Before we design a new tool...
... We need to look at the 'old' separate ones that we currently use. This separateness is often seen as a problem - "wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to log in to a zillion sites to get what we want?", and arguably is one of the USPs of Glow, the Scottish national intranet for education.
Although the rundown through email, Twitter, feed readers et al might be great for the geeks, I'm more interested in the reasons for delving into the quantity of information that some of us choose to, while others don't.
Take a look at decision-making. How do social tools affect decision-making? Without social tools, decisions tend to be made by those who've been around the most, who are invested in a long-term line of action (which may not necessarily be the best one). They tend to be time-limited, deadline-focused, leading to long-term plans.
With social tools, we can be tempted into making smaller, more regular decisions, bringing more of the organisation into the process, from the tuned-in intern to the email-junky CEO. Research is ongoing for every decision, informing whether or not we should change our decisions before, during or after their deadline is up. There's a danger of both group think, where the echo chamber reassures a group that they are on the right track, and having just too much noise to get to the core of the matter. Trust is required to believe the information coming through these 'playful' social tools. But the pay-off is greater transparency about who is making decisions and how those decisions came around (if the CEO wants it ;-)
Looking at alternative ways to make decisions
I hadn't heard of Gary Klein's Recognition Prime Decision-making before, but it's use in high risk decision-making environments makes it an interesting model to see how technology can make the process better and safer.
- Situation Analysis
The decision-maker interprets cues from the environment.
Social tools here: If decision-making here is about taking from the little things, then social media in its current form might not be the utopia we think - there's just so many of the little things getting published that it's hard to spot the little thing that might matter most.
- Pattern recognition
The decision-maker analyses the cues from the environment and compares them against stored cues.
The email inbox gives you no way to recognise a pattern, and feedreaders only give a little more in terms of searchability and pattern recognition.
- Idea generation
The decision-maker generates workable solutions to the problem in hand.
- Solution generation
It would seem that technology quickly helps only to cloud the process. It's worth asking, really, if digital is necessarily better than analogue. Is my dad's analogue film Leica, at 42 mega-pixels per image, better than my instant digital SLR, at 8.1 mega-pixels?
On with the design...