Update: The recent launch of Google+ and twitter’s imminent UX redesign got me thinking that it might be worth reposting this concept for Action Streams. Most of our social services are currently structured as feeds, or streams. Primary organization of content consumption is chronological. The system is biased in favor of the now, or realtime use.
But given that most of these feeds deliver a form of talk, not of information plain and simple, it’s plausible that neither a chronological temporality nor the feed itself offers an optimum user experience.
This proposal outlines an alternative: essentially, status and activity updates (in this case, shared among social networks) enhanced by actions and coupled to addressees. Actions would be post or activity specific. An invitation item, for example, would be printed to screen with action buttons for Yes | Maybe | No. And like Google+, posts could be targeted to recipients. State would have to be maintained on posts so that participants could receive changes in realtime.
It’s worth noting that action streams could be implemented theoretically internally to a social network, or by means of shared standards (like activity streams) among cooperating social networks.
For reference purposes, Tantek Celik has a clear and more technical post on Web Actions that addresses a similar design interest. The key difference between my action streams and his web actions is that the actions I outline are social: that is, they are not actions on an activity update itself, but social actions that are completed by other users.
[This is the key difference between activity streams and action streams: activity stream updates are unilateral user activities. Activities such as uploading photos or tagging friends. Action stream updates are a form of talk in which a message, a referent, and social action combine in a supple and distributable unit of interaction.]
Last fall after visiting with the activity streams group I spent a bit of time brainstorming what I’m calling action streams. As I lack the resources to pursue the idea for any meaningful length of time, I’m tossing it into the open here. (6 pp pdf).
The basic idea is for a distributed and decentralized stream schema that would permit posts not only to share activity updates across social networks, but to enable action within and around those posts also. Think twitter with buttons. An invite comes into the twitter stream, and Seesmic renders it with buttons so that you can reply with accept, decline, or maybe.
Posts could of course accommodate many different formats, including commercial and transactional formats. State would have to be captured and shared across posts where they appear, in as realtime as possible. I have no technical insight into the feasibility of this, so I can offer little more here than a breakdown of the idea.
If this were possible, it would make for an interesting evolution in streams overall. No longer would status updates be reports of activity, statements and messages incapable of hooking up to actions. Actions would be possible inline with the post and use simple UI elements as commonly used today. We could actually do stuff with our posts. And get system confirmation of activity at the other end.