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Three Reasons Google Should Acquire Delicious from Yahoo

So the news is out. Yahoo plans to shutter Delicious, the largest social bookmarking site. Which is shocking, particularly among the tech savvy and socially oriented. Delicious is iconic for its application of social sharing and collective intelligence. Hard to believe Yahoo wants to shut it down.

But wait…this doesn’t have to be the end. Why not seek alternatives to shutting down the service? Might there be a logical company to take on Delicious, and all the value it holds? Why yes, one company comes to mind.

Google.

Delicious fits Google’s mission

Hmmm…what is it Google wants to do? What defines their corporate philosophy? Ah yes, here’s Google’s mission:


“Organize the world’s information.” Now, doesn’t that sound like the kind of thing that applies to Delicious? Millions of people organizing the world’s information, according to their own tags. Which makes it easier to find for others. Crowdsourced curation.

For that reason alone, Google would be wise to take on Delicious.

Glean new insights about what people value

Google’s pagerank is amazing. It’s incredibly good at finding nuggets. But it’s not perfect, as anyone who regularly use it knows. The use of links is powerful, but is a limited basis for identifying valuable web pages.

What people elect to bookmark is a different sort of valuation. Which is important, because not everyone blogs, or creates web pages with links to their favorite sites. But there is a distributed effort of indicating value via bookmarking.

This activity would be a valuable addition to Google’s search results. Take a look at this thread on Hacker News (a bunch of tech savvy types) about Delicious:

I added that highlighting. And here’s what Michael Arrington said when Yahoo experimented with adding Delicious bookmarks to its search results:

I have previously written that Delicious search is one of the best ways of searching for things when a standard search doesn’t pull up what you are looking for. After Google, it is my favorite “search engine.” Adding this information into Yahoo search is a great idea.

Google could leverage the activity of Delicious users to improve its search results, or at least give users an additional place to find content. Mine the tags to provide more context and connections among pages.

Note that Google, and Bing, are exploring different ways to apply social signals from Twitter and Facebook. Inclusion of Delicious in the search process would be consistent with that.

And Google would still benefit from its Adwords program here. Which would be a monetization strategy for Delicious, which has no ads.

Great PR move with the tech community

Google finds itself in a fight with Facebook for employees. Google is public, Facebook is pre-IPO. Social is hot, and Facebook is dominant in that. Google isn’t.

But as Allen Stern notes, Google does have a special appeal to the tech crowd for its developer-friendly moves. Stepping in and taking over a legendary Web 2.0 site like Delicious would be a good fit with that reputation. Enhance the usage of the data and make it easy for developers to access.

More importantly, Delicious holds a special appeal among the geekier set. Many of us are still active bookmarkers, and use the service. Google is known for being a geek-centric paradise, with a bunch of high-GPA, advanced degree types on its campuses.

What do you think it costs to run Delicious “as is”? I’d hazard a guess that it’s not too much. And Google is throwing off some serious cash ($10 billion in last 12 months):

So they do have some capacity, but obviously need to invest it wisely.

For a relatively low cost, they gain a treasure trove of data on relevance and value, and a solid boost to their PR. Seems like a big win to me. How about it Google? Why not step in and take over Delicious?

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How Much Scale Is Needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption?

A couple recent items caught my eye with regard to the issue of employee adoption of social software.

In Reversing the Enterprise 2.0 Pricing Model, Julien le Nestour argues that pricing per user for social software should increase as more employees use it, because the network effects of higher participation make the software more valuable. It’s a great theoretical piece, tying pricing to value received. But in the harsh budgeting realities of the enterprise and in the comparison against other software pricing models, it’s not likely we’ll see anything like this.

Atlassian, maker of the Confluence wiki and developers tools, recently passed the cumulative revenue mark of $100 million. In the post announcing this milestone, Atlassian blogger notes that the company has no sales force. People just download the app. I know some of the Atlassian guys, and this kind of viral, bottom-up adoption is core to their philosophy. They don’t sell to upper management, adoption occurs at the departmental level. That being said, I am aware from my work at Connectbeam of some large-scale rollouts of the Confluence wiki by Fortune 500 companies.

What connects these two items? The first post describes the nature of Enterprise 2.0 apps and how their value increases as more employees use them. The second post points to the value that departments have received from Atlassian’s Confluence wiki, even without broad adoption. In other words, network effects are not a critical aspect of the Confluence value proposition.

From these posts, other readings and direct customer experience, the following occurred to me:

You don’t need a high level of adoption to get value from some Enterprise 2.0 apps. Others require broad participation.

In some ways, that may seem obvious. Yet I don’t tend to hear this distinction being made. Usually, all social software is lumped together under ‘Enterprise 2.0′ and there is a collective view that wide-scale adoption by employees is a necessity. It’s actually more nuanced than that.

Varying Adoption Levels Required

The graphic below depicts the relative levels of participation required for different apps to “deliver value”:

enterprise-20-employee-adoption-to-derive-value

Here’s a quick summary of the graph:

  • Employee participation is defined as contributions and engagement (views, edits, comments, etc.)
  • Moving from left to right, the percentage of employees involved gets higher

This graph has a couple of implications for Enterprise 2.0 vendors. Before that, here’s an explanation for why I put the different applications where I did.

Consider the Purposes of the E2.0 Applications

Before discussing these applications, I want to note this. All social software applications get better with higher adoption. There is no disputing that. The distinction I want to make is that some apps require increased participation before they deliver value.

Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.

Wikis: Wikis actually have two purposes: (1) knowledge repositories, and (2) projects and collaboration. It’s that second purpose that makes wikis particularly valuable even with small participation. I’ll use Confluence as an example. We use it as our low home for putting up documents accessible to anyone else, and for free-form contributions on all manner of things. It is very much a utilitarian use case for us. If we weren’t using Confluence for this purpose, we’d share documents via email. In larger organizations, Confluence may replace usage of SharePoint or the company portal.

Using wikis as knowledge repositories, such as [Company Name]-ipedia type of implementations, requires a larger percentage involvement. Sparsely populated company versions of Wikipedia are of little use. As are wikis that are not updated regularly with new information. I’d put wikis-as-knowledge-repositories up there around prediction markets in terms of required participation.

Forums: The old man of Enterprise 2.0…forums. These are the place where topics can be posted, and a scrum of conversation occurs. To really get value out of these, it helps to have larger participation. Blogs are solo voices with interesting content. Wikis can have a very specific collaboration purpose among a few employees. Conversations around a topic require a wider variety of voices. Otherwise they fail to give people a sense of what others are thinking. Nothing sadder than forum post with no comments.

Social bookmarking: Bookmarking sites you find useful has value by itself. So in that sense, “social” bookmarking can work for very few employees. But it’s not really “social”, it’s simply a replacement for your browser bookmarks. You get value by finding those gems your colleagues deem interesting. The odds that any single bookmark will be useful to you are small, so you need a healthy amount of bookmarks to increase the chances of finding links that will help you. And to get a healthy amount of bookmarks, you need broader participation.

Microblogging: In some ways, microblogging could be compared to forums. Both are public places to serve up topics. But they’re fundamentally different. And that’s why broader participation is more important here. Forums have a distinct purpose – the discussion of a particular topic. You need participation by those who know something around the topic.  Microblogging is a more free-form, personal activity. You don’t need a distinct purpose to post something. You post all the things that occur to you during the day. Some of which will have value, although it can be hard to predict for whom. It also helps to know that people are seeing these posts, because there is a conversational aspect to microblogging. The free-form, who-knows-what-might-be-interesting, conversational aspect of microblogging require larger participation than forums do.

Prediction markets: Prediction markets thrive on having a variety of ideas, events and initiatives. They also require the different perspectives of employees, leveraging different perspectives, knowledge and experiences. This is true wisdom of crowds work. Limited participation limits the value of prediction markets. These benefit from broad employee involvement.

Social networks: I put these at the top of the chart in terms of employee involvement. Perhaps one of the best use cases for social networks is finding colleagues with the knowledge or interest in projects you’re working on. This requires large-scale participation. If a social network only is used at the departmental level, it doesn’t provide value. In terms of expertise location, you’re probably already aware of what others in your deparmtent know. It’s breaking out of that traditional sphere of contacts where social networks shine. I know I’ve heard many instances of large corporations suffering from “reinventing the wheel” syndrome because employees lack visibility about what others know. Broad participation addresses this issue.

Implications

Three implications of this view about required involvement come to mind.

Greater required participation correlates to greater impact on a company’s value: Generally, you could change the metric in the chart above from percentage of employee involvement to impact on company value. The increased participation means the associated application will also have a larger effect on the company’s strategies and operations. It’s not an tight correlation, but a general trendline. Exceptions will abound.

Top-down vs. bottom-up: General observation is that broader participation requires a greater amount of senior management support. That’s the way things work inside companies. Employees will listen when the executives of the company push something. For applications that need lower participation, the name of the game is to provide a compelling application with a low entry cost. Departmental budgets and the green-light from employees at lower levels of the organization are all that are needed.

Time for application to gain traction: With applications that require low levels of participation, there is plenty of time for the application to grow virally. It serves its purpose for a select few, and over time others will see the value and elect to participate. These apps can be resident inside companies for long periods of time. Those that require higher participation to see value will need to show results sooner. They are on senior management’s radar, generally cost more and have a greater number of employees who will be watching to see the results.

So it matters what type of application we’re talking about when it comes to Enterprise 2.0. It matters for companies and vendors. It impacts the skills required for everyone’s success.

A nice post that complements this one is Adina Levin’s Scale effects in enterprise social software.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022009

From the home office in Hollywood, CA…

#1: RT @THE_REAL_SHAQ To all twitterers , if u c me n public come say hi, we r not the same we r from twitteronia, we connect

#2: It’s not teams that get things done inside companies, it’s networks. #uvasna

#3: @jowyang writes about the bankruptcy of “social media” PR firms and vendors who fail to practice what they preach http://bit.ly/IcIG7

#4: Gonna tweet this one more time: Oasys raises $10M for low cost water desalination technology http://bit.ly/siwMG Much needed!

#5: Holy smoke! Just installed Power Twitter Firefox add-on http://bit.ly/yiy4W . Search on the home page, tab for Facebook updates, more. Whoa.

#6: Ma.gnolia throws in the towel, says it cannot recover its members’ bookmarks http://bit.ly/Qwcba

#7: Reading case studies about enterprise social networks and their impact by University of Virginia professor Rob Cross: http://bit.ly/sL4HL

#8: For the record, according to Typealizer, my blog screams a Myer-Briggs personality of INTJ. That’s about right, actually. Nicely done.

#9: My post about integrating social media into product marketing is up on Social Computing Magazine: http://bit.ly/sNMBl

#10: Watching Sally Field on TV in Brothers & Sisters. Is she seriously 62? Looks a lot younger. Must be that Boniva.

One Thing Social Software Needs: The Guaranteed Delivery Button

At the start of January, Jennfier Leggio and I launched the 2009 Email Brevity Challenge. The goal is to reduce the length of emails, with an eye toward migrating a lot of what’s in them elsewhere.

Well, January is over. Time to see how I did:

email-stats-jan-09

As you can see, I’ve got some work to do. First, my average email weighs in at 164 characters. 164 characters…hmm, doesn’t sound so bad but it’s pretty far beyond 140 characters.

Even worse, 41% of my emails are beyond the bar set for the email brevity challenge. One positive? Check out that median length – my heart is in the right place in terms of brevity.

But I can do better.

Looking at my emails, I see an obvious candidate for cutback. Seven of those 140+  character emails are essentially links with commentary of snippets.

Say what? You work for a social bookmarking company man! And you’re emailing links?!!

Well, yes. But I also bookmark them. Let me explain. I bookmark plenty of links for my own purposes. And true to social bookmarking’s purpose, other people can find them as well, which is better for discussions around the information.

Some of these bookmarks are more than useful information I want for recall later or for others to find in their research. Some are relevant to things that we’re working on right now. They provide context to product, development and marketing efforts.

Those bookmarks need to have higher visibility than typical links do.  And a problem with only bookmarking a link is that many people won’t see it who should.

That’s what email provides: guaranteed delivery. Everyone is using the app, and everyone checks their email. So I know the link + commentary will be seen. What social software needs is an equivalent mechanism.

Social Software Options for Guaranteed Delivery

In fact, many apps do have such guaranteed delivery mechanisms. For instance, you can think of the @reply on Twitter as a form of that. Although even then, it requires someone checking that tab. So TweetReplies will actually email you when someone uses your @name in a tweet.

As I wrote before, email’s evolving role in social media will be more notification, less personal communication. Email is still a centralized place for all manner of notifications and it has that lovely guaranteed delivery aspect.

So what are alternatives for emails inside companies?

Inside my company, I actually have three alternatives to emailing the links with lots of commentary”

Connectbeam: As I mentioned, a simple bookmark has no guarantee of visibility. But the app does include email (and RSS) notifications of new content. You can subscribe to emails of individuals’ and Groups’ activity in real-time, or get a daily digest of those options plus keyword-based notifications. So what I can do is set up a Group, call it “Email Worthy”. I then have all my colleagues subscribe to real-time notifications of activity in that Group. Voila! I add a note to my bookmark, save it to the Group and I know everyone will get it.

Confluence: Another option is to create a wiki page for these entries. I can put longer form commentary in the pages, include a link and tag them. Since Connectbeam automatically sucks Confluence wiki pages into its database, these individual wiki pages would be as good as a bookmark. I could then email a link to the wiki page (using a bit.ly URL), going Twitter style with a brief intro.

Yammer: Yammer now has Groups. Which is something people have been wanting with Twitter. You can publish a message in Yammer (a “yamm”?) to just a particular Group. Yammer has nicely added an email notification feature for Groups. So similar to what I described above for Connectbeam, we can create a Group on Yammer called “Email Worthy”. Everyone can join the Group and elect to recieve email notifications when new yamms come through.  I can post the link + commentary, and be assured of guaranteed delivery.

One problem with using Yammer this way is that information put there is separate from the wiki entries and bookmarks we have. So people would have to check two places for information. As I wrote over on the Connectbeam blog, that creates a de facto silo.

It’s February, A New Month

I’m going to experiment a bit with this. Of course, I need to get my colleagues to subscribe to email notifications for Connectbeam. But I’ll just tell them, “do that or I’ll email ya!” And I’ll try the Confluence wiki approach as well.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*****

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Ma.gnolia’s Data Loss Got You Concerned? Use Diigo + Del.icio.us Simultaneously

By now, you may have heard that social bookmarking service Ma.gnolia suffered a tragic corruption of data this morning. As the company says on its website:

Early on the West-coast morning of Friday, January 30th, Ma.gnolia experienced every web service’s worst nightmare: data corruption and loss. For Ma.gnolia, this means that the service is offline and members’ bookmarks are unavailable, both through the website itself and the API. As I evaluate recovery options, I can’t provide a certain timeline or prognosis as to to when or to what degree Ma.gnolia or your bookmarks will return; only that this process will take days, not hours.

It’s awful, and I feel for those who were active users of the service.

Just a reminder that there are a couple other services out there, and that by using one, you actually can have your bookmarks stored in two different places. If nothing else, the Magnolia issue should point you to the value of this strategy.

So what are they? Diigo and De.licio.us.

And here’s the way to store your bookmarks in both. Save to Diigo, and have those bookmarks automatically written to Del.icio.us at the same time. First, register for Diigo and Del.icio.us. Then here’s what to do next:

1. Click on “My Diigo Tools” on Your Dashboard

my-diigo-tools


2. Click on “Save Elsewhere”

save-elsewhere-diigo

3. Enter Your Del.icio.us Credentials

diigo-save-elsewhere-input-page

That’s it.

Once you set this up, add the Diigolet to your browser. Thereafter, save everything to Diigo, and a copy of each bookmark – link, title, tags, notations – will be saved to Del.icio.us as well.

Double cloud coverage in Diigo and Del.icio.us. Can’t be too careful these days.

*****

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The Top 10 Enterprise 2.0 Stories of 2008

The enterprise 2.0 space saw good action this year. I’ve had a chance to see it up close, starting the year with BEA Systems (now Oracle) and closing out the year with Connectbeam. I think it’s fair to say that in 2007, social software was still something of a missionary sale. In 2008, company inquiries increased a lot. The burden still falls on the vendors to articulate business benefits, adoption strategies and use cases. But enterprise customers are now partners in this work.

So let’s get to it. Here are my top ten stories for the year:

1. Activity Streams

Facebook really got this going with its newsfeed, and FriendFeed took it to an art form with its lifestreaming service. In 2008, many vendors added activity streams to their applications: Connectbeam, BEA Systems, Atlassian, SocialText, Jive Software and others.  Activity streams are great for improving awareness of colleagues’ activities, and adding a new searchable object: actions.

2. Forrester’s $4.6 Billion Forecast

Forrester Research made a splash with its forecast that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion market by 2013. The ReadWriteWeb story about it has been bookmarked to Del.icio.us 386 times and counting. Forrester’s projections provided a solid analytical framework for the different tools, used internally and externally. According to the analysis, social networking will be the most popular tool for companies. Whether you buy the forecast or not, they remain the best-known, most visible numbers to date.

3. Oracle Beehive

Larry Ellison is fond of essentially dismissing SaaS. He does not have Oracle invest much in the trend. But Oracle did seem to embrace Enterprise 2.0 in a big way this year with Beehive, which is an “integrated set of collaboration services.”  The New York Times quotes Oracle EVP  Chuck Rozwat: “It is a product we built from scratch over the last three years.” Now since Oracle is a huge enterprise software company, there’s plenty of skepticism about the capabilities and innovation of Beehive. But there’s no denying that Oracle has the ear of the enterprise, and picks up a lot of market intelligence through its customer base. While Beehive itself may or may not succeed, the idea that Oracle came out with Beehive was a big story.

4. AIIM/McKinsey Surveys

Research and consulting firms AIIM and McKinsey each came out with surveys of corporate interest in enterprise 2.0. The AIIM survey looked at levels of awareness and interest among different Enterprise 2.0 technologies. AIIM also took a fairly expansive view of social software. The top 3 “Enterprise 2.0″ technologies in terms of corporate awareness? Email, instant messaging, search. That’s actually a funny list, yet there are lessons there for vendors and consultants in the social software industry. If those are entrenched, can you play nicely with them? One other quote I like from the report:

This study of 441 end users found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is.

McKinsey’s survey of enterprises looked at the interest in various tools as well. It also asked respondents what the leading barriers were for success of social software initiatives. Top three were: (1) Lack of understanding for their financial return; (2) Company culture; (3) Insufficient incentives to adopt or experiment with the tools.

5. Facebook Co-Founder Leaves to Start an Enterprise 2.0 Company

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and colleague Justin Rosenstein announced they were leaving the hot consumer social network to start a new company. The new company will “build an extensible enterprise productivity suite,” with the goal of “making companies themselves run better.” Why would these young guys, sitting on top of the leader in consumer social networking, choose to exit? As I wrote at the time:

The Enterprise 2.0 market is still quite nascent and fragmented. Combine that industry profile with projected spending in the category, and suddenly you understand why these guys are striking out on their own.

Assuming they’ll be able to tap the mother ship for help, I think this was a fairly important story this year.

6. Microblogging Enters the Enterprise

Joining wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and other incumbent tools this year was microblogging . Given the way Twitter is used by Enterprise 2.0 aficionados, and is enjoying skyrocketing popularity, it’s no surprise we started seeing microblogging emerge for internal use. At the mostly consumer-focused TechCrunch50, enterprise microblogging start-up Yammer won the top prize. Other start-ups in the category include SocialCast and Present.ly. SocialText added microblogging with its release of Signals.

7. Gartner Narrows its Criteria for Social Software

Gartner came out with its Social Software Magic Quadrant in October. As SageCircle notes:

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the iconic piece of analyst research. With its visibility and status, it also has enormous influence on vendor sales opportunities, especially when it comes time for IT buyers to draw up the all-important vendor short lists.

So it was with great interest when I read that Gartner had narrowed the criteria for whom it puts in the Magic Quadrant:

Added blogs and wikis to the functionality requirements

The effect of that is to establish those two tools as the de facto standard for enterprise social software inside the enterprise. To the extent corporate buyers are listening to Gartner for signals about the market, this will make it a bit more challenging for start-ups with interesting offerings that address other parts of the social software market. Yammer, for instance, won’t make it into their Magic Quadrant.

8. Enterprise RSS Fails to Take Off

RSS is one of those technologies that you know has huge value, and yet continues to struggle for awareness and adoption. Google tracks the leading “what is” searches. The fifth most popular on its list? “What is RSS?” Take that as both good and bad. Good that people want to know, bad that awareness continues to be a struggle.

Forrester analyst Oliver Young has a sharp write-up that shows enterprise RSS did not expand inside companies as many had thought it would this year. As he notes:

Of the three enterprise RSS vendors selling into this space at the start of 2008: KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year.

RSS is a great way to distribute content inside companies, but its ongoing limited adoption was a big non-story for the year.

9. IBM and Intel Issue Employee Social Media Guidelines

IBM and Intel each established guidelines for their employees who participate in social media. As I wrote, this essentially was a deputization of employees as brand managers out on the web. These market leaders were essentially saying, “have at it out there on blogs, social networks, Twitter, etc. But make sure you know the company’s expectations.” These guidelines represent a milestone in large enterprises’ comfort with social media. I expect we’ll see more of this in 2009.

10. The Recession

This affects all industries, globally, of course. And Enterprise 2.0 is no exception. Jive Software made news with its layoffs, but the effect was industry-wide. And of course, corporate buyers aren’t immune either.

Those are my ten. Did I miss a big story for 2008? Add your thoughts in the comments.

If you’re interested in tracking what happens in 2009, I encourage you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. It is a centralized location for tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks that specifically relate to Enterprise 2.0.

*****

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Business Week Launches Info Sharing Social Network – Will It Float?

Business Week Magazine has entered the social networking world with Business Exchange. Business Exchange is built around the sharing of information and discussing it with others. Here’s how Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler described it:

“Business Exchange, a free online information hub, is a new initiative of BusinessWeek.com. It enhances the ongoing reporting and analysis of Business Week writers and editors in print and online by aggregating other sources of news and analysis (including other media brands, blogs, videos, and research reports). Readers can use it to track business trends, with hundreds of topics available at launch, or create a specific topic that’s not currently on the Exchange.

The best part is the social underpinning of this platform. Users (including our journalists and editors) can share their own knowledge about a subject to enrich each topic far beyond what any single person or search engine can accomplish.

Business Exchange is a mix of:

  • Social bookmarking
  • Forums
  • Social network

Business Exchange vs. FriendFeed

FriendFeed actually has a similar mission to that described by Business Week’s editor-in-chief. So I put together a quick comparison of the two sites:

FriendFeed feels like a hotbed of activity, the kind of site where you’re compelled to hit the F5 refresh button. Business Exchange is more staid, partly because it doesn’t yet have an active user base, partly due to its design. The key design points from the table above that make a difference are:

  • Bounce to the top – Adding a comment or a save doesn’t move an item to the top of the Business Exchange page for a given topic, losing that feeling of “what’s hot”.
  • Forced segregation of content – For a given topic in Business Exchange, you can look at News or Blogs or References. But you can’t take them all in at once.
  • View Saves by user – In the list of entries on Business Exchange, you can’t see how many times an item has been Saved. This information is available for an individual item. But it’s not an easy experience to see what others found valuable.

As seen in this discussion, community, conversations, variety and outstanding design are making a difference for FriendFeed.

That being said, Business Exchange is new and it’s beta. Let’s see what they are doing.

Business Exchange’s Features

Content is both streamed and added. Being streamed into Business Exchange seems like a nice bonus for a media site or blogger. Check out the difference below in the way these two items made it into Business Exchange:

The MyDebates post was “published” into the topic. The Soul of the Enterprise post was “added” to the topic. From what I can tell, designated media sites and blogs are automatically added based on either key words or tags.

Full Profile. You get a full profile page on Business Exchange. Work, education, picture and up to four links to other sites. It also shows your recent activity, which is nice.

Building a social network. You can’t search for other users. So you find them when they’re displayed as “Active Users” on the site, via the items they Save or Comments they make. It makes it a bit challenging to build out your list of subscriptions. Your subscriptions are simply a list, and you can click an individual to see their activity. There is not currently a way to see the aggregated activities only of your subscriptions.

Focus on Most Active. At different points on the site, Business Exchange gives a list of what’s most active. The home page tells you the most active Topics, and gives a list of Active Users. Each topic includes a list of Most Active, which does aggregate from News, Blogs and References.

The definition of Most Active inside a topic is probably based on the number of Views, Saves and Comments. You can see all of those stats for an item when you go to make a Comment. I like seeing those stats.

If You’re Business Minded, Check It Out

It’s early in the life of Business Exchange. Getting more users will, of course, make it a more interesting place to hang out. It doesn’t hurt that it hangs off the businessweek.com site, and that it can get periodic boosts from the print magazine.

I’m still learning the site, and maybe the Most Active tab for each Topic is the place to be.

My profile on Business Exchange is here. If you sign up, add me, and I’ll add you back.

*****

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FriendFeed Lets You Tag Users: Now Expertise Finds You

FriendFeed’s new beta version is out. There are a number of new features there, which are well described by Bret Taylor on the FriendFeed blog.

I want to focus on a particularly powerful new feature:

The ability to tag the people to whom you subscribe.

In an earlier post, On FriendFeed, We’re All TV Channels, I described people as programming. Via our lifestreams, Likes and comments, we send a stream of content downriver to our subscribers. People make their subscription decisions based on that river of content.

Tags are logical progression in distinguishing people based on programming. FriendFeed has made it very easy to set up channels based on tags, and seek out different content depending on your mood. My initial set of tags are shown above.

On Twitter/FriendFeed, I asked this question:

What’s more valuable in the realm of information discovery? Finding relevant content, or finding people with relevant expertise?

The preference was generally for expertise over content. Marco made a good point:

find the expertise and the content will likely follow

I like that. It well describes the value of FriendFeed’s new user tagging feature.

In fact, FriendFeed just filled a gap in the way people find information.

Here’s what I mean.

Social Media Filling Gaps in the Ways We Learn

The diagram below describes a spectrum of learning that has been enabled by the Web.

On the left is the search revolution led by Google. Google’s search was a revelation when it started, and it’s still going strong. On the right is a method of learning that dates back at least to Ancient Greece: question and answer.

Social media fills the gap between the two. Social bookmarking (Del.icio.us, Diigo, Ma.gnolia) was a very innovative approach. What content have other users found useful? Rather than depend on Google’s crawlers and algorithm, you could turn to the collective judgment of people. What did others think was useful?

Social bookmarking continues to be really good for directed searches, and serendipitous discovery.

But how about a different form of finding information?

I like how Mary Anne Davis described a shift to having the expertise of others brought to you, in the form of lifestreams, in this comment on FriendFeed:

A curated life. Lots of choices and more friends who I trust suggesting what they are passionate about influencing how I might spend time reading, listening or watching.

There are three reasons lifestreaming will emerge as an important new source of knowledge:

  1. A lot of good information and opinion occurs in conversational social media (e.g. Twitter). But this media isn’t usually bookmarked, and it doesn’t rank highly in search results.
  2. There are times you’re not actively trying to learn about a subject. But taking in a curated stream of content can be helpful down the road.
  3. You may not even know the questions to ask or the breadth of information you don’t know. Following the lifestream of someone who has knowledge about a subject is a great way to educate yourself.

The value of these lifestream apps really kicks in when there a lot of users. FriendFeed is growing, but you had to accept all lifestreams combined (which has its own merits). With the new tagging capability, you can set your “programming” the way you want.

I initially wasn’t sure about the new design of the FriendFeed beta, as I liked the spare quality of the original. But I’m warmed up to it now. Tagging people’s lifestreams….cool idea.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22FriendFeed+Lets+You+Tag+Users%3A+Now+Expertise+Finds+You%22

How Would Social Media Help You in Your Job?

I’m having a ball with social media out in the consumer web. Blogging, FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook. I’m learning so much about technology, new companies and people’s attitudes regarding Web 2.0. Along the way, some collaboration and a new job actually happened out of all this fun.

Now why can’t we see some of these same effects in the place where most of us spend a third of our day? We’re seeing live implementations of social media inside organizations (aka Enterprise 2.0). It’s a good sign.

I’m now in a job where I’m thinking about this a lot. And I figured I’d start with myself. Where would social media have made a difference in my two previous Big Corporate jobs:

Both companies were examples of today’s modern company, with a heavy information orientation. It’s been years since I worked at either, but here is how social media could have helped me in my jobs.

May Department Stores

The buying office of a retailer is responsible for picking the merchandise you see on the floor. Buyers also plan and execute promotions, set prices and ensure optimum amount of inventory on the floor and in the warehouse. We also had to communicate with the department managers of dozens of stores.

Here are the social media that would have helped me (if we had the Web back in 1990-1994):

  • Twitter: Yup, I would have loved Twitter. An easy way to fire off updates out to the field of department managers. And they would have sent back news of things they were seeing. Would have been a huge help during the crazy Christmas season.
  • Blog: I would have blogged about the weekly promotions. There’s a fair amount of work that went into them (promo prices, signage, focus of the ads), and documenting all that would have been useful. New products that we bought would have been good to discuss as well.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: Assuming we had the world wide web back then, I would have bookmarked and noted a number of things for the job: competitor ads and pricing, product promotions I liked, new products I’d seen elsewhere.

Bank of America

At BofA, my group raised debt for corporations. Deals could run anywhere from $25 million to $6 billion. It was an information-intensive job.

The work consisted of three primary activities: (1) win the deal; (2) sell the deal; (3) close the deal via documentation. You had to stay on top of comparable deals, industry trends, capital market trends and general market chatter. Our group was divided into Structurers (me), who worked with clients to win and structure deals; and Distribution, who sold the deal to the market. Distribution always had the best information.

Social media I would have wanted:

  • Twitter: Again! I really would have wanted to see the ongoing chatter of the Distribution guys. They picked up all sorts of incredibly valuable market intelligence during the day. They used to IM. Now I’d want them to tweet.
  • Wiki: Every deal should have had a wiki space, with its “win the mandate” phase, its “sell it to the market” phase and the documentation phase. Wikis would have been good for handling the whole deal cycle.
  • Feed Reader: There were market data publications to which BofA subscribed. Getting a feed of deal information would have been a huge help. We were chasing information down in paper publications.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: When deal, market or industry news came through, I needed a place to save it. I was always going back to find stuff I’d seen earlier. Bookmarking would have helped a lot. Note taking too – capture some information or thoughts, tag it and come back to it later.
  • Blog: My group wouldn’t have had much use for a blog amongst ourselves. But a blog that updated the rest of the bank as to what was happening in our particular capital market (syndicated loans) would have been perfect. We had other groups asking us often about market conditions.

I’d Love to Hear About You

Maybe you’re already using social media inside your company. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking, “my company really needs…”

If you’ve got any ideas to share, I’d love to hear them.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22How+Would+Social+Media+Help+You+in+Your+Job%3F%22&public=1

Tag Clouds for Our Lifestreams

We are marching down the lifestreaming road. There are a proliferation of lifestream apps, such as FriendFeed, SocialThing, Strands, Swurl and others. Lifestreaming is getting hotter, and there’s some thought that lifestreaming will be the new blogging:

Sites and social tools like these and many others encourage more participation on the social web than ever before. Although the social participants on these sites are often more active in socializing than they are in blogging, there’s still that need to stake out your own piece of real estate on the web. But we wonder: does that really need to be a blog anymore? Perhaps not.

It’s a great concept, one that Mark Krynsky has been chronicling for a while at the Lifestream Blog.

An area I think that is ripe for inn ovation here is the ability to find the meta data from one’s lifestream. On FriendFeed, people will have multiple services that fill up their lifestreams. A couple issues that crop up on FriendFeed are:

  • Figuring out whether to subscribe to someone
  • Catching up on what particular individuals have been streaming

Because there is one thing that has been noticed with all this lifestreaming – there’s a lot of information generated (or “noise” as some might say).

So here’s my idea:

Create tag clouds for our lifestreams

What do I mean? Read on.

FriendFeed Lifestream

I’ll use the lifestream service with which I’m most familiar, FriendFeed. Here are the tag clouds I’d like to see for each user’s lifestream:

  • Blog
  • Music
  • Google Reader shares
  • Bookmarks
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Digg
  • etc…

And I’d like to see tag clouds for what users Like and Comment on. Because on FriendFeed, Likes and Comments have the same effect as a direct feed of someone’s lifestream: they put the content into the feed of all their followers.

So via the tag cloud, I’m can quickly come up to speed on what someone is interested in.

Let’s Make Tagging Easy

I don’t propose that users suddenly tag their own streams. Rather, let’s leverage the work of others.

It’s de rigueur for Web 2.0 apps to include tagging. Bloggers tag. Social bookmarkers tag. Music lovers tag. Why not pull the tags applied to the source content into the lifestream?

Here’s what I mean. My blog has plenty of tags. These tags are included in the RSS feed of my blog. So any feed that includes my blog should include these tags. Let’s leverage:

  1. The tags that people apply to their own Web 2.0 content
  2. RSS/Atom feeds that include tags

For some background on this, click here for a page on Technorati that talks about tags in feeds.

By leveraging the tagging work already resident in user-generated content, one can quickly build up a tag cloud for lifestreams.

An Example: Google Reader Shares

Google Reader is a good example. People ‘share’ blog posts they read via their Google Readers. Sharing lets others see the articles that someone finds interesting and useful. And of course, those blog posts that someone is sharing have tags.

Here’s what the tag cloud of my recent Google Reader shares looks like. I’ve simulated the tag cloud by using Wordle for the tags.

You can see my interests lately: Enterprise 2.0, FriendFeed, social media. If someone wanted to get a quick sense of the things they’ll see by subscribing to me, this tag cloud answers that. And if someone is curious about the specific posts I’ve been sharing that relate to a subject, they could click on one of the tags and get a list of my Google Reader shares.

Curious, I ran the same analysis on the Google Reader shares of four people I follow on FriendFeed: Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, Sarah Perez, Mike Fruchter. Here are the topics they’ve been sharing lately:

Robert Scoble clearly is following the iPhone and Google. Louis Gray was following the happenings at Gnomedex. Sarah Perez is pretty even in her interests, with FireFox, social bookmarking, FriendFeed, Twitter, search and photos among her favorite topics. Mike Fruchter has been reading up on Twitter and social media.

Just like that, I’ve gotten a sense for their interests right now. And if those were true tag clouds, I could click the tag and see the Google Reader shares. Robert Scoble is really good at tracking useful relevant things. Clicking the ‘iPhone’ tag and reading his shares would be a quick way to understand what’s goin.

Tags + Wordles

As I said, most user generated content comes with tags these days. So pulling these into the feeds and representing them in a tag cloud would be a fantastic move forward in creating lifestream tag clouds.

But what about Twitter? There are no tags on tweets. Not a problem. FriendFeed and other lifestream services could do a Wordle-like tag cloud. Tally the most common words in someone’s tweets, represent it as a tag cloud. And make the tag cloud clickable, which would essentially run a Summize Twitter search of the user’s tweets for a given tag.

Use Existing Metadata to Solve Two Problems

The key here is to not make it onerous on the end user. Tag once, re-use everywhere. If desired, users could be given the option to add tags to their own lifestreams. But the core idea is to eliminate double tagging work for users.

If this could be done, you’ve got a visual representation of people’s lifestreams. And an easy way to find the specific entries in a lifestream that relate to a topic.

Lifestreamers – would you want something like this

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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