Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reading :: Designing for the Social Web

Designing for the Social Web
By Joshua Porter

Bill Hart-Davidson recommended this book to me a while back. (Porter is his former student.) It's a good, solid, readable overview of the challenges and issues involved in designing web-based social software -- which makes it an extremely timely and useful book. I'm thinking about using it in one of my upcoming classes, in fact, since it does a great job of laying out and simplifying the issues of social software without oversimplifying or overspecifying.

Designing for the Social Web is not a detailed design methodology like, say, Beyer and Holtzblatt's Contextual Design. (The research methods section is one page long, for instance.) But it would work well as a companion piece for such a book, one that reframes a methods book in terms of the particular challenges of social software. I'm particularly encouraged that Porter really examines and dissects the role of online community managers -- a crucial role that has become very important to technical communicators but received relatively little examination -- as well as acknowledging the competing interests that must be served in design. Although Porter gives specific examples of these, he doesn't overspecify, and I think that the book will age gracefully because of it.

All in all, I suggest picking this book up. It's a fast and entertaining read, and does a nice job of translating the proclamations of books such as Shirky's Here Comes Everybody into guidelines that technical communicators and others can use.

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