HighEdWebDev conference. I was asked the always difficult question, “So, what’s next? What is the next thing on the horizon?” Again, if I knew (if any of us knew), we’d invest in it and reap the rewards. I did not have the answer, because I don’t know what is next.reviously, I mentioned the question I received during the
It did remind me of something that I’ve thought about for a long time. The relatively unsung true driving force, in my opinion, of social media’s growth. Surely, the overall contributors are the users. But the initial force was (and continues to be) a relatively small group of young people that had an idea, a lot of curiosity, and the ability to write code.
The developers of the various open-source platforms would be excellent candidates for honors as The Real Driving Force Behind Social Media. Most were college students when they spawned their ideas.
I’m talking about the people that launched WordPress, LiveJournal and CivicSpace, for instance. Aside from Tim Berners-Lee, who did start it all, these people have been the agents of change: Matthew Mullenweg of WordPress, Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal and Zack Rosen of CivicSpace Labs (blog) are the best examples.
In 2000, permanent Internet connections were at a premium for University of Antwerp students, so Dries Buytaert and Hans Snijder set up a wireless bridge between their student dorms to share Hans’s ADSL modem connection among eight students. While this was an extremely luxurious situation at that time, something was missing: There was no means to discuss or share simple things
It was only later, in January 2001, that Dries decided to release the software behind drop.org as “Drupal.” The purpose was to enable others to use and extend the experimentation platform so that more people could explore new paths for development. The name Drupal, pronounced “droo-puhl,” derives from the English pronunciation of the Dutch word “druppel,” which means “drop.” (Source: Drupal Handbook)
I hope you’ll note that these people were in their early 20’s, for the most part, when their creations began to take shape. Dries’ story mirrors those of Matt, Brad and Zach in many ways. They are all very remarkable people.
I’m not suggesting that only young people have spurred the social media movement, but these particular young people have had an impact on so many lives, so many corporate choices of online communication, and even a driving force in the revolution of political and grassroots organizing and fund raising.
It is these people, or overall, the entire opensource movement, that have really driven social media’s growth. Hey, without the tools … it would not be happening. Most interesting of all, each of their creations actually grew out of a desire to communicate with their own small group of personal friends while at college. Any wonder why the term “friend” is now so pervasive in social media software applications?
Later, as the applications grew and matured – like their inventors – these individuals had the vision to go opensource and share with the world. Just look at all that has happened since.
I don’t know, but to me – these people are relatively unsung heros. I think they deserve their time in the limelight.
If I were looking for any latest greatest thing, I’d watch for another bit of software from people like this group. We don’t know where they are, nor what they’re doing to connect with their friends at college, but I’ll bet we’ll see more of these types of developing platforms out of similar young people.
There are others out there, too. Who are your choices for The Real Driving Force Behind Social Media group? I’d like to see. Leave links to the latest greatest you’ve found.