The trio of Headshift, IDC and Tech4i2 have released their Interim
report on Enterprise 2.0 in Europe. This is a fantastic piece of work in
160 pages. I had time enough go through half of it so far. It covers so many
areas and compiles data on geography and economic production in countries due
to e20. Thanks to @leebryant and @mikejthompson for sharing this.
Here are some of my suggestions and points:
Pg9 Table 3 - Links between participants –
For traditional enterprise aps the “peer or hierarchical”
describes the structure of how people are linked overall, but for E2.0 apps, it
focuses on quality of individual links.
That’s two different concepts.
Option 1: include both structure and quality in each box
-Traditional Apps – “Peer or
hierarchical, if linkage with others is supported at all. Members have to
accept predefined links with others in their workgroup. Strength of linkage
-E20 Apps – “Web of connections.
Members choose who they want to link to, and strength of connection depends on
Option 2: Quality only
-Traditional Apps – Members must
accept predfined links to others in workgroup, and strength of linkage unknown
Option 3: Structure only
-Traditional apps - Peer or
hierarchical, if linkage with others is supported at all.
-E20 - Members choose who they want
to link to, and strength of connection depends on interactions
Section 2.3 pg 10
This should also indicate sources which state that
Organizational Culture and culture change is a key aspect. If you want you can
link to our IBM paper on adoption which stresses that this is not just
technology adoption, but actual work culture change.
I think for the Internal case, its missing: building
employee loyalty, satisfaction and retention. To this take a look at
Salary.com’s 2009 survey of Job satisfaction, particularly at the top reason
“why people stay in a company”: “I like the people I work with”
An Internal>External or perhaps External case is keeping
in touch with former employees/alumni. This is a variant on recruitment. By
having an Alumni community, you may be able to rehire former employees which is
much more cost-effective and faster in terms of integrating into the company.
This saves time and money over hiring completely new people.
Section 2 & 3 overall
There seems to be a heavy reliance on McAfee’s research
only. It’s very one sided. You should cite other sources as well. There are a
whole lot of other researchers in this domain too.
Page17 Communities of Interest
A community of practice is a key component of building a
“Center of Excellence” within organizations around different topics,
technologies, knowledge domains and innovation directions. It identifies
company-wide a select group of subject-matter-experts and organizational
memory. In short developing centers of excellence within organization supports
the overall innovation strategy of the company.
Pg 18 Innovation Management
IBM InnovationJam and IdeaJam system is a managed approach
to ideation and discovering employees interested or committed to bringing
innovative ideas to life. IBM has had various such Jams since 2001 across
different populations: employees only (new product or service opportunities),
employees and family (local community development, and work-life balance), and
employees, customers and business partners (challenging global issues)
Pg 20 Crowdsourcing
An example is BurdaStyle by German publishing company,
Hubert Burda Media. By providing a template system to allow anyone (customers)
to create new clothing designs of their own. This is an example Crowdsourcing
by Template; it generates new ideas that customers can sell to each other or
license to the company Burda itself to produce for the mass market.
See my book “Social Networking for Business” (Wharton School
Press, 2010) Chapter 4 on further details.
Pg20 Customer/Public Engagement
Use more European focused social sites. See ManyEyes and
comScore data on apps per country
This is missing out that E2.0 allows a variety of different
leadership models as microcosmswithin
the overall organization leadership structure. I provide a variety of these
models in Chapter 2 of my book.
The significance is that it creates an alternate dimension
of leadership hidden underneath the official hierarchical structure of the
company. These alternate models can be discovered through Social Network Analysis,
or predefined for individual communities and social environments with different
groupings of employees.
Pg40 Organisational size
One of the most obvious facts most people forget is that on
the Internet, there is practically unlimited population that may participate in
web2.0 environments. However, within an organization, there is a definite bound
of all the employees involved. What this affects is the notion of the Long
Tail: with a bounded employee population adoption need not be a long-tailed graph
at all, since you can determine through metrics data how many people are
involved, and how involved they can get. The graph changes shape significantly.
On the Internet, there is an endless supply of the long-tail on ther otherhand.
Missing is a discussion on the Dunbar number limit that
suggests people are able to at most recall 150 peers or friends, and a closer
look at why that idea is not necessarily applicable in E20 system.
Another actor of the personal social networking is that the
line between work and personal discussions is getting quite blurry. E.g., some
people use their personal Facebook profile to post both personal content and
work related content. It thus becomes harder to tell how people are working
because it requires detailed context to decide if any content posted is work related
Furthermore often employees use their corporate social
environment to casually discuss personal ideas, projects and activities. This
is not a negative, because it creates opportunities for other employees to find
commonality and like-minded peers; in other words it improves chances of
building stronger employee-to-employee bonds.
Pg78 “Eat your own dog-food”
How about “Drink your own Champagne” – a more pleasant
Pg80 Does E20 matter
For 1) or perhaps 3) there are some existing evidence /
studies on the impact of e20 on productivity and growth. See Wu, Lin, Aral and Brynjolfsson
(MIT & IBM)
In looking at @prem_k’s
mindmap on social learning today, I spent a few minutes considering what events
can be measured relative to this topic. Unfortunately, I cannot embed the
diagram in this blog but please take a look at his
I came up with the following measurable elements and
hopefully most are self-explanatory. The mechanics of how you actually measure
these items can very from trivial counting exercises to some fairly complicated
metrics for mapping networks and measuring influence and sentiment. However, I
think most of it has been done before, perhaps just not applied specifically to
learning and pedagogy. So who’s up to that challenge?
I’m also just starting on Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia) and Tony
Bingham’s book, The
New Social Learning(ASTD & Berrett-Koehler, Sep 2010), and I
expect I’ll be learning a lot from it too.
-disemmination relative to origin
(generalized SN diagram)
-disemmination of topics across overall
network (generalized SN diagram)
-rate & velocity of
-Resharing/promoting (e.g. RT,
-Acknowledging/rating (e.g. +1,
-Relationship effects -
Friending/following/connecting, or unfollowing/negative externalities/outcomes
-Searching / search results (text,
tags, social searches)
I’ve increased my attendance at E2.0 by 100% by going two
years in a row; okay, that was a bad metrics joke. The Enterprise2.0 conference in
Boston was the big gathering of customers, analysts, bloggers and
aficionados this year. We’re still debating how many people really attended but
I’m guessing it is around a thousand.
The week began early for me starting with presenting during
the Black Belt practitioner’s workshop on Monday. I’m proud of my fellow
members of The 2.0 Adoption Council who presented the workshops all day long.
There are about 10 speakers, starting in the morning with the effervescent Jamie Pappas (EMC) speaking on
business value; the cheery Megan
Murray (Booz Allen Hamilton) on planning; and myself on adoption. The afternoon
had a several pairs of speakers: Stan Garfield (Deloitte) and Luis Suarez (IBM) on community building;
Donna Cuomo (MITRE) and Ted Hopton
(UBM) on metrics and analysis; Bryce
Williams (Eli Lilly) and Richard Rashty (Schneider Electric) on positioning
tools; and Bart Schutte (St Gobain) and Kevin Jones (NASA) on mitigating risks.
I’m also thrilled so many people stayed from 8:30am till
4:15pm. It really is a fire hose of knowledge, even when spread across so many
hours. These were real issues and scenarios that the speakers have experienced
in trying to bring Enterprise2.0 to life in their own organizations.
Has E2.0 gained ground? I definitely think so. For any idea
to take hold, there needs to be stability in what it means, and increasing
adoption and expression of the notions within it. Seeing The 2.0 Adoption
Council’s rapid growth within just one year (with over 100 member large
companies) worldwide, with active practitioners is one area of social proof.
The other is the reduction of “What is it?” and more of “How do we do it?”
E2.0 seems to be entrenched in the domain of the CIO and IT
organizations. That’s a shame because it really does spread across many
domains. Gautam Ghosh lamented the
lack of attendees or speakers from the HR realm in a few tweets during the
event. Yet many of the talks were certainly around employee behavior and
I have to be honest. There are many things that are still
left unanswered this year. I didn’t expect solutions but I was looking for more
thought on the following ideas:
Surprisingly, I agree with Dennis
Howlett. I don’t think people should be looking for a single answer or
approach to figuring this out. What was being affirmed is that are some
cases of ROI particularly in the external or public-facing environments,
but very rare for internal enterprise 2.0 environments. However, most
examples of an approach to ROI I know are still very specific to scenarios
that cannot be easily replicated. The industry going through its period of
denial – “Don’t try to look for ROI”—but organizations still need that.
and Personally Identifying Information – I raised this last year at the
conference, and it was great that there was at least one session by Carl
Frappollo (Information Architected, Inc) that described the interviews and
study he did early this year on this subject. The focus was very
Euro-centric because of the specifics of several countries there with
intense legal scrutiny in this area.
Carl’s point about organizations along the following interest scale--‘Big
S’ security, ‘small c’ collaboration, and ‘Big C’ collaboration--certainly
described the differing views on the legal fog organizations face.
is about transforming human behaviors at work – More folks are starting to
recognize that it is not trivial to bring communities and other social
environment to life. There were numerous cases talking about adoption
including my own part of the workshop. I’ve heard several different philosophies:
fascist / ‘Hitler’ approach (as described by the speaker) of mandating
that people use these tools;
‘taking the toys away’ – removing alternatives so they have no choice but
to use social tools.
carrot principle through monetary rewards or a point system to purchase
goods – apparently some folks still have that available.
visibility principle – non-monetary rewards but peer recognition (again
surprisingly, from @dahowlett).
get beyond “adoption”’ – This was another sentiment I heard several times,
but I attribute it to short-attention span. The general statement was
‘adoption’ was last-year’s thing, and we needed a new ‘thing’. As evident
from our own experience which my excellent peer Jeanne Murray and I
described, adoption goes through many stages of evolution. Each step
people need new things, and you need new adoption tactics. The big-picture
Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t happen in a year, although you can achieve many
Social Media vs. Enterprise 2.0 – I think people are starting to agree
that working with the external audience entirely is a different context
than Enterprise 2.0. I did hear several questions to this front, so this
distinction hasn’t completely permeated yet.
tend to get weedkiller put on it” – I quote Oliver Marks (ZDNet, Sovos
Group) here. E2.0 adoption efforts without official executive support do
not tend to last long. This goes along with the next realization.
transformation teams even in large companies are small and understaffed –
I made a joke: “For a global organization of about 400,000 people, I think
the right size [for an E2.0 team] is about 7 or 8.”The reality is that most organizations
have only one person working on it if they are lucky. Frankly I think that
this is a recipe for failure because a single person, even with some
volunteer help, would find such an organization-wide transformation truly
monumental. However, this is a catch-22 / paradox: You can’t get more
staff until you can prove its value, but you need people to help you prove
and Medium Businesses have different problems than large organizations – I
heard this brought up only once, but I think it is a very important
statement in reflection of the last point. The large companies, including
our own, can afford to have experts staffed to focus on Enterprise 2.0.
SMBs with only a thousand people or so don’t have that luxury.
has to be something for everyone” – The speaker (I don’t recall who) was
making a point mostly that individuals need to feel the impact to see the
value. However, I want to elevate that the pendulum can’t swing entirely
to focus on the individual. Too much emphasis on gaining organizational
value can lead to poor adoption, but too little focus on it deemphasizes
the business reasons to support such a significant transformation project.
Maturity and Lifecycle models – This was a gaping hole. I’m of the school
of thought that there are many different archetypes for social
environments. Yet, many describe theirs as if it is the answer, or
use their single case to refute other claims. Thomas Van der Wal’s wrap-up on continuing
myths per this conference revisits the participation inequality
principle made famous, but not originated by, Jakob Nielsen—the 90% are
lurkers/readers, 9% are contributers but 1% are intense contributors.
Some activity metrics case studies in our organizations have shown that it
really depends on the goals of the communities. For example, some are
decidedly intended as only an outlet for information albeit in a more
social sphere; others focus on intense rewriting of content.
Yet, these myths persist often because the metrics systems are quite poor,
and they look at the external social media context, not internal
interaction within the organization. A great weakness is the inability to
uniquely distinguish who is participating in a community and the different
forms of participation actions beyond just reads and writes. In the
external world, with the possibility of endless different users, this
might be more of a reality, but within the boundaries of known employees
in org E2.0, the clarity of detail reshapes how we see this. There are
many other factors: affinity to the community, time within member’s
workflow to participate, recognizable value and outcomes for the member,
rhythms of activity.
It will still take a bit of time, or if at all, we can
figure on better patterns of a maturity lifecycle, but let’s not jump to
default conclusions simply because it is easy to remember.
If you are attending Enterprise2.0 conference next week in Boston, here
are some of the events that I will be at. I may session-hop because there is just too much to see. Our BlueIQ Social software adoption
will be all around the event, and even Gina Poole, our VP will be there.
8:30am – 4:15pm, Black Belt Practitioners Workshop
As I mentioned on twitter, my peer Jeanne Murray and I are
presenting a session at the Enterprise2.0
conference in Boston next week that describes an overall view of how we think e2.0 has
evolved in our organization. The focus here is not on the technologies
themselves but on the human capabilities, interests, and mindset as it has
evolved over time. It talks about what we used to think about social computing
and how that as changed or evolved with each stage.
This sort of view on evolution is not something that is
absolutely decisive. With a multinational organization such as ours, it does
not necessarily mean that every corner of the organization is at the same
level. The reality is that many locations are still at Stage 1 while others are
very well into the later stages. We use the stages to describe how some groups
have progressed in their thinking and approach to how they employ social
computing in their work.
I don’t plan to describe the entire presentation here but I
wanted to share the intention of our session and give an example of a stage. In
discussing the idea, Jeanne and I formulated five stages of this evolution:
-Stage 1 – Seeing a need for social
computing in business
-Stage 2 – Recognizing the business
uses and value
-Stage 3 – Bringing people together
into a common frame
-Stage 4 – Building better
-Stage 5 – Shifting the overall
perspective to a dynamic, agile mindset
For example, we entered Stage 2 when the mindset (in stage
1) progressed beyond thinking of social computing as something just for
personal entertainment or for kids into recognizing the business potential.
Within this stage, people have accepted there is a business need, but are still
unsure about how or where it applies in specific use.
The focus in stage 2 is to articulate value and use cases.
To do so, we needed to connect people’s expertise and collect stories of their
successful use cases. The glories of reaching this stage is that people are
starting to become more connected beyond the possibilities of their existing
location and organizational position; there are open networks and freer
exchange of ideas; and new social-enabled tasks are vetted simply the degree of
However, we also saw in this stage that the number of
repositories and ways of describing and sharing expertise were exploding. There
were multiple options for doing tasks in social tools, and people needed
guidance on which ones made most sense. Our wide diversity of tools simply
increased the many streams of information, and often randomness of information
Stage 2 has some people starting to connect, but a
recognition that for enterprise 2.0 to be valuable to the company itself (and
not just on an individual level), we need to consider how we get the larger
organization to do this all together (stage 3). This next transformation
requires looking beyond how individuals benefit from social computing, to how
groups and org units can work as a whole with this system.
Stage 3 then picks up from trying to unite the
infrastructure and tooling, as well as clarifying what to use when.
I hope to see some of you at Enterprise 2.0. Our
session is on Wednesday June 16th at 1-2pm (twitter hashtag #e2conf-34).
We will post the slides next week for others to see as well.
For our social computing metrics system, we have the ability
to see how people act on others contributions. For example, given one person’s
post, we can tell who is sharing, tagging and sometimes reading it, with
identities of all. This can tell us how much a person is impacting those around
them, who and how.
[Note: From an enterprise measurement viewpoint who the
individuals are is not important but you need their ID to key off other
demographics such as their job roles, geographic location, or organizational
location. This might be of interest to each person, but I’m looking at the
gestalt of the organization. Also this is information we are allowed to see per
This leads to several possibilities, given person X’s post.
The first set is diversity of reach:
a)What job roles are consuming their
b)Where in the organization are the
c)Given a single post how much
consumption is happening; and what’s the average per post
On the business level, this can tell us a lot about how
well the organization is connected, and if the expected views of what
job roles rely on others is actually occurring and how much. For example,
sales people working with their sales engineers or seeking domain knowledge
experts. It can show how far they
reach across the organization, and what other roles they connected to that
were not expected. For example, sales people in Slovenia working with
Researchers in Israel.
The second set may look at secondary effects. Given person X
posts, and person Y shares or tags, who is Person Z that eventually consumes it.
a)What job roles (persons’ Z) are
the end consumers
b)Where in the org they come from
c)How much and what’s the average.
d)Is there additional resharing or
This extends the first set by looking at eventual impact
from the source.
So far, I’ve just talked about one path of action from a
creator (source) to a consumer (sink).The next level is to look across many
actions on if there is bidirectional interaction happening between the roles.
This looks for ‘lasting’ relationships based on continued bidirectional
interaction. This can happen in immediate sequence (e.g., I post,
someone replies to me, I reply back, and so on); or it can be delayed
sequence of events (e.g., I post, someone reads/tags it, a week later they
send something else through a different social tool).
Here we are looking beyond immediate or unidirectional
consumption, towards the idea of if people are forming lasting relationships.
Notice for one that I didn’t even say that it was necessary
for people to friend each other before any of this happens. In fact, I think
that friending action while certainly making it obvious is highly variable.
Some people consider friending to identity those who they have lasting
relationships with, but others use it simply to keep track of people they are
watching rather than have any interaction with. The difference lies in the
bidirectional vs. unidirectional relationship there. In other cases, some folks
never actually friend others but certainly interact with them, therefore
indicating a relationship.
Why is this any different than SNA (social network analysis)
tools? Perhaps it’s the limitation of the SNA tools I have found in terms of
the level of demographics and granularity they can show. For example, some do
not show the demographics I need because they simply don’t contain that info,
or don’t understand which demographics are useful for business reasons.
In terms of granularity, most SNA tools can show the
structure for each person; i.e., the relationships and interactions between
person X and those around them, but I need info about the aggregate level of
everyone of one demographic (e.g. job category), and the relationships they
form. This is beyond most SNA tools today.
The biggest part is that it takes a lot of data collection
and number crunching over many, many people to even begin to analyze this. This is beyond System level metrics (how many users, how many documents), or object level (how much activity per person or object), but goes into the meta level that we would like to understand. This is also only one aspect of many others.
On the business side, the goal is to better understand the connections across our organization, and where we can try to focus energies to improve communications or encourage interaction. It is using information from social systems to create a smarter organization. For enterprise 2.0 to become a success, it is not just about empowering individuals to use social computing systems, but it is to make the organization itself function better.
When people think of developing leadership in social
environments, they often think of it in terms of a person developing their own skills
in leadership (1) versus how the group itself executes (2). These are two different things.
In particular, in my chapter on leadership models in Social Networking for Business, it is not focused on #1 individual leadership
skills, but rather on #2, how to consider what the right model is for
leadership in a given social experience. As said many times before, leadership
in a community experience is very different than that in individual social experiences
(e.g., your own blog, or profile page).
In a way, these models are much more “tactical” in the view
that they are what you might apply to one particular social environment
instance (e.g. the Durian-lovers community, Rawn Shah’s blog). These tactical
models may still run for years, and are not necessarily short-term—what we
often equate with tactical situations.
A strategic view, on the other hand, is from the eyes someone
or some team overseeing the Enterprise 2.0 ecosystem of all the social environment
instances. In many cases, they may be looking at thousands or millions of them
within the same organization. In the strategic view, you could consider how
many applications of each of the tactical leadership models exist. This gives
you an idea of how well the people across the organization are ‘skilled’--building their skills per #1 in online social environments--in
working in particular leadership models.
From an employee’s point of view, if you have never worked
in a workgroup of one particular leadership model, it takes a bit of time to
learn and understand how it works. It will require it anyway, because each
instance may have its own particular nuances and variances. However, my point
is that the employee understands the differences in working in different such
tactical leadership models, so they can contribute or lead the group more
These are the soft skills of leadership that we often
talk about, but here in terms of tangible concepts.
Furthermore, from the strategic view, this also shows that
you can have an effective Enterprise 2.0 collaborative system with high degrees
of autonomy, without needing to completely transform the structure of your
overall organization. What the employees are essentially agreeing on is that
within their many online collaborative instances, they will work as agreed
within each instance. The overall organization is still free to change and
transform, but it is possible to be both an open social collaborative organization;
yet still maintain the traditional structure, as long as both covenants allow
and support each other’s approaches and needs.
When you consider how relationship development is at the heart of social computing and enterprise 2.0, it should be natural to consider the career and leadership development of your employees in this context. This opens up new areas of thought into what it means to influence and lead others through an entirely digital medium rather than when you have a face-to-face leader. Inmy Forbes article (on Apr 16), I describe it as digital eminence to differentiate from one's leadership activities and capabilities through non-virtual environments--often amusingly referred to as "in real life", IRL for short).
The best way that I have found to describe it is in terms of how do people understand, appreciate and recognize your expertise, knowledge and skills through online interactions. This could be anywhere online, even email and chat, but it becomes more visible in social computing environments. I also like to separate this idea from personal brand building. While conceptually you are actually bringing out how you are different and significant from other people--even perhaps Seth Godin's notion of a linchpin in your organization--brand building also harks of self-promotion and ego-stroking. Digital eminence emphasizes what others think of you and your abilities, which may or may not have anything to do with self-promotion.
A second danger is in trying to quantify what is essentially a qualitative assessment. We should be very careful in considering number of followers, friends in your network, or quantity of posts as an indication of one's digital eminence. When you consider eminence as how you stand out, essentially a comparison versus the aggregate group of others in the same field, it may be seen as a ranking. Similarly, such quantity metrics also reinforce this ranking and rating approach. That raises lots of ethical questions when you look at it per individual.
That aside, the real question is what are you doing about sharing your expertise and skills with others? By doing so, you are building your digital eminence.
[Please note: I will replace this post with the recording and file links. ]
A quick note, I’ll be presenting an “Intro to Enterprise 2.0”
to the Univ of Arizona MIS 527 graduate class on Enterprise Information Systems
today. Since folks have asked, I’ve decided to open the presentation to others.
If you are interested in listening, this will be available by telephone and/or
webcast at the following sites.
Topic: Introduction to Enterprise 2.0
Audience: Graduate students, general interest
Start: 12:30pm Pacific Time, 3:30pm ET , Wednesday 4/15/10
End:2pm PT/5pm ET
Note: You can either dial into the audio conference
call or listen to it over the web from the Web conference (in addition to the
slides). The web conference will ask you which one you’re using so it can mute
the audio if necessary.
Please do go on mute (on your phone or press *6) unless you
have a comment, question.
In working recently on the topic of leadership and decision making processes in social environments, I thought I'd clarify something per my book. Quite often I see these decision-making methods split into simple categories--centralized versus marketplace (or distributed)--
when there is so much more. Additionally, the way how people work to produce results is not the same as who is involved in making the decisions.
One milling question from those who’ve looked closely
at my book, Social Networking for Business, is that leadership and decision-making processes seem to appear in two
different areas: the chapter 3 “Leadership in Social environments” and then
later again in the section “Describing the Form of Aggregation” in Chapter 4 on
Social Tasks. I should explain the key differences here.
Chapter 3 focuses on six different common leadership models:
Centralized, Centralized w/ Input, Delegated, Representative, Starfish and
Swarm. These models focus on whois allowed to participate
in the decision making process, set direction for the social group, and select
leaders. These range from those with very strongly centered to very distributed
The Aggregation methods on the other hand describe how
these decisions are made or this work executed: Independent,
Autonomous, Consensus, Deliberative, and Combative. These again are
alternatives to each other to create results.
Independent—Members work on the task separately, but the results are aggregated across all members
Autonomous—Members work on the task separately of each other, and their results are distinctly visible to other members as separate work.
Consensus—A group of members works directly together on the task with the intent to deliver an overall collective result, even if it’s not unanimous or convergent.
Deliberative—A group of members works directly together without the intent or necessity of coming to a consensus on a single result.
Combative—Members must compete against each other to derive the best result from the group, denying other choices.
Certain pairs are more likely to occur: e.g., a swarm is
likely to use the Independent aggregation where only the combined results (voting)
across many members result in a single value. A delegated model is likely to
have autonomous decisions spread across the different domains delegated across
The moral here:
Set the right expectations -- Be clear not only about who
can make the decisions, but also for those who can do so, how they can make
[I should say right ahead that I’m not picking on them
(since I disagreed before), but when many good ideas come across from Hutch Carpenter
and the Spigit folks, sometimes I just have to disagree.]
The article Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI on the Spigit blog from last week proposed a framework for a pyramidal hierarchy of needs
aimed specifically at ROI of Enterprise 2.0. They are correct in some ways describing
a pyramid of levels starting at the base with tangible needs and moving up
towards increasingly intangible ones.
I’ve linked to their image here, source Spigit Blog. [I may take this image off
if they ask so but you can generally find it on their blog post]
However, I’m not so sure that it can be so easily applied
here in terms of the levels. For one, Maslow’s theory indicates that humans cannot
focus on the higher levels until the lower levels are satisfied. This would be
nice to conclusively say this of Enterprise 2.0 ROI but I can give examples
where it is very difficult to identify “cost-savings” at the bottom of the pyramid
in a conclusive and replicable way, but easy to identify “employee satisfaction”
somewhere around the middle.
Cost savings is a comparative; you need to determine that it
is most efficient to do things with one or more e2.0 tools than existing or
traditional non-e2.0 processes. The trouble is that this is not systematic
across all e2.0 experiences. It’s not simply a matter of deploying a discussion
forum, for example, to support customers before you start seeing results (even
before you see cost-savings); in fact, there’s no guarantee it will ever become
enough of a social environment where the vendor, partners, other users etc. are
properly supporting the needs of a customer. In comparison, a support workflow,
even if more expensive, has immediate results. Until the social environment
actually does support customers, it is a cost-center.
However, even without knowing cost-savings per Maslow’s
theory, you can use survey instruments to determine employee satisfaction. Qualitative
measures such as “satisfaction” work best by gathering input directly from
people; it’s simply something in their heads that you need to get to. This
means surveys, interviews, and focus groups. However, it does get a metric—which
ROI is—of the level of satisfaction, without ever having to find out if the
social environment creates cost-savings. This is similarly so for “customer
satisfaction,” and I’d argue for “cross-org collaboration” as well.
So, while the idea of relative dependencies and ranking of hard
and soft metrics that indicate some beneficial return, I don’t think this
approach works. The logic has some holes and I wouldn't be able to sell this idea to folks around here.
A key takeaway from this report that I find quite revealing: it contradicts the common belief that all communities develop into a 90-9-1 rule (90% lurkers, 9% contributors, 1% authors). Per the report: “As the community management discipline matures, there is increasing understanding of where certain rules of thumb like this apply and where they do not.” I've once looked at the origins of this meme, and other than the Pareto principle, in online communities it dates back to specific posts in a Usenet newsgroup around the early 1990s. I need to find that link again. We now think of much more than just contributors and lurkers since there are many other ways to contribute as well which are not so obvious. That is a distinguishing mark that elevates the level of insight that this report brings above others.
What thrills me is that of the eight competency areas within, only on area focuses on tools. The majority of the focus lies in business principles: strategy, leadership, culture, policies, etc. The general media and blogosphere is always fascinated with new tools and toys but the real value is in understanding the almost unchanging business principles many of which are outlined in the list of competences. Each of the sections on these competencies specifically identifies lessons learned directly from the real life experience of members of The Community Roundtable.
I've talked before about the value that community managers bring to organizations, so I have to point out a specific section the role and issues of Community Management which can help current organizations understand the heavy demands of this role. Perhaps, with this insight, more organizations will take to heart that Community Management is not a part time, or a junior role in the organization. It takes a lot of people and relationship skills that develop with experience, and in doing so creates the same qualities we ask of our business leaders.
For folks who’ve asked me about social computing and the
retail industry, I’d like to describe ideas in use. Some of you may already be
familiar with these.
First of all, there’s the “w00t” idea, most common in the US
as the site www.woot.com and even featured
in campaigns with American Express and others. It’s fairly simple, every day
they list a limited quantity of a single product (at seemingly random) at a
good deal of discount. Its success depends on mixing in very popular items with
some of the ordinary ones at many different price points, spread across a wide
range of product categories.
The social element here is in competition to get
one which often heats up considerable. Folks have even created bots or software
applications to beat others to the purchase. To spur this competition on, there
is constantly updated “sales snapshots” of the purchase experience for that
item: a map of the US where it’s being purchased the most, sales per hour, the
number of times the purchaser has bought from the site before, how many the
bought, etc. Finally, the discussion thread often gives social input or
feedback to what others think of the product. Other companies have tried this,
for example, I recall seeing it on American Express shopping as Deal of the Day
where they had a Honda Civic Hybrid as the deal for almost 60% of the sale
The key element is the competition, limited quantity and
thus exclusivity of the items of the site. All the social input exists to feed
the competitive basis unlike other online retail sites, where this is not at
all emphasized. Rather they take the stance that there is always some quantity
available. However, the competitive element of woot combined with a surprise in
random but in-demand items, is what turns the social elements into a game-like
structure, and most importantly: bring people back to the site. This method
isn’t new by any means, but the online environment makes it easier to spread
the word and increase the likelihood of sales. The social experience model here
is a mass collaboration with swarm leadership and combative aggregation. (if
this doesn’t make sense to you, please read my book).
Unconfirmed, but did the jargon term “w00t” originate from
“iwoot” = “I want one of those”? See http://www.iwantoneofthose.comwhich is not this above model, and closer to what
is now “traditional” online retail, purchasing with ratings and comments. Or is
it a derivative, if I remember right, of the “woof, woof” sound made popular
back in the 1990s by the Arsenio Hall show.
is another form of social computing applied to coupons for services within your
city (again mostly in the US). Essentially, it takes the woot model to a new
level, requiring people to invite enough members to qualify for the coupon. The
time limit is again one day only, and it is specific to a city. So, if a user
really likes the coupon promotion, they may need to try to get their friends or
others of like interest to also vote for the promotion, or just wait to see if enough
people from their city vote, before they can even take advantage of it.
Here, the social experience is not entirely a mass
collaboration like woot, because people do not necessarily work entirely
independent of each other. It allows two choices: you can bring your friends as
a small community to vote and get the coupon, or you can vote and hope that
others join in. In other words, it’s a hybrid of a mass collaboration and a
community. The leadership effects are also swarm-like, with no single person in
charge and each person making their own choices (typically to vote positively
for the item). However, this is not combative but consensus aggregation.
Lee Provoost’s post, “Adopting Enterprise 2.0 in large organisations: Fiat or Ferrari?” talks about how people can start with smaller
cars like a Fiat and eventually upgrade if need be to a Ferrari, rather than
wait decades of riding public transportation until they save enough for their
top car. I don’t see the entire negative with public transportation but when it
comes to social software, this ignores a large problem: migrating from one
social software system to another is a lot more complicated than just replacing
the tool itself.
Having seen first-hand several generations of social tools
in our company, and trying to get people to migrate from one existing
environment to a new one, it takes a bit of work to get people to switch to the
new system. A better analogy than cars may be “transportation networks”. In the
US, think about asking people to stop driving and using trains instead.
First of all, change is hard: people become used to certain
features and know how to work it quickly. Unless the new social tool has the exact
same features handled exactly the same, it means new learning, often new
terminology, and trial and error.
Social tools also don’t always make it easy to migrate from
one system to another. So you may also need to reenter your profile
information, preferences, and generally reinstate what you may have already had
People place a lot of content and context into their social
environment, and unless that is all migrated with them too, they may see it as “loosing
their standing in that social environment.” For some this is in the form of
rankings; for others useful or valuable content that they left behind. New
social environments don’t need to start at zero but more often than not, they
are not fully compatible with the old ones or provide different tools and
require different fields; thus, migration is not a simple prospect of
Finally, a new system should probably not only perform better,
but all them to interact in better ways. This also means new features to ask
people to try out. The power of the new social tool may be in those new
features but in maintaining the status quo, many users will keep using what
they know, until enough people have adopted the new features.
These are just a few basic reasons in adoption that make it
difficult to simply “level up” to a new social system. If you run a social
software system in your enterprise, you should certainly not treat it like just buying a new car.
The core competency here is in terms of facilitating relationships and communications between different parties. There are in fact many different types of interactions that this role takes on. In as such, this means they participate as a part of many different role-interaction patterns. This is significant since when such patterns are frequent and repeated, it becomes almost transactional, and therefore measurable. If you need the example of a more common role-interaction pattern: think of a support call from initial contact to completion after a solution or resolution has been reached and the customer is verified as satisfied. Each such complete interaction has a measurable value; or you could also measure it in terms of cost or time it took to conduct that interaction end-to-end. Finally, you could also measure it in terms of quantity of those interactions actually reaching completion rather than partial or incomplete resolutions (likely meaning an unhappy customer left hanging).
The RI patterns for Community managers are of a different sort but the following tables give some suggestions of the kinds of patterns they could participate in.
Table 9.1 -- The Value of Community Managers
Improving relationships with members by providing a human face
to an organization or a large social group
Bringing the value of their own relationships and contact
networks within the organization
Arbitrating conflicts between members, or between the member and the
Coordinating member projects and activities
Serving as a repository of situational knowledge about the
organization, the members, or the content
To the sponsoring organization
Serving as an organizational spokesperson to the membership
Providing a view into the climate
of the members about the topic or purpose (the business climate within the
enterprise, across business partners, or across the industry)
Housing a repository of situational
knowledge about members, the content, or the topic
Encouraging and monitoring
member involvement and participation in the topics that
interest the sponsor
members might have with the organization
describing value or outcomes of the social group
and potential for hires or rehires
Table 9.2 Supporting Customers or Partners
Customers or business partners (public-facing, cross-boundary, third-party)
Marketing or sales
Increasing the number of touches with customers
Identifying customer evangelists and activists
Discovering industry trends and customer interests
Acting as marketing
liaisons to customers
Guiding marketing on
appropriate messaging or tactics
Product development and delivery
Assisting in gathering product requirements from audience
Conducting market research with customers
Identifying competitor activity or offerings
Conducting design tests and product beta-testing
Delivering products to customers online
Customer relations or product support
Providing a human
interface to the organization or social group
Serving as a “finger on the pulse” of audience concerns
Helping partners locate internal representatives or departments
Helping customers find appropriate support resources
Identifying troubled or
There's another table on their roles within the enterprise supporting employee and organizational interactions.
I noticed Hutch Carpenter's (@bhc3) post about this proposed session in Enterprise 2.0 conference where he's talking about different forms of competition. I had to share this excerpt from chapter 4 on Social Tasks of my book on the different forms of working together on a social/collaborative task.
The next step of defining a social task is to consider how members
perform this task collectively. Social software aggregates the behavior or
content from many individuals into overall results or collections of results.
However, you can use different methods to perform aggregation:
- Independent:Members work on the task separately, but the
results are aggregated across all members. Their discrete actions and results
might not be directly visible to others:the results are visible only as an converged aggregate value (for
example, closed ballot voting).
- Autonomous:Members work on the task separately of each
other, and their results are distinctly visible to other members as separate
work. This creates opportunities in which members might benefit from
information that multiple other members share. A collection of divergent results
across the many members or a single convergent result (such as brainstorming on
ideas) can occur.
- Consensus:A group of members works directly together on
the task with the intent to deliver an overall collective result, even
if it’s not unanimous or convergent. Tasks often require analysis, discussion,
and debate to arrive at a collective answer. The ultimate goal is to converge
and deliver a single collective result, but members might not always agree on
one answer and there sometimes produce multiple options as results.
- Deliberative:A group of members works directly together
without the intent or necessity of coming to a consensus on a single result.
These are typically discussions or interactions that can spread out in many
directions, depending on how subsets of members interact.
- Combative:Members must compete against each other to
derive the best result from the group, denying other choices.[i] Unlike consensus forming,
only a single answer is provided from all the choices the group generated.
Glass, Designing Your Reputation System in 10! Easy Steps, IA Summit
2008, Miami, Florida
A discussion on community manager or builder's skills on Twitter incited me to post this list below. The following are various personality traits, behaviors and skills to look for in a Community manager or builder, straight out of my new book, Social Networking for Business (Wharton School Press 2010):
-Listening:A large part of a community manager’s
role is being responsive to the members of the social group, noting their
issues and tone, and having the patience and willingness to put things aside to
pay careful attention to issues and problems.
-Talking:Writing or talking about their experiences,
ideas, events, or other insight in a natural or casual tone helps users get to
know the CMs better. This is not about marketing or making sales pitches, nor
is it an extensive academic or official report.
-Taking notes:Good community managers are always
taking notes, literally or mentally, and saving or organizing them in a
retrievable fashion. In a conversation, they are listening carefully and taking
notes on the key points the other person is trying to make. If CMs need to
write something down, they can ask users for permission to take notes. With
problem issues, CMs might perform the physical act of note taking, either with
pen and paper or through tagging and writing online; mental notes often get
lost or forgotten. The notes saved are helpful in other activities.
relationships:Listening and talking sets
a frame to build relationships with members. This is not just remembering the
names of members, but also paying careful attention to their motivations,
interests, activities, relationships, and other facets of their lives.
remote or virtual interactions:Being
comfortable working in an environment in which you might never physically meet
the users you work with is important. Online environments frequently do not require
a physical office location, giving community managers the freedom to work from
home or other venues. This also means having the responsibility to actually
perform work in such a remote environment and to avoid distractions. However,
this is not exclusive; knowing how to interact with members you have never met
in face-to-face situations is also useful.
members:A good community manager’s personality
engages and energizes the people he or she talks to. These community managers
like to shine the light on others’ activities and bring awareness to such
activities they consider significant.
-Mediating:Within any social group, some degree
of debate or argument eventually will arise. Community managers can play a role
in mediating or arbitrating when things get rough. They don’t need to be the
ones to find every solution:it’s better
if the parties come up with a proposed solution:but they need to be open and seen as neutral.
-Voicing for the membership:Community managers might need to negotiate
with other parties:whether competing
for attention in the same organization or working with other sites, events, or
groups:to bring attention to their own
community or members. Community managers should be able to act as a voice for
the overall group to the sponsoring organization or to other groups.
-Finding a way:CMs must handle a variety of issues—some
I see occurring repeatedly, and others are fairly unique. Community managers
need to have a drive to find a way to solve problems. This means persistence,
intelligence, creativity, social awareness, and more. No template exists for
this role—it requires an instinctual nature of wanting to help people.
I should be getting some early copies of my new book, Social Networking for Business
(Wharton School Press, 2010) straight from the printer/binder just
before Lotusphere. I'm planning on bringing some to hand out at the
event either during lunch--our BlueIQ Social Software Adoption team
will be hosting two tables with signs, so come by and talk to us. We'll
be chatting on just about anything around adoption, how we do it in
IBM, and what you can do with social computing.
If you haven't seen it yet, it is available at, Amazon, Barnes&Nobles or other booksellers around the 24-29th this month. Kindle versions should be out a few days earlier.
I learned the other day from a friend that taggers—the spray
paint kind, not the online variety—are often quite predictable. If you look at
a map of the locations where they tag, you’ll often found a common radial
pattern of increasing density of their tags. The closer to the center of that
circle is the general vicinity or even the very house that the tagger lives in.
Applying some social computing to the idea, I could see a
useful mass collaboration social experience, where the task is to allow anyone
to submit smartphone photos with GPS locations of where they see a tag. You can
then plot this on a geo-map and over time create a result of frequency of occurrence.
Social sites like Brightkite and Foursquare that let you share your location
prove that it’s quite possible to create such a map.
So, there’s a possible project that can apply to any location
really, with the help of any willing citizens. There are some practical issues:
identifying the actual tag signs from different taggers, collecting enough data
for useful information, and cooperating with the police to utilize this
information. However, these are not insurmountable and it would help the community
A thought I had a few weeks ago on a measurable value outcome
of switching to social computing reflects a common situation in our company: mailing
large files around. Simply said, many enterprise mail systems such as Lotus
Notes allow the central administrator to set a limit on attached file sizes.
By imposing a limit around say 4MB, and redirecting people
to use Lotus Connections Files to share large documents, you save: a) network bandwidth
usage; and b) storage of multiple copies on local drives and on mail servers.
LC Files on the other hand adds lots of other benefits like
re-sharing without re-forwarding the files, comments w/o re-forwarding, and lookups
on who it is shared with (or not).
This activity may not be practically measurable per person when
you have many thousands of people. On the other hand you can measure the quantity
of documents and their file sizes, on the email system versus LC. What it comes
down is a known (or knowable) IT cost factor of $ per MB. IT departments could
show the cost savings directly due to reduced infrastructure use and resource
What it does change is user behavior. The first necessary
element is a tool that can automatically redirect where the document is stored
(a link to it on LC Files) rather than the email. The second part is
enforcement through the file size limit. You really need the redirector to work
smoothly so people do not see this as a burdensome task.
So in a direct way, you have a measurable outcome related to
hard $ amounts. This kind of alternative mechanism works easily for files, and
is still just a basic step in moving towards enterprise social computing. Slowly,
What I'd be additionally interested in is looking at the trends of how re-sharing occurs after such a switch. It's pretty common to see people re-forwarding a file to others but this allows a better alternative. In a limited sense, it can also improve security: if the user does not allow publicly share a document, it may be limited to only those they intend. Of course, there are always alternatives and other mailers but it's good manners to keep to their request.
It seems so old
school to try to classify social computing metrics but I keep getting the same requests from various internal teams, who are sometimes not familiar with some of the metrics, don't understand
them, or simply use other metrics better suited to Web sites rather
than social sites. A second goal is to evaluate the qualities of
these metrics to determine if they are useful (e.g. using the SMART
analysis approach). A third is to see the relationship of the metrics
to each other—whether there are dependencies, or if some metrics
are more meaningful when reported alongside or compared with others.
To give an idea,
while it's considered outdated by others, some still look for
Pageviews, and Unique Visitors--classic web metrics better suited to
measure how people visit pages, than interaction from social
environments. Similarly, "Interaction" itself becomes
another stopping point for metrics. These are the metrics most
commonly recorded by social software tools: number of posts, the
number of downloads, the number of connection invites, etc.
In working with
our social computing researchers we're also looking at Network Effect
metrics such as the Topics (what people discuss) that come out of the
system, or the ratio of consumption to a person's content
such as marketing teams have an emphasis on Engagement metrics,
considering how much a person is becoming involved in a social
environment, an event, a marketing offering, or other engagements.
Other engagement metrics aren't specific to marketing only. For
example, thought-leadership metrics include the ratings on content
someone has submitted, or how often they have been quoted or
retweeted by others. A more complex one is to determine the Impact a
person has on their target audience.
To go further
along on marketing metrics, these can even build up towards the sales
pipeline—how many interested individuals are there, are they
potential sales leads, have they actually asked for sales info, has
that lead been validated, and then closed. Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer of Lithium
suggested similar ideas in an article for Strategy+Leadership magazine back in 2000, on conversion rate from a
visitor to a sale, as applied to social environments.
and sales, there are other indicators that relate to business value
metrics. Some suggestions in a recent email exchange with Dr. Walter
Carl, Chief Researcher of ChatThreads and a member of WOMMA's board on metrics include
cost reduction (using this tool to communicate is a lower cost than
other existing ways), accelerating adoption of any business
philosophies, values or company directives, processes that minimize
lost revenue, etc.
Lots of Metrics,
but what are their qualities?
So what should be
obvious is that there are lots of metrics, categories, subclasses,
variations, and inter-relations that different organizations or even
different teams within the same organization utilize. What
constitutes business metrics and delivered value for one team may not
even be relevant to another. So I'm still surprised when people ask
for a generic ROI methodology.
All the same, the
next step is to look at the qualities of these metrics. I mentioned
the SMART acronym earlier which are basic questions if a given metric
type or unit is:
(specific and targeted to an area of measurement),
data point that can be captured and collected),
(robust data that can be analyzed and utilized by a stakeholder),
realistic, meaningful and consistent measurement),
(current and possible to collect in good time).
all these qualities, there will likely be a problem with either
collecting the data in a way that is meaningful and available in time
for use in a business.
There are other
qualities that I think are important to consider as well:
it scalable in quantity? Can you capture larger and larger volumes
of data or does it become computationally intractable
it apply across social environments of the same type? Is the metric
relevant to a single social environment, or can it apply to many
environments of the same structure (e.g., a discussion forum)?
scalable and still meaningful across different social environments
(e.g. A blog and a forum)?
Does it drive
behavior? Does it encourage that person or other people to interact
credible? Is it a measure that is accepted by other teams,
organizations or even industry-wide?
significant as a performance and/or a diagnostic metric? Performance
metrics are useful for comparisons across like types. Diagnostic
metrics help determine the state of the system.
Is it a
quality metric? That is, counting it does not really describe the
value contained within it, so you need a secondary way of looking at
it helpful to look at it across different demographics? This is very
insightful in some metrics, and just not necessary in others.
I'm sure there are
more relevant qualities, but this is already quite a lot to think
about. These qualities can help decide which metrics are the most
useful or what they can tell us, independently of the others.
is to look at which metrics should be reported alongside each other,
or which ones depend on others directly or indirectly. That's where
things start to get real interesting and much more subjective.
No conclusion here
because this is on-going work trying to map out all these variants of
metrics, but here's to hoping it inspires others to think and work
along these lines.
I tried the MIT Personas site just to see what it would come up for my
name. Basically, it does a Web search for any name you give it and
analyzes the text on a semantic level to find common themes or
categories for content from you or about you (e.g., it might suggest
topics like "sports", "legal", "social", "management", "online", etc.)
How it does this is a little beyond my knowledge of semantic
processing, as well as what practical use this is seems to escape me.
But it's fun. :)
Some issues with it, is that because it searches on people names across
the Web, the content may mistake e.g., one "Luis Suarez" (our own
blog-evangelist) with another "Luis Suarez" (soccer player). It helps
if you have a globally unique name like "Rawn Shah" (so far). Another
problem is that the results may vary depending on how it processes
whatever search results it finds. So, in trying it out three times to
see how close it was, it showed slightly different categories for me
and sized these differently as well.
I can't figure out why the following categories appear since I rarely if ever talk about them: military, religious, religion, genealogy
Per my previous note, I mentioned that we have 400,000
people collaborating across 170 countries in IBM.
That raises a great question of what does it mean to have 400,000 people
collaborating? Are they all in one massive social network connected to each
other? Are they participating in the same spaces? Are the contributing to each
To give an idea, first we need to look at the state of
social computing in IBM. First, there is not
one but at least 32 different social applications each of which can have
hundreds of thousands of unique users, and tens of thousands of instances
(e.g., separate wikis, individual blogs, etc.)
By another count, there are over 200 applications--it varies based on what different folks consider as a "social application".
For example, in rough numbers of some of the tools
200k replies (aging removes some)
Dogear /social bookmarking
Beehive (social net)
Cattail (social file sharing)
This is just a subset and unofficial list of these services.
There are other tools for enterprise wide social searching, social
brainstorming, instant messaging, tweeting, podcast/videocast sharing, social
profiles, and analysis tools. Some of these other tools are used by 100% of
employees particularly instant messaging and out Bluepages (profiles) systems.
Others have even more people because non-employees such as business partners,
customers, and even suppliers have access to them.
People generally use them as follows:
across the enterprise: e.g a blogger
team spaces: departments and hierarchical teams
spaces: across multiple departments
group spaces: e.g., someone creates a Lotus Connections Activity and
So the groupings vary significantly, and a number individuals
do use many of these tools for different reasons, but unique users still reach
across the company.
The types of activities or projects in these spaces are just
as varied as the job roles, products and markets. Think of it, just in terms of
products alone, I think we have over 5000 distinctly, different ones (and not
just variations); some are very complex (imagine working on the DB2 database), and others are smaller. That still doesn’t include the many thousands of customer projects
people are working on at any one time. So in general there aren't any common scopes or scales for
what people work and interact on.
The general philosophy that creates this mix is that as a
company we encourage an internal free-market environment to allow many tools to
appear and compete with each other. This helps the best ideas to emerge out of
new social experiments and methods. While someone has to pay for the
environments, this is up to each social app project to figure out how to fund. There
are official tools that are universally supported, but there are also other research
and experimental projects—even Beehive as a research project easily includes over
We also do not police these activities. People are talking
about their non-work activities, but that is a natural outcome of social
interaction. As long as people are not breaking their business conduct and the
social computing guidelines, they are okay to use it how they like.
This kind of quantitative information really doesn’t show how
people are collaborating just where. Rather our BlueIQ team collects
success stories, especially recreatable and reuseable scenarios, from
individuals illustrating how they are productively working together in these
In general, it is complex to say how people are
collaborating, but safe to say that they are collaborating widely in the
social environments in IBM.
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
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
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:
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)
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
Pick a wordle: Any wordle. The side provides a huge gallery of items and choices. Or you can create your own wordle in a few seconds by pasting a block of text into the site. E.g., Here's President Obama's Inaguration speech wordle
Set timer for 1 minute
Every player gets to write down phrases 2 words or longer that they can make out. No repeats (or subphrases) by the same person. Words can go in any direction but they have to be right next to each other, or "close by" (as others agree upon). Size of the letters do not matter.
End of the timer, each person reads out one item from their list. You can debate whether the phrase is meaningful and not just random. They get points for the number of words in the phrase. Anyone else who found the same phrase has to delete that item from their list, and cannot reuse it.
Minimum 2 word phrases, no maximum. One point per word.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the school semester back in session, I now have three battodo (swordfighting) classes a week, two of which I have to teach. They basically span all levels now. There's the regular class that my sensei--who has recently been promoted to shihan (master) after 25 or more years practicing and teaching hundreds of students (possibly over a thousand) in a number of different martial arts--on Saturday's at our headquarter dojo that I attend primarily for practice. It's students of all skill levels but all adult. On Friday's I have the class at the Univ of Arizona for college students. Finally, there's a middle-school/high-school level class to teach, full of students from 12 to 17 years of age and of many ranks.
The college class is really more a club and it just started again this Friday, with the addition of three new students. We're lucky in that the university has a very good recreational/sports center with plenty of rooms (with beautiful polished wood floors). We currently use the racketball courts since they are the easiest to reserve ahead of time, but my sempais (senior students) are looking to getting one of the larger rooms which also have the padded mats to work on.
The mats are great but I was surprised just how much they cost (up to $500 for a 5' x 10' section). They're also kinda heavy and not easy to move around, so it's best to have them available in one room permanently. We can use the mats for doing rolls, and kneeling work.
The high-school class has yet to start but I have been the assistant teacher for several years, and each semester we get about ten to twenty students. Some of the students have been with us for years. In fact, two of my college students spent 4 years or more learning at the high-school level and eventually became black belts before they even started college. There is another batch which are nearly approaching that level as well.
What I've seen over the years is that most people either really like the sport, or they give it a shot for a few weeks and then quit. The ones that practice for a long time but leave are usually adults with busy lives. The high-school class certainly helps capture their interest at a young age, which is when they are most able to grow mentally and physically into the sport. We've had many an aimless and largely distracted individual that finds their focus through the practice.
We're also going to return to cutting targets on a bi-weekly basis on the weekends outside of the class which is the real fun part. It takes some time of practice to get to that level but it's something that is in the reach of most people. The cutting practice however, takes several hours of time even for a small group of a dozen people, especially when most of them don't have their own swords and have to share the class one. After years of use and without sharpening my primary katana is getting pretty dull. I need to work on it, or send it for sharpening (which is almost as costly as buying a new starter cutting sword).
For me, three times a week will certainly help me get back in shape, although I have to make sure I practice as well as teach. It's not easy to do a hard and fast sport, while talking and teaching simultaneously. Even when you build up stamina and breathing pace, to get real practice you have to push beyond your own limits.
I keep running into Chris Anderson's activities lately. First, I'm listening to his dW podcast interview on our site this week, and next we had an internal meeting for book authors that Chris came to talk to us about. The main discussion in the call was more about how to approach book writing and some ideas that he found successful for his own bestseller, The Long Tail (see my book list). Some of it rang so true but is still missed by so many authors.
For one, he talked about blogging from the very beginning on the book as he did on his research, and carrying the conversation on regularly and for a long time. Chris started blogging from the beginning. It helped in shape his ideas, but also helped quite a bit when it came time to launch the book; he gave away a thousand copies of the book to all the bloggers who interacted with him on his blog. This, I think, really helped to spread the popularity of his book.
Blogging is certainly popular but to many book authors it is still a new phenomenon, even in the tech industry. With that in mind, many authors think that they should start blogging when their book is nearer completion that from the beginning. I think there are two parts to this: a) in general, for a blog to become even barely known takes a long-time of ongoing and active effort; b) blogging about your book helps to build awareness. In other words, if you already have (a) going for you, then (b) should be easier. However, back to my point on blogging still being new with many authors points to the fact that many of them don't even have (a) going for them.
To give my example, I am working on a book and many of the ideas that I have talked about are spread all around this blog of mine. However, I don't think I ever stated that intention. For me, the ideas are more significant--and even more than that discussion of the ideas--than the point that its for a book. But perhaps I should state that intention right away and define the premise more openly. I'll save it for a different post so as not to distract from Chris' point here.
Another interesting point and one that is dear to his heart apparently--he just launched a new startup BookTour.com on it--is about authors engaging others in live events, book tours, presentations, speaking engagements, etc. I think it's a great idea and fits my philosophy: most people need help on learning how to generate a community around an idea or even themselves. What live or virtual appearances and activities do is help to build that community and reinforce the significance of the work. By Chris' own admission speaking engagements can have a better ROI than book sales, even if they go hand in hand; and I don't disagree with that in terms of getting paid for day-long appearnaces versus spending months on a book. This means that as an author you need to spend the time and effort to actively promote your book and not just rely on the publisher's marketing team. The argument I always hear on this is that most people have full time jobs and do not have the time to do so. This is where I think an idea like BookTour can come in really helpful.
Let's take an online parallel: we at developerWorks are about to launch a new aspect called Expert spaces amongst other features. This allows a person to create a community around their own activities using different social software tools not unlike what groups of folks are doing with our community topic spaces now. Like our spaces now, you can start a blog of your own to talk about your project, link in resources your find useful. If you want to go a step beyond, you could even write parts of your book in a wiki online and ellicit comments about the contents you share.
For our own team, this means that we will now need to help these experts get going on communicating in this new way. BookTour focuses on the specific activity of bookwriting; we have a much wider focus on building awareness about any technical expert. We do that now to some degree, but there is a lot more that we could learn.
I picked up Market-based Management by Dr. Roger Best (see my reading list), a textbook of the "traditional" approach to customer-centric marketing. I'm looking into the ideas on how companies look at customer focus, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. The processes are probably very different but online communities of all forms also face some of these same issues and the existing ideas and metrics may give insight into similar metrics from the community view.
There are some very different views here though:
product markets are much more well-defined and often well tracked by industry watchers, analysts and support organizations, and therefore may have access to industry-wide data/metrics
a product market can be easily measured in a fairly universal way in terms of dollars (or other currency denominations), whereas communities don't necessarily have purchase transactions or a common currency system
community value and contributions are by definition more subjective according to the perceived value by the community at that point in time.
communities tend to start off much more lightweight and sometimes may even prefer to stay that way, versus the goal of most product markets is to grow (revenue, marketshare, customers or other quantifiable items)
Still there are many parallel concepts that can be borrowed. A few of the many examples:
customer "terrorists" - as this book describes it, where current or former customers who are dissatisfied with the product can turn against the producer. This parallel exists directly in most communities.
customer loyalty - one measure of community success is through developing a loyal following, whatever that process and metric may be. This concept is broken down into customer satisfaction, customer retention, and customer recommendation, all of which are also important to a community.
Beyond just the basic measurement of each community, there are the issues of measuring the effectiveness of your community program itself. The parallel is measuring the effectiveness of the marketing program or strategy separately of the end-results driven. This means understanding market share, awareness, availability, etc.
The reality is that even with the decades of having online communities we really have not reached a significant level of sophistication in measuring online communities. Perhaps things needed to happen to emphasize that such as the rise of social software and Web 2.0, the acknowledgment of the long-tail phenomenon, the improvement of web metrics collection tools, and the effects of influencers online.
I see this as something entirely different than the success of the online ad marketing, which everyone can see is a multi-billion dollar opportunity. With online ads, some of the traditional ideas and methods still work, and even some of the traditional metrics may apply. However, a community, where the value comes from the knowledge economy, is likely quite different than a currency-based economy.
With growing interest in online communities as basis of support for real-world products and offerings, business & technology development, market reach and awareness, I think this is a large field waiting to be explored.
Our technical briefings team is hosting a special event in September; actually two of them in the US, one in Raleigh, North Carolina, and another in Austin Texas. It's a free event, and the idea is to get a lot of thought going on around the topic of putting Web 2.0 into action in the workplace, in a more general way, beyond just startups and special projects.
Here's the info on the event:
Join us for a special event to learn how you can start bringing Web 2.0 into your organization, or as we say, 'Take Web 2.0 to Work.' During this day-long technology event from IBM, you'll see demos of the hottest technologies and participate in interactive breakout sessions - a large part of the content will be driven by you and the other attendees as we go along! The day will be full of live demos and true attendee participation!
During the day, you'll not only hear from IBM Execs like Rod Smith, IBM Software Group, VP of Emerging Technologies and David Barnes, Program Director, Emerging Internet Technologies, IBM Software Strategy based out of Austin, TX, but also rub shoulders with other developers in your community, IBM's key system architects, developers and researchers from our R&D labs and some of the lead developers that created Lotus Connections. There will be plenty of time to dive deep into several different topic areas in breakout sessions including: Collaboration (Social Networking applied to the Enterprise) Application Creation (join in the creation of mashups and wikis) Information Technology (see new ways to unlock information using emerging technologies like "Many Eyes")
I'm reading Mark Buchanan's excellent book on Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks, and came across the concepts of egalitarian and autocratic patterns in social networks. Before you jump to conclusions, let me say a few things about this book. To me it seems to focus on the mathematical origins of the theory of social networks, but takes a pleasant approach going through the history and background of how these ideas emerged. It also spans a wide range of disciplines in terms of where these patterns appear, from biology to watershed and geological studies.
First, it talks about Watts and Strogatz's truly innovative look that has eventually spread across the world as the meme: six degrees of separation. There's a lot more to it than the Kevin Bacon game, but I'd like to point out the particular elements here on egalitarian and autocratic networks. This is actually has little to do with policital systems like socialism versus monarchic or oligarchic communities. Instead if you look at it as a mathematical problem, what it describes is that there are often two varieties of patterns of connections in a system that emerge often.
The first is a basic heuristic that can be commonly seen in some biological systems like the brain: as a node (in a network system), you try to establish a fixed amount or ratio of connections to other nodes. The connections are not a random pattern, but neither is it based on a high degree of "purpose" or "intention". This proposes a very egalitarian and essentially a very simple rule to help build more complex systems as the overall network grows and evolves.
The other is the autocratic pattern, where the heuristic is to start with one node and grow from there. Essentially the key node itself starts growing in size or strength, while its immediate connections grows with it, and scaling down until you reach the end or leaf nodes which have only one connection to someone else. This easiest example is in terms of well known sites or articles on the Net that get linked from many sites, and in a very simplified description, the basis of the algorithm that Google's engine uses.
If you look at one example of each of these networks from a high level, the egalitarian network seems to be completely chaotic with no easily discernable pattern you can tell visually. On the other hand, the autocratic network looks strangely like one of those classic fractal diagrams. Yet, both serve different purposes and have different uses. You might almost say that they are the yin and yang that exist pervasively throughout the world. Okay, maybe that's too metaphysical for a Friday :)
Money magazine has a US Dollar to Wizarding world currency convertor for the world of Harry Potter, but apparently it has some shortcomings. If JK Rowling, the first billionaire author, were to transfer $1 Billion--that's US one billion, or rather a UK one thousand million--to Harry's world, apparently she'd need several trucks to carry all that change, but not have much in terms of larger values.
CURRENCY CONVERTER RESULTS
Monday, July 23, 2007
1000000000 US Dollar = 2 galleons, 125862069 sickles and 15250000000 knuts
HARRY POTTER CURRENCY CONVERTER
US Dollar to Harry Potter Currency
Knuts do not divide evenly into dollars or vice versa. Consequently, there may be small discrepancies due to rounding.
Every time I see another piece or book on social network analysis, I have to say something, particularly because the term is used so often these days.
There is definitely a science behind social network analysis that has existed for years. In simplest form, it maps the relationships between different people in a group, and draws the connections between folks. This contrasts against the hierarchical structure in most organizations and companies. In other words, the actual way people connect and interact in a group can often be very different than reporting structures and formal relationships between different teams. SN analysis examines these relationships and helps to point out bottlenecks, misdirections, and point out key people in your organization.
However, the shortcoming of this approach is, first, it requires that the members in the group all participate and respond to a questionnaire (and honestly) on who they interact with. The truth is that we may remember the first set of fewest people we interact with the most often (e.g., those folks on your speeddial, "myFaves" in Tmobile, etc.), but there are many others who we do not interact with so often but still hold value. So what SN analysis uncovers is frequency more than accuracy. That's the second part, accuracy implies quality, and the quality of relationships between folks are hard to determine, especially when you consider that people rarely record and evaluate every single interaction they have with others.
The diagram on page 99 of this month's Fortune magazine is pure fantasy--it is not on the online version of the story. It is unlikely you will ever uncover this kind of information, mostly because it is very invasive and raises many privacy concerns. Don't get me wrong; there are probably people who really do try to create such a map, but it can get horribly complicated over time and with larger populations. The reality of what you can get is shown in the article, luckily.
The article does however, point out the reality: there is a hidden network of how people interact in a workplace. You cannot directly measure this to a really fine degree and probably shouldn't even try. Every manager knows that they should get to know their employees to some degree; some managers can remember more about the work relationships and history of their employees than others; in that way, they build their own mental map of their surrounding hidden workplace.
How does this relate to "social networking" in the Web 2.0 sense (i.e., blogs, forums, wikis, tags, etc.)? When you get frequent and regularly participating members in any community, you have this same kind of invisible relationship network. I won't say it is impossible to map this out; someone might eventually prove me wrong. Software makes it easier to track interactions since there is a "written record" somewhere. Smart software may be able to automatically analyze your interactions with other folks to help you keep track of your own social circle. I have seen this at work already. It can look at how you email, instant message, chat, online event, blog comment, forum reply, etc. that you make with each individual and create a map for you. This is harder than it sounds because it means the software has to look in many places. It also means that the analysis software needs to be compatible with each of these applications which you use; since most people don't use the same set of such tools that may not even be in the same site or organization, it is really hard to track.
This points out to keep track of relationships more than messages. While we still tend to think of email as the main way we communicate online, this is already starting to spread to many other types of applications. Eventually email may no longer be king; even if that day is a long way off.
This also points out another behavior that is an unfortunate side effect of the availability of peer networking social tools like LinkedIn. The value of social network comes from deep or meaningful realtionships with others, not quantity. It may be a while before this sinks in so reiterating it frequently is a public service. It's not how many people you connect with but how many of these are meaningful. Quality over quantity.
Reading this story on Red Herring about the Socialstream project over at Carnegie Mellon, reminded me of three other things. The story is about a graduate student project that aggregates "any" social networks. What that means is obviously vague but it's getting some press due to the Google funding it received. It partially hints at the ability to aggregate a user's profile from across multiple sites. That in itself is not that unique.
The first thing it reminded me of is ZoomInfo, a site that conducts a web search for a person's name and makes correlations, and creates a single profile for all the related info that match that person. It isn't all that accurate and sometimes gives multiple hits for the same person (e.g., "Rawn Shah" a name that as far as I have searched is currently unique in the world). It also can give results for multiple people (e.g., plenty of "Michael O'Connell"s out there), and I'm guessing that sometimes the entries cross over between profiles inaccurately. It doesn't quite merge profiles from multiple social networks as much as take raw information, do some semantic processing looking for similar context, contact information, and references.
What would help ZoomInfo is more contextual or semantic declaration of information, in other words, it is an application just waiting for the Semantic Web to rise. There are other examples like the real-estate mapping and pricing site, Zillow. Both search multiple sources for particular type of information and then aggregate them in some meaningul way to do what they do. I know what you're think: "Isn't that just a mashup?" And you'd be right, but this kind of mashup becomes more useful if given the semantics of the situation.
This leads me to my second thing, the Semantic Web, which we talked about just recently at work. Conceptually, it means applying more specific information to any piece of knowledge so that it can be handled by software agents trying to understand the context and semantics. This is the current work of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the originator of the Web. I think we even have a podcast interview him on dW where he discusses this. This has also been referred to more recently as "Web 3.0", although the Semantic Web seems a more accurate and less self-aggrandizing title. To get to this level, there are a number of protocols, in particular the Resource Description Framework, that need to be much more widely applied to web information. There's a more complete diagram on that Wikipedia entry for it.
But returning to the topic of "aggregating" social networks, the third thing I recall is what Marc Canter, founder of MacroMedia and current CEO of Broadband Mechanics, wrote on CNet: "...it's clear that folks are interested in connecting together some of their disparate accounts on a wide range of social networks." Having worked on standards before I know how much messy politics go into it more often than good information. Marc's focus here again is also on connecting the profiles across multiple networks, and separately connecting the social networking tools they use and the information they generate.
My point of view, all three (profile, SN tool, information) are part of the same set, and should probably go together, not in terms of actually being on the same application, but in terms of the same presentation. In the background, all the data in the set can come from multiple application sources, even multiple sites. Don't force people to switch tools and interfaces constantly so they have to go from e.g., their blog to their wiki to enter different kinds of information. The same for profiles, you can have multiple profiles on multiple sites, but even switching between different sites to get to your profile in each community/social network system you are part of is cumbersome, when you need to change some basic information, e.g., your job title. It's also hard to track.
Mashable published this list of what they call 10 most beautiful social networks. The emphasis is on visual presentation and prettiness rather than value to the user I guess. This is still useful for designers and Web 2.0 developers to consider the design elements.
The sudden charge of Apple stock over the past two days due to rumor--yes, it's definitely rumor not fact--about the coming of a iPhone Nano, so soon after the recent iPhone launch is a quick study in swarm intelligence. As the Business2 blog indicates, this is an example of rumor going wild and spreading quickly.
Swarm intelligence, if you haven't heard of it, describes how very simple behaviors can amount to "smart" decision-making through the work of a swarm of individuals. This theory started originally in the study of how swarms of insects, birds, fish and other animals seem to make intelligent decisions with relatively simple brains. For example, how a school of fish know to move rapidly away in a direction of a predator seemingly all at once, or how ants know when it is time to rebuild their nest or send our foraging parties. Each creature is programmed with a few very basic rules of how to function: e.g. if one or more of my neighbors is suddenly turning and moving rapidly in a new direction, I should be too. They count on individual actions, and the propagation of reaction through the swarm.
Swarm intelligence is a form of collective intelligence, but when it hits humans, the complexity grows because of our seemingly greater decision making abilities. Collective intelligence is part of the spark of interest in the social networking side of Web 2.0. Swarm behavior exists in humans at a basic level, but we call it by a variety of other things like herd-instinct, mob behavior, market trends, crowd movement, flow, etc. There is a lot we can learn from this in SN: how folksonomies grow and change, how decision making happens in online groups, what causes idea propagation, etc.
In the iPhone Nano case, I can see several basic elements: recent excited activity, seed idea, association with recent activity, trusted parties doing research, publishing/syndication, amplification, individual and market reaction.
recent excited activity - Apple released its iPhone, one of the biggest 1st day successes in history, to an eager world
seed idea - several Apple blogs picked up on an Apple patent for a new use of their touchwheel to dial numbers
association with recent excitement - the idea could theoretically apply to the iPhone
trusted parties - Kevin Chang, an analyst in JP Morgan (a well known and trusted investment institution) came across this information
publishing/syndication - both the blogs and JP Morgan published or posted on this, and the trusted party information got syndicated to news organizations
amplification - news organizations everywhere jumped on this
individual reaction - individual investors saw this as good news for Apple in the longer term and started buying stock
market reaction - the individuals and institutions all around eventually pushed the Apple stock to new heights
This isn't all that different than one or two herring thinking they saw a shape seemingly like a predator salmon nearby and started shooting off, and the reaction propagating through the whole school. And we call schools of fish jittery. :)
This trend is well known by successful spindoctors and public relations organizations, and there is a whole industry of job roles behind it. Again, it sounds Machiavellian and controlling, but it really is how information flows.
In terms of social networks, we need greater understanding of what actually works in an online social environment, which is a different setting and may have different behaviors than live groups of folks.
I'm read HOW magazine's article on Small Medium Large--unfortunately only in print--talking about the shifts in design strategy. The article describes six shifts, but some of them seem strikingly similar. They suggestions echo our strategies in dW now.
Shift 1: Media are merging - the designer's role now spreads across multiple types of media and forms of design processes. I'm not sure this pertaining to our site, but we certainly look upon our users as more than just readers, and become contributors, collaborators, packagers, and critics, recommenders, and more, all impacting the processing and presentation of information.
Shift 2: Users are part of the process - no argument there. We are making this readily possible with the flexible layout of our spaces, and working to bring in more user-interaction and social tools.
Shift 3: Context and Conten are king - no arguments there. We do this already now, and are trying to combine with Shift 2 and 6 to enable even more
Shift 4: Scale is radically changing - I'm not sure how having a big screen TV pertains to our web site but I think the bigger point is to keep in mind the "three screens" (TV, web, and mobile devices).
Shift 5: Interactivity is changing - From single to social. Closed to open. Dumb to smart. We're definitely on for the first two. Dumb to smart points to software assistance and predicting of what steps to take next from previous experience, sort of like a recommendation engine. This is a complicated endeavor (I'll explain why later) but definitely worthwhile
Shift 6: Design is a group effort - perhaps its because our team has already progressed here, but bringing in end-users to evaluate and comment on a design seems like a basic requirement of all design activities. Things must have really sucked in the dark ages :)
I think they missed out on one point which may be relevant beyond justthe net: the world is becoming a smaller place and design needs toconsider global impact and address a global audience. Virtual friends,teams, businesses and markets all mean that people are coming in frommore directions and this means understanding cultural patterns andnorms across the globe. They also need to consider how the message is distributed on a global basis. Globalization of design is a tough one.
Otherwise, the common theme to me seems like being a designer now is a job shared by more people beyond just a design team, and even involving users in the process. However, at the same time, this means you need to design a system whereby it is easy for the user to get involved and affect design. This means creating the tools or mechanisms that allow them that capability, all while making it simple to do so. Thus, you provide the tools and a context on how the users can achieve their goals. There is also a lot more for designers to learn, and in this time of flux, to keep learning and training on new methods and processes. The job is getting harder by the day.
I missed out on Secondfest, a music festival on SecondLife that Intel recently sponsored together with the UK's Guardian newspaper. There were so many performers there, I'm surprised at the size of it. Even one of my long-time favorites, The Pet Shop Boys. This is a fairly large online event to organize and I'm pretty sure it takes a good concert promoter on the side of the bands too. It's hard to call this a UK thing when it's on SL. I think the promotion for it I'd like to try to find out who helped to organize this.
PS: Does the group Hadouken have anything to do with the old Capcom Street Fighter II games?
I was discussing with my enlightened other about fiction versus non-fiction books in particular business books versus fiction stories. The argument is that non-ficiton books have to be filled with facts to be of use, versus fiction which has to be entertaining. This means that fiction books take much more work to create because you have to think out a lot more of the plot in detail while a business book usually has a point and what you need is a proper series of facts to lead there. I beg to differ in that I feel that most business or technical books tend to achieve the "lower levels" of fact-filling but that doesn't necessarily make them a "good" or interesting book. The interesting ones are those that not only get the facts right but also have to tell a story in an interesting and appealing manner. To that regard, "good" non-fiction books of the like are in my view harder to do. The writer is hampered by details of facts, figures and sequence of events, which are, truth be told, sometimes as gripping as glossy paper covers the books come in.
Unfortunatley, I think this is lost among many business writers. I can consume probably about a 300-page business book in a week or less if it is really interesting, or a month if it not so, or even never if I find it just downright appalling. It seems like writing style is becoming even more significant these days with blogs, forms, and other social software. I'm not sure if anyone is teaching that beyond the do's an don'ts but I suspect is probably a new form of being an English major (not something I really know about).
That being said, I started working on my next book last week--I tend to have a "next" book in the works every other year--and already have about 55 pages in about 4 days; that's about 15% of the total page count that I feel a decent book should be. Now some people look at that as a sign of productivity, but I beg to caution folks that it matters more how useful that is versus how long it is. I'll probably end up with 2-3x the amount of pages than what I'll actually use.
Is there a point? Maybe what they say is true: more is not always better; better is always better.
This rings back to the most recent Pirates of the Carribean movie where at one point a whole fleet of pirate vessels at sea with their own pirate flags. It looked like they all shopped at that Pirate Museum gift store. Obviously the movie is fiction, with more attitude added to pirate life than reality, but sometimes you see just how fake it is. In terms of the actual movie, I still think the first of the three was still the best, with this third being far too overachieving in terms of plot, and direction. Overstimulation is sometimes just that. The characters behave as the director figured self-interested pirates would, meaning they would do whatever they needed to achieve their own goals, but at some point, it got far too complicated to keep straight who wanted what. Visually, they also tried far too much, pushing into ludicrous speed... yes, they went plaid.
A philosophical fantasy question and not one anyone may have been asking anyway I agree, but it's what I was contemplating when I looked at my father's day present: a Darth Vader bust cookie jar.... "[Look]... I am your father..'s day present..."
The headgear of Darth Vader is almost certainly based on the the war gear of samurai lords: their kabuto (helmet) and their mempo (face mask). In samurai days, these were both fanciful and practical. They were usually fairly artistically designed for the daimyo (lord) usually to inspire reverence or fear, as well as to indicate clan symbols. The fearful mask therefore is very apt for a Dark Lord of the Sith.
But that brings me back to my question, how would you equate the Sith in samurai terms. First of all, let's get some historical facts right, the samurai did have a strong sense of honor, but this did not generally make them benevolent. In today's terms, you might even call them single-minded and ruthless. Their sense of chivalry is not the idealistic romanticized version of Arthurian legends and European myth. In fact, those ideals are closer to the Jedi; the very clearly defined, although fairly blase, "good" side of the force. Samurai had the right to kill anyone of a lower class (farmers, artisans, merchants) and did not even need to have a motive. They fought the wars against other samurai based on what their lord indicated, and often that meant devastation to the rest of the population. So you can hardly call them similar to the Jedi. By rules of logic that invalidates my original premise but leaves the second part unanswered.
The Sith are the opposite of the "good" forces of the Jedi, bent on qualities we consider evil: absolute domination by force. In Arthurian legend, there generally was not an evil counterpart that was formalized to such a degree. Rather there were individuals like Mordred, who fought against Arthur, and therefore was considered the "evil" power-hungry opposite. So in principle there were equivalent there.
In Japanese historical culture there were three other categories: the ronin, warrior monks, and the ninja. The ronin were simply the "masterless ones", when a samurai lost their lord and hence no longer had someone to pay the bills or give allegiance to. Because there was such strong clan-alignment, it was unlikely you could simply be picked up by another daimyo, and therefore, without anything but their military skill, they often turned pauper or worse (in the old Japanese class system), into farmers or workers for the merchant class. Some did turn to crime but none of it is an institutionalized practice as the Sith model.
The warrior-monks were generally just a separate rank of folks in the clergy and by Zen ideals and pacifism, could hardly be considered "evil" like the Sith.
The ninja are perhaps the closest in a way. They were often paid for hire warriors who did the dirty and dishonorable work like assassinations and mayhem. A better description is perhaps outlaw not in the Jesse James in the the Cowboy-West sense, but as people who made their own rules separate from the rest of the law of the Japanese society (which in truth was very restrictive in history). They were an institution too in the form of ninja schools of thought and practices that trained an army of folks over the years. Yet, the goal of the historical ninja (versus TV-ninja or Internet-Ninja) tended to be more of mercernary intent rather than megalomaniacal domination like the Sith.
Looking back at other historical cultures, the Mongols, Chinese, Romans, English, Persians, and others were certainly bent on world domination (or at least their definition of the "world"), but one person's evil overlords are another's great and wondrous leaders, and vice versa.
So Vader, Sidious, and all Sith going back into the fantasy culture do not have an easy comparable. In fact, in terms of good writing, the black-and-white metaphorical comparison of Sith to Jedi, is quite overly simplistic and trite as concepts. It's fit for teenagers and kids but as you get older you realize there is a lot of grey and even good people do bad things at times, or vice versa, or are labelled bad or good depending upon who you ask.
CNN has a story on Wi-Max, the upcoming standard for high-speed wireless Internet access from anywhere on the Sprint network. It's a metropolitan area network (MAN) although that term isn't really used as much anymore. While I may not see it here for another two years, this 4G wireless service should eventually supplant the EVDO service Sprint has now. For all those iPhone users waiting in line to get their silly first generation device which can only get Cingular's EDGE speeds (around 50Kbps), the megabit speeds of Wi-Max would make it look like a very fancy horse-and-buggy, next to a 2007 Bentley Flying Spur. The device may be usable but when it comes to downloading anything for a browser or worse a movie, be prepared to be tragically disappointed. Even my current EVDO service beats that by a magnitude.
Truth is that Wi-Max will not beat 802.11g in terms of raw speed (54Mbps) for a local area network, but keep in mind that most Wi-Fi hotspots are limited by their outgoing bandwidth, usually a DSL or Cable modem that really limits it to perhaps 2Mbps at best, before it even reaches their ISP. Worse yet, this bandwidth is shared with others from the hotspot point to the net, so in most cases, you're lucky if you can get a few hundred Kbps. With Wi-Max the uplink/downlink goes straight to the provider's antenna, and from there (presumably) high-speed links in the hundreds of megabits. It's a shorter hop and a much larger outgoing pipeline. This is assuming that the provider like Sprint does the right thing and has those outgoing net links at high-speeds, not a 10Mbps line.
Per that CNN article, Craig McCaw is right: "...doing for the Internet what cell phones did for voice 20 years ago."
To put it in perspective, texting from phones may go the way of the sailboat--still around for some purposes, but generally replaced by other forms of travel. It may become replaced by live video clips directly between users: faster, and easier (although maybe not from under the table in the meeting room). Push-to-talk can become push-to-video. Projects like SecondLife and Google Earth (in 3D) could be incorporated into your phones with GPS to actually show you the path you need to take (like the batmobile in Batman Begins) or the location of your peers in buildings (like in just about any modern spy movie today). For the truly self-immersed, you could stream continously from your headset mounted video camera to your vlog site.
Right after the RSDC we went off for vacation in Key West, leaving the boy and my laptop with grandma, to get away from it all. After walking around for half an hour in the high humidity, sweating profusely we drop off our luggage at the nice Weatherstation Inn--a really nice Bed&Breakfast that we found and certainly more affordable than the hotels. We then go off in search of a good seafood lunch and find a decent restaurant. We opt to sit indoors in the airconditioning, which is much appreciated in the 80+ degree 90+ % humidity weather.
But of course, they put us in the middle with one table with three infants and children on one side, and another table where the adults spent the entire time talking about how they can take advantage of SecondLife... so much for getting away from it all.
As promised I've uploaded some snapshots of the new presentation theater for our briefings in SecondLife floating in the sky created by our own Jay Clark, that I caught with a cool sunset and moonrise on opposite sides of the theater. Hopefully, I'll see you there.
RSDC 2007 is over and I have a few hours to kill, probably by the poolside. It's a little warm and humid compared to Tucson but not too bad.
At the conference close, I sat with Frank Schophuizen, along time Rational ClearCase and ClearQuest user who recently started a new dW space on Configuration Management, and was asking what he should do to promote awareness of his space. He just started but has already populated it with a lot of information.
Anyway, justa few minutes after asking, our GM, Jim Corgell, pointed out his space to the large audience as an example of the level of involvement our customers were participating on our site. Very serendipitous.
Sometimes it's things these things shared by a key person at a key moment that make a difference.
I would link to his space right now but it's not easy to blog from IE on a mobile phone...possible but not easy... maybe I should switch to twitter for this.
The new space for the Rational Software Development Conference 2007 is now live and full of details and links to podcasts, announcements, SecondLife activities, Rational Tube, highlights from the dW Rational Zone, blogs, and more. We'll be updating this space during the week of the conference itself as it progresses.
I picked up my copy of The Starfish and the Spider again to look back at how they describe their approach to building a community. The book advocates a new view of decentralized and non-hierarchical organizations, systems, even software. The two creates refer to the hierachical organism (Spider) that can survive loosing some parts of its body but after a point dies, as compared against the distributed organism (Starfish) which even when cut into pieces, essentially break up into multiple separate and surving organisms.
The reference is directly apt to communities, and in this light relevant to our Spaces model. Essentially, it is a way of how a community can organize itself. Per the book, there are five elements that help to make such a system successful: circles, a pre-existing network, ideology, catalysts, and champions.
In our view, a Space is a virtual implementation of having a circle of people that allows them to interact in any number of ways their own circle see fit. This is the home room for the virtual membership to gather together, interact or share information.
The pre-existing network comes from the large membership--6 million the last I checked--that already exists in developerWorks. However, that's not the only place. We also expect to draw folks from other areas of the Internet, which is why syndicating information from your space is so important. While circles can survive losses of members, they still need some minimum level of participation to sustain the existence of the system; otherwise, rather than subdividing, your membership simply dissipates. This is why for the long-term it is important to try to recruit new members. Of course, that still depends upon the intentions of the circle itself; they may decide that the circle only needs to exist for a short-term. In our model, the syndication not only helps to share information, but also acts a way to potentially draw more members based on their interest. The potential candidates can judge for themselves if they like the output of the circle.
However, raw information from the circle is not enough to bind people together. This is why ideology is of value. Call it what you like: mission statements, guidelines, values, tattoos, etc. They represent the ideas that the circle hold of importance; their view in relation to the information. Such ideology is not always necessarily complex, or spelled out; they may even be too subtle to ascertain from the regular ruminations of those on the roster. A better organized group works to make sure that their ideology is made apparent. To help shape that ideology, you need catalysts and champions who help raise and direct the circle.
dW Spaces can help shape the circle and tap pre-existing networks. It can even help the circle describe and post their ideology. However, this is where the software meets the wetware. This is where the brains of the catalysts and champions play key roles. In other words, software alone is not to build communities. It helps to to facilitate them, but you still need the people working to bring it together.
Our view in developerWorks is to try to help these communities start and grow, and collect the ideas of what works well in different situations, to feed back into other communities. That's a long-term process as well. Even though, the staff at dW may not be directly be the catalysts and champions, we try to help new them by acting as a common resource to collect and distribute that knowledge. In big companies, that is often referred to as a center of excellence. While we don't call ourselves that, perhaps that is the role we fill.
Okay so it's not a Dire Straits song yet, but it's why I now need to send back the Moto Q I just picked up two days ago. The current Q only has IE for mobiles and doesn't support AJAX quite right (if at all). I tried downloading the Opera 9 browser and installing that on the Windows Mobile 5 OS on the Q, but it also doesn't seem to be working right. I'll try playing with it a little longer to see if I can get it to work.
So the Moto Q may have to go back while I wait for a version of the Moto Q q9 that runs on the CDMA network of Sprint's. Currently there's a GSM version called the q9h which will likely appear for GSM providers like AT&T/Cingular, etc. It also has a faster processor, a faster OS (Windows Mobile 6), a nicer 2Mpixel camera, and a micro-SD interface (rather than the harder-to-find-cards-for mini-SD interface). There are apparently some downsides like the loss of the scrollwheel, which I really like. There's a review on engadget and another on infoSync.
According to Motorola, the q9 is supposed to be released in this quarter (which ends in 3 weeks) but I have yet to see it for sale anywhere. Who knows when that CDMA version will appear, and I may be waiting for months. Who knows, perhaps Sprint will hold off for a WiMAX version of the q9, but that would mean a much longer wait for me. I'll keep my Moto Q for the next two weeks and see how it goes before my 30-day trial expires.
This looks like another busy day for phone calls, but an excellent time to test out the battery life of my new Moto Q and Plantonics pulsar stereo headset (see my previous post).
Yesterday, I tested out the phone to visit our podcasts and listen to some of our recent interviews, downloaded to the phone. I then left the phone in a spot and walked around for a while with the stereo wireless headset and it worked like a charm: the high-speed wireless network, the cellphone's browser, the freedom of wireless, and sitting on the hammock watching the stars listening to the podcast. The sound quality was excellent, both in terms of focusing the caller's voice (over background noise), and listening to audio playback from the net, the laptop, or the ipod. Next test today is skype and long hours of calls, to see how uncomfortable it can get and which dies first the battery in the cellphone or the headset.
Next week's trip to Rational Software Developer Conference 2007 in Orlando should be fun (quick infomercial). They have some great activities planned, including some new things by our own team:
We created a new space for RSDC at http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/spaces/rsdc, which won't be active until Sunday (or late Saturday night). It puts into a single view many of the activities around RSDC including Rational Tube, RSDC in SecondLife, and more (see the following)
We are presenting the IBM CODESTATION learn-and-play game in SecondLife, where you can learn to program bots to take the Labyrinth challenge and get into development in the SL environment. There's also an article right now on our site about just that. The presentations in the main tent for RSDC will also be played in SL. As before, you should download and install the free SecondLife client to visit these URLs.
IBM Rational has also launched the community video site Rational Tube, asking users the question What makes you Rational? in keeping with this year's theme and where anyone can create and post a short video. There are number of interesting videos by Scott Ambler (self-professed crazy agile Canadian :) ), Grady Booch, and lots of execs and all the usual suspects from IBM Rational. There's also this cool one by iRise on Formula One raching and Rational RequisitePro (huh? what's the connection, you ask?), and comedian Mitch Fatel.
There are tons more things which I'll span out over several posts and try to keep updated from my phone while I'm at the show. I'll be at the developerWorks booth on Monday and Tuesday; so if you're attending, drop on by. Hats seem to be a theme, so I might wear my Crab hat.
Right after my last post, I noticed two different things which are pushing the envelope of network computing: Google Gears, and the Palm Foleo.
Techcrunch's story on Google Gears describes it as the step that allows online webware to also work offline through a plug-in for your browser. Whether this actually solves that particular problem for a range of practical apps still remains to be seen but it's a piece that has been missing for a while.
Crave has a story on the recently demoed Palm Foleo, a new device that is not a UMPC (by Microsoft's definition) that works almost entirely as a thin client ultraportable laptop, that does the bare essentials of a web browser based interface that connects through WiFi or Bluetooth (to use a cellphone as a modem). The instant-on feature rather than a boot-up process is sweet, something that UMPCs still miss out on.
I'm fairly mobile for a telecommuter. Not in the sense that I have to constantly fly around to different cities. These days, I'd say I'm becoming more of the average remote worker, when before I was fairly ahead of the pack. Now I'm trying to get back to truly having an unwired work environment.
First change, a better cellphone. For all its capabilities, the Treo is still just too fat. It's certainly come a long way; years back I tested the very first generation pdQ (joint venture of Qualcomm and Palm) which was a total brick, felt almost twice the size in very dimension of the Treo today; (the Kyocera version is second or third generation of the pdQ). With Sprint the only decent non-Blackberry option I have right now seems to be the MotoQ (yes, I think Ed Zander's company needs a break these days). So that'll be the first trial. Nothing unusual there; the Q has been around for a while. The Samsung BlackJack might be nice, but I'm still looking to stick with Sprint because of I'm waiting for 4G to come around. Oh, and I'm gonna try the Seidio double extended battery. Even with the double thickness battery, it is still thinner by a few mm than the Treo, and only the battery compartment. I even tried blogging from the Q and the page loads up fast enough for it to actually work.
Oh if 4G would show up already and with a good phone and fair price tag... Sprint is still working on its WiMAX rollout starting in Chicago and DC and it's unlikely to come to our area till 2009 or after, I'm afraid.
Also to go with that is a bluetooth stereo headset (two over the ear cones with attached mike). This wired headset I have now just wastes time and adds frustration packing, unpacking. Plus something is starting to fail with it. The trade off for easy access is a limit to battery life. For a regular workday of about 4 hrs continous calls at minimum, the Plantronics Pulsar 590 seems like a good choice to test out which I found for less than half price online.
The laptop data access is another element. I need a separate service than use my phone as a modem since I'll be doing both simultaneously fairly often. I've been paying for T-Mobile access and scoping free WiFi sites, but with the IBM discount on Sprint service plans their unlimited traffic high-speed broadband wireless EVDO Rev A service comes out to cost the same. Better yet, I'm not stuck within limits of a single cafe. Back in 1998-99 I used to have the cellphone data service but it was far too slow for the multimeg files I have to send around daily. I'm hoping the 400-500Kbps up-transfer speed for this will actually work out for my needs. In another two years or so, I can bother looking into their 4G offering but this sounds good for now.
As for the computer itself, I think I'll stick with the laptop size and full keyboard rather than try to UMPCs. I realized just how much typing I do, and will have to (another book coming up). So the small keys just slows me down (and that again just adds to my frustration). This Thinkpad T60 works well enough for me now and even higher-end graphics needed for SecondLife seems to work--if I don't have my regular set of 15 application instances running simultaneously. The next one I might consider would be the convertible/tablet laptops, sacrificing some screen space for more versatility to draw images and diagrams.
Assuming I get kitted out well enough, it makes me wonder why businesses aren't paying more attention to a future (possibly idealistic) situation of access-from-anywhere in terms of their software environments too. This harks back to the notion of running apps over the net entirely... reminds me of my days at NC World magazine arguing for moving to network-based computing.
IBM, Strikeiron, Kapow and Dapper are supporting a new mashup camp and contest on July 19th in Silicon Valley called the Business Mashup Challenge. The goal is to have a two day event where developers can get together for the camp and create different mashups right there and then using the Contest Development Environment (CDE) to do the assembly and publishing of your mashups. There is money and prizes for the winners. The assembly and consumption of services and some of the widgets apparently works through the QEDwiki project (try it out on alphaWorks Services) which is part of the CDE.
We launched our developerWorks Spaces project at the Web 2.0 Expo last week. The page has more information including a video and an interactive tour of what the project is all about, but in quick summary: with our spaces system, you now have the opportunity to create your own community microsite around a topic, project or other activity for developers that can bring together multiple social networking tools, any of the developerWorks articles or tutorial content, or any RSS feed from across the Internet. We provide an easy web-based tool for you to create the community topic space and publish it to share with everyone. Please visit the URL for the project to see how you can apply for your own space.
I will also share information about the project in a webcast this Wednesday on April 25th, 1-2pm Eastern Time. This 1 hour long joint webcast together with the Software as a Service (SaaS)team is available through the IBM PartnerWorld webcasts as Social Networking and Software as a Service. It's a free webcast but requires registration to use the tool to see the slide presentation, the demo, the Q&A, and polls.
Conference season is in full swing now. I have three of them to attend/present at.
First up, Web 2.0 Expo next week in San Francisco. I went to the Web 2.0 Summit in November which was a much smaller crowd than what's expected this time as a full exhibition. We're getting ready for it with a booth for a number of new things from IBM, including both a developerWorks and an alphaWorks pedestal. I will be at the booth much of the time alongside several others from our development team. We also have a nice min-theater at the IBM booth, to present at.
Then comes an internal IBM summit on Web 2.0 at the beginning of May, which means more presentations and good chance to meet up with the many folks across IBM working in this area.
Somewhere in there is all the regular work. I'll be gone on vacation after the Rational conference spending some time in Florida just to relax.
I think it's best described by Karl Hyde of the music group Underworld, it takes Two Months Off to really relax and be on vacation. I don't think I can convince my manager to let me have that though :)
Wired Magazine's recently issue talks about radical transparencyas a new trend in the industry. However, I think this is more of a buzzword-rallying-piece rather than more well-known customer-driven innovation business concept. Industry congnoscenti, Patricia Seybold aptly describes some of the goals, issues and processes involved in her book last year Outside Innovation (see my book list). I stil have to find time to finish reading the last chapters of it but I think it does a great job presenting the topic in a more useful manner.
Scott, our podcast editor, did a nice podcast interview with folks from the James Webb Space Telescope project in January. The project plans to replace the Hubble Space telescope with a new system orbiting much farther out (1 million miles!) about four times beyond the moon. Even the IBM.com main site picked up the story recently (and did a beautiful job with presenting it).
Per my previous post about Playstation Home, the rumor mill is hitting full steam. From what I understand now, companies will be able to develop for this new virtual world by partnering with Sony. So in other words, it may have the programmability of SecondLife but in a different fashion. Jay's also gathering info on the PS Home.
Sony is used to partnering with game development houses only for their Playstation environments. This kind of development can involve a build environment in conjuction with a game unit simulator that also supports debugging and large-scale development. I have never worked in this environment but the last I heard, it works with the Eclipse environment. In any case, theirs is not an open development environment and you essentially have to join their partner program to be able to do such work. This and the much higher cost of entry for developers and customers ($600+ PS3) creates some hurdles for them.
Obviously they really need to have a compelling offer and in this case, visually at least the PS Home looks appealing. Programmatically, it's value is still to be determined. With IBM's support in terms of the cell processor, I'd think we would be thinking of working with this environment too, but I am not privy to such information either so I can just speculate.
In any case, there are also two types of development involved here: application (or prim) programming and the 3D visual design. The 3D design is outside my skill level; I've done 3Ds of buildings before, but you really need to become immersed and practised with the tools for a while to become a good artist and I'm just not that caliber. This should translate to either Secondlife or Playstation Home, since these visual objects are fairly standardized in the industry. The app programming however, is definitely specific to the world.
Nintendo's Mii, on the other hand, is slightly different animal. From what I gather, essentially it allows you to edit/update characters and the environment of existing games. This to me is more like what WindowBlinds does to the Windows desktop environment, i.e. customize an existing system. This is particularly different than a MMO environment where you can build new things, exist in a mass population, and it is not centered around the structure or rules of an existing game. Another way to look at it is what tuners do to cars. You can improve the car vastly or personalize it to the extreme, but in the end, you usually still end up with a car. (but sometimes also a nightclub, a performance stage, a giant dinosaur, etc.)
So I don't really consider the current Mii and Mii channel comparable to Secondlife or PS Home. Please do prove me wrong.
After about 4-5 hours of sleep the previous night, I was still in reasonable shape to do my presentation at the 3rd Developer Relations Conference hosted by Evans Data Corp. This is a gathering of the folks who run developer programs at different technology companies, with speakers from Sun, Nokia, BEA Systems, Eclipse, Motorola, Yahoo!, HP Software, Intel, Borland, AMD, and many more (and of course ourselves from IBM). It seems an anachronism to have an event where all these companies that are competing for many of the same developers to share knowledge but I think it opens minds and views all the same.
My presentation was Extending your developer network with Web 2.0 communities, discussing what you need to know about communities to pick the right kind of Web 2.0 tools for yours. For all the organizations that may go headlong into setting up blogs, wikis, etc., and even multiple competing instances, without really understanding the communities they are trying to create, I hope this talk gives provides some food for thought. (The powerpoint works best in slideshow mode: F5).
I attended a few of the other sessions but the one I found refreshing was Chad Dickerson's talk about Hack Day at Yahoo! Chad's a Sr Director at Yahoo and responsible for organizing the internal Hack Days, and more importantly, the external Hack Day last June. I had missed this event entirely (busy with my then-8-month pregnant wife). They essentially opened up the Yahoo campus to 400 developers from all over who agreed to come and spend 24 hours developing new projects and mashups using Yahoo's many APIs. The format was what intrigued me:
Developers could come from anywhere but they had to agree to code, and not just be an observor
The developers actually camped out on the Yahoo lawn and ate and slept there for a day or two--even people like David Filo stayed till the wee hours of the morning
An unconference model where people signed up for any project that they thought of, led initially by talks about the APIs themselves
Yahoo employees roamed around the developers and stayed with them through the night
They had Beck give a performance there, which was quite appropriate considering he'd just appeared on the September 06 cover of Wired
The Legal departments agreed to let the developers keep whatever rights to their own code (seems the right choice but hard to accept by legal teams sometimes)
People could make whatever projects they wanted to work on, although at times, it raised some eyebrows
Now this is very obvious customer-led innovation. For all the executives and analysts that like to throw that term around, this model is the concept implemented in what I think is its truest form. I applaud Chad and the Yahoo team for doing the right thing and having the guts to put this together. Read more from the TechCrunch blog soon after the event. Here's hoping to the same success again this year.
I think it was inevitable that something like this would emerge: a top console maker integrates with the Internet and start creating online communities, to combine its graphics system, user-to-user interaction and build a following.
And it looks like Sony has beat the others in the race with its announcement of the Playstation Home. It leverages the enormous power of the PS3 to render truly gorgeous graphics. News of it is already starting to make the rounds as a serious contendor to other 3D MMO systems like SecondLife. Since I missed the Game Developers Conference last week, but I believe it was announced according to this article.
Since I haven't actually tried it, it is difficult to tell how well it works over a network link. Also, graphics aside, it still remains to be seen what you can do inside this virtual world. From reports, it is much more like a true-3D system competitive to Cyworld, where users have homes they can decorate, buy stuff online, etc. and used primarily for socializing with friends. There's no word about programmability or if there is a way to develop new items or objects within the world, as you can in SecondLife. This is what has helped make SL so popular, and has contributed to its growth. Plus, it's free. On the other hand Sony certainly has a huge marketing machine, an established base of fans, and a network of games that could integrate with it. This might even give MySpace a run for its money in terms of social spaces.
Is this the death knell for SecondLife or MySpace? Let me know what you think.
It's interesting to see the evolution of reward mechanisms in MMORPGs. In multiplayer situations, it is often difficult to tell who completes a task when there are a number of steps involved. For example, in a raid on WoW against a single monster, who gets recognition for the kill when it takes 40-80 people working as a team to kill that beast? It's defined now in WoW but this same problem existed all the way back to the days of text MUDs.
In the first generation, essentially there was no thought involved in this. Whoever made the killing blow got the points for the kill. Very primitive and the cause of many an argument. The next few improvements--it came in several different ways--was to add a list on the create being attacked where it kept track of who the attackers were and distribute the points based on how many points of damage each person made on the creature, so the distribution of experience points for the kill was more even. WoW provides a newer version of this whereby each person engaged in the raid gets dollars per kill, which once the creature was dead, they could spend to buy the reward items.
However, this still raises a problem when there are items that several people want to share from the common pool of rewards. In the people-administrative way, the guild--there's usually a guild involved--makes a decision on who gets what. This is where it breaks down again: what happens when there is an item so unique that the top contendors or leaders will argue for it. As my friend Eric described, that is the death knell of many a guild.
If you think this is a situation limited to MMORPGs and games, you're mistaken. This same situation exists when you have a community that is working for a shared goal, and there is some reward that needs to be distributed across the membership. In team scenarios in corporate environment, that is not very different than negotiations for annual bonuses. The differentiating factor is that in MMORPGs as in other communities, the group of people are not part of a single formal organization with defined managers and advocates. Instead it is up to each person to argue their own case. In other words, it is even more difficult in communities.
I don't have any answer here, but it is important to recognize that the situations are similar here, and compare what methods of distribution or approaches people take.
Two other ideas from The Starfish and the Spider (see earlier post; book list) as the foundation of peer-developed community are: circles and pre-existing network.
The concept of a circle stems from how most peer groups (small social network) start: with a small group of folks. This is the very old idea of clans, tribes and even villages. Jared Diamond's excellent book Guns, Germs and Steel, describes how these groups originated in primitive human societies. The fact is that this is still the way many communities start, but of course, with a different purpose than survival. The small group allows the members to get to know each other on a more personal level, become familiar with their interests, and what they want to work on together. This relationship building on a one-on-one basis in a small circle greatly improves the bonds between members and allows that social network to exist.
Per my previous scale, a social network exists when the members know each other and have a vague or a definite idea of why they want to meet, but do not formalize the group with an identity. This means that the group in a social network tends to fall apart as enough people leave, since it only exists based on the individual relationships between the people; once those relationships are broken, the group breaks apart entirely. A community however, has an identity separate of the individual relationships, so the chances are that it can exist without the original members as long as there are enough people who know how to carry on the community.
The value of the small circle is the relatively tight bonds that exist (or the circle just wouldn't last very long). As more members join in, they look to the original circle for guidance and leadership. This is a basis for a stronger community. Having such circles makes it possible to build a community from ground up. There are some prerequisites, many of which are obvious when it comes in-person circles, but harder to implement in virtual circles:
regular meeting times
easy ways to communicate directly with other members one-on-one
easy ways to communicate directly with others as a group
understanding nuances, facial expressions, body expressions, etc.
By having these prereqs, the circle is able to stabilize around what each member may know about the others, and thereby the basis for building relationships. Obvioulsy, you still need the other elements like Catalysts, Champions, Ideology, etc. but those either initiate the group (catalyst) or emerge from the group (champions, ideology).
This may be the basis for a circle/small social network, but it is still different from large social networks and communities.
As part of a personal project, I've started learning JSPs and Servlets. My first thought was to go into Rational Software Architect and start modeling out what I had in mind. Without really looking into it I went into standard class modeling. Then downloaded Tomcat to start work on the actual JSPs, and which then led me to download Eclipse 3.2--I don't know why I didn't think of checking into how I could build JSPs with RSA, but I think it was to be able to get something that the students can use. This is a project for the students but I realized later through our Academic Initiative (when you sign up), they can get a copy of RSA for student development projects anyway; (or the 30-day eval off our site)
This probably sounds like a commercial but, to make it short, the Eclipse basic tooling to create JSPs in a Dynamic Web project is pretty simplistic; enough to get you an editor and get working. The visual modeling in RSA is just so much easier to use (supplemented by the text editor for the scripts) for planning and layout. The relevant HTML tags, JSP elements, and even JSF (which I haven't used yet) is there too. Now, I just need a whole lot of practice.
As I read a part of Brafman and Beckstrom's The Starfish and the Spider, it struck me how similar some of its ideas are to Douglas Atkin's The Culting of Brands (see my list of Books on Communities). I'm going to have to cross reference some of this again later but both describe at least one common element necessary for building successful peer networks (starfish), or brands (culting of brands): ideology.
Brafman & Beckstrom's book talks about having a shared ideology amongst the members of the peer network. This could mean several things from having a core sense of values to a shared sense of purpose to a shared direction (each different things). However, they do not point out the specifics like Atkin's does:
How do you motivate people towards this ideology?
Showing the love, as they say
A statement of value
Shared iconography and symbolism
It's not hard to see why they don't because in a pure-play peer network there is no centralization that develops these ideas. They are amongst one of those nebulous things like asking someone why they like Harley's, swordfighting, anime, open source software, Apple Inc., etc., aside from technical details. Loyalty is an implicit and hard to define element, whether it is an organized program, or a decentralized community.
On occassion, when you get enough mass, some of them will try to write down what these are--the Apache foundation went through this, but so sometimes so do the many community folks who start to write a FAQ--but each group goes through a rediscovery process of these ideas.
My view is that communities grow by their own efforts, not on a very focused path, but evolve over time and stabilize at a certain point. Some of the really successful ones actually start off because they are not something else (as in not the mainstream), which often predicates that they do not look into how other communities form. By trying to break into a new direction, they tend to leave all other ideas behind.
The other part is that a truly decentralized community tends to follow leadership (another hard to define quality), and not only does this change over time, but not all our leaders know how to organize a loose network of people such as a community. Without this kind of understanding, it becomes a harder process of successes and failures, and rediscovery of the same ideas.
I've finally had a chance to look at Many Eyes, a new project from the CUE lab in IBM. The service itself is running and you can try out the application on alphaWorks Services. Think of it as a charting and data visualization tool, similar conceptually to the chart tool in Excel, but much richer and available as an online application. The types of visualizations include: World & US maps, Line graphs, Stack graphs, Bar charts, Block histograms, Bubble charts, Scatterplot, Network diagrams, Pie chart, Treemaps, and more.
The Network diagrams example below is conceptually similar to CNet's The Big Picture portlet (provided by Liveplasma) on this example page. You create a spreadsheet of names or topics and list the relationshps between each entry, typically in a big matrix. CNet also does Treemaps under What's Hot.
I posted an example of a network diagram from Many Eyes below. This is only a thumbnail to go to the actual tool itself, but its a start. I really wish I could embed the actual applet in here somehow.
The books just don't stop coming. I've found three more titles that may be worth reading in relation to online communities and the evolving notions around them: The Starfish and the Spider, Wikinomics, and The Wealth of Networks. (See my amazon list for link info).
The first book focuses more on the ideas of spreading organizational behavior from a top-down model to a non-centric or peer-networked model. This sounds like an interesting idea for organizations with many peers doing similar jobs (e.g., consulting), but I have yet to read it to understand how it works on a large scale operation.
Wikinomic's from Don Tapscott is likely a must read for me to learn more from this semi-socialogical study of wiki behavior.
The Wealth of Networks was on the list of best books of 2006 from the magazine Strategy+Business, alongside other books like The Long Tail (also on my amazon list). It takes a macroscopic look at peer-networking inside and outside organizations, and the impact of those relationships on a business.
Crave has a story from Demo 07 on a new invention by a startup called Zink, with Polaroid's help, is making it much easier to print photos without a large inkjet, thermal, laser, or other ink-based printing mechanisms. Think of it as a new millennium version of the old Polaroid paper. The paper itself is a polymer that has multiple color layers that are heated by a print head to create the actual colors. Here are more details from Zink. This means that rather than a separate printer from your digital camera, you could actually integrate it right into the camera, as well as other devices such as laptops, UMPCs, iPods, etc. Purely brainstorming, you could even integrate it into home electronics equipment like your TV -- there has been at least one attempt at integrating an inkjet into a TV before -- even your fridge (for that list of stuff to get from the grocery store). The limiting factor is having enough space to store the size and quantity of photo paper in the device.
(courtesy: Zink, Crave blog)
Of course, this is a different business model than what HP and other companies have. Most printer companies focus on the financial side of selling ink cartridge's rather than the printer itself to make the most money. So printers have become relatively cheaper with technology and ink much more expensive. Here the model still exists but the paper itself may be the profit margin. Zink suggests 100 sheets for US$19.95. I can't tell who makes the paper but I can guess that Polaroid might just get a new lease on life here.
The question remains if you still have to wave it around in the air for 15 minutes before you can see something visible on the paper.
As I woke up this morning, there was more snow all around. Last night's snowing stopped after about an hour and melted but we got fresh snow early in the morning. Everything is till clouded over to the point that we can only see a mile away. Snow here happens maybe twice a decade but I've only seen this much snow in town once before. It's nothing by Minnesota standards but here it's probably the most snow in town in two decades.
Baby's first snow (okay, I 'm having more fun than he seems to be there :)
I've been looking into ways of staying mobile with less the burdens of hercules upon my back, a.k.a. my ThinkPad. I use the laptop often enough that I carry two 9-cell batteries plus a drive bay battery which I can drain in a single day. I don't like carrying the power connector because that is rarely possible to use where I go.
So the search has been around a smaller or lighter form factor that can still do all my work. As with the dreams of any child, I want it all: powerful enough to run ten applications, high-speed network access, usable keyboard and mouse/trackpoint, a good docking solution at my desktop, long running and replaceable batteries, and decent graphics/video quality.
I've been looking at the new category of Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs), a smaller form factor for PCs that still run a full desktop system. These tend to be be about the size of a thick paperback book and range around 2 pounds. The screens are small by even the ultralight laptop category, but the idea is not for many hours of laptop use. Most of my research was easily facilitated by Dynamism.com, which sells any of these models and other mobile devices.
(Image: courtesy Sony.com)
The only one I have seen first hand is the Sony UX series,which are quite decent with a good video screen, which, from this imagefrom the Sony site. is certainly bigger than their PSP (probably 50-75%more screen at 4.5inches) yet still usable in two hand mode. Thekeyboard is below the slide out screen, with chiclet-like keys. It onlyhas Wifi/WLAN, and no WWAN options, a 1.2GHz Centrino processor. Thelarge capacity battery claims up to 9.5 hrs of life. It even has not one but two video cameras (0.5MP and 1.3MP).
The first new one I've read about is the Samsung Q1 just recently released which is a tablet UMPC only and requires a separate USB keyboard. There's a virtual keyboard. The larger 7" screen belies the fact that there is only a 900MHz Celeron M or a 1 GHz Pentium M in it and the graphics rez is lower. (Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
The real winner in my book is the newly announced OQO 02, from a relatively unknown company but a system that is relatively more powerful than the others. The 5" screen is partway between the two others, and while the screen rez is 800x480 (with zoom/pan up to 1200x720), what's really interesting is that it can output up to 1920x1200 over and external HDMI/DVI connection, even . This is awesome for a desktop replacement. The 1.5 GHz VIA C7M is a cpu I'm not familiar with but I'm guessing it is a variant on the Celeron. Like the others it can have 1GB of RAM but no separate video RAM. Max battery claim is 6hrs, which is good enough. Best of all it has an optional WWAN using Sprint's mobile broadband EVDO Rev A service, meaning access anywhere on the Sprint EVDO network (with the right unlimited plan of course at around $60) at 400-700Kbps. Of course, there's still Wifi and Ethernet too.
(Image: courtesy Dynamism.com)
I think the OQO trumps the others, but they are all fairly good. I don't know how useful the small keypads but I have managed to write an entire article over my Treo before. The question is if it is still practical on more regular mobile use: lots of email, make powerpoints, lots of reading (on the small screen); or would I still need a full USB keyboard to go with it, just to make it less burdensome.
The price for any of these is not cheap: ranging around $2k. For that price, I could get a well set up lightweight convertible/tablet PC with a larger 12" screen. This makes me wonder if the form factor is really that much of a saver. I certainly can't put it in my pants pocket, although a larger jacket pocket may work. I don't fly significantly but when I do travel for work, I do tend to have the laptop out (2+ hr flights); which is a real pain. What is heavy these days is carrying about 12lbs of laptop gear (at minimum) plus additional dead-tree material of 1-5 lbs, almost every other day, and walking a lot. (The walking is good exercise but carrying a heavy laptop bag is not for me or my back.)
Sometimes I wish I'd stuck to my old job as an independent product reviewer and writer, with the bennys of getting to take one of these for a spin (and getting paid for it). Oh well...
"I have recently entered SecondLife, out of curiosity of this new medium. Many people consider it nothing more than a 3D chatting/dating environment. IBM is not even taking communities on dW seriously, such as the discussion forum community. Why should IBM then be interested in this 3D virtual world of chatting/dating? Graphics are far less then the (2D) websites, information is much harder to publish or to find. Everybody is already hating spam mails and ads on websites. What does make SL so special for IBM??? Or are we going to sit (our avatar) in virtual classrooms or meeting rooms? Why not simply use IM (instant messaging, like Sametime), netmeeting, webcams, Skype, phones and other real-life interaction/communication mediums."
This is only my dime-store psychology at work: I think one big advantage over SL is that it takes into account that most humans are visual animals. If you can see something moving around and doing things, then it is probably "real". However, when it's a post left by someone that doesn't give an indication of who that person is, what else they are doing, etc., it is much more easy to ignore them.
When just read the information on a community site and ignore the actual person who writes it (happens very often), it becomes only a piece of data, and you evaluate it in terms of the value of the data, rather than the value of the person. Unless you are a frequent reader of that site, you may not pick up on names; people tend to ignore or forget names unless something really sticks out about the person, and online with aliases, nicknames, etc. it is easier to ignore them. The first impression is that you may not know who this person is; if you have an opinion about them, you still don't really know what others think about them. Unless you really spend the time (very rare) to get to know a specific person, you essentially take the interaction for the face worth of the data they provide.
What I'm talking about here is the underlying social capital of trust. It is more difficult to trust an unknown source especially with little background, little peripheral knowledge around that person, limited ways of finding out what else they know or have contributed, little understanding of their relationships with others, limited or disjointed contact with the person, etc. This overall potential but disjointed relationship is hampered by the fact that most online community services are not live. This also sort of explains why some live services are even more successful: instant messaging, online chatrooms, MMOGs, videoconferencing, and secondlife.
Of course, when I say "live" in the online world, I mean it only in thecontext of direct communication within a given session rather thannecessarily an actual face-to-face. With a live service, you can (or at least attempt to) directly communicate with the other person, rather than build up a relationship through separate deferred messages back and forth via email, postings, comments, etc. The more live you get the better your chances for building a connection with the other person and probably faster too.
On the other hand, most people do not have the time to build many relationships and a live meeting takes up direct individual time, and will probably require a number of sessions before such communication becomes any form of a relationship. This is the classic battle between the need to develop relationships and the need to preserve our own time. It's also why deferred communications through postings, etc., counts as the next best thing. And hence we start with basic communication services like discussion forums (focused purely on deferred messages to a group).
What is needed however, is to try to flesh out the deferred interactions, or bring in more aspects of "live-ness". A step up is a blog, which is still deferred but may give you agreater understading about the person (blogger) based on their thoughtsand writings. To get more information about the person, they should have a profile that describes their background. Another direction is a wiki: while deferred, it allows people to change the content in a pseudo-live way, rewriting each others material as they care to. Another really helpful tool is a peer-to-peer rating system, so you can understand what people think of the person's contribution in their various engagements around the community. Finally, having actual live online services that they can attend on occassion or on demand, fills it out.
All these combine to give a once anonymous other person, a greater depth and personality, and a basis to consider whether this person, not just their knowledge, is worth making a connection with.
I'm not sure I answered Franks question, but this "live-ness" is part of it. Add on top of it, the ability to create, and enrich the environment with more tools and "feathering" to make it an appealing environment to communicate, gives Secondlife a much greater depth in terms of community building.
But, what Frank points out, and what I indicated about time-restrictions of live activities, remains true. Most information is and probably will always be in text. So, no matter how fancy a visual environment you have, without text content, it may lack sufficient information to learn from others. In other words, secondlife may never truly replace the web, since deferred communications ("do it on my time, not yours") and text ("easy to create info") is still the primary choice.
Sorry to say to all those who dream of living in the Matrix, but when it comes to gathering information, you'll still need the realm of text (until we evolve enough to dispose of text entirely). You can talk to people, and interact as much as you want, but the most common way may still be in reading the information.
To me the idea of SecondLife was only a dream back in 1992, when text-based MMOGs were available. Even then, there were many MUDs, MOOs, etc. where players eventually got bored of playing the hack-n-slash life and switched more to socializing and creating. The lands I created in lpmud using a derivative of the C programming language inside the game is a similar notion to Lindenscript in SL now. Of course, with a text-basis, you did not have the sheer coolness of a 3D world. But that came back to bite me when I tried SL programming. While I can do the programming, I'm pretty lousy & slow with 3D graphics. That and my lack of time just made me give up (too easily I'm afraid).
My own scripting woes aside, it's the change from game-playing to game-making that made those programmable MUDs really fun. I don't want to say it's a bit of growing up but for me it was a switch from entertainment to using my skills. Not everyone wants to do that and even those who didn't want to play but still returned to the game to socialize points to the need for a different kind of environment: the same that SecondLife is suited for.
What's more, by taking the game aspect out of SL, it allows those of the non-gamer generation (per that book) to relate even better. My guess on what sold companies on getting involved in SL is not just the 3D factor, the programmability, the multi-user environment, etc., but because it is a transition environment between the two generations. Gamer-gen folks can work on this and still explain to their non-gamer gen bosses and seniors that it's okay because "It's not a game." That may sound silly, but the reality is that the non-gamer gens generally still consider games a waste of time, so anything that suggests that it is a game is most likely not worth the attention, and that the gamer employees are probably slacking off.
I bring this up because it is not limited to SL and the like, but even to other community & web 2.0 services. This same parallel exists in situation when a developer becomes an active member of a discussion forum, a chat, a wiki or are blogging . One common first assumption is that they are slacking off, rather than the reality that they may be building better relations than what you pay loads of money to communications, marketing and PR departments for, or even make the right connections to help them in their work.
Very often they are asked to justify themselves spending their time in such activities, in terms of some sort of results: solutions, work products, clientelle, etc. The difficulty lies in the fact that the benefits that they get from communities is building social capital, which itself is an intangible and variable product. You'll find dozens of books that all talk about the value of social capital in business, but it is still hard to measure and compare. But then again some folks have figured out (somewhat) complex ways of determining other intangibles like productivity, loyalty, coolness, etc., so I think there is hope yet for some form of measure.
After all, if we are fixated on results-driven and measured processes for everything, we would definitely need a way to describe that. Enough for now, I'll gab about some ways of measuring this in other posts.