If 2008 was the year of mapping software (as we saw unfold at N2Y3), I predict that 2009 will be the year of the connective algorithm widget thingie. It will be this year that we'll see the rise in popularity and development of services and software intended to bring people, organizations, resources, capital, and other social assets together. If Amazon and Netflix can, for the most part, understand that if I like X and Y, then I'll probably like Z, there's no reason why - by way of cataloging and tagging - various widget won't be starting to tell my nonprofit and me that if we're invested in X and providing Y, then Z has person-power, money, or time to volunteer to our collective mission.
If this turns out to be the case, I believe the following will also be true:
1) 2009 will be a year of strategic alliance-building and asset sharing, which, following a year of strategic political leadership change, will be one in which advocacy groups and nonprofits have to take a look at a) new political possibilities b) new economic realities c) legislative progress and d) social standing/capital within whichever community they're serving ("are we well-known, up-and-coming, or relative strangers?") Upon doing so, it will be important for like-interested groups to, facing the relatively baron economic scape, work in concert with others by way of sharing assets, volunteers, communication avenues, and funding sources in order a) survive and b) more-quickly achieve missions and goals.
For example: If I am a community coordinator for a women's rights advocacy group and we're in a down-period for whatever reason, but we have an active volunteer list, we should be mobilizing our supporters to a partner gay rights group, who has X bill on the legislative agenda, or is trying to get Y story looked at by the press so that we're a) constantly mobilizing our base and b) setting ourselves up for a similar collaborative push the next time we need support for proposed action. Similarly, if I am a volunteer coordinator for an education center for adults with developmental disabilities and we're on break, we could be leveraging our volunteer list for an upcoming cleanup project at a local hall in exchange for use of work/learning space.
As this need/desire/recognition-of-imporance becomes increasingly articulated, we'll see the growth and diversification of the aforementioned widgets that will process our organizational needs, match them accordingly, and suggest to us who we should be in touch with.
2) 2009 will require a higher degree of human intervention into this work. Regarding the evolution of tags and algorithms, I do understand that there are already softwares reaching for this. Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported on Zentact, connective software that aims to make its users super-connectors (at present, it only works on a very basic level, but it points to where the technology is going):
"Here is what is supposed to happen once you have Zentact all set up. Reading an article about black labs? A box pops up to remind you that your co-editor loves black labs and lets you email him the article with a note right from that page. Run across a blog post that mentions a contact's company? Same thing happens. You can forward that article or link and make yourself look thoughtful in the same way that setting up automatic birthday reminders in your calendar or Amazon makes you look like you went the extra effort to remember someone's birthday."
The deal-breaker, reports TechCrunch, is the necessity to spend time manually tagging each piece of information (the more you tag, the more potential and concise connections you'll make). This, to me, suggests that we won't necessarily see a proliferation of amateur super-connector, but a rise in better-organized super-connectors. Not everyone will be using these widgets on their own accord, as realities in which advocacy groups and nonprofits are too so busy keeping their organizational head above water won't go away any time soon. This is, perhaps, where we'll find a new role for think-tanks and "social media experts." We're looking at a future in which the role of the consultant not only requires forming accurate messaging models and a social presence, but also mining and processing data specific to the organization in hopes of making meaningful collaborative connections with other organizations, volunteers, advocates, donors, and generally interested parties (if/when this actually becomes the case, I anticipate a great thinning of the heard with regard to self-proclaimed social media "experts.") In addition to advising how frequently to send mass emails and updating social network profiles, we'll feed to algorithms controlled variables about organizations, missions, funding sources, etc. and working on a strategic and implementer level with nonprofits, politicians, and play an advisory role with regard to to better sharing assets, resources, person-power, etc.