What’s the point of Jelly?

Jelly fish

I have to admit I’m attracted to anything new and shiny, and particularly products and services that aim to create or propagate value through networks and networking. I was therefore intrigued by the recent launch of Jelly, which has the gravitas and experience of Biz Stone (of Twitter fame) behind it. It certainly meets the “new” criterion, but I’m not so sure about the “shiny”.

The principle behind Jelly is summarised in a short blog post by Biz Stone himself:

“Using Jelly is kinda like using a conventional search engine in that you ask it stuff and it returns answers……Jelly changes how we find answers because it uses pictures and people in our social networks….getting answers from  people is very different from retrieving information with algorithms….it has the benefit of being fun”

Mmm, well I’d question whether this is anything like using a conventional search engine. I’d agree that getting answers from people is very different to getting answers (search results) from algorithms, and whilst this might be fun for some, it opens up the system to the mad and the bad, so you can forget about getting consistently serious or factual answers to your questions.

The concept behind the Android/iOS app is simple: take a picture of something and ask a question, and wait for the folks on your social networks (and their connections) to provide answers. This immediately limits the reach of who is likely to respond, since the question will only be seen by your followers and their networks, compared to, say, Quora, which has a global reach.

Answering questions about a picture is not exactly unique, and I believe I’d get a lot more relevant answers by using Google Goggles. But maybe the “fun” bit comes from the unpredictability of the answers you get by using Jelly?

When questions from your network come up, you can either answer them or swipe them away if you don’t have the answer; essentially, you’re being forced to make an instant judgment on whether you can answer the question, and once you’ve swiped it away, you won’t see it again unless you’ve starred it – which is a request to follow the answers.

The questions come up seemingly at random, with no ability to filter by subject matter, to avoid questions by nuisance users, or to go back to previous questions you may have dismissed by mistake.

I think it’s rather hopeful that the network-effect is going to create value from the questions and answers that get submitted, not least because of the problems in filtering out the trivia. I appreciate it’s early days, and maybe once the trolls and idiots have had their fun it might settle down into a more useful visual crowdsourcing environment.  However, I remain sceptical, and find myself swipe, swipe, swiping away those endless trivialities such as “what should I pick from this menu?”, or “what am I drinking?”, or “do you like my iPhone cover?”. I noted that one Jelly user went out of his way to answer every question he could find with “feta cheese”, an endeavour which was either epic trolling, an attempt to make a point about the lack of junk filtering on Jelly, or possibly both.

So, having tried it, albeit for a limited period, I have to admit I can’t see the point of Jelly. If I want a question answered I’ll stick with Google+, Twitter, Facebook or Quora, and if I’m out and about I’ll use Google Goggles. But, don’t take my word for it, try it yourself and see what you think. Maybe I’m the wrong demographic and that there is a latent network of people who thrive on trivia out there. If so, it should do well, but it’s not a network that I want to belong to!

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5 New Year resolutions that might make you more interesting (or less annoying).

Having trouble deciding what your New Year resolution should be? Looking for something challenging, or maybe even life changing? Here’s a few behaviour changes to ponder, any one of which would potentially improve my own social media/social networking experience and probably that of many others!

Social Media 'Expert"1. Review and update your personal profile. Are you one of the growing number of self-proclaimed experts, gurus, ninjas and black-belts in your chosen trade or subject area? Yes, you might have a doctorate, or have 30+ years of experience, but does that mean you know everything there is to know, ad infinitum? I think “expert” is an attribute that other people award, and not something that you award yourself. It looks pretentious and overlooks the fact that learning, skills and expertise are continually evolving – or maybe you hadn’t noticed?

Image credit:http://www.webdistortion.com/2011/04/24/your-not-a-social-media-expert-your-just-another-schmuck-with-a-twitter-account/

Big Ego

2. Manage that giant ego. You might have several thousand followers on Twitter, but do they all really want to know all about the jet lag from your recent trip,  or where you’re going on your next trip? Do you think we are all impressed by the fact you’ve travelled long distance or that  the world is your stage?  Far better to tell us something useful and interesting about the work you’re doing.

 

Robot - automation

3. Switch off or scale back on those automated tweets. Ok, so you’ve discovered IFTTT and found that you can automate just about everything in your social media environment. (Confession, I use IFTTT for one update per month). But how do you control relevance if you’re just re-broadcasting stuff from the Internet firehose? And think twice about having an automated direct Twitter message that goes to all of your new followers, promoting your Facebook page or latest book. Don’t you think we get enough targeted ads from big business without you adding to the spam? Similarly for those automated tweets that provide statistics on how many new followers you’ve had this week. Who cares?

Comparing apples with oranges

4. Don’t keep propagating the myth that Facebook is competing with Google+, unless you are specifically talking about ad revenue. They are entirely different networks, with different objectives, different facilities and different types of users (thank goodness). Showing me statistics on user demographics, how many minutes users spend on each network, or comparing total number of users is pretty meaningless (ad revenue apart, as previously noted). Tell me something useful, such the type, quality and relevance of the conversations.

Death by Powerpoint5. Think about ways you can bring your next PowerPoint presentation alive. Camp fires have bee replaced by projector bulbs, and in the process we seem to have lost the art of storytelling. I’ve lost count of the number of tedious, text-heavy presentations I’ve attended that require a great deal of effort from the audience to (a) stay awake and (b) understand what the presenter is trying to put across. If you are a presenter, remember it’s not all about you. Think about the precious and finite time you’ve got in front of your audience and make it interesting. Don’t waste their time as well as your own!

Hoping that these suggested resolutions might lead to a better experience for those who use social media and social networks to learn from and share knowledge with like-minded people.

Happy New Year!

 

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The Basic Flipboard Curation Guide

See on Scoop.itData Informatics

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

Flipboard (an App available for iOS and Android) is my favourite app for consuming and sharing inrormation. Relevence is improved by being able to choose the topics you want to follow, and liking or favouriting specific articles.

The recent addition of the Flipboard Editort now enables you to create and curate your own magazine, which you can share with others, or keep simply as a place for bookmarking.

In this article, Sue Waters provides a step by step guide on how to use and make the most of the Flipboard features.

See on theedublogger.com

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Create Persistent Searches and Monitor Specific Keywords with the Best Google Alerts Alternative: TalkWalker Alerts

If you are not familiar with this kind of tool, its key purpose is one of actively and persistently search for a set of keywords you specify and to report to you, via RSS/email of any instances of new content mentioning your selected keywords.

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See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

 

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

In view of the rumours that Google Alerts is the next service to be canned by Google as part of its ongoing rationalisation exercise and strategy to integrate everything into its Google+ service, this looks like the ideal alternative. Particularly relevant if you want to maintain some independence from the Google ‘capture net’ (and not everyone wants to have a G+ account). As Robin Good writes:

“If you are not familiar with this kind of tool, its key purpose is one of actively and persistently search for a set of keywords you specify and to report to you, via RSS/email of any instances of new content mentioning your selected keywords.”

I’ve been a long-time user of Google Alerts and have noticed a fall-off recently in the ‘hits’ I’ve been receiving, which might infer that the service is not receiving the same attention from Google that it once did. I’ll certainly be giving TalkWalker Alerts a try-out. #alerts #smtrng

See on www.talkwalker.com

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What has Yahoo! Actually Acquired: A Snapshot of Tumblr in Q1 2013 – GlobalWebIndex

Yesterday (20th May 2013) Yahoo! finally confirmed its all-cash acquisition of the social media platform, Tumblr. Will there be a conflict of demographics, i.e.Yahoo’s more sedate and aged demographic vs.Tumblr’s young, cool, informed and fickle user-base? Time will tell!

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See on Scoop.itThe Social Web

Yesterday (20th May 2013) Yahoo! finally confirmed its all-cash acquisition of the social media platform, Tumblr. Will there be a conflict of demographics, i.e.Yahoo’s more sedate and aged demographic vs.Tumblr’s young, cool, informed and fickle user-base? Time will tell!

Stephen Dale‘s insight:

Yesterday (20th May 2013) Yahoo! finally confirmed its all-cash acquisition of the social media platform, Tumblr.

According to latest research (Q1 2013), 73 million people have created a Tumblr account which equals 5% of the total internet users at a global level.

One of the major things Tumblr has going for it is the youthfulness of its user base, and this is certainly something that Yahoo! , with it’s more ‘aged’ demographic, would have been attracted to.

46% of Tumblr’s active user base at a global level is between the ages of 16 and 24.  This compares to roughly 30% for Google+, 27% for Facebook, and 29% for Twitter.

It will be interesting to see what level of integration will take place beyween Yahoo!’s existing services and its new aquisition.  CEO, Marissa Mayer has indicated a hands-off approach, leaving David Karp to continue running the company he set up…that is once he’s finished counting his $1.1 billion dollar fortune!

See on www.globalwebindex.net

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Social Ecology: Evolution or Revolution? Part 2.

In this Part 2 piece I wanted to look at some of the social ecology trends, and specifically:

– collaborative platforms (or the technology that underpins social networks),
– email (because it is still the biggest consumer of time)
– personal knowledge management (the human algorithm)
– the growing importance of the community manager and the digital curator

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Knowledge Ecology

This is second post on the topic of emergent social ecology, which embraces social media, social networks, communities of practice, enterprise collaboration technologies, social business, social learning, collaboration, cooperation and sharing. A wide brief, but with a common thread: the liberation and empowerment of people to take responsibility for their own personal and professional development.

In my previous post (Part 1) I identified a number of key challenges and opportunities for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emergent social ecosystem:

  • Social media is generating enormous amounts of unorganised content: how to make sense of that.
  • Social networks enable a wider range of connections: how to find people and develop relationships.
  • New forms of collaboration are made possible by social media and networks: how to organise and manage.
  • There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use.
  • The new ways of making sense, connecting, collaborating, and using technology throw up the need for new skills: what are the new roles and the new skills?
  • The emphasis on open access and sharing changes where value may reside: so what are the new business models?
  • Social capital is becoming increasingly important in establishing trust and credibility in the virtual world: how do we increase or measure our social capital?

I want to explore some of these points in more detail, and specifically how social/collaborative technologies are creating new roles, new skills and new opportunities for personal and professional development.  I will state categorically that I’m not a social media “expert”, and will challenge anyone who labels themselves thus. The social ecology is far too volatile, technically complex and populated by people and organisations with vested opinions and hidden agendas for anyone to fully comprehend the various dynamics. However, I have a lifetime’s experience dealing with people and information, and that most important of human assets – curiosity.  Having some understanding of the environment I belong to gives me perspective on how to work smarter, and what skills I need to survive.  After all, isn’t that what life’s really all about?

To survive and thrive in this century demands a new spectrum of literacies. These include:

  • knowing how to manage and protect one’s online identity
  • recognizing the importance of reputation and how to grow (personal) social capital
  • proficient in creating, organising, repurposing and sharing content
  • capable and adept at using social learning networks for continual personal and professional development

It goes without saying that technology underpins all of these literacies. It is difficult to imagine how today’s knowledge workers could function without access to and familiarity with technology.

In this Part 2 piece I wanted to look at some of the social ecology trends, and specifically:

  • collaborative platforms (or the technology that underpins social networks),
  • email (because it is still the biggest consumer of time)
  • personal knowledge management (the human algorithm)
  • the growing importance of the community manager and the digital curator

Technology Trends

Collaboration platforms and social network facilities are becoming increasingly sophisticated and we can now match the people we are connected to (our social graph) with the work we do or the topics we are interested in (our interest graph). Previously we’ve had to seek out and make these connections ourselves, but (and for example) the combination of Google Plus Circles and Google Plus Communities gives us the capability to discover new and relevant connections, i.e. we can now link our social graph with our interest graph. And as we know from experience, once users become familiar with features and capabilities that get deployed in the Web 2.0 world, they eventually emerge in Enterprise 2.0 technologies (i.e. business environments).  Hence we can expect to see a ‘social’ element being introduced to corporate Intranets that offers more than just blogging or micro-blogging capabilities. We can expect to see automatic connections being made using profile and activity data, i.e. between people, interests, expertise, activities, topics and places.  Capabilities that perhaps many of us take for granted with Google Plus or LinkedIn’s suggestions and recommendations, but yet to fully emerge within the corporate environment. Something that might undermine the traditional hierarchical and silo’d organisational structures? Let’s hope so!

Social & Interest Graphs

 Email

A report by Atlantic Monthly claimed that workers waste up to 50% of their time managing unwanted communications, finding the right people to help them and searching for information to do their job. (Image source: Harold Jarche).

Wasted Time

According to the same report, workers spend 28 per cent of their time, reading, writing or responding to email, and another 19 per cent tracking down information to complete their tasks. Communicating and collaborating internally accounts for another 14 per cent of the average working week, with only 39 per cent of the time remaining to accomplish role-specific tasks.

However, I’ve never really understood this growing clamour for the end of email, and get tired of reading the latest predictions about its demise. Did we decide the telephone served no useful purpose once we had social media? No, because it is still a relevant form of communication. How it is used has probably changed over the years, but it is still with us because it’s ubiquitous, easy to use and relatively secure.  I think that companies such as Atos – which has a stated mission to eliminate all corporate email communication within 2 years – and senior managers who ban use of email on certain days, are misguided. They are addressing symptoms of email misuse, and not the underlying causes.  Email has been with us for over 30 years, and I’m predicting it will still be with us for the next 30 years – and more. Like the telephone (or mobile phone), email is ubiquitous, simple to use and a relatively secure method of communication. A telephone number and an email address are the two lowest common denominators in today’s connected world, and that’s not going to change in the short or medium term.

What will change is the move to publish-subscribe communication, where control of the information flow will be managed by the recipient, not the sender.  Having something useful and relevant to say will become far more important than who you send it to.  Email will become the primary means by which we authenticate ourselves and subscribe to the networks and channels through which we want to receive information. And we’ll have better tools for aggregating and filtering this information torrent.

Personal Knowledge Management

It’s been said many times before, but worth repeating – technology alone will not create a collaborative and learning organisation, and neither will it give us the knowledge or skills to make sense of an increasingly complex and volatile environment.  This requires human effort and application. Something that Brian Solis has called the “human algorithm”. To quote Brian Solis:

The human algorithm is part understanding and part communication. The ability to communicate and apply insights internally and externally is the key to unlocking opportunities to earn relevance. Beyond research, beyond intelligence, the human algorithm is a function of extracting insights with intention, humanizing trends ad possibilities and working with strategists to improve and innovate everything from processes to products to overall experiences.”

One application of the human algorithm is in social media listening and sense-making. In addition to tracking simple data signals such as conversations, sentiment, narration and service inquiries, data can present insights into preferences, trends, areas for innovation or refinement, R&D, co-creation, etc. Even though sophisticated tools can help track data points that can lead to these insights, it still takes a human touch to surface them and in turn advocate findings within the organisation. It’s the difference between insights, actionable insights, and executed insights.

How do we gain the skills needed to hone and improve our human algorithms? We give  time and effort to Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).  And what is “PKM”?

PKM: A set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world & work more effectively. Keeping track of digital information flows and separating the signal from the noise.

Harold Jarche has been a long-term proponent of Personal Knowledge Management and over eight years has developed the “Seek: Sense: Share” model, described thus:

PKM, or learning in networks, is a continuous process of seeking, sensing, and sharing.

  • Seeking is finding things out and keeping up to date. Building a network of colleagues is helpful in this regard. It not only allows us to “pull” information, but also have it “pushed” to us by trusted sources.
  • Sensing is how we personalize information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing.
  • Sharing includes exchanging resources, ideas, and experiences with our networks as well as collaborating with our colleagues.

Two specific roles that have been honed on PKM skills and the ‘seek-sense-share’ methodology are The Community Manager and the Digital Curator.  In some cases this may be one and the same role, since the functions are quite similar.

Community Management

Community Managers have become a core part of engaging with customers on social channels. The role has developed from the Facilitator or Moderator role that is well established within online Communities of Practice (CoP).  In either case, the key responsibilities are very similar:

  • Training and educating users (or customers)
  • Encouraging and guiding conversations
  • Providing recommendations on how social media tools can be used more effectively, or identifying new tools.
  • Monitoring platform statistics and trends, and observing behaviours in order to extract new learning and ideas.
  • Signposting useful content; developing and sharing resources and best practices.
  • Weeding and feeding content
  • Project managing

I’ve previously described the role of the Community Manager/Facilitator, and this diagram sums up the key elements of the role:

Community Facilitation

Digital Curation

‘Digital Curation’ is a phrase for a practice that has been emerging over the past two years to filter the overabundance of signal, and create quality, thoughtful, human-organised collections. By focusing our attention, providing context, and creating a specific experience, curators can enhance our online experience. Digital curators are conceptually similar to their counterparts in museums, because they tend to trade in very specialised, focused content. As a part of a wider collective, curators choose a topic they are interested in, and then search and display dynamic content related to this topic, using one or more digital curation tools.

Some examples of digital curation tools include:

Paper.li enables the curator to automatically create an on-line newspaper, selecting content using keywords, conversations and/or links to websites that are relevant to a particular topic or theme.  There is a considerable degree of automation involved, and the curator needs to be able to continually monitor and if necessary adjust the sources in order to ensure the content remains relevant.

Scoop.it is a very useful and attractive curation tool, enabling summaries and snapshots of related content from blogs, media sharing sites and other social media. It has an impressively intuitive interface. You pick your topic, add a description of the collection, then you can begin searching for relevant articles and other media to include.

Storify is another style of curation tool, enabling the curator to search for specific content from social media sites that can be sequenced into a blog style story. The curator can add their own text and embed the final product into their blog

Pearltrees, works as a visually-oriented connective network of content, which can be shared, repurposed and linked in a number of ways across social media platforms. The Pearltrees Teams group function also enables users to collaborate to create shared curated collections of content.

All four tools allow conversations and further sharing, and all four are very attractive as a means of making sense of the vast amount of content there is on the web. There are of course many other tools being developed that can also perform similar tasks of consolidating and accumulating content, and offering it in a digest form to busy professionals. A useful resource to follow if you want to know more about content curation is Robin Good’s Content Curation World on scoop.it.

I will continue this discourse on the emergent social ecology trends in a subsequent post, focussing specifically on the importance of Personal Knowledge Management for developing the skills and literacies we need to become effective and proficient 21st century knowledge workers.

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Social Ecology: Evolution or Revolution? Part1

The social ecology influences just about everything we do. From the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn, to our very health and wellbeing. For those who thrive on change this is might be perceived as just part of human evolution. For those less comfortable with the rapid and disruptive effects it is having on their lives, it might feel more like a revolution, i.e. something they can’t control or influence – and hence the title for this series of posts.

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Social Ecology

This is first in what I plan to be series of posts about the evolving social ecology, which embraces social media, social networks, communities of practice, enterprise collaboration technologies, social business and anything to do with social learning, collaboration, cooperation and sharing. Quite a wide remit I know, but I believe there is common thread flowing through all of these topics, memes and disciplines, namely the empowerment of people to take responsibility for their own personal and professional development.

The social ecology influences just about everything we do. From the way we communicate, get information, buy and sell, travel, live and learn, to our very health and wellbeing.  For those who thrive on change this is might be perceived as just part of human evolution. For those less comfortable with the rapid and disruptive effects it is having on their lives, it might feel more like a revolution, i.e. something they can’t control or influence – and hence the title for this series of posts.

People, Environment or Technology?

Though we might like to think that “it’s the people, not the technology that matters”, the truth is that the two are now so inexorably linked in the developed world that it’s difficult to imagine how we could get anything done if technology was taken out of the equation.

Technology is changing the way organisations communicate with their employees, partners, stakeholders and customers. Email was the essential business tool in the 1980s, but we are now living in a world where people want to communicate and share on social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. The Cloud has opened up opportunities for much more work to be done away from the traditional office environment. In fact, more and more knowledge workers expect data and information to be available anywhere, anytime and on any device.

This demand has fuelled the enormous growth in mobile and web Apps, and accessing and downloading apps is now a familiar and trusted process for owners of mobile devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets).  More than six billion mobile phones are in use worldwide, enabling users to socialise online wherever they go and inspiring a new range of leisure and business applications. Smartphone adoption, which is projected to reach 50 per cent of consumers globally by 2015, will bring more than 1 billion new users online who may never access the Web from a personal computer. (McKinsey. The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social devices, July 2012).

Against this background we’re seeing enormous amounts of unorganised content being generated by social media; everyone is potentially a publisher. To quote Clay ShirkyPublishing is no longer a job; it’s a button”.

And if it’s so easy to publish, it’s even easier to share – just one click of a button and it’s shared with all of your Facebook/Twitter/Google+ followers. Your network of friends and followers will in turn share with their networks. Tweets beget more tweets, which might stimulate new comments and new Tweets. And so it goes on. According to various reports, information is doubling every two years. By 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of information it now has (source: IDC). How to make sense of this information torrent and separate that important signal from all of the noise?

Social networks continue to grow and proliferate. Facebook has set the benchmark for on-line sharing and has become the foghorn of human consciousness. Google+ continues to gain traction and Twitter has established itself as the place for real-time news, where timeliness trumps accuracy. Professional journalism is becoming niche, as people increasingly rely on social media for news and not the traditional newsprint and TV media channels.  How does this affect our perceptions of truth and reality? Who do we trust and how credible are our sources?

Social networks enable a wider range of connections and opportunities to find people and develop relationships. How best to manage these relationships? There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use?

Is the future likely to be as I’ve previously described as Personalised, Mobile and Appified  ?

Key Challenges and Opportunities

So, to set the scene and agenda for future posts in this series, and with thanks to David Wilcox for inspiring these points, these are what I consider to be the key challenges and opportunities for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emergent social ecosystem:

  • Social media is generating enormous amounts of unorganised content: how to make sense of that.
  • Social networks enable a wider range of connections: how to find people and develop relationships.
  • New forms of collaboration are made possible by social media and networks: how to organise and manage.
  • There are a bewildering variety of methods and tools: how to choose and learn to use.
  • The new ways of making sense, connecting, collaborating, and using technology throw up the need for new skills: what are the new roles and the new skills?
  • The emphasis on open access and sharing changes where value may reside: so what are the new business models?
  • Social capital is becoming increasingly important in establishing trust and credibility in the virtual world: how do we increase or measure our social capital?

I will attempt to answer as many of these questions as I can in this series of posts over the coming weeks.  In the mean time, comments and views are always welcome, particularly if you think I’ve missed an important facet of the social and collaborative landscape.

Social Ecology -a definition:

Social ecology advocates a reconstructive and transformative outlook on social and environmental issues, and promotes a directly democratic, confederal politics. As a body of ideas, social ecology envisions a moral economy that moves beyond scarcity and hierarchy, toward a world that reharmonizes human communities with the natural world, while celebrating diversity, creativity and freedom. Source: Wikipedia

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Social Media Revolution 2013

I’ve been following Erik Qualman’s Social Media Revolution series since the first one I saw back in 2010. The numbers just keep getting bigger!

Previous versions:

 

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The State Of Social Media 2012

A useful chronology of the key social media events and statistics over the past 12 months. Slightly surprised by the omission of Tumblr, which is predicted to continue its stellar growth in 2013. According to Techcrunch, the company is getting 20 billion pageviews a month, up from 15 billion at the beginning of the year. Will it be acquired by Facebook in 2013? Someone seems to think so: “If Facebook isn’t thinking of buying Tumblr, it should be.” One thing is for certain, FB will take action wherever it sees a threat. I think 2013 could be another interesting year for social media and I’m sure there will be further consolidation by the big players (Facebook, Google and Apple).

For users – well, we still have a bewildering choice, which can’t be a bad thing.

We live in interesting times!

The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company
The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company

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Social Collaboration: it’s the people not the technology, stupid!

Regardless of what labels we give to collaboration technology, the one constant feature is the people, i.e. the staff, the workers, the users. The continuing paradox is that, despite all the evidence of poor adoption rates; the accepted wisdom that “build it and they will come” doesn’t really work, and the oft’ repeated mantra that “it’s not the technology, it’s the people that count”, most collaboration strategies are treated as technology projects and not organisational change management projects.

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The workers production lineI was recently reflecting on my personal experience as a knowledge management consultant in deploying enterprise and business collaborations solutions over the past several years. I’ve seen various buzz-words and labels come and go, and witnessed the morphing of Enterprise Content, Document and Records Management Systems (ECM’s, EDM’s, ERM’s) into varieties of Enterprise 2.0, social CRM, Social Intranets and – more recently – Enterprise Social Media and Social Business solutions.

But regardless of what labels we give to the technology, the one constant feature is the people, i.e. the staff, the workers, the users. The continuing paradox is that, despite all the evidence of poor adoption rates; the accepted wisdom that “build it and they will come” doesn’t really work, and the oft’ repeated mantra that “it’s not the technology, it’s the people that count”, most collaboration strategies are treated as technology projects and not organisational development (OD) projects.  Putting in a shiny new enterprise collaboration system is unlikely to change behaviours that have been conditioned by corporate culture, and less likely to be successful if it’s not integrated with the business processes – and yes, that includes email! Becoming “social” and sharing knowledge is not something that is solved by technology; it’s something that is solved by addressing behaviours. Sure, technology can be an enabler, but it has to be part of a wider and more holistic change programme.

This was certainly the case when I was asked to deliver a strategy for more effective learning and sharing across local government in 2005, which resulted in the delivery of an award-winning community of practice platform that ultimately supported over 120,000 users and more than 1000 communities by 2011. The technology was only one (fairly small) component of the project. Most of the effort went into winning hearts and minds in local authorities that this was the right thing to do, and encouraging staff to narrate their work and share good practice. It was also underpinned by training, coaching and mentoring on how to manage and facilitate on-line communities – activities that don’t often feature in technology-driven projects.

So, with the benefit of some hindsight and experience, coupled with a more contemporary view of emerging trends, the following sums up what I think are the key factors in the emergent social collaboration ecosystem:

  1. Collaboration is about people and behaviours; technology is an enabler, not a solution.
  2. Engagement with and adoption of social collaboration technologies should be part of a wider organisational change programme. HR should be as much involved as IT.
  3. Seek out, support and encourage your ‘network weavers’ and collaboration advocates as part of your social collaboration strategy. Every organisation has them but, dependent on culture, they may be considered disruptive (but social technology is, by its very nature, disruptive). These are your “Trojan mice” who will stimulate those parts of the organisation that you can’t reach.
  4. Knowledge repositories are places where knowledge goes to die. They may still be relevant to researchers but are places of last resort for knowledge workers. Knowledge workers want instant access to expertise, information and knowledge, and increasingly rely on social networks and search engines to find it.
  5. It’s never been easier to connect with people with same/similar interests, or to find answers from “experts”. Anyone who is not yet fully engaged with the social web is at a distinct disadvantage.
  6. ‘Buy’ is trumping ‘build’, but systems integrators are key. Collaboration technology is increasingly powerful and flexible and can be adapted to all but the most specialised needs. However, integration with legacy systems and business processes still requires specialist knowledge.
  7. There is a growing call for products and services that help us manage the information torrent. All of the leading collaboration technology vendors now provide aggregation, filtering, trending, and personalisation capabilities. Look for features available in web products/services such as Bottlenose, Strawberryj.am, Prismatic, Twylah etc. in Enterprise solutions.
  8. There’s no such thing as privacy on the web – get over it!
  9. The web has been with us for almost 20 years, social media and social networks for over 10 years. Any workers (managers, supervisors, staff) who still claim to be digital technophobes in 2012 are a lost cause. Focus effort on those who see the benefits of on-line interaction.
  10. The future is mobile and ‘appified’. More and more work is being done on the move; the growth of BYOD and COPE initiatives are weakening the ties and dependencies on the ‘lobotomised’ corporate PC in the corporate workplace. Any enterprise collaboration solution must support agile and mobile working.

If I were a CEO deploying a social collaboration strategy, I would be looking for something far more expansive than a technology solution.  The 80:20 rule would seem to be appropriate; if the technology accounts for 20% of budget, 80% should be devoted to organisational development. I wonder how many more failed collaboration projects it will take before this philosophy takes hold?

What do you think?

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