Having been mired for several weeks in a technological misalignment of the stars, I have to question how social tools (the technological kind) might have saved me boatloads of aggravation and time. Consider having all of these happen in one month:

  • Wireless router that couldn’t support wireless (waiting for second replacement)
  • IBM ThinkPad power adapter not usable with Lenovo ThinkPad
  • Cable service not able to get a signal from street down my 1,000 ft. driveway
  • Two cable modem failures and replacements
  • ISP spam blocker blocking good stuff but does not retain it as suspect mail for review
  • 10 hours of downtime from my web hosting/e-mail service provider

As one who guides and advises companies on enterprise search selection, implementation and deployment, and various aspects of knowledge asset management, it is a little ironic that I have my own challenges finding quality answers and knowledge to support my home office. I have used these tools in my search for answers:

  • Phone – vendor customer service
  • Chat – vendor website customer service
  • Email – vendor customer service, and to some colleagues for advice
  • Web searching – vendor site search, Internet general search engines
  • Twitter – comments about troubles; search for similar comments by others

So far, phone discussions have been the only pathway to resolutions, and in one case a technician’s house call was required. Most of the issues are still open, however emails and automated phone calls solicit feedback about my satisfaction with support services daily.

What does this have to do with search? I am searching to solve very specific problems, not an uncommon reason to search within the enterprise. As an independent consultant, my “enterprise” is my professional network, the support services I pay for and the WWW. When I fail to garner information I need from electronic sources, I reach out directly to experts in my personal network for answers. Even then, I find electronic dialog mechanisms that require typing a back-and-forth Q & A session to be pretty painful. Usually, one of us resorts to the phone or an in-person session to “see” what is really going on.

What have I learned?

  1. When a resolution is needed quickly and efficiently, talking to someone who is really an expert is the best path.
  2. When I can’t find the answer on-line, I need to find an expert.
  3. When I can’t find an answer or an expert, I flounder and waste huge amounts of time.

Conclusion:

Social tools (public platforms, social search, email, and even phone) require substantive work or communication skill by participants to establish a benefit from communication interchanges. Contextual hooks are needed to improve the results of information exchanges. Socializing is critical to expanding our networks of experts in a way that builds relationships in which we can freely reach out and expect a productive dialogue when we have a need to know. This is something to work at and consider when we embrace social technologies. It isn’t the technology tool that makes us social, it is the surrounding sharing and communicating (aka socializing) that breeds the trusting and trusted relationships that will improve our search for answers. Social networks and platforms may give us the tools to search for and share content. But it is the socializing that adds rich context to make it more likely that the expert we want and the answers we seek are the most beneficial.

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