Measuring ROI on social software is an elusive topic, so it’s wonderful when I find projects that have managed to quantify it in some way. The following story focuses on a particular task, that of social tagging.
The Enterprise Tagging Service in IBM aims to provide an alternative approach to helping people find information compared to traditional search engines. Search based on keyword analysis often relies on a taxonomy that is rigid due to the way the software performs its structural analysis of web pages, identifying and classifying the keywords. Social tagging allows people to add human semantics to keywords that they define that sometimes can amount to finding a resource faster based on what people think is relevant.
IBM’s ETS cost $700k to develop and deploy across the worldwide intranet as a sidebar to a number of key web properties: traditional search engine results, top content pages, and web applications like the IBM internal social brainstorming tool, Thinkplace. As a service it can really be added to any internal page. Readers can tag any page with the widget, look up tags they contributed, find others who have used the same tag, and certainly find other relevant resources by that same tag. The ETS tool was based on the Lotus Connections Dogear software.
The ETS team instituted a survey to ask users howthis tool helped them. What they found was amazing when you look at itin context: the average person saved 12 seconds, across the 286000+searches performed through ETS each week. This sums up to 955 hourssaved each week across the company. In terms of cost savings, itamounts to a rough estimate of $4.6 million a year, in terms ofproductivity gain. The reusability of this page widget also resulted in$2.4 million in cost avoidance (reimplementing this for eachsite).
This social task is spread across the IBMintranet site, but is essentially a single set of overall content setas a mass collaboration of knowledge; in other words, the knowledgedoes not get balkanized into separate tag systems, running in theclassic problem of information getting locked away in pockets in theorganization. It involves the swarm effects of many users contributing,each for their own need, but resulting in an overall benefit for allemployees.
This is based on an internal IBM news story by Kieran Cannistra.
MIT Emeritus Professor, Edgar Schein's classic book on Organizational Culture and Leadership describeshow companies undergo differentiation at a cultural level in "mid-life"which has given views to some classic opinions of how IT folks viewculture versus how executives, sales and other folks (termed Operators)see it. This may seem a little dated in some ways but the core thoughtsstill pervade many companies (even us).
One classic argumentin this vein is the different views of "should information becontrolled" discussion which comes up so frequently in social computingand media.
I thought it might be interesting to see a third-viewin terms of how social computing aficionados view culture. Taking adirect copy from Schein's book (pg 275-277) are the first two columns,albeit sorted slightly. The third is my comparsion in terms of socialcomputing.
Please feel free to add your views.
Operator & Executive culture
Social Computing culture
Information can be packaged into bits and transmitted electronically
Information relevant to operations must include face-to-face human contact in order to be accurately understood.
People can relate to both information and other people through electronic means
More Information is always better than less.
The more quantifiable Information is the better.
Information must be extracted from raw data and will be meaningful only in particular context that is itself perpetually changing.
Meaning derives only from complex patterns.
More information is helpful but it should be interpreted through each individual’s view and understanding of context
Technology leads and people should adapt.
People can and should learn the language and methods of IT
Technology should adapt to people and be user friendly
Technology should follow how people behave, and adapt to their language and methods.
Technology should be assistive.
Management will give up hierarchy if IT provides better coordination mechanisms
Hierarchy is intrinsic to human systems and a necessary coordination mechanism
The costs associated with speed may not be worth it
We live in a fast-paced, highly interrelated, and mesh world where hierarchical access is not always the most effective way to distribute information.
Social computing can provide better ways for different ways to organize coordination, including hierarchical structure.
The more fully connected an organization is, the better it will perform
Too much connectivity produces information overload
Social computing can assist maintaining relationships and connectivity, and managing information sources
People will use information responsibly and appropriately
Control of information is a necessary management tool and the only way of maintaining power and status
Give people a chance to demonstrate responsibility.
Show them helpful methods but do not limit their behaviors
Paper can be replaced by electronically stored information
The ability to see and manipulate paper is intrinsic to many kinds of tasks
Mostly agree with IT culture
Information can be captured and frozen in time
Agree with IT culture
The more information you have the more you need
Software can help filter information to what you need.
I read Jonathan Trenn's recent posts on the fallacy of community (and more on it) which seems to argue the concept of community but combine a number of different elements together: culture (mostly), governance, and structure. T
It seems we often argue about "what is community" quite frequently but the arguments are on different levels because they argue on different elements. Some arguments are on structure: Are blogs, delicious, wikis, yahoo/google answers, or discussion forums all communities even though they are structurally different? Some are on how people work in those communities and governance: only I run my blog, vs many people editing a wiki? It's not just a matter of access but rules of how people work together in those governance scenarios. The most difficult to differentiate is culture which comprises unique elements like ideology, social norms, acceptable behvaior, etc. for each instance. On a cultural level, is a blog where only one person talks but others can comment, still a community or just a following? Does it matter?
My previous post showing my list of different modesl for social experiences focuses just on the structural component. I have other models for governance (but not yet for culture). These look at the different ways social sites/experiences are structured from the owner's point of view. They can map to multiple types of social tools (e.g., a defined group can be a forum, chatroom, Q&A system, etc.) Some social tools can be used in multiple ways to map to different experience models (e.g., a wiki can be an Individual, Social network, Defined-Group or even a Community experience).
I added a social network as a separate model from the Individual expereince (since that last post). The definition here is the specific network connected directly to a single individual through bidirectional agreement (both shake hands to be friends), or by inbound agreement (people following you). For one it is certainly beyond the scope of a Personal experience. It isn't quite a group experience because each person's social network may be different. In the group models (defined group, community, mass collaboration) there isn't a definite "center of the universe" as there is in the Personal, Individual or Social network experience. There can be centers of mass around key influencers in those group models, even leaders but groups aren't necessarily only about a single individual. They can be (e.g., fans around a celebrity), but this is always the case.
Here's my table of different qualities of each model:
Who can join
Only the owner
Anyone in domain, or identified members
Identified members selected by owner
Identified members and/or Anyone in domain
Anyone in domain
Between user and site
Between the owner and any others
Between owner and specific others that connect to them
Between who members may bring to the group; tends to be exclusive
Between user and the community; tends to be inclusive
Between user and site
Loyalty to experience
Useful content in site
Benevolence or competence of owner
Strength of relationships
Strength of member relationships and output of group
Degree of affiliation with community
Useful output from active collaboration
Value to user
Value of content
Content value, the owner’s competence and benevolence
Experience, knowledge and access of network members
Benevolence of members and output of group
Cooperation of members on activities and useful output
Mass input or analysis of knowledge
Lifespan depends on
Availability of site
Each member relationship to the owner
Depends on continued perception of active participation
No limit, and independent of specific individuals
Depends on continued contribution by mass of individuals
Social output direction
Minimal output socially
Shared outward from owner
Shared to members in their network
Shared primarily between group members
Shared to community or open to domain
Open to anyone in domain
I think most of the qualities are self-explanatory. Relationship engagement focuses on the key type of relationship the social experience enables: to who or with what a visiting user becomes engaged. Loyalty here is a summary description of what causes a person to stay loyal to the experience.
I'm begining to think I need to switch places of Social Network and Individual; there's possibly a relative scale in there, although not necessarily in terms of size, but in terms of radiance from the person, or how well one knows all the members of the population in each experience. There's also an aesthetic separation of three individual-focused experiences on the left, and three group focused experiences on the right, but that's coincidental. After all more models may upset this in the future.
You may have already heard about Facebook's new look as they change the social experience for users. While still focused on the Individual as the center of the experience, they are adding more capabilities. In particular, I'm amused that they are finally catching onto the idea of multiple tabs each per application, although they have not moved to free form tabs like developerWorks Spaces, netvibes and other sites. Separating the app to a different tab helps to create shorter, cleaner front pages, by compartmentalizing and creating subtopics. However, it is better if it is not limited to a single application; after all you might have several tools and widgets to focus around the same topic.
PS: I'm trying out AddThis, a service that lets users redistribute any URL to over 30 other social sites, saving me the trouble of adding links to digg, del.icio.us, etc. manually.
If you have not come across it before, web2logo.com provides an extensive listing of companies in the social computing and Web 2 space. There seems to be approximately 1000 companies listed there in one form or another. Some logos are repeated (e.g. Google in different versions) but that's rare. Clicking on a logo will give a description from Web2list, site traffic data from Alexa, and current Technorati-tracked blog activity for each of them. It's hard to say if this data is accurate but it does give an idea of which ones are doing decent enough to watch.
It has been an interesting time at the Social Networking Conference in San Fran this week. I ran into some great folks on many fronts including mobile social networks, social software in the Air Force, in GE, in GM, and much more. I did my presentation on how to help teams decide on the base level of social context that they may be interested in.
In quick step, this is what you consider instead of picking a tool right away. It is the vocabulary that you need to define the perspective that you want your social group to see as well as the rules on how the group should interact. The five social perspective models I highlighted are the:
Personal -- only seen by you, and arguably social at the very minimum
Individual -- how a person shares information with others in a shared environment
Defined Group -- how a group of people agree to collaborate in an environment solely for their own use
Community -- an open group where many people can come and go, but collaborate over time
Mass Collaboration -- an environment where each person works for their own goals, on an aggregate level may converge on one idea or another
I also covered several social governance models, on how people agree to work together, choose leaders, and make decisions:
Centralized - a single person or a few people who make all the decisions
Delegated - assigned areas spread across a core group who make all the decisions
Republic - an elected body of people who make the decisions as proxies for the rest of the population
Starfish - a group that agrees on common principles but handles decisions on a local basis
Swarm - decision-making across a mass population based on voting to determine ideas
In any case, here's the deck. [I moved my presentation to Slideshare; or see it on my space]. It is mostly visual, but there are some speaker notes included as well. I'd be interested in hearing more thoughts on this.
I'm trying to determine what would be the best way of describing the following concept:
- a recurring or common scenario of how people gather together in any size of population from small pairings to very huge communities - who can post, provide input - who can see/use/take the output - how long it exists, who determines that
I simplified the factors above but it gives a general idea. Some examples are: a person's social network, a group activity, an instant messaging session, a long-term community, a mass collaboration like Digg, etc.
I started thinking about it as a social perspective or how people see it in a visual sense. We've also been talking about it in terms of social context which separates out the visual element and away from a focus on a beneficiary group, towards an abstract notion.
My thought is that there are a limited number of well known types of social contexts/perspectives that I've seen repeatedly across many sites. However, people don't necessarily know which one they are because they don't know the general idea versus specific examples (like how I listed Digg above). Once you can tell which social context/perspective your site has, or even multiple ones, you can then go on towards explaining what the other elements of it are.
Which do you think makes more sense or rings better to you?
Wow I haven't really posted in here for a while. Time flies when you are having fun.
Lately I've been working on a survey of attitudes and behavior towards social software inside IBM among the sales people. It's part of my current assignment. I'm also putting a lot of my spare focus on my upcoming book. In talking to random folks at the Community 2.0 (tweets) and Online Community Business Forum, there seems to some exasperation on needing more structure around what constitutes community strategy, even among the people who aren't new on it. This is good news, since that is likely to get more people thinking about what to do about it.
I'm also on many different tools these days. Most of my activities outside IBM these days are either on Twitter or my dW space where it's either easier to just write a post, or post mixed media content.
One of the more anticipated massively multiplayer online games coming up later this year (and anticipated all last year) is the Age of Conan. Aside from the game's theme and storyline, one of the interesting aspects here is the ability to create a virtual army of folks numbering in the hundreds.
This isn't a new idea per se. There have been MMOGs that allow for team efforts all the way back to the days of text-based MUDs, but the 3D worlds of today make it increasingly more complex with the addition of many types of tools, weapons, etc. What AoC also allows are full scale sieges of town and cities by an army. This kind of planning takes a whole new level of thinking.
The base level ideas focus on organizing a team of folks to achieve some stated goal. In most cases these days, this is something a guild will undertake with its members; however, it doesn't need to be a pre-organized/preset community, and many such quest efforts can take on an ad hoc group.
The next stage beyond just gathering folks is understanding the roles and skills of the members. Often there is a leader who has experience in the matter on what skills are necessary and where to place people (in the environment).
Usually this is event-based, that is, focused during a specific amount of time (rather than a long-term activity). So another step is to make sure the key folk needed arrive at the meeting point, along with their tools. If they don't the leader(s) need to readjust the assignments and formations.
During the execution of the quest, there may be preamble actions to take before they get into the mix of it; in MMOGs, this could be casting spells, donning specific armor, etc. Then there may also be real-world things to set up: a comfortable seat for long activities, water/super-caffeinated products, going to the restroom, quiet environment, etc.
As they enter the melee, the direction becomes even harder since there is so much going on. Modern MMOGs allow special heads-up displays showing status information, communications channels, and more, with different HUDs possible for different roles. It's not just keeping up with the action in the melee itself, but also keeping an eye on the HUDs to make sure you are in sync.
The activity can rage on for hours, and the stress impacts everyone. Everything from friendly fire, kill steals, random shots, hard choices, and more. The commitment here is not just in terms of mental stress and duress, but also in terms of ability to keep focus and in sync with the overall plan. In other words, the moment to moment stressful and dangerous action makes it feel real to many. The high level of risk is what helps to develop the level of commitment amongst players to the game, and to each other.
The aftermath or outcome also has consequences. As a fried said, most guilds fall apart because of arguments when dividing the winnings/loot. Everyone has sacrifices per their character, and many are emotionally connected to their character on a deep level. A catastrophic loss of equipment or the character takes it toll as a long-term effect; I would daresay on a level proportional to how long the person has been involved.
In a real-world military system, leaders assume that teamwork is a given. They never had to face the idea of a "democratically-organized" army as in an MMOG. That is a much harder proposal in terms of setting up teamwork.
Money magazine is reporting that Video Gaming will be a "welcome event" at the Beijing Olympics. Apparently the Chinese government recognizes it as an official sport alongside other ones that require agility or dexterity (like soccer), although the Olympic committee has not accepted it as yet.
This isn't like the World Cyber Games (in Germany in 2008) which takes things much more seriously as a sport, but it is a start. After all if Bridge counts as a "sport"...
There are several different ways of looking at what to measure and how to measure benefit or value in social software systems.
First, who receives the benefit from the system, and how do you measure their benefit:
the individual view - the question: "How do I as an individual benefit from the social systems and networks I am involved in?"
the comparable individual view - If I can measure how each person benefits, can we compare that benefit between the persons? This isn't always so, because the value to an individual may be specific to themselves, and not quantifiable in a universal manner
the organizational view - How does the organization benefit from social software (at different levels of social system, teams, departments, units, etc.)? Is this organizational view a composite of the comparable individual view or is it different?
the comparable organizational view - Just like the individual view, there may be a comparable organizational view as well. These again rely on establishing a comparable basis of measurement of one organization versus another.
Then there is a difference between the value of the social network as a structure, versus the content in that network:
the structural view - How do you measure value of the structure of contacts, parterships, collaborations, connections, networks, and other connectivity-based views of the social systems you are involved in?
the content or knowledge view - How do you measure the value of knowledge or content from that network? Can they be packaged as assets specifically?
Aside from the value of structure or content as different forms of assets, how do you measure goal-achievement from the network.
These are just my own ruminations. I believe that there are some ways to develop or gather metrics of some of these, but it may be a while before we can agree on how to measure all aspects of these. Before thinking about how to formalize this, you should take a look at these ideas of how to carefully define a measurement process by Peter Andrews, part of the Senior Consulting Faculty for the IBM Executive Business Institute. These are the brainiacs that think about the "thing behind the thing" (to paraphrase the classic statement from many a mobster movie): how to define or measure abstract concepts like innovation, strategy and more.
This past Sunday our dojo had it's 41st annual black belt promotion ceremony. That's quite a few years (and generations) of students across many different styles. This time around we had black belts promoted in Battodo (swordfighting), Praying Mantis kung fu, Matsunoryu Jujitsu, and Hiraido (Mixed Martial arts). I'm proud to say two of my own sword students, Andrew and Stephen, have just become black belts, and another sword student of my instructor was also promoted. Both my students came through the middle/high school classes and dedicated part of their time over the past four years or so to learn battodo. They started out at around age 14 and matured just as much as developed their skill.
I also was promoted to sandan rank (3rd degree black belt) for years of teaching and training students. It'll be years more before I see another rank. There are also skill competency standards as well as teaching requirements at the higher black belt ranks. For the sword class, it may be a while before we get another person to sandan because of the physical strength and agility difficulty. For example, you have to perform the three basic cuts nearly perfectly across multiple targets at least 90% of the time you try. We have even simplified some of the testing requirements but it still takes a lot of practice to reach that level.
All the same, if you measure across the time, on average for every 10-20 students we have each semester, we get perhaps one or two who stay the road to achieve the first black belt rank. It's a fairly rigorous system in our school; the aim is not quantity necessarily, but proficient students.
I've not uploaded the photos from the recent tests, but if you are interested, you can see many other photos and videos on our battodo social site.
It was a long week at Lotusphere held in Orlando at the Swan and Dolphin--looks like I'll be a regular at that hotel for a while. There certainly was a lot of discussion about social software, not the least on Lotus products in this area. More so, they finally announced externally some of the interesting research areas for social software that we have been using internally for a while at the Innovation labs at the show. I'm not sure there's public sites to point to but here's a quick breakdown of some of them:
Team building games - a sort of virtual "Ropes"-style exercise where team members get together to try to complete a task in SecondLife focused around decision-making, cooperation, planning, executing. Some of the games include creating a tower of blocks, and creating a castle. It sounds simple but the actual value is in how it makes the team of folks think about how they cooperate
Wormhole - an API between SecondLife and web-based applications and databases. This bidirectional link lets you check status of objects in SecondLife from a web page, and vice-versa, the status of objects on the web from SecondLife itself. It's an important connection mechanism between a virtual world and the web.
Cattail - this is a file sharing system that maps to tags, and people used internally in an organization. It helps to offload the act of emailing large presentations around, associate names with documents, and make it easy to search files by people, description or tags
SONAR - this is more of an API that maps the info from many types of social software to people as related to what you do. For example, you can find others who share common interests in their blogs or forums, papers that they may have written or published, documents they have shared, etc. You can configure the relevancy of one of many factors along a sliding scale. It helps to identify others with common interests along each of those factors. You can build a client that uses this relevancy and connectivity information in different ways (e.g. visualization, identification, etc.)
SmallBlue/Atlas - This internal project became a product mid-December. It creates a visualization of a social graph based on different systems of connections. The Atlas product is an add-on to Lotus Connections and uses the data there to see how people are connected to each other across the different tools, e.g. tagging
If I find an external web site for these projects I'll create a link for them
I have been looking at online-to-print publishing services lately, or alternate formats in e-books, lately. Even with so many online forms, dead-tree formats are still preferred by far. Part of it is a question of format and such, but right now I'm more interested in how people feel about a book.
Stability - It's ironic that in a business world where fluidity and change are pressing forces, that printed books with a fixed set of information are still preferred. It is not as much the permanence as the stability in knowing that the same information is still there, not changing. For a lot of information that does not require adjustments or fluidity, this makes books first in mind. This is also its weakness in books: the more variable information needs to be the less significant the value of a book.
Exclusivity - It is the fact that not everyone can get their work published that adds value to books. This doesn't mean that the best info always gets out there, but it does mean that people have to work harder to get their info published. In the traditional process, this was to encourage excellence (but I don't think that's always the case)
There are other values, but those are being eroded (slowly) with the rise of digital formats: portability, visual impact, artistic value, etc.
Therefore to some folks, its that feeling of exclusivity of having a published book that makes it worthwhile. Which is why I think the idea of vanity publishing used to be compelling enough to keep a cottage industry going. Today however, with key innovations like HP's Indigo press system, it becomes so much cheaper to print low-quantity runs of books.
Take a look at Blurb.com, which allows anyone to get their photos, words, blogs, etc. put into print format at an affordable level. Having written so much over the years, I wouldn't mind taking some of my old online work and having it published into a print format, if nothing else to just have on my bookshelf.
There are a number of events on online community management, social software and communications coming up this year. I'm glad to see the topic of community management is thriving even after decades of existence. These are the live meetings in the beginning half of the year or so; I left out the online events and webinars since they are quite numerous.