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Microsoft, iSchool plan partnership on social software

By Kevin Tampone

Date:

SYRACUSE — Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) is helping Microsoft test a new type of social software.

The software, So.cl (pronounced “social”), is a project of Microsoft’s research arm, FUSE Labs. It was developed with the learning process and information gathering in mind and is aimed at students and academics, says Anthony Rotolo, a professor of social media at the iSchool.

Rotolo says iSchool students are good guinea pigs for a new product like this. In general, they are early adopters of technology and students studying social media in particular will give Microsoft valuable analysis on how So.cl works.

“These students are kind of uniquely positioned to understand what Microsoft is trying to do and give constructive feedback about it,” Rotolo says.

The students understand what drives people to use social networks, but can also think critically about how new products might be applied in the real world.

The software is mainly connected with Facebook, Rotolo says. It allows students to search for a particular topic online or gather information for a specific project. So.cl then helps them to curate top results and bundle the information into a post that can be shared and discussed with the user’s social network.

A student doing research on social media policies, for example, could combine notes on best practices and examples from the corporate world into a single post. The software also allows what Microsoft calls video parties, Rotolo says.

The parties connect users with their social networks through video for collaboration or discussion.

For the students, early access to a possible new product is an advantage, Rotolo adds. Eventually, they will be working with real-world clients on tasks like developing and implementing social-media strategy.

“They actually have an awareness of what’s coming down the road,” Rotolo says. “Having that kind of foresight is really valuable to those students.”

Whether or not So.cl winds up as a new Microsoft product, working with it now will help prepare students for what they might be doing six months or a year in the future. The features could be distributed to other Microsoft offerings like the search engine Bing, Rotolo notes.

Even students not studying social media specifically will gain value from early access to the software. Whether they’re planning careers in security or databases, being able to experience technology advances before anyone else will help them prepare and might inspire more creativity in their areas of focus, Rotolo says.

Rotolo is also hopeful iSchool students will get access to more FUSE Labs products in the future.

“That’s going to allow students to do really cool things for clients,” he says.

SU’s iSchool is one of three schools working with FUSE Labs on the project. The others are the University of Washington and New York University. The iSchool could look to collaborate with the other colleges in the future, Rotolo says.

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