Cook’s 4C’s of Social Software – a summary


In 2008 Niall Cook published a classification model for social software which focuses on its function rather than the various components or characteristics of it.

This is my attempt to summarise the 4C’s and frame it as a thought process for helping you decide which types of social tools suit the culture of your enterprise.

These 4C’s are :

  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Connection

Each of these categories provide more meaning when considered within the contexts of the corporate culture you wish to introduce the software. Culture is defined as the unique mix of formality and interaction for the organisation and each of the C’s fits into it’s own cultural quadrant as the graphic below illustrates:

Graphic 4 cs

Cooks 4Cs


  1. Communication – platforms which allow participants to interact with others in an informal and arbitrary fashion either by text, video conference, images or augmentations & combinations of those things.
  2. Connection – these are the technologies which enable participants to connect with information and other participants. Such examples of connection include RSS, mashups, tagging, social networking etc.
  3. Cooperation – this is where participants will contribute and assist others in an informal way. This may be in a structured or unstructured manner and focuses on assisting participants in reaching a common product of interest. Knowledge that is gained from the informal process of helping individuals work towards a common objective is not the goal of cooperation. It is this distinction which separates it from collaboration (below). Such platforms might include social cataloging, media sharing, social bookmarking etc.
  4. Collaboration – these tools encourage participants to collaborate with each other either directly, indirectly and in either distributed or centrally managed ways. The knowledge gained from collaboration is gained from the process of creating something IS the goal of collaboration. Some examples of collaboration software include wikis, human based computation, community developed software etc.

Both Cooperation and Collaboration enable ‘synergy’ and have some over-lap in that both of these categories ultimately enable participants to produce something infinitely better than what they could have produced alone.

In closing I would like to add a little dusting of something special. One lucky student last year was fortunate enough to receive a comment on her blog from ‘the man himself’ who added some sage advice which sums things up just nicely when considering social software for your organisation in my thoughts (this also inter-twines nicely with my previous blog on participation)

“What works for one organisation may not work for another – a lot depends on culture, existing tools and processes, etc. and what you end up finding is a whole bunch of issues that software in itself won’t resolve. Of course, the software vendors won’t tell you this!”

Interested in finding out more, check out the book!


RSS – what is it and what does it do for me?

Consumers of RSS broadly fit into two categories:

  • Those who wonder why they need it, or otherwise dont care
  • Those who wonder how they ever managed without it

What is it?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a Web 2.0 connection enabling technology which has been changing the way people gather information from the internet for many years now.

Essentially if you are someone who repeatedly goes to the same websites every day looking for new content such as news, forums, blogs etc.. then you are probably wasting more time than you need to. What if all the latest updates from your favourite web sources came to you rather than you having to go out onto the web and spend time trawling for the new stuff you haven’t read, every day?

How do you use it?

There are 2 things you will need.

The RSS Reader

The RSS reader is the equivalent of an E-mail reader. When people send you e-mail you will use an e-mail client such as Outlook, Notes, Gmail or other equivalent in order to connect with your e-mail server and receive new messages.

There are many different types of RSS reader however, some are software based which you download and install onto your device. Others are web-based, and some integrate with other software. Which one that is right for you may take some experimentation my recommendation is to perhaps try a few on for size.

I actually use a plug-in for my Google Chrome browser called “RSS Live Links”.

Pictured below you can see Live Links displaying a non-invasive alert next to the address bar to notify me that there is new content available on my favourite web sites. Upon clicking the icon I can see that there are a few sites that have new content and upon clicking on the sites I can quickly see the narratives for which the updated content relates.


The other cool feature Live Links has is that you can optionally add a bookmark folder to your toolbar which will fill with new and interesting content from the RSS feeds you subscribe to. Below is an example of new E-mail I have received in my Gmail inbox.

Live Links also has an Avaliable Feeds link which you can click on when you are on a page you would like to syndicate with. If the site has an available feed ‘Syndicating’ with the site content in Live Links is as easy as click on the link, pictured in the images above.


Live RSS bookmark folders at work in Google Chrome (using Live Links)

So you have an RSS reader, now what to do with it… Add this BLOG!!

The RSS Feed Rssicon

You may have seen this orange ‘radar’ icon before? This icon is commonly used to indicate that there is an available RSS feed on the page you are viewing. Using this blog as an example see on the right hand side of the screen there is widget titled ‘Social Media in the Enterprise’ preceded with that little orange icon which you can click on. If you click it (or the one next to the title above) you will be taken to a page which has a load of gobble-de-gook on it. This crazy page is XML data which is the machine-readable content your RSS reader will use to notify you of new things happening in this blog. The important thing to take from this page is the URL, or the address:

In your RSS reader or plugin of your choice there will be an option for adding a new feed and the URL above is what it will need to know in order to let you know of new and interesting events which occur on this blog. The great thing about Live Links is that it makes this process much easier by allowing you to simply ‘Add’ the site you are currently sitting on – give it a go 🙂


RSS is a technology which enables you to connect with the content you enjoy from a single aggregation point, thus allows you to find, filter and read the things that are of interest to you in a more efficient manner.

From the corporate angle it is not only especially good at saving time that employees spend gathering information from the internet, but consider the value potential value from implementing this on the company intranet, blog, wiki etc.. it allows people to keep up with the most up to date information from sources that they care about.

Still confused about all this RSS? Check out this video which explains beautifully the simplicity and elegance of RSS and how it can make your internet experience richer and more productive.

Web 2.0 – what does it mean?

When I first heard the term Web 2.0 I wondered what the heck was all this about.

I immediately tried in my own mind to identify a particular “state of release” for the internet which of course threw up all the obvious questions I am sure you are wondering yourself if you are reading this article. In fact what this version attribute communicates is an identified change in convention, or a new way of doing things to what was once considered the ‘norm’.

Sheep Mentality

The term Web 2.0 is attributed to Tim O’Reilly who coined the term. Summarily it was proposed by Tim as a mark in time of the rise of prevailing practices and technologies which became self-evident after the dust had settled following the rupture of the dot com boom at the turn of the century.

The principles and technology that remained (because of their popularity and usefulness) became the foundations for what is observed today as characteristics of Web 2.0:

  • blogging
  • Ajax and other new technologies
  • Google Base and other free Web services
  • RSS-generated syndication
  • social bookmarking
  • mash-ups
  • wikis and other collaborative applications
  • dynamic as opposed to static site content
  • interactive encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • ease of data creation, modification or deletion by individual users
  • advanced gaming

There is no generally accepted definition for Web 2.0 or is there a described limitation for its scope. Its very meaning is very much still in debate, however Wilson et. al. (2011) propose a rather good definition of their own:

“Web 2.0 refers to the second generation of the Web, wherein interoperable, user-centered web applications and services promote social conections, media and information sharing, user-created content, and collaborations among individual and organisations.”

Web 2.0 and beyond

Some elicit that we are actually identifying a Web 3.0.

This proposition is based upon the passage of time and that every new decade is a time to reflect and identify emergent technologies and practices which promise to enhance the internet even further upon the previous. Such technologies spoken of include AI and 3DWeb.

To summarise I am of the opinion that the Web is constantly in a state of R & D. Marking a point in the Web’s history with this “version” number serves as a great point in time to analyse its anatomy and to discuss how that anatomy is changing in terms of how things were and how things ‘could’ be by identifying with the most prolific and emerging technologies of the time.

Web Technology