The amount of work going into building social collaboration has taken off in a new direction in the past few years. In particular, the interest is in creating "spaces" for users on the Web.
It's good to see the original work that started from BBS and text-based MUSHes/MUDs/MOOs/etc. has led to a new presentation online. Just take a look at the new generation:
I actually feel a little vindicated now of having tossed a few years of my life back in the late 1980s and early 1990s into playing and programming MUDs.
It seems like now, a decade or more later, the rest of the world is starting to catch on that the Web will need to allow people to show themselves; be an actual identity, rather than a collection of user accounts, preferences, and bookmarks.
These spaces are starting to permeate more specific areas; e.g., MySpace is catching on with bands and musicians, LinkedIn is already a space for business contacts, TheFaceBook caters to the college environment, etc.
Out of this it seems like Software Developers are still kind of stuck in team programming land. While we have a shared team space, most of this is just data about the current project we are working on. Once a project is over, the people behind the project essentially "disappear" into a pool of anonymous resources, only to be invoked again when the next project comes up.
I'm talking about conventional team development environments: CVS, Lotus teamrooms, Hyades, etc. They definitely are very useful for collecting files, tracking progress, controlling access, tracking bugs, and marking activity down.
But where is the human in all of this? Are we really just a set of resources designated by HR and your Project Manager? Are our main job activity the only skills we really have?
Is the sum of us just a cog in the wheel in the grand complication of our company's part in the overall machine of industry?
This is not about socializing, or wanting to be more. There are quite valid business reasons for wanting to promote your identity, calling attention to it, and organizing the information around the many human factors that surround you.