Mike Gotta on Social Software: “It’s the Design Criteria that Counts”

Mike Gotta posted a piece over at Collaborative Thinking on some thoughts that he had w.r.t to social software…

Often I find that the consumer market is also an interesting environment to examine given that many of these tools remain emergent within the large enterprise. To over-generalize what happens:

  • Consumers begin to use socially-oriented sites for their own purposes
  • They end up sharing content more easily with friends, family and so on
  • Along the way they discover that they can find information and activities that are of interest more rapidly
  • And in doing so, they continue to connect with other people, forming relationships, communities, etc.
  • Which persuades them to create, customize, and extend their own social environment which in turnÂ…
  • Encourages reciprocation; adding value back across their associated networks, groups and communities

This lines up nicely with Tom Coates assertions from his Future of Web Apps talk. Its a philosphy we’ve been talking about at IBM recently that we’ve called the Discover -> Connect -> Execute cycle. Mike also relates this consumer pattern to the business environment:

Studying consumer patterns and correlating them to possible use case scenarios within a business environment is a pragmatic approach that can benefit enterprise strategists. There are similarities that people can learn from and apply internally.

  • Workers use tagging and social bookmark tools to capture and organize information for their own purposes
  • The public and accessible nature of tags and bookmarks enables workers to share information more easily with other co-workers
  • Other workers that rely on such tags and bookmarks to find information in turn, post about such information in their corporate blogs
  • Other workers that subscribe to the RSS feeds of that blog read the commentary on the information originally captured by the tags and bookmarks and create a wiki to begin co-authoring a report for a project where that information happens to be very relevant
  • Other project members connect from the wiki to the blog to the bookmarks and discover that there are many other people in the organization that have similar interests or are involved in similar activities
  • The person who originally tagged and bookmarked the information shares additional resources that has been collected with the project team and begins another wiki in parallel that acts as a community site for those involved in similar projects across the enterprise

In the work that we’ve been doing within the Lotus brand, especially with our internal social software projects, we’ve seen this happen time and time again. There have been instances where entire projects (admittedly of varying scale) where formed out of little more than
people meeting across our blog system and using the blog system, bookmarking system and wiki system to move from socializing to actively collaborating. The discovery portion of that cycle was what made the real difference.

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