Tuesday, March 27, 2007

When Social Web Tools Get Creative

Written by Liz Gannes Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM PT | 11 comments

A social network like MySpace can help you express yourself and communicate. A bookmarking tool like del.icio.us can help you save and share stuff. A wiki can harness teamwork to build a webpage about whatever it is you care about.

But these social, accessible, dare-I-say-web-2.0 tools can be brought to another level to enable you to make something you can bring back to your offline life. Then they’re not just social, but collaboratively creative. Think Ze Frank’s the ORG or Instructables or Tabblo, which was bought by HP today.

Here are a couple examples. Their user bases are relatively small, but I’d like to think that their utility will give them lasting appeal, especially on a mainstream level.

Exhibit A: Social bookmarking for the home. MyDesignIn, in addition to providing a social bookmarking tool for collecting prospective sinks and couches and whatnot, has built a Flash floorplan tool, where you can drop the items you’ve bookmarked into a diagram of your space. It’s pretty functional considering the Marblehead, Massachusetts-based company is still working on raising its first round of funding.

You can play around with the plan, get recommendations based on users with similar tastes, and eventually get dynamic pricing information. Having a social bookmarking tool just for home-related stuff is not all that appealing, but transforming those bookmarks into a representation of your own home makes the hassle of a separate account worthwhile.

Exhibit B: Social networks for creating music. If social networks are the new shopping mall, as some have proposed, then it follows that much of the activity is about as productive as Mallrats. Not to take this metaphor too far, but perhaps this particular mall could have a recording studio, where musicians can remotely collaborate.

That’s an idea that’s occurred to a lot of people: see Splice, Jamglue, Indaba Music, YourSpins, Mix2r, Rype. In most cases, these sites offer some kind of web-based tool for remixing and collaborating on music.

I think they’re onto something here, though I’m not sure it’s a business. In various interviews, the people running these sites told me they were differentiated because they were targeting professional musicians, or instead amateurs, or even kids goofing off — or because they’re signing deals to license content for their users to sample, or rather all user-generated.

“It’s almost become a dating site — ‘emo girl looking for emo boy,’” said Matt Rubens, co-founder of Seattle-based Jamglue, which has 6,000 registered users, and 50,000 unique visitors per month. “The social currency of the site is to remix a song.”

P.S. Let us know what other sites you’ve used and liked in this category