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The Two-Year Lag from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0

The Enterprise 2.0 sector draws heavy inspiration from innovations in the Web 2.0 world. Indeed, the name itself, Enterprise “2.0” reflects this influence. From a product management perspective, Web 2.0, and its derivations social networking and social media are great proving grounds for features before coding them into your application.

A fruitful area to review is how long it takes for a feature to go from some level of decent adoption in the consumer realm to becoming part of the mainstream Enterprise 2.0 vendor landscape. The list of features that have made the jump – forums, wikis, blogs, tagging, social networking, activity streams, status updates – is impressive. Let’s look at three features that made the leap, with an eye toward how long it took.

Tool Year of Web Adoption Year of E2.0 Adoption
Wikis 2002 2004
Social networking 2006 2008
Microblogging 2007 2009

Here’s the back-up for those dates.

Wikis: Wikis got their start back in 1995. From there they grew, and the application became popular with computer programmers. But it hadn’t caught hold outside that culture. Wikipedia was launched in January 2001, and grew rapidly over its first two years. It wasn’t yet mainstream, but it clearly had caught a wave among early adopters. As recounted on the history of wikis page in Wikipedia, 2004 – 2006 saw an explosion of interest in wikis from companies.

Social networking: Defined as enabling social profiles, and connecting with others. Facebook started in 2004, and grew very popular among colleges. In 2006, it opened up its membership beyond college students, and turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo! Clearly, the company was on fire (even then).

In April 2008, Jive released Clearspace 2.0, which was touted as Facebook for the enterprise. Socialtext 3.0 was released in September 2008, and it included Socialtext People, its social networking feature. And I can tell you that at BEA Systems, there was a second quarter 2008 release of a Facebook for the enterprise in the Aqualogic product line.

Microblogging: Twitter. The source of it all. Twitter actually was conceived as an idea back in 2000, and company was started from a 2006 brainstorming session at Odeo. But it really hit big with the early adopter set at 2007′s South by Southwest.

Microblogging broke into the Enterprise 2.0 world when Yammer won best-of-show at the September 2008 TechCrunch 50. But that doesn’t count as mainstreaming into Enterprise 2.0. Yammer proceeded to grow strongly the next few months. And Socialtext introduced Signals in March 2009.

So there’s some documentation backing my 2-year cycle for Web 2.0 innovations to move from hitting the early adopter set to the Enterprise 2.0 sector. Note that this doesn’t apply to every Web 2.0 innovation. No one ever talked about “MySpace for the Enterprise” and there’s really not a Flickr in the Enterprise 2.0 umbrella.

Which raises a question about today’s hottest Web 2.0 trend…

Foursquare for the Enterprise?

Foursquare, and its up-n-coming competitor Gowalla, are all the rage these days. These location-based social networks are good for seeing what friends are doing. Foursquare also integrates features that reward participation (points), add a sense of competition (mayors) and provide recognition (badges).

Mark Fidelman recently wrote about Foursquare and Enterprise 2.0. And using our handy two-year lag calculation, somewhere in early 2012 the first mainstream Enterprise 2.0 will integrate Foursquare features. Actually, two of them.

Location check-ins

Employees will check in their locations from all around the globe. Sales meetings, customer on-site deployments, sourcing trips, conferences, etc. Sure, this info might be in the Outlook Calendar. But even if it is, Outlook Calendar entries aren’t social objects. These check-ins will allow you to know where colleagues are, including those you don’t know well. But wouldn’t it be nice to know if some other employee visited someplace you’re investigating?

These check-ins can be even more tactical. Folks who are part of a meeting in a conference room all check-in. Voila! Meeting attendance, which everyone can see. For an individual employee, these check-ins become a personal history of what you did over the past week.

Mayorships, Badges, Points

Foursquare makes it fun, and for many people, addicting, to check-in. You get points and *bonuses* when you check into the places you go. If you check in to the same place enough times, you get to be mayor of a venue and tweet it about it. You earn badges for accomplishing different things in the Foursquare system.

These features have had the effect of motivating legions of people to participate. It’s fun to see your stats. It’s fun to get a little competitive.  It’s great when you get that notification that you’ve earned a new badge.

Andrew McAfee wrote a series of posts exploring the question of whether knowledge workers should have Enterprise 2.0 ratings. This chart was from one of his posts:

Well, the Foursquare approach certainly takes us down this path, albeit in a fun way. I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out that Spigit already has these tools in place (ahead of its time?).

So what do you think? Personally, I’m looking forward to more Foursquare in the enterprise.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012210

From the home office in Massachusetts, where I’m saying, “Kennedy who?”

#1: the six types of ideas http://bit.ly/6pKGGZ #innovation

#2: RT @InfoWeekSMB Spigit Introduces ‘Idea Management’ for SMBs http://bit.ly/6CGhWO

#3: RT @johnt Systems that eliminate failure, eliminate innovation by @snowded http://icio.us/xoupma

#4: This is really cool: @tyler_thompson decided to redesign airline boarding passes: http://bit.ly/75OWtU What do you think?

#5: RT @markfidelman My new Post: Hutch Carpenter on the Innovation X Factor http://tinyurl.com/y9hfvrq

#6: RT @stu: New Blog Post: Celebrating the Web at 20 http://bit.ly/6Vtjo5 incl interviews w/ @bhc3 @louisgray #emc #innovation

#7: @pgkiran Good to know Kiran! Got no beef with Conan, he’s getting a raw deal. But I don’t blame it on Leno.

#8: RT @MarkDykeman: I hereby coin the term “nanocause”. It’s a thing that you care about for no more than 15 min. before you get bored.

#9: Seventh Generation (cleaning products) ad on TV just referenced the vaunted “5-second rule” for food on the floor. #lifelessons

#10: There truly are times a parent can look at his lovely little children, and think: “savages”.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 031309

From the home office in Austin, Texas…

#1: @defrag has been saying he thinks the economy is slowly coming around. To that end: http://bit.ly/pP5bd and http://bit.ly/nRkzv

#2: “I think the days of the traditional San Francisco startup approach are numbered.” http://bit.ly/jyw4H

#3: @petefields Companies should follow all who follow them. I’d bet companies’ tweet reading is more keyword & @reply based, not person based.

#4: Maybe it’s just me, but Techmeme has improved a lot recently in terms of the variety of interesting stories. Human editor + user tips = +1

#5: “Facebook is the SharePoint of the Internet” http://bit.ly/4fu73o

#6: This shouldn’t be too controversial…The Case Against Breast-Feeding in April’s Atlantic Magazine http://bit.ly/Xs4ZG

#7: If browsers were women http://bit.ly/kO1su (h/t @mona)

#8: I’ve been blissfully unaware of what Sophie’s Choice is about all these years. My wife told me about it last night. Never gonna watch that.

#9: Actively banishing artists showing up in my Last.fm recommendations: Peter Cetera, Richard Marx, John Parr.

#10: In an email f/ my son’s preschool: One kid: “We’ll take them home in the future”. My son Harrison: “But I’ve never been to the future.”

Social-Filtered Search

Recently, there was a lot of discussion about running searches on Twitter, using authority as a filter. The idea is to reduce Twitter search results to only those with a minimum number of followers. The idea garnered plenty of discussion. From that discussion, I saw some perspectives that I liked:

Frederic Lardinois: I would love to have the option to see results from my own friends (or those who I have communicated with through @replies) bubble up to the top.

Jeremiah Owyang: Organizing Twitter Search by Authority is the wrong attribute. Instead, focus search by your OWN social connections. People you actually know score higher relevancy. http://www.loiclemeur.com/engl…

Robert Scoble: On both services you should see a bias of tweets made by people you’re actually following. Who you are following is a LOT more important than who is following you.

Those ideas make sense to me, because they reflect the way we seek out information. I do think there’s room for search results beyond only your friends. Here’s what I mean:

social-filtered-search

The idea above can best be described as follows:

I’ll take any quality level of search results for my close connections, but want only the most useful content from distant connections.

The logic behind this is that any quality “deficiencies” in content generated by my close connections can be made up for by reaching and having a conversation with them. That’s not something I’d do with more distant connections.

The chart above has two axes: strength of ties and usefulness signals. Let’s run through those.

Strength of Ties

Harvard professor Andrew McAfee blogged about the strength of ties back in 2007. With an eye toward employees inside companies, he segmented our connections as follows:

strong-weak-potential-ties-mcafee

The segmentation works inside companies, and it also applies in the personal world. For example, on FriendFeed, my Favorites List is akin to Strong Ties. The rest of the hundreds of people I follow are my Weak Ties. Friend-of-a-Friend entries I see are my Potential Ties. And of course there are a lot of people I never see. Those would be the “None” Ties.

The hardest part of this segmentation is that people aren’t likely to take the time to create and update their Strong Ties. Rather, Strong Ties should be tracked via implicit signals. Whose content do you click/rate/comment on/bookmark/share/etc.? Extend this out to email – who do you correspond with the most?

For example, I tried out the social search of Delver. It lets you load in your social networks, from places such as Facebook and FriendFeed, and uses content from those connections as your search index. Innovative idea. What happened though is that when I run a search, I get a deluge of content. My social networks are too big to make the service really useful.

Here’s where apps that handle a large percentage of my clicks and interactions will have an advantage. FriendFeed, with an extensive library of content from my connections, has this quality. Inside the enterprise, workers interact with a limited set of applications. The company’s IT department can set up tracking of interactions to identify implicit Strong Ties.

Bottom line: determining Strong Ties via implicit interactions is scalable and useful.

Signals of Usefulness

I’ve already described these in the paragraphs above:

  • Clicks
  • Ratings
  • Comments
  • Bookmarking
  • Sharing

Implicit data + explicit signals are the most powerful indication of usefulness.

Putting These into Place for Social-Filtered Search

When I say that I’d want to receive search results, even without many signals of usefulness, from my Strong Ties, here’s an example.

  1. I’m planning to run a marathon
  2. What marathon training plan should I use?
  3. I run a search for marathon training.
  4. I see a tweet from one of my Strong Ties: “Just started my marathon training this weekend. 4 miles FTW!”
  5. I @reply my Strong Tie, ask what training program he’s using.
  6. I now can leverage someone else’s work on this subject.

Of course, I’d want to see well-rated marathon training programs too, like Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning. I’d want to see the content from my distant/non-existent connections that had the highest signals of usefulness. Not unlike Google’s algorithm.

But the key here is that I’ll make up for any deficiencies in the utility of content for someone I’m close to by contacting them. A search on ‘marathon training‘ in Twitter shows a lot of results. But I’m not going to reach out to most of these folks, because I don’t know them. I only want those with whom I can have a conversation.

As I said, the ability to track both implicit and explicit activity is key to making this work. Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter and Enterprise 2.0 all seem like good candidates for this type of search.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Social-Filtered+Search%22&who=everyone

Why I Like Buzzwords (Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Media, etc.)

Via Annie Mole on Flickr

Via Annie Mole on Flickr

UK-based The Register has an article out, They used ‘em, you reeled: the year’s most overused phrases. The article lists “tech terms that were so overused and misapplied during the last 12 months that they began to lose their meaning.” Included in the list?

  • The cloud
  • Web 2.0
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Software as a service
  • Agile
  • Green

Then I saw this tweet from Lawrence Liu of Telligent:

I hope “social media” & “Web/Enterprise 2.0″ die as way too overloaded buzzwords in 2009. As New Yr reso, I’ll try to avoid using them.

To which Gia Lyons of Jive Software tweeted:

@LLiu I’m with you re the death of “social media” & E/W 2.0 buzzwords. I’m not gonna use ‘em either.

I get the sentiment, getting away from the overselling of benefits and hype associated with these terms. But man, at this rate, we’re not going to have any words left to describe Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, social media, or anything.

So What Terms Do We Use?

If we stop using terms like ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would be the replacement(s)? Here’s what Lawrence thought:

@karitas Use real terms like team, community, Facebook, sharing, commenting, rating, discussing. :-)

Cannot disagree with Lawrence here. Those all are valuable terms. But I wonder how he meant this? Have people been using buzzwords in lieu of those?

  • “We need to get the enterprise 2.0 team together to collaborate”
  • “Let’s put this idea out into our social media community to see what they think”
  • “When employees are web 2.0-ing discussing ideas, make sure the record is accessible everywhere”

What those silly examples show is that there are plenty of points where you shouldn’t use buzzwords. I’m not convinced that people have been abusing the language that badly though.

There are two good reasons that those buzzwords should continue to be part of Lawrence and Gia’s vocabulary in 2009.

Buzzwords Provide Context and Findability

The first reason buzzwords have value is context. When I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, I’m standing on the shoulders of others who have been working in the field for some time. It’s short hand for:

  • Employees are better off when they can find more content that colleagues create, not less
  • Workers can offer much more value than being just the cog they were hired for
  • People from different locations and units should be able to work together far more easily than they do
  • Companies’ culture needs to be open to empowering employees to drive and critique what’s happening internally
  • Adoption is an ongoing work-in-progress as employees shed old ways of thinking about sharing their contributions

Yup, I get the benefit of those connotations when I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′. You know I’m not talking about CRM or accounting software.

The second reason buzzwords are valuable is they increase findability of content and people. As I’ve written before, I’m tracking the Enterprise 2.0 industry by following specific people (such as Lawrence and Gia) on FriendFeed, plus people who are using terms related to Enterprise 2.0. That’s the whole premise of the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed.

If people wholesale stop using buzzwords, the ability to find others with common interests reduces dramatically. When some one writes or tags with ‘Enterprise 2.0′, ‘e2.0′ or ‘social software’, it’s pretty clear what their subject is. But if someone interested in social software inside the enterprise decides to only use terms like ‘Facebook’ or ‘sharing’, they will never be found. To see what I mean, here are Twitter searches for those terms:

Facebook

Sharing

Good luck figuring out who is talking about the enterprise in those results.

When Change Comes, It Will Be Organic, Not Declared

There is a time and place for usage of buzzwords, and it’s possible the language has been abused. But that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water. Smart people can discern when to use a buzzword for what they mean, and when to use something more specific (or generic, as the case may be).  I have yet to be troubled by irresponsible use of these terms.

That’s not to say things won’t change. People will use terms like ‘social media’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0′ until better, more descriptive terms emerge. Those new terms will make sense, and will provide the context someone needs when they use them. Right now, our buzzwords fit that bill.

Besides, if we couldn’t simply say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would we say?

Software-that-lets-employees-contribute-from anywhere-and-make-it-accessible-to-all-to-improve-a-company’s-ability-to-know-what-it-knows-and-which-requires-a-strong-employees-are-more-than-cogs-culture

I’ll take brevity on this one.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Why+I+Like+Buzzwords+(Enterprise+2.0%2C+Web+2.0%2C+Social+Media%2C+etc.)%22&who=everyone

Supply-Demand Curves for Attention

The basic ideas behind the Attention Economy are simple. Such an economy facilitates a marketplace where consumers agree to receives services in exchange for their attention.

Alex Iskold, ReadWriteWeb, The Attention Economy: An Overview

The attention economy. It’s a natural evolution of our ever-growing thirst for information, and the easier means to create it. It’s everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere. The democratization of content production, the endless array of choices for consumption.

In Alex’s post, he listed four attention services, as they relate to e-commerce: alerts, news, search, shopping.  In the world of information, I focus on three use cases for the consumption of information:

  1. Search = you have a specific need now
  2. Serendipity = you happen across useful information
  3. Notifications = you’re tracking specific areas of interest

I’ve previously talked about these three use cases. In a post over on the Connectbeam blog, I wrote a longer post about the supply demand curves for content in the Attention Economy. What are the different ways to increase share of mind for workers’ contributions, in the context of those three consumption use cases.

The chart below is from that post. It charts the content demand curves for search, serendipity and notifications.

micro-economies-of-attention-3-demand-curves-for-content

Following the blue dotted line…

  • For a given quantity of user generated content, people are willing to invest more attention on Search than on Notifications or Serendipity
  • For a given “price” of attention, people will consume more content via Search than for Notifications or Serendipity

Search has always been a primary use case. Google leveraged the power of that attention to dominate online ads.

Serendipity is relatively new entry in the world of consumption. Putting content in front of someone, content that they had not expressed any prior interest in. A lot of the e-commerce recommendation systems are built on this premise, such as Amazon.com’s recommendations. And companies like Aggregate Knowledge put related content in front of readers of media websites.

Notifications are content you have expressed a prior interest in, but don’t have an acute, immediate need for like you do with Search. I use the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed for this purpose.

The demand curves above have two important qualities that differentiate them:

  • Where they fall in relation to each other on the X and Y axes
  • Their curves

As you can see with how I’ve drawn them, Search and Notifications are still the best way to command someone’s attention. Search = relevance + need. Notifications = relevance.

Serendipity commands less attention, but it can have the property of not requiring opt-in by a user. Which means you can put a lot of content in front of users, and some percentage of it will be useful. The risk is that a site overdoes it, and dumps too much Serendipitous-type content in front of users. That’s a good way to drive them away because they have to put too much attention on what they’re seeing. Hence the Serendipity curve. If you demand too much attention, you will greatly reduce the amount of content consumed. Aggregate Knowledge typically puts a limited number of recommendations in front of readers.

On the Connectbeam blog post, I connect these subjects to employee adoption of social software. Check it out if that’s an area of interest for you.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Supply-Demand+Curves+for+Attention%22&who=everyone

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120508

From the home office in Truth or Consequences, NM…

#1: Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati …

#2: Noticing that my tweets that hit 140 characters are having text cut off well before 140. Anyone else?

#3: @twitter A bug. Char. < and > are stored as 4 char. in ur DB, not 1. Means each use cuts max char. of tweet by 3. This tweet’s max=134

#4: One effect of BackType – I am more conscientious than ever about commenting. Comments have the effect of Google Reader shares.

#5: Lump by Presidents of the USA comes on radio. Says 20-something, “Oh that’s the classic rock station.” Lump is classic rock? Ouch!

#6: One thing vacations with little kids ain’t…restful.

#7: RT @timoreilly Derived intelligence from large data sets is a kind of interest or “float” on data. Analogy of Web 2.0 data to capital.

#8: The H-P Social Computing Lab is doing some really interesting research http://bit.ly/k7dI

#9: RT @jbordeaux re: enterprise 2.0 “And like pornography: they’ll pay too much, get over-excited after tiny results, but soon regret it.”

#10: But at least I’ve got a Sam Adams.

90-9-1 Participation and Enterprise Social Software Adoption

In 2006, Jakob Nielsen postulated that participation in online communities followed these characteristics:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

This was groundbreaking research, and it is a terrific framework for thinking about communities. Its lessons can help sites design better interactions.

The 90-9-1 is useful for thinking about employee participation as well. The more people who participate, the more Enterprise 2.0 advances companies’ fortunes.

But in really thinking about communities, it occurred to me that 90-9-1 is an incomplete basis for considering participation inside the enterprise. In reality out on the web, participation levels for a typical site are more aptly described by the pyramid below:

true-rates-of-online-participation1

Of course, this is a fairly useless graphic for the consumer Web. Obviously, the vast majority of users don’t visit any single site. Tell me something I don’t know.

Inside a company, this graphic becomes critical. Consumers can live with splintered participation on various websites, be they Web 2.0 or Web 1.0. But this approach is terrible inside companies.

For instance, assume there’s a major initiative underway inside a company. Some employees are using the company wiki, but others never visit the wiki. They use email and PowerPoint decks to trade information and ideas. As things progress, some employees think to check the wiki for new items. Others never check the wiki, and exclusively head out to Google to find information, even if the same or better information has already been added by colleagues to the wiki.

Splintered participation. Out on the consumer web, it’s a personal choice. Inside companies, it’s inefficiency.

For companies to get full benefit from the social productivity tools deployed to employees, participation has got to look better than 99-0.90-0.09-0.01.

Improve Tools Visibility

A recent blog post by Oliver Marks on ZDNet examined integration of Enterprise 2.0 inside companies. This quote hypothesized a cause for low adoption of wikis and blogs in some organizations:

This is why there are so many sparsely populated wikis and blogs slowly twisting in the wind in the corporate world – because they were set up as tentative trial balloons with no clear utility or guidelines for expected use.

The gist of his point is that before you let these apps in your door, know why you want to use them. That’s solid advice, and should be clearer for projects from the start.

I’d like to suggest another way to influence participation inside companies. Wait…let me quote Dinesh Tantri’s idea for increasing participation:

We would need some means of allowing users to carry these services in a virtual backpack. This backpack should be available at all points where users interact with information systems. (Desktop, Intranet, Extranet and probably enterprise apps ). Browser and desktop extensions are one easy way of doing this. Perhaps smarter ways of doing this in a browser/platform agnostic way will emerge. The point is, usability and the interaction design of Enterprise 2.0 deployments has to be high on the agenda of enterprises trying to leverage them.

The idea is embedding social software into the regular tools and activities that employees already use. Dennis Howlett advocates this with the ESME microblogging project with which he works. It’s an idea I like a lot.

If you think about how things work out on the web, awareness grows for tools like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, FriendFeed, etc. as people find about them naturally. There’s no policy prescription for using these apps. They come into view in the course of one’s dealing on the web.

What I like about Dinesh’s idea is that it lets the “99%” crowd, those who never visit a particular site, discover content, conversations and people that are relevant to their day-to-day jobs. This raises their awareness. When you run a search and find out that something relevant to you is already on someone’s blog, or the wiki or microshared, you suddenly have more interest in that tool. That awareness is important for any tool, even more so when its use is not mandated by senior management.

Raising awareness of social software tools, content and users. A critical component of a successful rollout of Enterprise 2.0.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Defrag 2008 Notes – Picasso, Information Day Trading, Stowe “The Flow” Boyd

defrag-logo

One of the most consistently provocative conferences I attended last year — my own Money:Tech 2008 aside, of course — was Eric Norlin’s Defrag conference. Oodles of interesting people, lots of great conversation and all of it aimed at one of my favorite subjects: How we cope with the information tsunami.

Paul Kedrosky, Defrag 2008 Conference

I spent two days out in Denver earlier this week at Defrag 2008 with Connectbeam. As Kedrosky notes above, the conference is dedicated to managing the increasing amount of information we’re all exposed to. Now my conference experience is limited. I’ve been to five of them, all in 2008: Gartner Portals, BEA Participate, TechCrunch50, KMWorld, Defrag.

Defrag was my favorite by far. Both for the subject matter discussed and the attendees. The conference has an intimate feel to it, but a high wattage set of attendees.

In true information overflow style, I wanted to jot down some notes from the conference.

Professor William Duggan: He’s a professor at Columbia Business School. He gave the opening keynote: “Strategic Intuition”, which is the name of his book.  Duggan talked about how studies of the brain showed that we can over-attribute people’s actions as being left-brained or right-brained. Scientists are seeing that both sides of the brain are used in tackling problems.

He then got into the meat of his session – that people innovate by assembling unrelated data from their past experience. For example, he talked about how Picasso’s style emerged. Picasso’s original paintings were not like those for which he became famous. The spark? First, meeting with Henri Matisse, and admiring his style. In that meeting, Picasso happened to become fascinated with a piece of African sculpture. In one of those “aha!” moments, Picasso combined the styles of Matisse and African folk art to create his own distinctive style. He combined two unrelated influences to create his own style.

Duggan also described how all innovation is fundamentally someone “stealing” ideas from others. In “stealing”, he means that people assemble parts of what they’re exposed to. This is opposed to imitating, which to copy something in whole. That’s not innovation.

Re-imagining the metaphors behind collaborative tools: This session examined whether we need need ways of thinking about collaboration inside the enterprise. The premise here is that we need to come up with new metaphors that drive use cases and technology design. I’ll hold off on describing most of what was said. My favorite moment was when Jay Simons of Atlassian rebutted the whole notion of re-imagining the metaphors. He said the ones we have now are fine, e.g. “the water cooler”. What we need is to stop chasing new metaphors, and execute on the ones we have.

Rich Hoeg, Honeywell: Rich is a manager in Honeywell’s corporate IT group (and a Connectbeam customer). He talked about the adoption path of social software inside Honeywell, going from a departmental implementation to much wider implementation, and how his own career path mirrored that transition. He’s also a BarCamp guy. Cool to hear an honest-to-goodness geek making changes in the enterprise world.

Yatman Lai, Cisco: Yatman discussed Cisco’s initiatives around collaboration and tying together their various enterprise 2.0 apps. I think this is something we’ll see more of as time goes along. Companies are putting in place different social software apps, but they’re still siloed. Connecting these social computing apps will become more important in the future.

Stowe “The Flow”: Stowe Boyd apparently gave quite the interesting talk. I didn’t attend it, because Connectbeam had a presentation opposite his. But from what I gather, the most memorable claim Stowe made was that there’s no such thing as attention overload. That we all can be trained to watch a constant flow of information and activities go by, and get our work done. I think there will be a segment of the population that does indeed do this. If you can swing it, you’re going to be well-positioned to be in-the-know about the latest happenings and act on them.

But in talking with various people after the presentation, there was a sense that Stowe was overestimating the general population’s ability and desire to train their minds to handle both the work they need to do for their employers, and to take in the cascade of information flowing by (e.g. Twitter, FriendFeed). Realistically, we’ll asynchronously take in information, not in constant real-time.

We’re Becoming Day Traders in Information: I heard this quote a few times, not sure who said it (maybe someone from Sxipper or Workstreamr). It’s an intriguing idea. Each unit of information has value, and that value varies by person and circumstances. Things like Twitter are the trading platform. Of course, the problem with this analogy is that actual day traders work with stocks, cattle futures, options, etc. Someone has to actually produce something. If all we do is trade in information and conversations, who’s making stuff?

Mark Koenig: Mark is an analyst with Saugatuck Technology. He gave the closing keynote for Day 1, Social Computing and the Enterprise: Closing the Gaps. What are the gaps?

  1. Social network integration
  2. Information relevance
  3. Integration with enterprise applications
  4. The culture shift

Mark also believes in the enterprise market,  externally focused social computing will grow more than internally focused. Why? Easier ROI, more of a sales orientation.

Charlene Li: Former Forrester analyst Charlene Li led off Day 2 with her presentation, Harnessing the Implicit Valkue of the Social Graph. Now running her own strategic consulting firm, Altimeter Group, Charlene focused on how future application will weave “social” into everything they do. It will be a part of the experience, not a distinct, standalone social network thing. As she says, “social networks will be like air”. She ran the gamut of technologies in this presentation. You can see some tweets from the presentation here.

One thing she said was to “prepare for the demise of the org chart”. When I see things like that, I do laugh a bit. The org chart isn’t going anywhere. Enterprises will continue to have reporting structures for the next hundred years and beyond. What will change is the siloed way in which people only work with people within their reporting structures. Tearing down those walls will be an ongoing theme inside companies.

Neeraj Mathur, Sun Micro: Neeraj talked about Sun’s internal initiatives around social computing in his session, “Building Social Capital in an Enterprise”. Sun is pretty advanced in its internal efforts. One particular element stuck with me. It the rating that each employee receives based on their participation in the Sun social software. Called Community Equity, the personal rating is built on these elements (thanks for Lawrence Liu for tweeting them):

Contribution Q + Skills Q + Participation Q + Role Q = Personal Q

Sun’s approach is an implementation of an idea that Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee put out there, Should Knowledge Workers Have Enterprise 2.0 Ratings? It’s an interesting idea – companies can gain a lot of value from social computing, why not recognize those that do it well? Of course, it’s also got potential for unintended consequences, so it needs to be monitored.

Laura “Pistachio” Fitton: Twitter-ologist Laura Fitton led a panel called “Finding Serendipitous Content Through Context”. The session covered the value of serendipity, and the ways in which it happens. The panel included executives from Aggregate Knowledge and Zemanta, as well as Carla Thompson from Guidewire.

What interested me was the notions of what serendipity really is. For example, Zemanta does text matching on your blog post to find other blog posts that are related. So there’s an element of structured search to bring related articles.

So I asked this question: Does persistent keyword search, delivered as RSS or email, count as “serendipity”? Carla’s response was , no it doesn’t. Serendipity is based on randomness. It’s an interesting topic worth a future blog post potentially.

And of course, Laura encouraged people to tweet during the session, using the hash tag #serendip. The audience tweets are a good read.

Daniela Barbosa, Dow Jones, DataPortability.org: Daniela works for Dow Jones, with coverage of their Synaptica offering. She’s also an ardent supporter of data portability, serving as Chairperson of DataPortability.org. Her session was titled Pulling the Threads on User Data. She’s a librarian by training, but she kicks butt in leading edge thinking about data portability and organization. In her presentation, she says she’s just like you. She then pops up this picture of her computer at work:

daniela-barbosa-laptop-screen

Wow – now that’s some flow. Stowe Boyd would be proud.

Wrapping up: Those are some notes from what I heard there. I couldn’t get to everything, as I had booth duties for Connectbeam. Did plenty of demos for people. And got to meet many people in real life that I have followed and talked with online. Looking forward to Defrag 2009.

*****

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Greed, Competition, Investor Expectations: Some Things Social Media Will Never Change

Courtesy Bryan Maleszyk on Flickr

Courtesy Bryan Maleszyk on Flickr

In my previous post, I wrote about the Paul Kedrosky session at Defrag 2008, Around the Horn. It was a free form session in which he queried several panelists on a range of subjects. Lots of good discussions from that.

One topic that got some extended discussion both on the panel and in audience questions was this:

Could social media and better information awareness tools have prevented the financial meltdown?

The basis of the question, in the Defrag context, was that there were signs and data that pointed to the implosion. The argument on the table was that there was a failure of information systems, and of social media, to alert the world to what was happening. And the follow-up: how can we improve this?

You can’t. Don’t even bother.

Because the problem isn’t one of not seeing the warning signs. See Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s slides about the various financial ratios at the time of the financial collapse. We were clearly running things in the red zone when you see that data. And the data was there to see.

The problem is that people will never change. They will ignore any system telling them that things might be getting out of hand. Why? Tragedy of the commons.

Financial Meltdown = Tragedy of the Commons

In economics and game theory, there is the notion of the commons dilemma. This is the idea that when there is a common good, people will act upon their own interests in consuming that common good:

  • Person 1: consumes proportional share of large resource
  • Person 2: takes an outsized portion of resource, which by itself doesn’t destroy the resource
  • Person 3: sees Person 2 take larger share, matches that or even increases amount consumed
  • And on and on…

The problem is that as people do this, they are not acting as stewards of the common good. The result is that the common good ends up entirely consumed as each person acted in their own self-interest.

With regard to the financial crisis, what was the common good that was over consumed? Home ownership. The grpahic below is from Mary Meeker’s presentation:

morgan-stanley-home-ownership-timeline

Consider the dotted line on the above graph to be the normal consumption rate for home ownership. From 2000 onward, an increasing number of people purchased their own homes. Turns out, this put a mighty strain on the financial system. A lot of people purchased homes who shouldn’t have.

Now I don’t blame people for wanting homes. But the effect was to drive the prices up incredibly, which caused more desire for home ownership. Home ownership is sustained by a number of factors: steady incomes, mortgage tax breaks, personal financial management, a robust collateralized mortgage market, mortgage insurance, etc. All of those are part of the common resources. They were undermined by too many people partaking in home ownership.

The Banker’s Life

So in the case of home ownership, mortgage bankers ended up destroying the various shared resources that make up the market for home ownership. Each banker acted independently to get as much as he could from the system: loosened lending rules overall, finance build-n-flip construction, push home ownership into markets with lower financial means (a.k.a. sub-prime).

I understand the mentality. Once upon a time, I was an investment banker with Bank of America, in the syndicated loan group. Syndicated loans are like bonds, with the risk spread across many lenders. Here are two examples of how things work in banking.

First, I was part of a deal team trying to win a mandate with HMO company Humana. We were trying to unseat Humana’s incumbent bank, Chase Manhattan. We went in aggressively, with some pretty cut-rate financing terms. Chase did want to lose the deal, and so they went even more aggressively. In the syndicated loan market, you need a bunch of lenders to participate. Which means you need realistic pricing to sell the deal, just like in the bond or stock markets. Turns out, in its effort to keep Humana, Chase went too low in its pricing. They couldn’t syndicate the deal. Chase got caught up in the competition to keep Humana.

Second, at a dinner with the head of our group, the subject of minding the bank’s credit position came up. As in, what was the role of the syndicated loans group in being stewards of the bank’s balance sheet? Should we use our superior market knowledge to alert the credit underwriters about risks we’re seeing, and deals from which we should walk? I was a brash young guy, and provocatively opined that we were all about winning and syndicating deals. We shouldn’t focus on the credit risks, as that was the job elsewhere in the bank. To which the head of the group replied to me, “For the sake of your career, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” He was right – we really did have a responsibility. But I was reflecting the behaviors I’d seen out there in the market.

I bring up these examples to give you a sense of what it can be like inside banking. There is money splashing around everywhere, and when everything is up-up-up, you really can’t turn off the motivations of people.

Social Media Will Never Change This

What was happening in the mortgage industry was that the motivations were all one way: make the deal! You see your colleague cranking on getting deals done, and getting recognition internally. Your compensation is based on how many mortgages you get done. Competitor banks were reporting higher revenues and earnings. If you don’t match the growth of your peers, Wall Street dings your stock. The real estate market just kept going up, up, up.

Social software wasn’t going to change these dynamics. The current financial crisis is just the latest in a string of such events. And there will be more. It’s just human nature.

Professor Andrew McAfee tweeted a musing about Enterprise 2.0 and the financial collapse. I responded with my own thoughts:

amcafee: Could E2.0 have saved Lehman and Merrill? No. :)

bhc3: @amcafee – I used to work in banking. E2.0 would have made the banks better at achieving their growth goals. But those goals hurt the banks.

Social software is a powerful tool for organizations to get better in terms of innovation, productivity and responsiveness. But companies are still run by humans, and we’ll never be rid of that, for both the good and the bad.

*****

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Enterprises Don’t Care about Network Effects

Tim O’Reilly penned a great thought piece over the weekend, Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing. In the post, he examines cloud computing and its ramifications for software vendors:

I believe strongly that open source and open internet standards are doing the same to traditional software. And value is migrating to a new kind of layer, which we now call Web 2.0, which consists of applications driven not just by software but by network-effects databases driven by explicit or implicit user contribution.

So when Larry Ellison says that cloud computing and open source won’t produce many hugely profitable companies, he’s right, but only if you look at the pure software layer. This is a lot like saying that the PC wouldn’t produce many hugely profitable companies, and looking only at hardware vendors! First Microsoft, and now Google give the lie to Ellison’s analysis. The big winners are those who best grasp the rules of the new platform.

Two things stuck with me in the post. First, Tim does a great job delineating the different types of cloud computing. I put them together in a graph, rising in order of specialization and (generally) value-add.

And here’s a quick summary of Tim’s descriptions:

  • Utility Computing: this is pure computing plumbing stuff – “virtual machine instances, storage, and computation”
  • Platform as a Service: APIs are provided for the platform, such as on Google AppEngine and Salesforce’s force.com
  • Cloud-Based End-User Applications: web services are cloud-based, but people make a distinction between Google Search, and Google Docs. Same server farms, same cloud-based delivery. The difference is that Search doesn’t hold personal information, Docs does. So the holding of personal or company information is an important distinction here.

It’s that third, top level where Tim makes an interesting point. Larry Ellison holds that cloud computing is an interesting approach to delivering software, but not one that returns a lot of value to vendors. Tim argues that Ellison is right about the Utility Computing layer, but that he’s missing the bigger story with the Cloud-Based End-User Applications.

I’m not so sure Ellison is wrong.

Enterprises Thrive on Proprietary Advantage

The principle of Web 2.0 is powerful: “the user’s data becomes more valuable because it is in the same space as other users’ data.”It’s powerful, and continues to be a sea-change in thinking for Web applications (the idea itself isn’t new – it’s the whole premise of any market).

But here’s how Tim describes the opportunity that Oracle is overlooking:

If Oracle isn’t playing that game, they will one day be doomed to irrelevance. Perhaps, like hardware giants of the past – Compaq, say – they will be absorbed by a bigger company. Or perhaps, like Unisys, they will linger on in specialized markets, too big to go away but no longer on the cutting edge of anything. Or they will understand that it’s not the database software that matters, but the data that it holds, and the services that can be built against that data.

Oracle sells its software to big enterprises. The information in Oracle’s databases is a core strategic asset and basis of operations for companies. You don’t get to mess with that. At least not lightly.

Putting the database software in-the-cloud and enabling external network effects to occur against that data will be a hard sell for any vendor. I can think of two reasons off the top of my head.

Third party access to data: First, it requires that external parties have some level of access to a company’s data. Right there, the typical response from the CIO will be…why? Why would I let someone anywhere near my data? There is no way you’ll convince a company that parking its data in a cloud will increase its value because other companies’ data is also there.

There is an ecosystem argument that if many companies do park their data ijn the cloud, they’ll get the benefit of better third party apps who can leverage that cross-company data to deliver better applications. Which brings me to a second thought.

Ecosystem already exists: For a large installed base of software, like Oracle, a robust ecosystem already exists. Companies recieve plenty of pitches from vendors for add-ons to their Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, etc. software. Strictly speaking, having to go from company to company, looking at the installed software, does not address the “live web” potential of network effect advantage. I mean, you’re privy to usage stats and data content during the install, then you have no visibility as a third party software vendor.

But the experience of going company to company provides some knowledge to these ecosystem players, and the next dot release will incorporate some of the learnings. I don’t enterprises are suffering from a lack of new ideas with regard to their installed software.

Because the Network Effects Only Help the Competition

In the enterprise world, it’s so very dog-eat-dog. And here’s the problem with network effects, especially for large companies: Large companies see much more of what’s happening in the market than do smaller competitors. Their installed proprietary databases are gold.

If they put that in a database cloud, who really benefits? Smaller competitors who also participate in that cloud, and an ecosystem of software vendors. But the enterprises don’t gain nearly as much as the smaller players. Which from their perspective, actually makes the enterprise worse off.

I think Tim is onto something for the consumer and the small business markets. Cloud computing will give them access to information and an ecosystem that they currently do not enjoy. We see this all the time with Web 2.0 sites – eBay, Google Search, Facebook, etc.

But in the enterprise market, I’ll disagree with Tim, and his view on the faultiness of Oracle’s current position. Oracle’s dominant market position and corporations’ own motivations, proprietary knowledge and data sensitivities diminish the value of network effects for the enterprise market.

*****

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Today’s Social Media A-Listers: The Archetype of Tomorrow’s Company Leaders

Dennis Howlett had a post yesterday on Chris Brogan’s blog, Web 2.0- Was It Ever Alive? In the post, he takes the postion that much of the value of “social” is overstated, and will suffer from low internal adoption. He also believes the Gen Y/millennial fascination with social media will pass as workplace realities creep in.

Another post I read a couple days ago was on the New York Times Bits blog, Will Microblogging at Work Make You More Productive? This post and Dennis’s are nearly diametrically opposed. Included in the comments to the post was a very pro-social media point of view from a 22-year old named Emma.

Taking the two viewpoints together, I came up with this chart:

This certainly parallels the recurring generational differences on things like war, helping the poor, music and many other aspects of our lives. Use of social software in the workplace is actually one of those things that I believe will survive the inevitable changes in life perspective that will occur for Emma.

The ME in Social Media

Social media is a diverse pool of interests, motivations and relationships. It’s quite flexible for the uses you want.

Emma is very much in the learning mode. She’s engaging others on Twitter to diversify her knowledge network (see The Revenue Impact of Enterprise 2.0 to understand the value of this). There is no reason for her to discontinue this behavior, and indeed, she’s helping her career via social software.

Now as Emma progresses through her career, she’ll build up an external and internal network that provides sources of information, opinion and perspectives. These will be immensely valuable to her.

She also start to lead others. Inside her company, there will be applications that integrate collaboration and social networks natively with the apps where she does her work. Emma, and other talented young executives, will emerge as key players inside their companies by playing a couple roles:

Content producers and information filters. And this is where the A-Listers of today provide the examples.

Enterprise A-Listers

What does Robert Scoble do? Louis Gray? Chris Brogan? Brian Solis? Even Dennis Howlett? They are influencers, they have the power to bring high visibility to what they talk about and what they share.

What makes a company run? Employees with the judgment to see what’s needed and the ability to influence the organizational allocation of resources.

Currently, this influence is built only on the in-person encounters that occur in meetings and common project work. This won’t go away, but it is a very serendipitous sort ecology inside the organization.

The next generation of employee leaders will skillfully use social software inside their companies to influence the direction of the company and to build out highly visible profiles that will aid their career advancement. Over on the Connectbeam blog, I wrote a post called Five Moves of Power Users in Enterprise 2.0. The post examines how proficient users of social software would operate inside companies. Here are the five moves I described:

  1. SEO your social profile
  2. Build a good-sized social network base
  3. Comment, engage, discuss
  4. Celebrate and communicate the workstreams of others
  5. Share information with a vengeance

Of course, the power in all this only happens if the employee happens to be talented and have good judgment about the company and her peers. Mediocre people will be pretty quickly exposed if they attempt this.

But the point still stands – companies will benefit by having better collaboration and dissemination of colleagues’ perspectives and ideas, and employees will benefit from a higher awareness of the things that make the company. And the social software power users will emerge in prominent roles inside companies.

I’m curious what you think. Please take a second to vote on the future of social software in the workplace:

*****

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