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Tag: social network

Social Networks as a Feature in Email

Saul Hansell has a tantalizing tidbit in today’s NYTimes, a report that Yahoo! and Google are thinking about making their email systems ‘more social.’ “Web-based email systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people. That’s why social networks offer to import the e-mail address books of new users to jump-start their list of friends.” Our personal email applications should keep track of who is most important to us, and let us know when those messages arrive.

Saul’s report opens Pandora’s box about the future of Enterprise 2.0. The dirty little secret is that our e-mail in-boxes track our social networks by default — who we communicate with, when and in what order can be as interesting as what in fact we say (or do not say). Our personal address books are more than a random list of names — they’re the ‘black books’ that contain the people with whom we’ve exchanged messages in the past, or want to communicate with in the future.

We intuitively track our business networks through our use of email — the names of folders we use when filing messages, the subjects we attach to messages, and the threads of a back-and-forth discussion are all grist for the social networking mill. Gmail, for example, collects message threads into a single record. This is a handy innovation, which helps to cut down on the message clutter that’s so prevalent in Notes Mail & Outlook.

The real challenge is that messaging inside the enterprise is frozen in time — captured by the two most widely deployed messaging applications, from Microsoft (Outlook/Exchange) and IBM (Lotus Notes). It’s hard to believe that these are legacy platforms.

We need to rethink what else we can do with email inside the enterprise — Lotus Connections goes a long way towards staking out a few essential services. These include an “intelligent” enterprise directory & a tag cloud that relates to communities within the enterprise.

We need to do a lot more with features around privacy, security, organizational boundaries, and context.

Counting How the Game is Changing

Nora Barnes (director of the Center for Marketing Research at UMass, Dartmouth) and Eric Mattson have a new survey report out on social computing — The Game Has Changed: College Admissions Outpace Corporations in Embracing Social Media. They compare how universities and companies in the Inc. 500 are using social media — blogging, social networking (whch I take to mean sites like Facebook and MySpace), message boards, online video, podcasting, and wikis. In a nutshell

Social media has arrived in college admissions. The ivory tower is innovating even faster than the elite Inc. 500. And the game has changed forever.

I cannot wait to see their detailed analysis.

Picking through their numbers so far, two things jump out. First, universities are almost as likely to use social networks as search engines when evaluating potential students (26% vs 21%).

Admission offices can find out all kinds of information about their prospects by googling them on the web. Tracking and tracing their social networks is close behind. Hum, I wonder what enterprises are going to be doing, both when reviewing job candidates and business partnerships, and when tracking performance. I can see it now — a new generation of “socially conscious” HR and business applications.

Second, we’ve been talking about blogs and wikis in almost the same breadth (thanks in part to Don Tapscott and Wikinomics and “how mass collaboration changes everything”). But not so fast. While blogging is more widely used in universities than in corporations (33% vs 19%), wikis are more widely deployed in corporations than in universities (17% vs. 3%). So we ought to take another breadth, turn down the hypemeter, and better understand how these different modes of collaboration are used in practice.

Here’s my vote. It’s all about the difference between self-publishing and supporting a business process. Blogging’s easy — I’m standing at my virtual Hyde Park corner (as in this blog), using my own time. Others who want to invest their time can read what I have to say. (Thank you, my readers!) But putting up a wiki is all about sharing information that’s part of a business process — I post, you modify, and our colleagues elsewhere in the world add their two cents. The outcome is a group project, the results of our “collective intelligence.” It’s a bit like co-authoring a report or developing a project plan for a group or . . . . you get the point — we share in the results through an interactive process.

Oh, one other thing. Business processes are tough to implement. They happen not by accident but by design. When the bloom is off the rose, we’re going to have to do a lot more work to make wikis really useful within the enterprise.

More data on Facebook users and Enterprise 2.0

Here is a chart including the data from the poll described yesterday from 500 25-34 year old facebook users combined with the results from the same poll given to 500 18-24 year old facebook users. There is certainly a difference. But the most surprising results are the extremely low expectations about the use of blogs and wikis, and even social networking software. These findings, informal as they are, would make me very nervous if I were a start-up hoping to make it by capturing the facebook generation as they stream into the workforce.

Facebook Generation on Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration Technologies

I joined facebook a few days ago to check it out and to get an idea about the approach’s relevance to enterprise applications. I need to use it some more before I reach any conclusions, but since I am at the Enterprise 2.0 Collaborative Technologies conference this week I decided to use the new facebook poll feature to see what the facebook crowd thinks about collaboration as they enter the workplace. The poll feature is limited (1 multiple choice question) but it provides direct access to the tens of millions of facebook users and you can choose from a couple of demographic options. Also, you can get the results very quickly – in my first poll I received 500 responses in about 9 hours!

I will blog about the results more later and will also include all the graphs, but in the meantime, everyone I mentioned the poll to at the conference has wanted the results, so here they are the basics:

Question: Which collaboration technologies will you use the most in your job in two years?

  • SMS text messaging 6% (30)
  • email will continue to dominate 66% (328)
  • instant messaging 16% (53)
  • facebook-like social networking tools for business 11% (53)
  • blogs and/or wikis 2% (8)

Keep in mind that the 500 responses all came from the 25-34 age group who are presumably mostly in the workforce. I just started the same poll with the 18-24 age group and will provide those results for comparison later tonight. UPDATE: The combined poll results are now available.

Between the two age groups we will have some info direct from the generation that Don Tapscott, Andrew McAfee and others are making predictions about (we refer to some of this here). This is of course a very informal poll, but interesting nonetheless. I wish I had the results in time to provide Andrew and Tom Davenport for yesterday’s debate!

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