July 13, 2004
I just came back from the KM Cluster meeting in London on social tools for the entreprise. It was a great moment with very interesting people.
Matt Mower of evectors software did a great job to organize all this for a very moderate participation fee.
Presenters were :
Stowe Boyd - Corante Research & A Working Model
Lee Bryant - Headshift
Prof. Marc Eisenstadt - Knowledge Media Institute
David Gurteen - Gurteen Knowledge
Euan Semple - BBC & the Obvious
Phil Wolff. - A Klog Apart & BlogCount
Stowe Boyd, Corante Research
Stowe presented an overview of social tools, defined simply as "software intended to change culture". Blogs, IM, and networking software like Ryze or LinkedIn were briefly reviewed. Stowe emphasized that all those technologies are a big mess today because they haven't stabilized yet.
As opposed to the KM software of the 90s which were based on a collect-broadcast metaphor, which proved to be a big mistake, these technologies are designed to generate conversations and dialogue. They look promising in a business environment, but introducing them can prove very tricky, because
Management had rather use tools that don't work than approaches they don't understand
What I learned:
- IM is more used than I thought. 10 among the 23 participants of the conference used it.
- Social Network Analysis is likely to be based on the use of IM and related tools
- Tools to know more about: ZeroDegrees, Eyebees, El Luna (didn't find that last one)
- Corporate blogging is now a reality (5 people in the room have experienced corporate blogging). There are already 10.000 weblogs at British Aerospace (!).
Eaun Semple, BBC
Euan Semple is Head of Knowledge Management for the British Broadcasting Corporation. To be honest, I had a hard time staying awake, not because Euan's presentation was boring -it definitely wasn't- but because it was after lunch and I only had three hours of sleep.
Ean's presentation was mainly about comparing three systems, and the cultural problems they posed:
- Talk.gateway, the traditional bulletin board based on webcrossing, which has been running for several years now at the BBC and has now almost 5000 users
- Connect.gateway, the corporate yellow pages based on BP's Connect tool, with now almost 2000 users and 150 interest groups
- Blogs which have just been introduced: 60 of them are up and running now.
What I learned (when I was awake):
- Blogging at BBC is both internal and external. Management is concerned about how weblogs will be used, and attempts to control them with corporate branding. There is still a lot of resistance and fear involved.
- Because the tempo of conversations varies a lot in a company, different collaboration tools have been found necessary.
- BBC are entering the facilitation business and do no longer see themselves as a "Broadcasting" company, in spite of their name.
Marc Eisenstadt, Knowledge Media Institute
Marc co-founded the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) in 1995, Directed KMi from then until October 2000, and is now its Chief Scientist. KMi creates and studies near-term future technologies for the ultimate benefit of Open University students, staff, industrial sponsors, and a mixture of local and global learning communities.
Marc has a lot of experience of "e-learning" (though the term was not used during the conference) through the Open University, UK's largest university, designed for people studying from home or from their office. His presentation can be summarized in one word: Engagement. Studying online is a miserable experience, and technology must be used to engage people much more. Thus the importance of feedback, live webcast + phone conferencing, theater, multimedia, pictures, maps, colors etc. When messages are clear, real-time, familiar, to the point and contextual, they create social belonging.
Key success factors for a good distant learning experience
- Quality Content => The student owns it
- Quality Accreditation => The owner is valued
- Quality Support => Students support each other
- Quality experience => Shared experience
- Quality Research => Do the groundwork
What I learned:
- IM is a core tool for engagement and for creating social belonging in a group.
- People love to know what their closest friends and colleagues are currently doing. It might be counter-intuitive, but a local office map showing who's there and who's available to chat is much more used than a global map of the company sites having the same features.
- The green light/red light icon on Instant Messengers meaning online/offline is insufficient and irrelevant. I don't care whether you are online or not, I want to know if you are free for chat with me, if your attention is low because you have some work to complete, if you are away from your desk or if you have gone for lunch. And this information will of course be different for different groups of people.
- Blogs are sometimes used as real-time tools. People post things like: "stepping out for coffee"
- IP aware telephones are bringing new potential for interactivity like triggering the message "on the phone" on my IM when I pick up my phone.
- Flashmeeting looks great.
Phil lives in the Bay area. He has been computing for more than 30 years, a marketing and technology veteran of the U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command, Gateway, Compaq, Wang Laboratories, Bechtel National, and Adecco SA where he served as global VP for strategy and technology.
He talked mainly about the blogging experience.
Some of the things I learned:
- The blogging boom: 2 million blogs in June 2003, 10 million in June 2004. 400 blogs in chinese last year and 400.000 today. 1000 Microsofters are blogging outside the firewall...
- The dark blogosphere (blogs behind a firewall or protected by password) represents around 30% of the total, far more than I thought.
- Fascinating: At Microsoft, some people are allowed to blog in the name of the company and are given extra support in the form of digital cameras and interviewing techniques.
- The blogging break: After 18 months of blogging, people tend to reconsider their involvement and take a break. They might leave the blogosphere, but often come back with a new voice and a new purpose.
- The linkage of social tools: Successful collaboration on the web often combines several tools. Example: Kerry's campaign uses a combination of newsgroups, the candidate's blog and meet-up
- Group blog (e.g. project team like Michael Schrage's CIO article suggests) seems to be a more natural path for the enterprise
Lee Bryant, Headshift
Headshift is a specialist Internet consulting firm with strong technical background and a deep understanding of the social impact of information and communication technologies. Lee has become a leading writer and practitioner in the field of augmented online social interaction, whilst working in close partnership with Headshift’s clients to create innovative implementations of the ideas behind social software.
Lee made the brilliant presentation he made at Blogtalk 2.0 in Vienna, and which can be found (and not downloaded :() there. The essential message he brought to us was that social tools are social not only in the way they are used but in the way they are conceived. It's the same problem of engagement that Marc was referring to. Engagement requires bottom-up approaches that embed the tool in the habits of the person. Top-down / deployment approaches always fail because participation is generated by informality and corporate systems are not social. They have no personality, no voice.
What I learned:
- The term "networked individualism". Social tools must engage people on their own terms.
- Lee is definitely somebody I will stay in touch with. He has reached a level of understanding of social tools and collaboration technologies that is unmatched so far, at least in Europe. He was the only one to insist on emergent metadata, which is one of my favorite themes.
- The business model of Headshift differs from traditional managment consulting practices. They embrace complexity instead of denying it. They're not handling "cases" but "experiments". They generate a series of incremental fees, built over time and over trust. It is like institutionalized trial and error, a kind of "insider consulting". Headshift sometimes develop tools that end up not being used and are thrown away, but so what? Technology is cheap now. Who cares if you dump 50% of your developments on the way as long as you end up with something successful?
- The goal is to manage feeds not items. The objective is total syndication and aggregation using multi-perspective metadata.
David Gurteen's Knowledge Café
There was a 20 minutes Knowledge Café, facilitated by David Gurteen. It was very well run and two questions were discussed :
1- Defining social tools
2- How to introduce them in the enterprise
We came out with a rather fuzzy concept of personal, decentralized yet syndicated tools, designed to connect people, allow them to discover each other and create a relation. How to introduce them in the enterprise was even more fuzzy, so I won't dwell on this.
I did not have a chance to show my presentation in Lisbon but I really believe that social tools can coexist with corporate tools, and that metadata is where the two systems meet. (I have to write something on this!)
Quick report back from the STES event in London, July 12, 2004
Quick report back from the STES event in London, July 12, 2004
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