I've been building open-source social networking software for the past four years, which has given me the unique opportunity to be involved in a wide variety of projects to build social networks and related tools. My experience has revealed a number of insights into the way that user interaction patterns are designed on websites that encourage a website's engagement and adoption to the point that it can grow organically from almost nothing – or, conversely, that doom a website to silent irrelevance in a distant corner of the web.
If you stay up-to-date with what's in vogue among the technology elite, you've probably heard about turntable.fm. If you haven't, let me tell you: it's a website where you listen to music with other people. And when I say with other people, I mean it looks like your avatar is standing in a club with other people listening to DJs up on a booth. You can rate the song as "Awesome" or "Lame," chat with other clubbers, and even DJ if there's a free spot. DJs get points for awesome songs that let them get new avatars. It's absurdly addicting. And so the tech world has been abuzz with praise that has typically failed to see the really important lessons here.
Dries has already posted his Drupal 2010 retrospective and 2011 predictions. You can contribute your own thoughts in the comments on the related "Predictions for 2011" thread on Drupal.org. I agree with most of what's been written in both places. Here is my compilation of developments that I hope or expect to see this year.
There's a revolution going on, and it's more than what people think. The new, social, virtual world in which we're increasingly finding ourselves has opened the door to a wide variety of physical extensions to that online reality. In particular, a slew of price and product comparison tools have arisen, facilitated by the rise in ultra-mobile computing (namely smartphones). Additionally, new sharing tools are allowing us to focus on the experience or result we want from a product rather than the physical object itself. When we share an item or buy collaboratively, we extend the life of the product and also get utility from it at a lower price than the physical object required to deliver that experience. In other words, we are increasingly buying the hole rather than the power drill, the movie rather than the actual DVD, the transportation to work rather than the car… perhaps one day the sleep rather than the bed, the home rather than the house. The possibilities for entrepreneurs are endless right now.