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I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
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Rethinking Social Software

Einstein is attributed with a famous quote: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (called Einstein's razor, the counter balance to Occam's razor). Looking at the social software landscape today I must conclude that it is both too simple and not as simple as possible.
  • In the "too simple" camp with have the notion: "everything is just one big stream of collaboration and a few tags will do" (and it's variations). If you follow this notion all collaboration you would ever need is a Twitter stream or a Whatsapp group.
  • On the other hand "not simple enough" means: there are appropriate tools for every purpose: Blogs, micro-blogs, status updates, walls, file sharing, link sharing, activities, communities, team rooms, mailing lists, persistent chats and what have you
Neither of them fits the bill. The simple approach makes it easy to contribute (Express your live in 140 characters or less), but hard to structure and retain, the complex approach allows good structure, puts information in context, thus easier to find (again), but burdens users with decisions what tool to use when it isn't yet certain what's the most appropriate, resulting in anxiety or flat out rejection ("too complicated").
So something sharp is needed, lets get Occam and Einstein to work. Step 1 is to go meta and have a look how social collaboration contribution mechanics actually works:

Meta Collaboration with a social context
Several triggers can induce a contribution to collaboration. The list of usual suspects include email, all known social tools, but also thoughts, business processes and face to face interactions. In summary: anything that is brought to or catches our attention. As technologist we gravitate toward the tool to classify the triggers, rather than the motivation behind them (as if it is more important how you arrived at the cinema that how good the movie is you are about to watch. Exactly here lie the adoption woes organisations face: bickering over tools instead of focus on intentions and outcome.
The interesting aspect in the illustration above is the word Meta. Thanks to friends who protect us the word Meta has gotten much deserved attention. I think a clever handling of meta information is the holy grail of social computing. Data today are commonly: date/time, author, tags (eventually), place of contribution (blog, wiki, Status update etc), size and supporting files (if any). However meta data goes further
Social Meta data
There are 2 aspects that need to change in todays meta data - One: removal of the creator's burden to decide where to publish upfront, so (s)he can focus on the contribution. Two: the ability of the target audience to define more of that meta data as insights arise. IBM is on the trajectory to let the machine contribute to data and meta data too.
I advocated better sharing before, but I see more convergence and conversion needed:
  • The "where" of a contribution is only an attribute, so I can "change" a blog entry into a WIKI by adding additional data (where in the Wiki page tree it should show)
  • A Wiki can have a time line like a blog, there is no difference
  • When I share a status update that contains a link, that link becomes a bookmark (unless I tell it not to)
  • Readers of my contribution not only can comment or share my entry, but add meta data, including the ability to determine: this should be on this wiki page (as example)
  • Flagging customers, people and processes
  • A better overview with filters for my contribution
  • Access to a shared and personal taxonomy
  • ... there probably is more
All this required to transit from a tool centric to a contribution centric point of view.
As usual: YMMV


Inbox vs. Stream interaction pattern

A recent Tweet exchange with Alan got me thinking on (inter)action pattern in the collaborative software we use. On one hand we have the incumbent eMail: time tested, loved, loathed and under (so the hype) thread from the new kid on the block: activity streams (a.k.a. river of news), in various technological implementations (from propriety, RSS, ATOM, JSON to I'll compare the two from the perspective of work, where you need to get things done (pun intended). I will use email actions from Lotus Notes as example, available actions in your eMail software might vary. Similar I use IBM Connections 4 as stream example. Here you go:
Purpose eMail Social stream
What's new? Scan inbox, look for unread marks, switch to "unready only" mode Scan stream, memorise where you left off
Read details Click on item (with preview pane) or open it Click on item, then click "show all", "show more", click on right arrow (in Connections 4)
See conversation Click on triangle to expand or use show menu (when eMail open) Click on item, then click "show all", "show more", click on right arrow (in Connections 4)
Reply Click reply (with too many options ) Click comment
Tag a reply Send & File, Categorize Use # in the reply
Indicate that you concur/endorse an item Send a reply Click the like button
Mark as read Automatic when previewing or reading n/a
Associate with something File in folder(s), categorize (yep, that's like tagging, but not shared with others and in Notes since 1.0) Tag
Information not relevant Delete or remove from inbox (my favourite for "might be relevant some other time" since it still shows up in all documents and search) n/a (in Activities there is tune out, or remove watching a specific tag)
Read later Keep unread, file in folder(s) n/a
Associate with a project or a customer File in subfolder(s) of project/customer folder, use custom plug-in for meta data tagging is flat only, harder to find later
Followup action needed Flag for followup, copy into task n/a (the sharebox might remedy that in future)
Add to personal/team knowledge collection Copy into journal or discussion db (there's a plug-in for that) n/a, but you can use the Evernote browser plug-in
Scheduled action needed Copy into new calendar entry n/a
Let other people know Forward Reshare with @Name in the message
Look at specific information like a project, product, customer Open that folder, look at the categorized view, fulltext search Browse for the tag, fulltext search
Suggest filing/tagging destination Use the SwiftFile plug-in Look at other people's tags for the item
Suggest what else is interesting n/a Social analytics
It seems the interaction patterns for actions in the social space need to mature a bit. Interestingly e.g. Google reader has sorted the problem of read/unread for a stream of news (your RSS feeds) by tracking what entry you focus. Might that make sense for an activity stream (show unread only)?


Grow your Social Business Tree

Culture eats strategy for lunch is all the rave in #SocBiz land and it tops the 10 top tips from Sandy Carter. When your culture is about careful nurturing and grooming, this is for you:
Social Business is like a tree. It needs to grow healthy roots and its crown needs to be balanced to sustain.

Bliss is being a gardener.


This site is in no way affiliated, endorsed, sanctioned, supported, nor enlightened by Lotus Software nor IBM Corporation. I may be an employee, but the opinions, theories, facts, etc. presented here are my own and are in now way given in any official capacity. In short, these are my words and this is my site, not IBM's - and don't even begin to think otherwise. (Disclaimer shamelessly plugged from Rocky Oliver)
© 2003 - 2017 Stephan H. Wissel - some rights reserved as listed here: Creative Commons License
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