Social Enterprise

Poll: Is Microsoft's So.cl an idea with a bright future?

Microsoft has stealthily released a nascent social network designed to be used by students as a collaborative learning tool.

I am a big fan of the Scientific Method and the concept of experimentation to prove, or sometimes disprove, a hypothesis. So, I am not going to criticize Microsoft for their recent experiment in social networking they call So.cl (pronounced social). However, I will say that I am curious as to exactly what hypothesis they are testing with this social endeavor.

A new way to learn

Reading the So.cl FAQ reveals that Microsoft's idea is that this nascent social network is designed to be used by students as a learning tool. Its stated function is to provide a place where students can share and learn from each other. The one aspect that raises an eyebrow from me is this paragraph from the FAQ.

Unless you mark it as "private", your search results, and any other data you post to So.cl may be viewed by all other So.cl users. In addition, we will make data that was publicly posted on So.cl broadly available for use by other entities and individuals.

Under the blanket concept of students and learning, I am not saying that making all searches public is a bad thing, but it does limit what the So.cl service should be used for. As Microsoft makes clear, So.cl is not designed to be a replacement for Facebook or Twitter, instead it is a supplement with the niche mission of serving student-collaborative learning.

What is the future?

So, I get the idea, and on the whole it sounds like a reasonable, if elusive, aspiration. However, I am not sure there is really a market for such a thing, which is perhaps why Microsoft released So.cl in such a stealthy manner. Do you think Microsoft is on to something with its So.cl service? Is there a market for a separate collaborative student-learning social network? Is So.cl destined to be a perpetual experiment that never graduates to a real product? Let's collaborate on it and form a consensus.

Also read:

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

13 comments
hans
hans

The old saying 'there's no such thing as a free lunch' seems all but forgotten. I'm extremely weary of these 'free' services. Reading the 'privacy statement' I see there's in fact no privacy policy to speak of. Nor do I see any promise that the data and search-results will not be tampered with so as to further certain (public or private) ends. No way am I going to advice my students to use this. We're doing fine with the networks we're a member of (and pay for); admittedely not ideal technically, but at least we can be sure the site-policies are set by the members .

SHCA
SHCA

I haven't looked into it at all, in fact this is the first I have heard of so.cl, but I wonder if there is a notion of community membership - particular university or area of study, for example. I would expect that researchers and academics would welcome this if: 1. they could limit exposure of their work to specific communities 2. there is a qualification requirement to join a community

therealbeadweaver2002
therealbeadweaver2002

you state that "Under the blanket concept of students and learning, I am not saying that making all searches public is a bad thing, but it does limit what the So.cl service should be used for." which is exactly the point of the endeavor. As you later point out, it is NOT to replace Facebook. Wrong kind of social. It is to replace the Quad as the social environment for students stuck in their research.

donald.henderson
donald.henderson

On registering you need to confirm that you are at least 18 years old, so excludes all but university students.

bsmi021
bsmi021

As some have stated this is not new [sharing ideas] and yes i do understand this is beta, but it does not work on my win7/64 PC. So since students have less patience then i do, they need to get it up to speed soon!

TNT
TNT

The author admitted to not knowing what this So.cl experiment was meant to test, and I have a theory: [i]Microsoft wants to learn how people collaborate and learn from each other not to create the next great social network, but to create a great add-on to SharePoint. [/i] I could see So.cl being a part of a corporate intranet and furthering collaboration between teams on various projects. I think this "experiment" will find itself as a product some day.

rcothron
rcothron

So.cl is a good idea. Peer-reviewed work is the main source for academia however, using So.cl could be used as a type of search engine. Information tips given by other students could be researched further to find information relevant to the student's own research. As long as the final results end with peer-reviewed references and citations, how a student begins researching does not matter. However, students should also be aware that So.cl can not be included as a reference and citation unless the research is about So.cl. As more students become aware of So.cl and its advantages, they will recognize that Facebook and other social sites are not intended for serious research but for staying in touch with friends and family. Work time and play time need to be kept separate when it comes to academia.

miketarlton
miketarlton

There is already a student collaboration tool out there called Edmodo that is ideal for the K-12 environment. There are probably others, too, but this is the one with which I am most familiar. Edmodo provides teachers and students a secure place to connect and collaborate, share content and educational applications, and access homework, grades, class discussions and notifications. Here's the rub, though--it's fairly well locked down so the students can't behave questionably. Everything is moderated by the teacher. That's why it's good for the K-12 environment. Perhaps So.cl will find a foothold in the realm of post-secondary education. We'll see...

brandonmb88
brandonmb88

I just logged into this site and the first thing I see are searches for videos and celebrities. I know that if I wanted my students to be collaborating then I would want them on a site that is JUST for that. I would be afraid of students EASILY finding inappropriate material just by logging into the site and clicking Feed.

beaverusiv
beaverusiv

This is where I see Google+ headed; online collaboration. Hell, it's already a great place to do it. The thing with services like these is they need a good pull or else people will keep doing it how they've always done it. So either Microsoft needs to collaborate with Universities to get this used as a mandatory tool in some classes or it won't see very much pickup.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you think Microsoft is on to something with its So.cl service? Is there a market for a separate collaborative student learning social network?

therealbeadweaver2002
therealbeadweaver2002

but Hans, you failed to answer the question put forth. Teh Microsoft SITE So.cl is not the topic of discussion, nor the privacy policy or any otehr policy of that site. the IDEA was the topic. Let me put it a different way... Could a web network were dedicated to scholastic research, with proper protections against plagarism and other violations of civil order, become a viable addition to the tools of learning?

Samuel Leung
Samuel Leung

I use Windows 7 64bit and it does in fact work for me. I'm not exactly a fan of the service though after my 2 minute's of experimenting with it.