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.
The Online Community Report indicates events
- Feb 21, New York City, NY - Online Community Unconference East 2008
- Mar 20, Palo Alto, CA - Mobile Communities Unconference
- Apr 14-20, Mt View, CA - Online Community Business Forum 2008
- Jun 18, Mt View, CA - Online Community Unconference
- more in second half
The Society for New Communications Research
focuses more on communications, marketing and PR roles O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo
Evans Data Developer Relations Conference
- Apr 22-25 San Francisco, CA - Web 2.0 Expo
- Sep, New York, NY - Web 2.0 Expo
- Apr 7-8, Redwood City, CA - 4th annual Evans Data DRC
I'll add more as I find them, but as you can see it's a hot topic this year.
I've just filled out my developerWorks Expert space
for the first time today. I haven't really added all the feeds and other things I really want to add in but you can be sure I'll be adding more over time. Right now now it is a little self-centered, since that was easiest for me to find. I'll probably move my links and tags to the space rather than push too much into a particular application like this blog.
The point of an expert space is really to focus on a particular individual and the multiple things they may be working on, or the multiple social tools they may be using. This differs from a group space in that it is not shared with others and you don't have to negotiate or discuss what you want to put onto the space (as long as it doesn't break the T's and C's). A group space really is intended to focus on a group activity with several folks who will be active participants in the topic. Think of it this way: in an expert space, YOU are the product. :)
In my earlier view, I only identified two stages: social networks, and communities. The former describes a loose network of people who generally keep in touch with each other for a common purpose, whether purely social or for business purposes. The people within the network usually know the others, and have some degree of strong ties with each other, but they don't really define themselves in detail as a group, have well-defined goals or ideology. This contrasts against the next level of networks, the community
, which do have a common identity and purpose, and where the network of people generally work together for the direction of the community. Beyond the community is the organization,
a very strongly oriented group of people, often with defined objectives, budgets and even some level of hierarchy as to how they should work together.
Somewhere in between the social network and the community are other social models. What Howard Rheingold keeps describing as "smart mobs", a loose social network of folks who gather on an "instant" basis for a specific purpose. This is slightly different than the pure social network since folks in a smart mob have a (vaguely) defined purpose: anyone who is interested in X, let's meet up to do something. Other descriptions for this are often used in events as Birds-of-Feather (BOF) sessions, and Meetups. Unlike the more personal connection of a pure social network, the members do not necessarily know each other from prior contact and simply have a common interest. This can also be a transitional idea; one the meetup is over, the members disperse taking the knowledge gained from the event. Sometimes, they do keep in contact and evolve into a longer running community of interest
, where membes return to keep working on that interest.
Another model that is described aptly in The Starfish and the Spider
(see my book list
). Groups like the Apaches of North America (circa 1800s); Alcoholics Anonymous, a peer-group organization, etc. These have some of the characteristics of a social network in that each group is fairly independent with no overall leader. However, they also go the next step along where there is an organizing principle or ideology, and there are local leaders on a decentralized basis. I call this as something different--some will say I'm just splitting hairs--because the overall larger picture of the group is never centrally coordinated. For that matter, something like this is hard to converge into a realistic distributed model, unless there is a strong need for and common belief amongst the members that the goals and purpose are what they share. Otherwise, it tends to be a localized organized that never grows beyond it's domain.
On the other end, the centralized community, seems like a good idea to try out at the beginning but over time this can grow into an inherent bureaucracy instilled in trying to centralize activities. It has some advantages in that there is less tendency to deviate from the mission of the community across the distributed organization. The Starfish model on the other hand has resilience, but truly works on a decentralized basis if the core goals and beliefs are truly of common interest on a distributed scale, and has been tested over time. Otherwise, it can break down into separate factions as each group goes its own way.
The key to group involvement in any of these types of people networks is still strong leadership and influencers. There are good practices and models for each level that can help people work faster or better, but the idea still depends on a having an interest in being a leader and keeping that interest and momentum going over time. I'm surprised by how many folks keep imagining that they can instantly grow a network from complete zero to success in a very short time. Such situations are pretty rare, and usually, new ideas that work in this vein really leverage existing relationships, population moods or past history to get there, rather than truly working from zero.
Man, too many projects for me to inspect all coming up at the same time with this new job. Not enough time to blog in depth. I have two jobs to do simultaneously right now and it's definitely keeping me busy.
Meanwhile: take a look at this site I put together for my swordfighting students. This should link to our site on ning.
I tend to markup the books I read. After a while, it just became easier to use those little 3M strip stickers and highlighters to index a book my way. I used to use different colored strips for different ideas: "hot idea", "case study", "problem point", etc. But eventually, I realized that it'd be easier to actually write specific words onto the strips. Guess what, I'm just doing something exactly the way I do online, but in a more primitive, and less easy-to-search way. I loose a lot of knowledge this way, or at least track of it.
So my wish here is that there would be some way how I could tag the content in any book I find into an online, searchable way, and perhaps share it with others. My thought is that there are several possibilities:
- Really lame way: copy the text, page, etc. and in the tagging/bookmarking software, create an entry with that description pointing to the place in the book. Cons: Is there any point to even talk about this?
- Magical semi-scanner tool: Some pen-like device that can scan text in a book and the position in the book, and then let me enter the tag for the text. There are some smart pens out there that digitize writing but this would also add in the requirement to be able to create a tag, and then publish that online. Cons: I don't know it such a device exists but its not impossible to build on top of something like Logitech's oi2 Digital Pen
- Ebooks with tagging support. I find some sort of ebook reading device that allows bookmarking/tagging to a general online tagging service, rather than "saved with a book". Cons: Not all books are available in e-books format, however, publishers are getting better about it. Still ebook reader devices need to be extended to allow the online tagging.
- Use online web-based books and find a way to tag. Similar to the ebooks approach but no special device, just a laptop or web-phone. Cons: Requires a browser device, and may need a live connection.
For 3 & 4, a side note: Safari
is still hanging on but it is has a good approach to online books. You pay a service fee to be able to "borrow" books from their online library and can swap out your bookshelf over time; just requires a regular fee.
I think the idea of ebooks is great in terms of technology like digital ink that requires really low power consumption and can run for many hours at a time, but I think the need to be able to correlate or search related information, tagging, color images, etc. all require a net conneciton and better graphics support. In other words, the device just becomes a browser anyway, and the worst you have to do is keep recharging the device.
Take the iPod Touch or iPhone example as a browser people actually want to use and has some degree of a readable screen (compared to other phones). I don't have one, but I think you'd be able to access books from Safari and have a way to tag information. Ebooks (e.g., Sony Portable Reader System
) have more screen real-estate, typically about the size of a paperback book. I think visually the iPod Touch
/iPhone is still a little small to read and chews power like candy, but it's much more capable in terms of enabling the reader or researcher.
Any ideas for other possible solutions?
I'm reading the chapter in Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams' Wikinomics
book on Prosumers. (see my book list
). It makes a particular point that I should highlight:
The old customer co-creation idea was simple: Collaborate with your customers to create or customize goods, services, and experiences, all while generating a built-in market for your wares...
This is the company-centric view of cocreation. We'll set the parameters by telling you when and on which products to innovate. You'll give us your ideas for free, but we'll choose the best of them...
I couldn't agree more with them on the intentions of the company. However, I still have to agree that the same examples they give in other parts of the book are still similar to this idea. For example, even digg has basic limits on what you can do: write a short port, or vote. Even though digg allows anyone to submit a post, it still sets the parameters on when people can innovate. Fine line? Possibly, but the reality is that short of giving a complete blank slate for anyone to do anything, the real value actually comes from giving guidance and parameters on how people can participate on a social site. If you make it too open ended, it may end up becoming too unfocused on purpose. In other words, if the leaders or owners of the community/social site define the purpose and focus area, then the users have an idea of what to expect and what to do there.
The model for prosumption that Wikinomics
talks about is more about mashup culture, and the idea of enabling consumers to freely interact to create their own versions or interpretations of products. This means that the prosumers--a distinct subset of your overall users, and possibly even a relatively small percentage depending upon the complexity of the product--should be allowed greater freedom on how to use the products and share their ideas. Wikinomics'
suggestions on how to harness prosumers is very good:
- prosumption goes beyond individual product customization (limited only to each user) - it means engaging users earlier in your product development cycle or even making it simple to remix them
- loosing control - you sacrifice some control to allow them to do mashups, and you need to more actively engage the prosumers to keep track of successful ideas
- customer toolkits - make it easy for prosumers to customize the product through user-friendly (not obfuscated) customer tool kits
- become a peer - recognize that the company now plays a role as a peer of the prosumers, not patrons
- sharing the fruits - prosumers expect to be able to share the fruits of their customizations; help them, don't hinder them
The practical reality that I tend to see is that unless it is a very widely used product, the amount of prosumption activity can be fairly small. This goes along with the idea of participation inequality. So the amount of prosumption you enable may really depend on the value you think this work will generate. In some cases, the product is simple enough that people can add or extract the parts they want to create a new thing (with a little skill or perseverance). In others, you need to create well-defined interfaces that allow access to a complex piece.
It's easy to give a hugely inclusive environment like Wikipedia
and then say that wiki's can apply to everything, but it simply doesn't work that way. Participation in wikis, or for that matter any social service, depends upon the number of participants in the system, and more importantly, how many really care to be there. For that to happen, the users and potential prosumers need to easily see the value of being in that community. The simpler or more evident the purpose, the easier it is for people to decide if they want to be in that community or not.
Beyond just reading or consuming the info in the community, you need to find ways to engage or challenge the community to invite participation; and make it easy for them to participate. The more immediate it is to interact, the more interaction you will get. From simpler interactions, you can start building more complicated interactions and generate that recurring following. These return participants are what help to spur prosumption activity, or at least bring that activity into the context of your community. This is where more the abovementioned suggestions from Wikinomics can come into play.