Community and social computing
Good news for social computing: people are finally believing in you.
Forrester Research has published a 24-page report on Social Computing tying innovation to this topic. (This is a paid report)
Even within our own IBM Global Innovation Outlook 2.0, innovation through social computing is one of the top subjects.
The general feeling has gone beyond "there's something important there" to "how can we make use of that"?
Ive just started reading Tom Davenport's new book Thinking for a Living, a great book on the issues surrounding knowledge workers.
If you havent heard of this term, you may not realize that you are (in the IT industry) very likely a knowledge worker yourself. This kind of work is a difficult to quantify, and even describe, but essentially involves all those jobs where people spend the majority of their time thinking of solutions for a living (doctors, lawyers, managers, programmers, etc.) rather than building many unit pieces of the same thing (e.g., manufacturing, production or labor-intensive work). This may still be an unfair description.
In fact, even the book indicates that the term has been measured in many different ways. In the US, the Labor statistics report is not categorized this way, so analysis by different academics point to there being anywhere from 30 million to over 100 million knowledge workers in the US alone (thats from 10-30% of the population).
The book makes for a fascinating read. For me, it provides valuable context to understand how developers worldwide do or think of their work. For example, Davenport indicates that there are some common attributes for knowledge workers, no matter their job:
It is these last two points where I find good relevance to my own job. Im probably a typical knowledge worker; in fact, my current job can be categorized as heavy knowledge work, but also some production work.
For the production work-side, I am responsible for getting more people blogging, discussing, debating, and interacting on technical topics on our site through our various community areas. Loosely, that translates to getting more instances of blogs, forums, wikis, and other such tools, started and running. I certainly have help from many others to get this going.
On the knowledge work-side, I work on our community strategy and direction, and lead our large community project currently in development in dW. This means I work with our infrastructure and development teams to describe the technical idea and debate solutions. I work with our research team and do research myself on different Web 2.0 and community activities around the Web. I work with our design, user experience and information architecture teams to consider how to present, organize, and direct this information. I work with our content teams to consider how to use or how to get others to use our community system, generate content, and participate in activities. I work with our management to present, consider and strategize what we should be doing in all these areas. Finally, I work with other teams and people outside dW, in IBM and beyond, to discuss many of these areas in relation to Web 2.0 and community. Believe me, that's a lot of phone calls and knowledge exchange.
To summarize: I suck information in and spew (hopefully useful) knowledge out across many different personas (people and groups).
Michelle Conlin's Businessweek article You are what you post,talks about the troubles of growing up in the Net generation. With theadvent of search engines being so "efficient" that it can find any kindof information that is associated with your name, people are startingto find that others including their bosses, potential employers, orclients can find out all kinds of information from your past. Anythingthat you might post online can show up including embarrassing orprivate facts about yourself, even things others might saw about you,whether true or not. How can you possibly know what is harmful to yourcharacter or can be misunderstood by others, tomorrow or even ten yearsfrom now?
This is causing fear and panic amongst individuals, companies and PRagencies worldwide. The idea that you image is always at risk on thenet. In fact, the rule of thumb is usually to always assume that "ifyou post it, they will find it." To some that means, "don't use theInternet". However, the right reaction is not to stick your head in thesand and assume that it will simply go away. It is to be proactive.
Michelle actually points out an important fact that is missed by many:there are two "yous", the physical real-world you, and the online imageof you (or what others learn about you from info online). Because yourphysical person is always with you (duh!) it's usually possible to knowwhat's happening around it. However, it usually not possible to knoweverything going on around the online you. The Businessweek articlepoints to five ways to manage your online doppelganger, which aredefinitely helpful hints.
My thought on this line however, is that companies and people may eventually realize that the online you isjust as important as person to maintain. The best way to do this is tohave an online tool to keep track of that you and what happens. What'smore, it becomes the basis of how others can communicate with theonline you. It's not only nice to have that tool but imperative, if youwant to have a proactive say around what the "online you" really does.Otherwise, you are at risk of leaving it in the hands of what anyoneelse may say about you.
In terms of philosophy (in the classical Greek sense), this is mind-bending in terms of what that persona is becoming: all that is online you is what others see around you. You don't have strict control of it, but you can contribute to it.
Aside from a tool, the other idea this points to is that it's unlikelya single individual will be able to know what the best ways ofpresenting themselves is. It's a brand new online world, and most ofthe social rules are still being figured out. The best way is to havesomeone who watches and understands the behavior across the net toprovide advice on how to use the tools according to the properfunction, and more so, in the most effective manner. In the physicalworld, these people are often called image consultants, PR agencies,etc., although that's really the extreme end of a business that isgeared specifically to your own needs.
Another way to look at this is in terms of getting people to understandor even share your views. If you're interesting enough, you might evengain a fan club of your own (the goal of many bloggers). Yourreputation helps build an implicit or even an explicit community aroundwhat you are or what you're doing. I, for one, don't believe anyone cantruly force others to agree with them wholeheartedly; therefore toconvince others on your view, you need to be persuasive and use theright tools and right means of persuasion. Thus, you should take a lookat this from the perspective of how to develop this community aroundyou.
The root of all this is your reputation online and how others see it.Take charge of your online reputation because, whether you like it ornot, it has or eventually will have a direct impact on your future.
In summary, the online you is already being "created" on the Web bywhat you and what others post about you online. You should considertaking an active part of owning and operating this "online you", andhandle this from the perspective of trying to build a community aroundyou.
I think this question above is what RW asked, in a comment to one of my earlier posts, per their blog posting on: luddites or laggards
My response is in their comments for the entry.
3 questions to contemplate in relation to Social computing going forward. Please feel free to offer your opinions.
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.