Thoughts on technology and social web

October 19, 2009

Workflow with activity streams

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Ravikant Cherukuri @ 11:15 pm

For a while I have been thinking about how the social stream technologies (facebook newsfeed/twitter timeline) can be used to solve other problems. Facebook and the other 100 social networks out there familiarized millions of users to the concept of a life stream. The activity streams effort puts a standardized structure on the lifestream. This enables the activities to roam networks. There is a lot of energy being spent on how this roaming can be standardized and made to work as seemlessly as the telephone network works today. All these ideas are building a platform for the future web. It’s time to start buiding the applications for it.

Today we think of our lifestream as the flow of stuff we like, we want to share, we want to comment on etc. These are intended for people in our network to consume. This data is pretty much unstructured. Life would include much more than what you share with your friends. If the tasks that you (need to) accomplish on a day to day become a part of your activity stream, lifestream applications can help you achieve them. These streams could be private and you could share them with applications that you choose. For example,

  • your calendar could talk to you via your lifestream. Something like evite could be managed via people’s lifestream. You post the invite on your stream and make it visible to people you want to invite. They could accept the invitation right from your stream.
  • Another example – you drop your car at the dealer and you want him to contact you when its done. In a world where lifestreams are ubiquitous, you should be able to expose a private and time bound stream to him that he could write to (just like you share a telephone number today). He could talk back to you on this stream.
  • You could open your stream to your travel agent on which the agent could push itineraries to you that you could comment on or accept. Once you accept one, the stream could be handed over to the airlines and so on.

The trick is to do this in a way that is simple for users, secure in a way that this does not expose more data than that is necessary to the third parties and works in a network  independent manner. OAuth and activity streams look like the right technologies. Enabling the devices and services that you use on a day to day basis to get things done, to interface with you using your life stream seems like a logical step forward. These kind of things have happened on a crude level on email. Email still does not have a standardized content format and so does not tend well to programmability.

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