A thought I had a few weeks ago on a measurable value outcome
of switching to social computing reflects a common situation in our company: mailing
large files around. Simply said, many enterprise mail systems such as Lotus
Notes allow the central administrator to set a limit on attached file sizes.
By imposing a limit around say 4MB, and redirecting people
to use Lotus Connections Files to share large documents, you save: a) network bandwidth
usage; and b) storage of multiple copies on local drives and on mail servers.
LC Files on the other hand adds lots of other benefits like
re-sharing without re-forwarding the files, comments w/o re-forwarding, and lookups
on who it is shared with (or not).
This activity may not be practically measurable per person when
you have many thousands of people. On the other hand you can measure the quantity
of documents and their file sizes, on the email system versus LC. What it comes
down is a known (or knowable) IT cost factor of $ per MB. IT departments could
show the cost savings directly due to reduced infrastructure use and resource
What it does change is user behavior. The first necessary
element is a tool that can automatically redirect where the document is stored
(a link to it on LC Files) rather than the email. The second part is
enforcement through the file size limit. You really need the redirector to work
smoothly so people do not see this as a burdensome task.
So in a direct way, you have a measurable outcome related to
hard $ amounts. This kind of alternative mechanism works easily for files, and
is still just a basic step in moving towards enterprise social computing. Slowly,
What I'd be additionally interested in is looking at the trends of how re-sharing occurs after such a switch. It's pretty common to see people re-forwarding a file to others but this allows a better alternative. In a limited sense, it can also improve security: if the user does not allow publicly share a document, it may be limited to only those they intend. Of course, there are always alternatives and other mailers but it's good manners to keep to their request.
It seems so old
school to try to classify social computing metrics but I keep getting the same requests from various internal teams, who are sometimes not familiar with some of the metrics, don't understand
them, or simply use other metrics better suited to Web sites rather
than social sites. A second goal is to evaluate the qualities of
these metrics to determine if they are useful (e.g. using the SMART
analysis approach). A third is to see the relationship of the metrics
to each other—whether there are dependencies, or if some metrics
are more meaningful when reported alongside or compared with others.
To give an idea,
while it's considered outdated by others, some still look for
Pageviews, and Unique Visitors--classic web metrics better suited to
measure how people visit pages, than interaction from social
environments. Similarly, "Interaction" itself becomes
another stopping point for metrics. These are the metrics most
commonly recorded by social software tools: number of posts, the
number of downloads, the number of connection invites, etc.
In working with
our social computing researchers we're also looking at Network Effect
metrics such as the Topics (what people discuss) that come out of the
system, or the ratio of consumption to a person's content
such as marketing teams have an emphasis on Engagement metrics,
considering how much a person is becoming involved in a social
environment, an event, a marketing offering, or other engagements.
Other engagement metrics aren't specific to marketing only. For
example, thought-leadership metrics include the ratings on content
someone has submitted, or how often they have been quoted or
retweeted by others. A more complex one is to determine the Impact a
person has on their target audience.
To go further
along on marketing metrics, these can even build up towards the sales
pipeline—how many interested individuals are there, are they
potential sales leads, have they actually asked for sales info, has
that lead been validated, and then closed. Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer of Lithium
suggested similar ideas in an article for Strategy+Leadership magazine back in 2000, on conversion rate from a
visitor to a sale, as applied to social environments.
and sales, there are other indicators that relate to business value
metrics. Some suggestions in a recent email exchange with Dr. Walter
Carl, Chief Researcher of ChatThreads and a member of WOMMA's board on metrics include
cost reduction (using this tool to communicate is a lower cost than
other existing ways), accelerating adoption of any business
philosophies, values or company directives, processes that minimize
lost revenue, etc.
Lots of Metrics,
but what are their qualities?
So what should be
obvious is that there are lots of metrics, categories, subclasses,
variations, and inter-relations that different organizations or even
different teams within the same organization utilize. What
constitutes business metrics and delivered value for one team may not
even be relevant to another. So I'm still surprised when people ask
for a generic ROI methodology.
All the same, the
next step is to look at the qualities of these metrics. I mentioned
the SMART acronym earlier which are basic questions if a given metric
type or unit is:
(specific and targeted to an area of measurement),
data point that can be captured and collected),
(robust data that can be analyzed and utilized by a stakeholder),
realistic, meaningful and consistent measurement),
(current and possible to collect in good time).
all these qualities, there will likely be a problem with either
collecting the data in a way that is meaningful and available in time
for use in a business.
There are other
qualities that I think are important to consider as well:
it scalable in quantity? Can you capture larger and larger volumes
of data or does it become computationally intractable
it apply across social environments of the same type? Is the metric
relevant to a single social environment, or can it apply to many
environments of the same structure (e.g., a discussion forum)?
scalable and still meaningful across different social environments
(e.g. A blog and a forum)?
Does it drive
behavior? Does it encourage that person or other people to interact
credible? Is it a measure that is accepted by other teams,
organizations or even industry-wide?
significant as a performance and/or a diagnostic metric? Performance
metrics are useful for comparisons across like types. Diagnostic
metrics help determine the state of the system.
Is it a
quality metric? That is, counting it does not really describe the
value contained within it, so you need a secondary way of looking at
it helpful to look at it across different demographics? This is very
insightful in some metrics, and just not necessary in others.
I'm sure there are
more relevant qualities, but this is already quite a lot to think
about. These qualities can help decide which metrics are the most
useful or what they can tell us, independently of the others.
is to look at which metrics should be reported alongside each other,
or which ones depend on others directly or indirectly. That's where
things start to get real interesting and much more subjective.
No conclusion here
because this is on-going work trying to map out all these variants of
metrics, but here's to hoping it inspires others to think and work
along these lines.
I tried the MIT Personas site just to see what it would come up for my
name. Basically, it does a Web search for any name you give it and
analyzes the text on a semantic level to find common themes or
categories for content from you or about you (e.g., it might suggest
topics like "sports", "legal", "social", "management", "online", etc.)
How it does this is a little beyond my knowledge of semantic
processing, as well as what practical use this is seems to escape me.
But it's fun. :)
Some issues with it, is that because it searches on people names across
the Web, the content may mistake e.g., one "Luis Suarez" (our own
blog-evangelist) with another "Luis Suarez" (soccer player). It helps
if you have a globally unique name like "Rawn Shah" (so far). Another
problem is that the results may vary depending on how it processes
whatever search results it finds. So, in trying it out three times to
see how close it was, it showed slightly different categories for me
and sized these differently as well.
I can't figure out why the following categories appear since I rarely if ever talk about them: military, religious, religion, genealogy
Per my previous note, I mentioned that we have 400,000
people collaborating across 170 countries in IBM.
That raises a great question of what does it mean to have 400,000 people
collaborating? Are they all in one massive social network connected to each
other? Are they participating in the same spaces? Are the contributing to each
To give an idea, first we need to look at the state of
social computing in IBM. First, there is not
one but at least 32 different social applications each of which can have
hundreds of thousands of unique users, and tens of thousands of instances
(e.g., separate wikis, individual blogs, etc.)
By another count, there are over 200 applications--it varies based on what different folks consider as a "social application".
For example, in rough numbers of some of the tools
200k replies (aging removes some)
Dogear /social bookmarking
Beehive (social net)
Cattail (social file sharing)
This is just a subset and unofficial list of these services.
There are other tools for enterprise wide social searching, social
brainstorming, instant messaging, tweeting, podcast/videocast sharing, social
profiles, and analysis tools. Some of these other tools are used by 100% of
employees particularly instant messaging and out Bluepages (profiles) systems.
Others have even more people because non-employees such as business partners,
customers, and even suppliers have access to them.
People generally use them as follows:
across the enterprise: e.g a blogger
team spaces: departments and hierarchical teams
spaces: across multiple departments
group spaces: e.g., someone creates a Lotus Connections Activity and
So the groupings vary significantly, and a number individuals
do use many of these tools for different reasons, but unique users still reach
across the company.
The types of activities or projects in these spaces are just
as varied as the job roles, products and markets. Think of it, just in terms of
products alone, I think we have over 5000 distinctly, different ones (and not
just variations); some are very complex (imagine working on the DB2 database), and others are smaller. That still doesn’t include the many thousands of customer projects
people are working on at any one time. So in general there aren't any common scopes or scales for
what people work and interact on.
The general philosophy that creates this mix is that as a
company we encourage an internal free-market environment to allow many tools to
appear and compete with each other. This helps the best ideas to emerge out of
new social experiments and methods. While someone has to pay for the
environments, this is up to each social app project to figure out how to fund. There
are official tools that are universally supported, but there are also other research
and experimental projects—even Beehive as a research project easily includes over
We also do not police these activities. People are talking
about their non-work activities, but that is a natural outcome of social
interaction. As long as people are not breaking their business conduct and the
social computing guidelines, they are okay to use it how they like.
This kind of quantitative information really doesn’t show how
people are collaborating just where. Rather our BlueIQ team collects
success stories, especially recreatable and reuseable scenarios, from
individuals illustrating how they are productively working together in these
In general, it is complex to say how people are
collaborating, but safe to say that they are collaborating widely in the
social environments in IBM.
On returning from the recent Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, I had time to reflect on the scaling issues that come up in social software adoption across an enterprise. In watching Gentry Underwood's excellent presentation on how they designed the social computing environment in IDEO, I tweeted to him that new issues start to pop up when you move from an enterprise social environment for 500 people to 200,000--or in IBM, nearly 400,000 people in 170 countries. This is not a bragging point, rather a one of frustration.
There certainly are other large or technological-oriented companies deploying social environments, but from my experience in hearing from others, no one has hit some of the scale issues that we have in IBM. Obviously we are talking about an enterprise's deployment rather than a social site like Facebook; they're very different issues for each.
For one, while employee profiles and directories are starting to become commonplace in other enterprises, we have had one for well over a decade in one form or another. We've already gone through the issues and practices others have found: (a) include everyone; (b) prepopulate with relevant contact, work info, projects, etc; (c) popularize it as the place to look up data; (d) integrate into or make it THE basis for contact info for other existing internal and extranet Web apps; (e) invite partners,contractors and suppliers; (f) tie to enterprise-wide LDAP and single-sign on; (g) integrate into common work processes and behaviors. In fact, the last I looked, we had nearly 600,000 profiles in our Bluepages (including employees, supplementals, contractors, bots, some partners and suppliers).
While the Bluepages system certianly popular, it is but one of several dozen commonly used social software tools, some of which in themselves have hundreds of thousands of unique users. We have thousands of smaller communities and wikis some of which have tens of thousands of members. The multiple tools comes out of our laissez-faire attitude to allow many software ideas to emerge, and through our user base test and advocate the best ideas.
The population size of this system isn't quite the issue, but I put some thought into what enterprise 2.0 deployment issues might appear with scale and came up with the following chart. I hope this can help other maturing e2.0 environments consider some of the issues they may be coming up agains
of people across time zones B. distribution
of people across cultures / countries C. distribution
of people across physical locations D. distribution
of people across job categories or dissimilar job roles E. projects
people work on are very different in nature F. distribution
across access devices (desktops, laptops, mobile) G. many separate (non-integrated) social tools,
or different interfaces H. many separate databases as information sources I. many
separate or isolated social instances J. number/reach
I've finally had a chance to read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers today. As with his previous books, he tends to border on sensationalism focuses on events which may possibly be rare outcomes but wrapping it in a story. The impact here is that he is a great storyteller, but his stories may not necessarily be correct. I can't substantiate that irrefutably but I don't need to.
For example, one chapter focuses on birthdate year as an influential factor describing a host of folks in the computer industry who have gone on to be hugely successful. But at first depoints out that SOME of these folks may have had a series of lucky breaks (e.g. Bill Gates) that gave them an advantage, most not related to their age but to their connections. Then with some quick wave of the hand, he points back to the birthdate year being the summary of the chapter. Okay, what happened there?
Patterns may exist (same location, same birthdate, etc.) but it is a combination of these factors that contribute to success. For that matter, it doesn't qualify if one particular of these factors is a bigger contributor.
He's still a great storyteller and uncovers unusual tales, but from what he has in his books alone, it's hard to tell if what he describes is really is true, or just makes for interesting entertainment. That aside, he has still achieved business star status which can direct people to think that way.
The book has progressed and transformed significantly over the past year. I've probably rewritten the contents three to four times already, either shifting large sections to bring related ideas together, towards a business focus (requiring less prior technical knowledge), and in a more cohesive concept.
The draft chapters all go up onto the Roughcuts section of Safari Books. What's confusing is that the latest information is in there but only to registered members, and the free information you see up front is several drafts old. So, I'm including the ToC here:
You may be familiar with Wordle, a nice little Web2.0 tool by our own Jonathon Feinberg that creates word art images like this below. You've probably seen wordles like this appear recent (e.g. Tim O'Reilly's Web 2.0 paper)
Here's a game we started playing with it similar to other word games like "Cr*nium". We had lots of fun with the Pride and Prejudice wordle, and not the phrases you think would appear out of Jane Austen (e.g., "girls better consent", "young delighted experience lady", "insufficient flatter heard")
I have no idea if this is an original game by itself but I'll set out the rules we're using and you can try and tell me.
The goal of the game is to see how many meaningful phrases you can make out of words that appear next to or very near each other in a wordle.
You need: 2 or more players. Paper and pen/pencil per person. Web access to wordle.net
Pick a wordle: Any wordle. The side provides a huge gallery of items and choices. Or you can create your own wordle in a few seconds by pasting a block of text into the site. E.g., Here's President Obama's Inaguration speech wordle
Set timer for 1 minute
Every player gets to write down phrases 2 words or longer that they can make out. No repeats (or subphrases) by the same person. Words can go in any direction but they have to be right next to each other, or "close by" (as others agree upon). Size of the letters do not matter.
End of the timer, each person reads out one item from their list. You can debate whether the phrase is meaningful and not just random. They get points for the number of words in the phrase. Anyone else who found the same phrase has to delete that item from their list, and cannot reuse it.
Minimum 2 word phrases, no maximum. One point per word.
So I broke down and created a Manga face of myself. (Manga's are Japanese graphic novels, some for kids, some for grown-ups). This is a recent fad on Twitter, but cute nonetheless. The FaceyourManga site offers a Flash tool to choose many different factors that you can choose from to create your particular manga.
Here's mine below:
What's the point? You can use this as a profile photo whenever a social site calls for it. (As part of becoming manga-ized, you turn 12 again, whee! :)
What I found amusing was my wife's reaction when she saw the photo: "Why do you look so angry?"
Sarah: "You're not similing."
Me: "But I am. I just did not pick the wide-mouthed grinning smile."
Sarah: "You look mad. Must be an Asian thing of not showing your teeth. "
Well that's an American view I guess. It seems a cultural interpretation that unless you smile, almost grin wide-mouthed, you're not happy. I'm just here to state that that's not true at all.
Oh well, I'll stay true to myself and stick with this manga face. It's an I-know-a-secret-smile.