Lotus GM, Mike Rhodin, recently spoke with c/Net News about our social networking efforts. No specific dates or product plans were mentioned. Some of those tools coming from IBM Community Tools have made their way into Sametime 7.5 and some are coming in future releases. I can't really distinguish between what's been discussed publicly and what hasn't been, so I'll just leave it at that. There were some demos at Lotusphere last year, however, in this realm, like the polling feature (instant poll).
While there are add-on's to Sametime being written both for IBM internal use (like our directory lookup plugin for Bluepages) and external product plans, there are other projects, more in the Web 2.0 style, like Dogear, for social bookmarking, and Activities, for managing ad hoc collaborative tasks. (In fact, I "dogeared" this article. :) )
The guiding idea behind the effort is to help people tap into thecollective knowledge of their co-workers, in much the way consumersocial networking sites like MySpace and Facebook connect people online.
Where have we hear that before? Well, the article takes the question head-on, which is good. The question is
"The reason knowledge management failed is quite simple: Knowledgeinherently resides in minds. Putting it into a system that can bemanaged is inherently flawed," he (Rhodin) said.
By contrast, social-networking tools tend to be voluntary and controlled by the people that use them.
Having lived through the knowledge management era at Lotus, I'm a little sensitive to that. Whereas Discovery Server's strength was in spidering and indexing data of all sorts and putting it in the right buckets, you had to invest initially in creating a taxonomy and training the server where to put documents, if it didn't guess right the first time. Social networking software let's users create the taxonomy more naturally (folksonomies), while they are creating the content, through tags. Through tags and a search through content that users voluntarily put into the system, you can derive expertise, and eventually communities. We always talked about "people, places, and things" and I don't think that part has changed. Another quote:
"Traditional content management and collaboration applications usuallyfocus on the creation of a document or presentation, Rhodin said,whereas many technologies and practices associated withsocial-networking sites focus on people and connections between people."
I think both styles of collaboration will co-exist and actually intersect at appropriate places in the UI. That's why we are building simple interfaces into these services.
What do you think? Do you use social networking software now? In your organization? or consumer sites? Can you see this taking off in your organization? What are the barriers, if any?IBM Warms to Social Networking
User Experience Design Manager