypePaper
AuthorsEisenstadt, M
PPIG Workshop: