Community and social computing
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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
A. distribution 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 of boundary-spanners
PS: Thanks dW folks for migrating my blog over!
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:
Ch 1. Social Software
A powershift through Conversations
Collaboration and the Social Web
A crying need in the global workforce
What is happening to knowledge workers and teams
From Mega-trends to Ground-level issues
Elementsof a Social Architecture
Ch 3 Social Experiences
FindingCommon and Reusable Social Experiences
DifferentExperiences for a complex world
ThePersonal Social Network Experience
TheClosed and Visible Group Experiences
TheMass collaboration Experience
Atthe Intersection of People, Places, and Purpose
Part I: People
Ch 4 Interpersonal Actions
Identity in Online Social Environments
Common Interpersonal Actions
Investing and Investigating Identity
Building Relationship Structures
Introducing and Intermediating
Harvesting the Network
Flowing between Interpersonal Actions
Ch 5 From Relationships to Roles
The Value of Roles
Structural Relationship Networks andSocial Graphs
Activity Roles in Social Systems
When and Where Activity Roles Emerge
Ch 6 Participation, Trust and Reputation
Identity to Participation to Reputation
The Trouble with Participation
Expanding the Definition of Participation
The Impact of a Reputation system
Building a Reputation system
Defining goals of the reputation system
Setting Reputation metric types
Qualifying to participate
Determining the award process
Displaying reputation metrics and award
Documenting the process
Expertise and Reputation
Ch 7 Social Leadership & government
Choosing a Social Government model
Leaders and Influencers
A Selection of Social Government models
The Centralized Models
The Delegated Model
The Representative Model
The Starfish Model
The Swarm Model
Governance Models applied to situations
Part II: Places
Ch 8 Content Actions
Social Content, Information and Vale
Varieties of Content Actions
Transforming Knowledge Actions into SocialContent Actions
Ch 9 Connecting to Social Experiences
Grouping and Combining Social Experiences
Multiple channels of experience
Interacting through Channels
The Impact of Grouping and Channels
Ch 10 Environment Actions
Managing the Interface
Skins, Themes and Layout
Availability and Mood Indicators
Distribution Points and Sharing tools
Managing Identities and Profiles
Background, Interests, or Skills
Identifying Photos and Logos
Affiliation, Membership or Role Badges
Awards and Merit Badges
Managing user actions
Managing User Rights and Membership
Managing Contributions and Content
Ch 11 Social Tasks: Collaboratingon Ideas
The Structure of Social Tasks
Form of Aggregation
Building a Template for a Task
Different Models of Social Tasks
Idea generation and predictions
Disitributed human computation
Open source development
Relationship mapping and mining
Location-centered social interaction
Ch 12 Social Tasks: Creating and Managing Information
- Recommendationsand Reviews
o DirectSocial recommendations
o DerivedSocial recommendations
- Creatingand categorizing information
o Directsocial content creation
o Derivedsocial content generation
o SocialQ&A systems
o Navigatinginformation on social input
Ch 13 Building a social culture
- Defininga Culture for a Social Environment
o Ideologyand Values in cult
o Behaviorand Rituals
o Cultureand Maturity of Social Environments
o TheCultural Impact of Social Architecture
o HowSocial Experience Models Impact Culture
o How SocialGovernment Models Impact culture
o HowSocial Tasks Impact Culture
o HowDomains Impact Culture
Ch 14 Engaging and EncouragingMembers
Engaging Members through Activity Roles
Roles and Interpersonal Actions
Roles and Content Actions
Roles and Environment Actions
Belonging and Commitment
Creating a model for identifying commitment
Maturing over a Lifecycle
Programs to Grow or Encourage your Socialgroup
Member Reward programs
Recruiting Evangelists and Advocates
Member Training and Mentoring programs
Part IV: Production
Ch 15 Community and SocialExperience Management
- TheValue and Characteristics of a Community Manager
Personality Traits and Habits
Who in the Organization should run theSocial Environment?
Community Manager Tasks andResponsibilities
Member and Relationship development
Topic and Activity Development
Communications and Promotion
Ch 16 Measuring social environments
Measurement in Social and Cognitive Science
Dimensions of measurement
Types of Metrics
Metrics and Social Experiences
Measurement Mechanisms and Methods
Quantitative Analytic MeasurementMechanisms
Qualitative Measurement through Surveys andInterviews
Ch 17 The Strategic Value ofSocial Computing
Measuring Intangible Assets with a BalancedScorecard
Social Capital as Intangible Assets
Connecting to Business Processes
Social Architecture and Business Strategy
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)
(Source: Wordle.net - Pride and Prejudice first chapter)
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
PS: You can also follow some of my tweets on the conference sessions.
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?
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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:
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:
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 in:
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:
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...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.
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...
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:
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.