The past couple of years, largely with Facebook and Orkut growing the social networks and social computing tools having grown into the edges of mainstream, nearly every argument made against these tools and services was laid down against e-mail, rich UI desktops (people spent hours changing the colors and arranging the interfaces), and Instant Messaging years ago.
The only place that these tools are “seemingly” not working is mostly attributed to a severe lack of defining the value derived from using the tools. These news tools and services, even more so those of us working around them, need to communicate how to use the tools effectively and efficiently. The conceptual models & frameworks for those of us analyzing the tools have been really poor and missing giant perspectives and frameworks.
One of the biggest problems with many of these tools and services is they have yet to move out of early product mode especially in developing countries where the internet awareness and reach isn’t widespread as against developed countries. The tools and services are working on maturity getting features in the tools that people need and want, working on scaling, and developing based on early adopters which is not necessarily how those who follow will use the tools or need the tools to work.
Simplicity and limited options on top of tools work easily and provide good derived value for the worklife. As the tools that were disrupters to work culture in the past, the focus needs to be on what is getting done and let people do it. Befriending people, adding applications, tweaking the interface, etc. are not things that lead to easy monetization.
Tools that help people really be social, interact, and get more value in their life (fun, entertainment, connecting with people near in thought, filtering information from the massive flow, and using the information and social connections in context where people need it) from the tools is there things must head. We are in the process of building the platforms for this, but we need to also focus on how to improve use of these platforms and have strong vision of what this is and how to get there.