Building social apps can be a truly circular experience. Many of the traditional ways of thinking about products and features break down as social apps need to be organic and should adapt quickly as micro-behaviors change and new macro-outcomes emerge. As we develop Foodie.com at Glam, we continue to explore and experiment with different models to help define the right set of social features needed in an application.
One model that we have recently experimented combines elements of Agent-Behaviour with Structure-Behavior-Function models for complex systems. The Agent-Behavior framework is useful in highlighting the actors/agents – and the modes of interactions and behaviors amongst the agents. This framework can model how the overall outcomes change as the agents in the system interact over time. This model clarifies the agent behavior – and the potential outcomes – but it still abstract from a product definition perspective.
This is where the Structure-Behavior-Function model can be applied to align the social behaviors that emerged from the Agent-Behavior model. Essentially, Structure can be seen as the environment in which the agents will conduct their behaviors. And those behaviors will be enabled through Functions in the application.
Thus one can model social apps as a 2 step process – first build the agent-behavior model and then apply the learnings from that into a structure-function design process. This will help ensure that not only are the behaviors of the agents taken into account, but there will also be an understanding of the overall environment/structure in which the behaviors will take place. This gives flexibility in changing the Functions of the app as the agent behavior changes over time as the social graph morphs and matures.