Carol Jones mentioned the Ariadne project in her recent blog post which I find very, very interesting.
It uses graph theory (Computer Science) to help draw a call-graph between the people involved in a project. This is just the kind of tool one could use to build a Friend-of-a-Friend or Degrees-of-separation system. This application focuses on the relationships between developers working on an Eclipse project, but the ideas could be extended for determining the relationships in any network.
Community and social computing
I was reading an article by Om Malik in the current Dec 05 issue of Business 2.0, called The Return of Monetized Eyeballs. In essence it's talking about the fact the buyers are once again valuing the ideas of pageviews and monthly unique visitor counts.
They refer to recent purchases like MySpace.com (sold to News Corp.) for about $580 million for their 40 million registered members.
Apparently, the current value for a single unique monthly visitor hovers around $38. Using that value, they determined (amongst others):
If you are curious how dW stacks up, using the 2 million unique visitors each month stat from the an October 2005 news item, we would be about $76 million, based on those visitors to our online site alone. [FYI: dW does a lot more than just the online sites].
At least they do point out that not all pageviews are alike. I'd add to that not all unique visitors are alike either.
So next comes some ideas of how to measure community activity relative to these industry metrics...
Good business plans delivers on results, and to get results you first have to be able to determine what they should be and be able to measure them. Ie seen many business operations that aren quite sure what results they are supposed to be delivering, or have no easy way to measure those results. They end up not really progressing or succeeding in the long run.
With the new territory that is Web 2.0, this comes sharply into view. Organizations that implementing or running Web 2.0 services like blogs, forums, wikis, and other social interaction systems, all need to know how to measure them and what measurements are meaningful. At least wee lucky that in the online world, collecting data and doing business analytics can be more automated.
Many companies already agree that for Web sites (Web 1.0) you need to be able to determine pageviews (PVs), and unique monthly visitors (UVs) as your two key metrics, to determine the success of the site.
But now consider what Web 2.0 is about and think about if those metrics still give meaningful information. If youe an organization like ours where our Community has a wide range of Web 2.0 services, how do compare those metrics between that of a forum and from a blog? Does it even make sense do that when what youe really interested in are things more like: How vibrant or healthy is our community? Who do people interact with? Is our communtiy self-supporting or do we have to do a lot to keep it alive? How much does it cost us to support our community?
My idea on this is that PVs and UVs are too low-level to answer these questions, and we need another level of metrics beyond that which Il call participation metrics. These metrics are used to try to answer the questions, or at least get a sense for what those levels are.
Now, the catch: How do determine participation metrics in a Web 2.0 system when even the ways people participate are very different between blogs, forums and other services?
The key, I think, is to go back to social network theory and the core ideas of collaboration; in particular, the idea of relationships between the members of any social network or community. It fairly easy to quantify a relationship, but it very hard to determine the quality of the relationship.
In this case, I focusing on the quantity of relationships, as well as the population mixes. Taking dW as an example, there are many ways of looking at our population but the one that interests me here is the relationships between a consumer and a producer. Simply said, you can look at four main population segments:
Thus, you can create a matrix of sorts here based on the interaction activity going on a specific area:
You can go on defining more and more based on every (repeatable) use-case you can think of. More significantly, what this does is coaslesce together all the Community uses that generally contribute to specific relationships. While not entirely accurate, you could generalize that each use case mostly contributes to one or two types of relationships.
Thus, you develop a mapping across your entire landscape of interaction types for participation metrics based on relationships. If you have multiple communities (or dozens like dW has), you could limit the scope of the data to all service uses relevant to a specific community (e.g., IBM Rational ClearCase community) or specific set of communities (e.g., all IBM Rational communities), or you could look across all your communities at once (e.g., all dW). You have essentially, a set of participation metrics that applies to a range of data.
How do you use these metrics? It depends upon the questions you ask:
Again, this idea is more of a method than actual steps to take for your communities. You can see that the information is subjective to the goals and direction of your organization.
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The next time you're sitting at an airport or at a cafe somewhere next to someone working on their computer, and you see a piece of sushi stuck to their laptop, really try to resist the temptation to say: "Hey, you have a piece of sushi stuck to your laptop." (Or if you're me, "You gonna eat that?")
Check out the new thumb drives from dynamism.com. You get your choice of over a dozen different types of nigiri or maki sushi, from standard maguro/tuna to uni/sea urchin. The decorative/fake sushi industry in Japan & S. Korea is finally going high-tech.
These USB flash memory cards aren't particularly large in size, and relatively expensive ($99 for 128MB), but when else is someone going to say "Hey, you've a piece of sushi stuck to your laptop."
I'm finally on vacation this year. It's been a very busy season since I started to get our dW Community program on a strategic course. As a reward to myself, I got a CD of Brazilian music ranging from samba to funk.
We are having a gathering of bloggers (GoB) at our next IBM Software University event in January. SWU is primarily an IBMer event and is held every year to gather the expertise from the many thousands of IBMers (FYI: IBM has about 300,000+ employees worldwide) who attend.
[I'll admit I made up the GoB word as a recursive definition of a group of bloggers. It's my Unix heritage.]
The GoB is at SWU because most of our bloggers on dW are currently IBMers. That's not to say we don't have non-IBMer bloggers. In fact, I really want to encourage many non-IBMer technical experts to consider joining our ranks.
However, we do like to make a distinction with our bloggers. We're not really an anyone-who-wants-to-blog site. There are plenty of blogs on all sorts of topics, but here at dW we'd like to focus primarily on technical and developer-oriented topics.
That means that we want to try to keep things on topic that developers would be interested in. This is a non-trivial exercise most of the time. How can you really tell what a blogger wants to talk about? In fact, there is often a lot of interesting information that seems less relevant to a bloggers main topic on occassion.
Bloggers need freedom to express themselves but at the same time, the blogspace is full of many blogs with random thoughts that wander aimlessly, and those that die because it is not an easy task to stay on topic.
Our idea of blogging is actually to find experts that really know their topic and can write about regularly. In print publishing, this is similar to finding a regular columnist; the difference being that columns tend to be much more limited in length, content type and stringent on topic. You can't really go off-topic for an issue with a column.
There could be a wide variety of topics that our bloggers can cover but the key goal is to have a blog that, on a regular basis, is of interest to our audience of programmers, testors, sysadmins, architects, and other technical folk. You can see from the wide range of topics and technologies that IBM is involved in, from our product base to the projects we are researching, to walk across the topic-horizon, learning as you go, could take more than what any single person could do in one lifetime.
My Linux mug is starting to crack.
It's not really a Linux mug, but Joe Barr gave me this present some years ago (when I was still with LinuxWorld), which was an oversized coffee mug with handpainted penguins and snowflakes on it. It's now starting to show some cracks after many, many times in the microwave.
My wife thinks its a Christmassy thing since it has snowflakes and penguins on it, although I think of it as a Linux thing because of the penguins and snowflakes (it's cool!). Funny how different a meaning it gives to each of us.
Also years ago, I tried convincing an analyst that there was a market for multi-player games. In 1995 that was a hard thing to prove. PC and console based games were far ahead of the text-based MUDs, MOOs, MUSHes, etc. that were around. However, a PC player long used to playing by themselves would either get it (fun with friends), or miss the point entirely ("this is so graphics-primitive!"). No one quite believed that people would actually pay to play on a regular basis.
By 1999 the time finally came for a new generation of graphical multiplayer games and MMORPGs. Another 5 years later it's widespread. In five more years it'll be almost difficult to consider a world without MMORPGs.
I guess I hadn't quite learned the business-language needed to convince folks.
I'm asked to explain what the Web 2.0 question often enough these days. There are plenty of things that have been put under this umbrella but rather than technologies it is the idea behind it that's most significant.
First of all what's "Web 1.0"?
This generally refers to the state of what the Web was primarily used for: a (mostly) consume-only service to access information. Even with all the many applications surfaced through the Web, the majority of the Web is still site for reading, gathering, and consuming information. The number of consumers is much greater than the number of producers.
To make the distinction, the thought behind "Web 2.0" is to instead make "producers" out of the majority of the users of the Web. Now, users not only visit the Web to gain information but also can contribute to the wealth of information that's out there.
It's a democratization of the Web if you will, allowing people not just to express their thoughts on their work, their lives, their emotions, etc. It is not just creating new written content, but contributing by taking existing data and "remixing" them to produce new content. It is also building application services that can work on data or app services that others produce.
Thus in the new world of "Web 2.0", people become producers of original and remixed data, content, and services.
There are quite a few books coming out around the topic of Web 2.0 and by leading literary minds like Dan Gilmor, and Thomas L Friedman. The topic is related to a number of ideas that can raise a lot of controversy including: freedom of expression, ownership of material produced, the right to use information and services of others, legal liability, and even globalization.
Web 2.0 existed from the very beginning of the Web itself, at least in concept. You could create home pages from very early on and even HTTP had rudimentary means to PUT and POST data. However, it was not until the rise of newer technologies that put it into the hands of the masses, and acknowledged significant impact on real-world issues that it really hit the mainstream.
With such a hotbed of activity, its no wonder that everyone wants to know more about how it applies to what they do:
As with any "gold rush", everyone is out to claim their stake in this. For some this rush is about new software. For others its about making yourself heard (and famous). For yet others, its about connecting with others of like mind.
Some common aspects I've observed:
The Web 2.0 entry on Wikipedia gives a snapshot of the many different technologies and topics that exist around it. Take a look at the image they provide:
From Wikipedia, 2006
The Wikipedia entry focuses more on the technologies behind Web 2.0 although it does give some description of the social impact behind it.
I consider this the difference between looking at the invention of the automobile itself versus what automobile-based transportation has done for the world. E.g., inside and outside a car there are many technological innovations: engine, transmission, electrical controls, ergonomics, safety structure, comfort systems, the highway system, etc.
But the impact of this mode of transportation is much wider: the trucking/containerization/delivery industry, suburbization of society, learning to drive (a right of passage of life for many teenagers), leisure travel, car racing, commuting and even telecommuting, etc. are things that have risen from exploding gas within a metal box to turn gears and push carts.
For that same reason, you can certainly be fascinated by the wonders of cars (I certainly spend many hours watching Speed Channel and reading car magazines), but the real impact of having the automobile is so much more.
I see this same difference in Web 2.0 technologies and the value of Web 2.0 itself.
I wanted to point out that "use cases" are different than technology implementations in Web 2.0. I've mentioned this before but I really think people need to see the difference between the two points.
An "online diary" is a use case. Lot's of people have them. Before the rise of blog implementations we called them personal home pages. The actual technology evolved over time. There are now videoblogs, photoblogs, etc. but whatever the technology, they are still online diaries.
On the work-level, a "documentation development tool" can be implemented in a great many ways. It could even be implemented in separate application tools (e.g., a forum + a wiki, a workflow app + email + content management system, etc.) There are also many variations of this documentation development tool depending upon the needs. But across all of them the use cases have some common basis.
The idea is to figure out the common/base use cases that are useful and that can be replicated on a common basis such that it can be reused by many. That's where the real challenge lies. Technology after all will always come and go.
For that same reason, I consider the Web 2.0 as a superset of all these use-cases that everyone is so interested in. It is also why "Web 2.0 != blogging", "Web 2.0 != wikis", or any one specific technology. It is the sum of all the ways we interact with the Web under the new common aspects/principles of Web 2.0 (see end of this post).
Tim O'Reilly's paper on "What is Web 2.0?" brought to mind the issues of individual scale that many companies don't quite get.
Tim's description of why Google's AdSense works because it allows individuals to easily slap an ad onto their sites rather than the more complicated process of DoubleClick that requires formal contracts and agreements, gives one example of the power of mass of individuals.
The blogosphere's population of many individuals talking about different topics, rather than large PR teams in organizations, are starting to make a greater difference; ie. another example
The ability to remix applications, content and data in Web 2.0 for your own personal use gives yet another example.
The common ideas across all of these that I can see are:
- individuals (as opposed to whole companies/organizations) matter in Web 2.0
- the ability to work on things on a small or even personal scale (as opposed building applications for whole organizations) also matter
- the organizations that are built to focus on large customers rather than individuals may be missing out on Web 2.0.
My point is that to take a stance on Web 2.0 you have to think about empowering the individual not just big business partners, and large customers.
This is the ever ellusive "SMB" market (small-medium business) that more big companies are starting to take notice of. But this SMB goes even smaller down the scale to individual customers. I'd even call it the "SSB" (super-small business).
Now the question of whether this is something that works only for the mass/retail customer rather than organizations as a whole is still something everyone is trying to understand.
Scenario: a developer in an organization is looking for a particular item (content, data, or service), and finds it on the net somewhere to help complete their job task. Is that worth it to a supplier when the cost of offering that item
may not be very high? That is, what would make companies consider selling millions tiny widgets at $0.10 rather than one big widget to one customer for $10M?
The classic argument why some companies don't focus on mass sales at an almost retail level is the cost of offering that product is usually quite high, leaving low margins.
That would be perfectly true for a physical item that requires proper warehousing, distribution, retailing, sales tracking, mass advertising, etc.
Now consider pure-online products that can be delivered over the network. Are all those costs still true? Is there still this barrier of high cost overheads to produce something of the sort?
Companies geared to sell expensive goods to large customers may be so locked into their sales model that offering small scale services to many individuals just doesn't seem very appetizing.
That's a substantial mental hurdle for some organizations to overcome in Web 2.0.
PS: If you're thinking that going down to the SSB scale just sounds crazy, think again about the successes of Google, eBay and Amazon, and not just for retail customers but for their business partners, and their whole community of users.